Saturday, 16 June 2018

16/06/18 - London Countryway Stage 5 - Oxted to Merstham

Distance - 10 Miles
Start - Oxted
Finish - Merstham
Geocaches - 16
Pubs - 2
Previous Stages - Stage 1Stage 2Stage 3, Stage 4

Stage 4 of the London Countryway ended unceremoniously in the Oxted Wetherspoons.   A place tainted by the tipsy, reeling and drop down pissed at 2pm on a Saturday afternoon.

It left an undeserved sour taste in the mouth for Oxted.  At 9:30am, a mere two stops from London Bridge, I was more taken by its black and white independent shops and a lovely looking Everyman Cinema.   I could potentially live here, if I was ever minted enough.

And the nicer pubs are out to the West on the Godstone Road.

West Oxted
West Oxted's Pair of Pubs
The main purpose of the London Countryway today is to introduce me to the North Downs Way, which is picked up after a lung busting pull up Tandridge Hill.   Once the height is gained, its all plain sailing on a lovely ridge walk that leaves me begging for more.   The NDW gets added to an ever growing list of future walks.

Climbing to North Downs Way
Climbing Tandridge Hill

The walking is easy, the paths are perfect and the Geocaches are imaginative.  I have an endless roll of photos looking down to the South Downs and when there's a gap in the trees, a few of an unexpected vista of the City.

From North Downs to South Downs
Looking South
Unexpected City Vistas
Picking out the landmarks looking North


8 miles in, with the Water having expired at 5, I'm provided with welcome refreshment at the Harrow, Chaldon.  Reach the folly tower of Whitehill, take a 160m detour to enjoy a freshly changed London Pride that was worthy of its name.

Whitehill Tower
Of no historical importance, a mere folly built in 1862
The Harrow, Chaldon
Chaldon's Harrow
The Harrow, Chaldon
Perfect Pint

A simple drop down into the ending point at Merstham, taking advantage of a trig point for a selfie.

Mappiman on South Downs Way
North Downs Way Selfie
Dropping down to Mershtham
Dropping down into Mestham

Mersthams a small village that had two pubs but only the Feathers remains.  A Food & Football place to wait for the 30 minutes train back to the Smoke.

The Feathers
Pub and Dining at the Feathers
I'll avoid the temptation of saying this is the best leg of the Countryway..... I've read the guidebook and from here to Boxhill comes highly praised indeed.

Let's just say the best so far...

Sunday, 10 June 2018

10/06/18 - Heart of England Way - Stage 15 - Berkswell

Distance - 7.3 Miles
Geocaches - 1
Previous Stages - Stage 1Stage 2Stage 3Stage 4Stage 5Stage 6Stage 7Stage 8Stage 9Stage 10Stage 11Stage 12Stage 13, Stage 14

I've photographed Berkswell's church many times but never at 5:45am.

Berkswell Church
The reason for this ungodly, golden hour?  Child #2 needs an airport run.

This is a another chance to revisit many of the paths shared with the Millennium Way.  And they are worth revisiting.

Heart of England Way
Heart of England Way Lovliness
Heart of England Way
And My favourite part of the Millennium Way

Two minor issues with today's walk. 

1) Re-walking the same paths means that I have found the Geocaches.   A single smiley is added to the total today, with a previous find used to drop off a Travel Bug.

2) I'm obviously too early for the pubs.  The unspoiled and Good Beer Guide recommended Bull's Head at Barston is forsaken for an exploration of the Church Yard, noticing it's restored Medieval cross.

Barston's Medieval Cross
Religious Vandalism, Cromwell Style
Great paths of a similar style lead me back to Berkswell, with the peace only interrupted by the roar of the 7:26am Ryan Air to Warsaw.

Up, up and away, Junior Mappiman.

Up Up and Away
Of Course I waved to him

Saturday, 9 June 2018

09/06/18 - Barnt Green

Distance - 7 Miles
Geocaches - 2
Walk Inspiration - Walk 09, Spring 2018 Country Walking Magazine

This walk really demonstrates the strength of Country Walking Magazine.  Easy accessible, varied terrain and refreshments available.   A perfect little ramble.

The starting point is Barnt Green Station.  Arrive by train or park for £1.20 on a Saturday.  No sooner have you got your bearings than you are out in the country park and could be miles from anywhere.

Lickey Hills Country Park
Over the road from the Station
A gentle climb uphill on good tracks through woodland.  The only two caches of the day are easily found.

From the Visitors Centre, its over the road to pick up the North Worcestershire Path and the fields of Cofton Hackett.

Field Views at Cofton Hackett
Fields of Cofton Hackett
We are looking for the huge expanse of blue that is Upper Bittell Reservoir.  How can we lose something so big?  Eventually a gap in the trees shows that it has been drained and Internet research shows essential maintenance works were required.   Along with the Herculean effort of rescuing the fish.

Drained Upper Bittell Reservoir
The Boats are in the far distance - the water of Upper Bittell are long gone
The Worcester/Birmingham Canal provides the final change of terrain - easy walking back into Barnt Green for post walk entertainment.

Worcester and Birmingham Canal
Canal - Unexciting, but easy walking with no navigational errors
Only one choice for the post walk pint - Ron Atkinson's local - the Barnt Green Inn.  It's a gastropub with a surprising amount of history - dating from 1651 and reputedly hosting Queen Victoria for a night.

It's now all £12.95 sandwiches, outdoor softrock music pumped from external speakers onto expensive patio furniture and a surprisingly good Purity Ubu, suggesting the Cask Marque award is well deserved.

Barnt Green Inn
Purity Ubu in front of a Grade II listed Gastropub

Saturday, 2 June 2018

02/06/18 - Dropping off a very specific Travel Bug in Warwickshire

Distance - 11 Miles
Geocaches - 42
First Cache
Pub - Kings Head, Aston Cantlow

At the Start of May, I picked up a Travel Bug that had a very specific mission to stay in Warwickshire.  It was part of a complex puzzle that when combined with a number of other TBs, would give the co-ordinates to a mystery puzzle cache.  I'm staggered that 30 people have managed to log the final prize but not surprised that one of them is my caching and twitter buddy, Superted.  I know he likes a challenge.

So, once back from America, I felt that I needed to drop this off straight away so others could find.  A search on for a suitable trail found a new loop in a place that I've not visited before but sounds like a 1930's dandy.  Aston Cantlow.

And would you believe that the TB and caches are owned by the same CO, HKMHill?

Usual MO for these trails - fact finding in the village to get a multi.  Thank god he publishes a checksum, as I'm always screwing these up.

Aston Cantlow Village Hall
One of the pretty buildings in Aston Cantlow

The only questions to answer are a)  will I meet the other cachers who have signed the logs before me today and b) will I find a box big enough to take this quite chunky TB.

The Warwickshire Bug
The TB
Geocache Size:  Huge
Question B well and truly answered

Typical Warwickshire countryside on route - nothing too grand but the occasional nice view.

Warwickshire Views
View from a cache
Second Loop Views
View on the way to a cache

The walk could easily be split into two loops.  It's just as I am thinking of whether to tackle the second loop that I do bump into the other cachers - just as I am signing a log.  Nothing quite like handing a cache to the next cacher to sign.

Despite dwindling water supplies, I decide to make the most of the day and start the 2nd loop.  Stingers cause the one DNF today.  I'll be interested to see if the others have found it today.

Lovely views, as I come back into the village for much needed refreshment.

Coming Back into Aston Cantlow
Aston Cantlow Below
So, the Kings Head.... A pub made of connecting cottages that has a history stretching back to the rumour that Shakespeare's parents breakfasted there on the day of William's Wedding.

Kings Head, Aston Cantlow
Post Caching Refreshment
Four real ales on and I combine a pint of iced water with a locALE Purity Gold.  Water drank first whilst the Purity settles to a wonderful clear golden pint.  Nice to see a busy pub, with a packed beer garden and a number of diners, some of whom are so delighted with the fayre they tip in notes.  And not even blue ones.

Good Looking and Much Deserved
Thanks for another top series Mike...... one day I will be free to come to a Geocaching event launch!