Saturday, 28 July 2018

28/7/18 - Heart of England Way - Stage 16 - Temple Balsall

Distance - 5.5 Miles
Geocaches - 1
Previous Stages - Stage 1Stage 2Stage 3Stage 4Stage 5Stage 6Stage 7Stage 8Stage 9Stage 10Stage 11Stage 12Stage 13Stage 14, Stage 15

A lovely stretch of the Heart of England Way.  No hills, no complex route finding, just a simple jaunt in the Warwickshire Countryside, timed perfectly for when the heatwave took a day off.   We even took rain jackets.

We battle our way through Knowle, wondering if it is just us or is the place getting slightly shabby and start the walk at the Orange Tree in Chadwick End.

The HOEW is picked up immediately over the road and after a strange route behind some ramshackle garages we are out into the Warwickshire countryside.   With temperatures below 20 degrees and proper wind, its a joy to be out.

Warwickshire Countryside
Heart of England
Warwickshire Countryside
Farmer has been busy

From an interest perspective the walk has an historical highlight at the midpoint.  Temple Balsall is home to a Knights Templar hospital, church and manor house dating from the 12th Century.   Come on a Sunday between 2:30 and 4:30pm and you can buy tea and cake.

Temple Balsall
No cake available on Saturdays
The walk back provides the sole Geocache.  The HOEW is sharing paths with the Millennium Way, so the area has been well mined for treasure.

The Return
Walking Partner has snuck up on me.
2 hours from setting off and we're back at the Orange Tree pub, which isn't as successful as the walk.

Orange Tree, Chadwick End
The Orange Tree, Chadwick End
You can tell from the "Hoof, Fin, Feather, Fur and Flour" motif that this is going to be full on gastro but you have to ask, how can a menu offer 10 different types of pizza and not a single sandwich?

Sunday, 22 July 2018

22/07/18 - Burton Upon Trent Good Beer Guide Ticking

Strap yourselves in for a lengthy blog.   There is much work for the Good Beer Guide Pub Ticker to do in a town that contains the National Brewery Centre.

And as is often the case, pub of the day wasn't in even in the Bible.

The route from an out of town Premier Inn required a grim industrial walk past the Marmite Factory.   I aim for the furthest Northern entry first, but high temperatures dictate a stop at the Alfred.

The Map
Starting at the most Southerly point
The Alfred, Derby Street, Burton Bridge Bitter

the Alfred
Stopping Off
This pub tells me all I need to know about Burton.  The beer, as you would expect from the brewery's tied house, was excellent.  The punters were, and how can I say this delicately, a little odd.

The bar man asks for £3.10 and I hand over a note.   The lady sitting at the bar demands to know if I have 10p in change and I say No.  She then tells her audience of two that she cannot stand punters that are too lazy to provide the correct change.

And she doesn't even bloody well work there.

The Derby Inn, Derby Road, Bass

Derby Inn
The Derby Inn
A proper pub, proud of its entry in the Bible and Cask Marque Status.   It was a tough choice between the lesser spotted TT Boltmaker and the first Bass of the day.   The Red Triangle won.

Nothing to report punter wise.... there was a man describing himself as "ever the diploment" after every insult he slung at the Landlord and a man who ordered a pint and asked politely if he could use the toilet.   He was gone some time.

The National Brewery Centre, St Modwen Golden Ale

Inspired by the views, I make a break from boozers for a bit of culture.

Walking through a Burton Wonderland
£11.95 gets you unlimited time to develop nightmares from the animatronics and look at old brewery vehicles.  You also get three vouchers to turn into beer in the Tap House on the way out.

The highlight was not this;

National Brewery Centre
Man in A Vat

National Brewery Centre
Nor This feeble attempt to recreate the Coach and Horses in Soho

It was of course the "model village" representation of Burton hidden on the third floor of the main building.  You got to press buttons to make things light up and more than anything else, it explained to me Burton's fairly unique industrial town centre lay out.

Next up came a couple of closed ones.   You can't expect a clean sweep on a Sunday but I could have come back at 7pm for the second daily opening of the Burton Bridge Inn.   There's no way I would have come back on Tuesday for a micropub.

Burton Bridge Inn
One for another day
Fuggle and Nugget
One not for another day

The Dog, Lichfield Street, Bass

It's a walk down the quite terrifying high street.  Street drinkers are entertained by Motorheads Ace of Spades blasting from an unknown source.

A bit like me, the Dog has found itself out of its normal territory.  It must be the Furthest Black Country Ales pub from home but follows their well defined blueprint.  Multiple hand pulls in a classic pub environment.  I passed on their only scracthings, wondering what the world had come to when they were described as chilli infused.

The Dog
Quiet roads in Burton.
More walking and a detour from the bible to look at the entries in another CAMRA book.  The first 50 great Pub Crawls details several alternative boozers.

Coors, What a view
And I am pleased to have followed its suggestion.  You can tell just from the exterior that this will be pub of the day.

Coopers Tavern, Cross Street, Bass

Coopers Tavern
Its a Gem
There's the need to walk through a long, thin empty room to get to the bar, which appears to split in two, with the barman always on the opposite side of the partition. 

More bass, but like the others, it was in perfect condition, if not a little thin headed.

Red Triangle
Mainly been Bass, with the odd Burton Bridge Bitter
If you are still with me, there's three left to do.   Fortunately for me, they are all more or less next to each other.

Devonshire Arms, Station Street, Burton Bridge Bitter

Devonshire Arms
Homely, multi roomed pub where everything was perectly kept.   The way you imagine pubs to be but rarely are.

Next up was the Last Heretic, where the photo taken was not worthy of public sharing.   I stumbled on this micro pub, looking for the Roebuck, tucked away next door.   As it was in the Bible, I gave it a chance.  The beer is gravity fed from barrels on a racking system behind a glass partition.  I waited patiently for the air lock to open and be served.  My choice, Cotswold Shagweaver, was off, and a Heacham Gold was recommended as an alternative.

It looked crystal clear but was completely sans head and was easily the poorest pint of a long and constructive day.  I just don't get micros at all.

The Roebuck, Station Street, Bass

Last of the Evening
Ending on a high and fortifying myself with a final Bass before the long walk back to Lenny Henry's choice of accommodation.

Lovely staff, classic pub feel.

Eagle eyed viewer will notice that I didn't take the long walk East to the Waterloo but I feel that this 8 hour, 8 pub epic - including cultural interlude - and a Nandos - means that I have been well and truly Burtonised.

Saturday, 14 July 2018

14/07/18 - London Countryway Stage 6 - Merstham to Box Hill

Distance - 10 Miles
Start - Merstham
Finish - Box Hill
Geocaches - 2
Pubs - Stepping Stones at Box Hill
Previous Stages - Stage 1Stage 2Stage 3Stage 4, Stage 5

Stage 6 of the London Countryway and I finally determine where the guide book's cover photo is taken from.

The Guide
Colley Hill
This leg promised a lot and duly delivered.  The entire 10 miles is along the North Downs Way, accessed almost immediately from Merstham railway station.

A gentle climb through sports fields, a golf course and across school grounds.

Today's first views
First views from the golf course
Plenty of interest here too, with information boards spelling out the history of Reigate Fort.  Even a gap in the trees has a story to tell.  There are two monuments, that sadly could not be taken in the same photo, but the gap in the trees is explained as a WW2 Air crash site.  The monuments mark the extremes of the wing tips and are part made from metal from the B17 Bomber.

WW2 Bomber Crash Site
One Half of the Monument
Much needed shade is provided by the tunnel like paths before we reach Colley Hill, where the North Downs reveal themselves in the their splendour.  I recognise the monument from the book cover but get that involved in taking photos that I neglect to look up at the art work in the ceiling.  Check out Des De Moor's excellent commentary for details.

Cover Guide Photo
With this beauty, I unsurprisingly failed to look at the monument ceiling
Mappiman at the Temple
Look up Mappiman, you goon
The Path Ahead

The last photo represents what fine walking remains for the day.... dropping to the valley floor on steep paths and working my way around the quarry and lime works to Box Hill.  There's only one question - where to sit for lunch?   A number of benches are either occupied or out in the midday sun, but I do find shelter in the trees just off the path.

Tom Stone Lunch
Seat for Lunch
In case you think I am being disrespectful, I do check the inscription.  I'm working on the assumption that "Quick, An English Thoroughbred" is a dog.

Leith Hill is the last to be conquered.   A picnic spot that is hard to surpass, judging by the hoardes taking advantage of the weather and the far ranging views.

Box Hill
Dropping down from Leith Hill
Rather glad that I am coming down this way, as the way up is beyond steep.  I half feel sorry for the cub pack coming up the other way, carrying kit for an overnight expedition.  It doesn't stop my exaggerated answers to their desperate questions of "how much further do we have to climb".

Westhumble and Box Hill Station, with its once hourly trains back to the smoke, awaits at the bottom of the hill but first a choice on which path to take.

Surely no-one takes the Footbridge

River Mole Crossing
Not me, anyway
A Country Pub is just before the station.  Four real ales were available but sometimes, reassuringly expensive continental lager is all that is going to do the trick.  Even if it is brewed in Northhampton.

Stepping Stones, Box Hill
Over Stepping Stones - to the Stepping Stones
Stepping Stones, Box Hill
£5.20 worth of Midlands lovliness

Saturday, 7 July 2018

07/07/18 - Summertime and the caching is queasy

Distance - 4 Miles
Geocaches - 4 out of 17
First Cache

If this is foreshadowing for the way the World Cup is going to pan out, then there's a Volvo in Worcestershire that is so going to get it.

6am start - to be back before the heat, to be back before England vs. Sweden at 3pm - heading off to the Wrekin area of Shropshire.  An area with a rich seam of geocaches, many entombed in soggy black socks from Matalan.

Today's circuit is the Rushmoor Ramble - 17 Caches and parking at a pub.

Things have changed since Google Streetview was in town.

Pub No More, The Gate, Bratton
That's the post walk drink cancelled
Off with the caching....  even with an OS Map and GPS route finding is tricky.  I don't need the track to the disused railway line but the road and a footpath along the side of houses.   Overgrown stile, leads to overgrown paths and a GZ for cache 1 that is... you've guessed, overgrown.

Still, I'm an experienced cacher, I can improvise.

Caching Whacking Stick
Mappiman Weed Whacker 
Caches 1 and 2 are found, but not easily.  At three, there is no chance.  I get the clue but no way to fight my way through brambles to find something that I realise has not been found this calendar year.

I must be really late to this party, as this is most unusual for a lengthy cache trail.   I make the decision not to drop my TB off and if I succeed if one thing today, its liberating another that's been lurking since 29/10/17.

Not Found this Year
Longtime not found
I proceed, attempting the ones that I can but not worrying about the inaccessible ones.

After the horseflies, the next hazard is the cows.  A field full of them is traversed and a wide birth applied.  Just as I get past them, I can hear movement and the one with very bull-like udders motions towards me.   The weed wacker is held aloft in preparation for combat, but after some snorting, he releases the longest fart I have ever heard and lies back down.

The 4th and last find of the day comes at #8 and the hazards intensify.  Horses.  God, I hate them.  I sometimes wish I was French, just so that I could order them off the menu.

Most are behind fences but along a narrow public footpath at Lawn Farm, the most skittish of the lot is bucking and broncoing his disapproval that the world's worst cacher wants to get by.

I decide not to antagnoise him and attempt to climb over the fence to avoid death by hoof.

The fence is waist high and of course, its electrified.   I find this out mid straddle, at the time my testicles get electrocuted.

There's people that would happily pay for this level of entertainment on a Saturday morning but I am questioning myself.

Caching now given up, I try and enjoy the walk.  There are fine views over the Wrekin.

Best Views
Best of the Views
You might think I'd end this blog on a high point but no, I've got to get through this path first.

Overgrown Paths
Footpath runs direct to the gap in the hedge, where there's a cache.  A DNF
It was a question of what to first when I got home..... Eat, drink, pick the pointy bits of grass out of my socks or log the poorest attempt at caching in my 10 year history.   4 out of 17.

A handful of stings, scratches and fly bites.  An extended shower required to check for ticks.  Zapped nuts.

I'll be back caching next weekend.