The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Sunday, 17 January 2010

This Sunday

After yesterday’s mud-fest I did look at a map and come up with a reduced-mud route for today.

Leaving the house we then completely ignored the revised route and set out in the same direction as we usually would.

Fortunately, it had been a bit nippy overnight and so some of the ground was sufficiently frozen to minimise the mud. Most ground was still soft, and very wet indeed.

It was in giggles at our comedy-sized feet that we crossed the first crop field. The ground had taken on the exact clay-like consistency that made what felt like tons of the stuff cling to our shoes within the first three steps. So heavy had my feet suddenly become that I had my doubts that I would still be able to lift them when we got to half way, and I was feeling the effort when we reached the far side (not good with 1 mile down and 10 to go!).

IMG_0448 Mud clings to Mick’s feet as we clear the first of the crop-fields

As we only tend to walk the first bit of this route between January and April (that being the time of year when we always seem to be in training for something), we’ve not been this way for a while, and as usual there were changes. Last year I noted that stiles had been repaired and gaps had been put in electric fences when they crossed ROWs. This year the gaps have gone. I went for the limbo technique; Mick went for stepping over (which seems a dangerous strategy to me!).

Some miles later (back onto a bit of the route that I’ve walked a few times recently) we came upon a remarkably unusual sight:

IMG_0449“Are they allowed to be here, on our path?” I asked Mick. Save for the very occasional dog-walker, we don’t see people on this part of the route, so an entire gaggle of ramblers was unexpected.

They were a jolly bunch, who, as we passed them, engaged us on the subject of whether there really are big cats out there in the wild.

The most bizarre occurrence of the walk, however, was the presence of a Dalmatian being walked along a nearby track just as we broke out of some woodland. Not a strange occurrence in and of itself, but the last twice I walked out of this woodland that dog was in the exact same place in its walk. The only difference today was that it was on a lead, so it didn’t run, full-pelt across the field towards me.

Even having acknowledged the general waterloggedness of the ground, it wasn’t until we dropped down from the golf-course (no-one playing today), towards the river, that it struck me that our route may not be passable. From this vantage point we could see that river had flooded, and that didn’t bode well for our passage a mile or so hence.

A particular water obstacle had confounded a few people who were wandering around trying to find away to avoid it. We also looked briefly for a way around before acknowledging that we had two choices: turn around and walk back the way we had come, or walk on through.

I went for the socks-off approach, whilst Mick just splashed through. An older couple watched with interest from a distance, but still reluctant to follow our lead, they went to investigate an option that we had already explored and discounted.


Emptying the water out

IMG_0451 Back on with the socks (as it went the shoes were holding so much water that a while later I had to take the socks back off to wring them out)

The water certainly was high when we got to the river section (where the river and the canal share their course for a short distance):

IMG_0455And the adjacent fields a little further along were doing good impressions of lakes:

IMG_0457 It wasn’t like that seven days ago!

The river section was closed today. Even though the indicator on the lock was on amber, meaning ‘proceed with caution’, the lock gates were padlocked shut. I’m sure that, if I had looked at the status board a little later it would have read ‘closed’, but I didn’t even give it a glance.

IMG_0458River-state indicator on Amber


Gates wired together and padlocked shut

By the time we got to the local ponds, my body was complaining. This was the furthest that I’ve walked in one day since 21 August last year, and somehow we failed to have a break at any point (unless you count sitting on a wall a quarter of a mile before the ponds to wring my socks out).

As for the ponds, there was still a layer of ice, but not so much as to entice anyone but the most fool-hardy to test it for weight-bearing strength.

Four hours after setting out, with 11.25 miles covered, we arrived home once again liberally covered in mud. Not wanting to look like a vagrant when we meet Jeff on the Chase tomorrow, the Paramo has all taken a swim in the washing machine tonight. I’m sure that the cleanliness will last all of ten minutes!


  1. Those muddy feet ... it's that time of year on the East Anglian clay too. You also end up about about 2" taller!

  2. 2" taller, and a good few pounds heavier!