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]

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

A Walk, or A Farce?

Once again on Sunday I didn’t decide where to walk until I was on my way out of the door. On reflection, I should have thought more either about the intended route or about my attire; I certainly shouldn’t have taken out of my bag the waterproof trousers, which had turned out yesterday to be unnecessary to tackled nettle-obstacles.

Within half a mile of home, having herded a stray sheep back into its field, the first bit of trespass occurred, as I knew it would. I walk this way often and it’s many years since that little enclosed track has been passable in summer. The adjacent field gives easy passage and, happily, today it only held sheep. I’m not nearly as nervous of live-stock as I was just three years ago, but I’d encountered some cows and a bull in this field a couple of weeks ago and didn’t like the way they had looked at me…

…it turned out that the cows had been moved just one field further along, and that was where I was headed next. Worse, they were all on the same side of the field as the path. I was about a third of the way across when the cows started getting a bit frisky and ran away a short distance, leaving me facing the (absolutely huge) bull, who was standing right in my path and staring me down.

That left me with a bit of a problem. I didn’t want to walk so close by him, particularly as his harem had left him, but if I gave him a wide birth I would be walking between him and his frisky girls. I back-tracked.

An attempted trespass around was thwarted by a double barbed wire fence, but after another back-track, I managed to re-enter the field half way along its width, and by walking along the far border made my way across without attracting much notice from the herd. All would then have been fine if there was any way out of the field in the far corner, but finding myself faced with double barbed wire, plus a forwards slope on the fence, I was getting a bit stumped particularly as I didn’t want to have to cross the field again.

After a couple more false starts (including back-track number 3), I did make it out of the field in the right direction. With a whole herd of cows running at me, it involved me scrambling over the adversely-sloping barbed-wire fence, whilst cursing at length. This is the messy track from that bit of the walk (the red dotted line shows where I should have gone, if I hadn’t back-tracked at the sight of the bull):

image Hoping that all would be plain-sailing now (because I certainly wasn’t going back through that field!) onwards I went, but no sooner was I back on track when I came to a bramble-covered stile. It all flooded back to me. That stile’s usually a bit tricky at this time of year.

The next field is usually passable, as for the last few years it has been cropped with wheat and there’s always a good path re-instated across it. Unfortunately, this year the farmer used it for rape, which has now died off and partially collapsed across the path.


Looking back through the rape to the overgrown stile. The cows are also visible two fields back. IMG_1652

The path ahead.

With my legs all scratched, I was ruing the decision to wear shorts (actually, shorts were the sensible attire for the hot day; I suppose that I was really ruing the route choice). The ruing nearly reached a peak at the next stile, where I came to an unavoidable nettle-bed.

Despite my utmost care, I was stung and wasn’t in the best of moods as I set across the next rape field. Nor when I got to the next stile to find that a sizeable tree trunk had fallen across it. But, there was no way that I was going back, so onwards I went, to more leg-scratching, although this time through wheat.

Finally I got to a lane. Bliss! Relief! No more obstacles!

Of course, what I’d not considered was the probable state of the stile at which I needed to leave that lane. That it’s always hideously overgrown at this time of year was something that I’d blocked from my mind until I got there. Time was then spent shredding my fingers as I patiently stood there snapping brambles and hawthorn so as to make a gap big enough to get through, all the time wondering why I hadn’t just brought a pair of secateurs with me.

The walk was already a farce, so it was no surprise having made my way over the stile, without adding too many more scratches to my collection, to find that an electric fence has been re-instated in that field, but that the previous access point has been omitted. A bit of limbo dancing saw me past that one.

Exiting the field looked easier, in that from a distance I spotted one of those nice blue plastic handles that allows you to move a chunk of electric fence out of the way. What I didn’t spot until I felt the electricity shoot up my arm was the frayed bit of electric fence that was flopping over the end of the handle. I think it was at that point that my mood improved considerably; the walk had elevated itself into the category of ‘so bad that it’s quite funny really’.IMG_1653

 Why the two different types of bale in one field?

Incredibly, everything went fine for the next couple of miles and I was just thinking that the obstacles were over when I remembered the field of thistles. Then I remembered that said field had been the thing that had stopped me walking this way in summer. Half a kilometre of constant prickling by spikey things is bad enough in trousers.

IMG_1776 This photo is from last year and isn’t overly clear, but the whole field is just a big, dense mass of thistles.

Happily, once through the thistle-fest the rest of the walk was blissfully uneventful, even if a little busy along some sections of the canal, particularly as thirteen boats were queuing for the lock as people headed away from the Waterways Festival. Many hellos were exchanged with boaters standing on the tow-path patiently holding onto ropes as they waited their turns.

Meeting Mick at the Ice-Cream shop on my way home (from where I cadged a lift the rest of the way) my stats for the outing were 9.5 miles walked with no appreciable ascent, in 2 hours 38 minutes, with the best part of 10 minutes spent stationary (mainly thanks to the early obstacles). The ice-cream seemed an appropriate reward for having brought my total mileage for the weekend to almost 30 – which served to more than double my mileage for the whole of the month of July.



  1. Only one ice cream? That's a bit stingy in this weather.
    So the impenetrable crop we came across last week in the overgrown fields of Cheshire was 'past it' rape?

  2. Frisky cows, obstinate bull and prickles. If I ever get down your way, please don't take me on that walk!

  3. You don't need secateurs. You need a flame thrower.

    And the address of the farmer, so you can surround it with barbed wire and then torch the place.

    I would get in touch with the local Ramblers (if they still do that sort of thing, these days, what with their city walks and the like...)

  4. Are you sure the crop wasn't oats?
    Good that you are back out there walking and entertaining us, Thank you.

  5. Almost forgot, any idea how Charlie (epic walk of britain) is getting on? There hasnt been any updates from her for a week now!

  6. Martin - It was indeed rape. I meant to leave a comment on your blog at the time, but most of my blog reading is done on the iTouch (can't be doing with typing on that) or at work (where I can only read via Google Reader; I can't access the blogs themselves).

    Hannah - Yep, it was rape rather than oats. Unless of course my crop-spotting skills are up there with my bird-watching and flower-recognition skills ;-)
    ('Fraid that I don't know how Charlie is getting on, but I would guess that access to power points and wifi may be getting more sporadic as she heads north)

  7. Louise - fear not! I wouldn't subject others to a walk like that one. At times of year when it's not a farcical obstacle course, it does have a couple of vaguely intersting features, but it is mainly just a tour of Staffordshire farmland. According to most End-to-Enders Staffordshire farmland is the lowlight of the End-to-End. A short distance from here there are far more interesting walks - I'll take you on one of those instead.

  8. Alan - you're probably right. I did get the name of the local Rights of Way Officer a few years back and get all the forms ready to send off, but somehow didn't quite get around to it. I don't expect them to do anything about the nettle beds or overgrown stiles (the stiles will mainly be sorted in the next few weeks as hedge-cutting season progresses), but there are other, more permanent, obstructions on this walk that do need to be sorted.

    On the one hand, they probably don't affect many people, because not many people walk these paths. But, maybe more people would walk them if they were passable without having to vault over gates and trespass across fields.

  9. Oh, and Martin, yes I did just have the one ice-cream. Mick had a double, and he didn't even have the excuse of having been for a walk!

  10. Good on you, Mick. Hope you weren't sick!