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, 7 January 2014

The First Week

Here we are, one week into the New Year, and the mileage graph is already looking quite pleasing:


I’ve already, in seven days, beaten my January mileages from 4 of the 8 years on record, and looking at the detail of the best January on record, at this point I had only taken 2 walks, totalling 23 miles, compared with this year’s 7 walks totalling 48.5 miles.

Whilst very pleased with the achievement to date, I’m not taking it as any indication that a record month is going to ensue. There’s always the danger that the lure of a chair will prove too great for my willpower.

I’ve already written about the first walk of the year, and the second and third were entirely unnoteworthy(being bimbles in very close vicinity to home). The fourth saw my area of adventure increase as my route drew a 10-and-a-bit-mile circle around the village (involving mainly-mud-free tracks and little lanes).

photo 1

Not the best illustration due to the distance, but the white dots you see show that the farmer seems to be growing swans in this field. Bit soggy in the foreground too – happily, there’s a good track adjacent to this field.

One of the tiny lanes was surprisingly well frequented by ignorant drivers (including the ignoramus who thought it appropriate to drive at speed through the puddle I was passing…) but the main thing occupying my mind (apart from my audio book) was the limited number of routes one can walk immediately from home that don’t involve muddy-wallows-from-hell or overly-busy lanes. How was I going to walk through January without getting incredibly bored of doing the same things over and over again?

It was in passing a graveyard that I had a flash of (morbid) inspiration and thus on Sunday morning I was to be found wandering over to the National Memorial Arboretum. The Arboretum is well worth a visit, if you’re passing and have never been, but I would caution against going at times when the word ‘flood’ is appearing frequently in the news, as it is sited on the flood plain right next to the River Trent. It wasn’t too bad for my visit, but some areas were under water:

Flood at Arboretum

Fortunately, there are sufficient surfaced paths about the arboretum that I could avoid the subaquatic ones, which wasn’t the case with one of the tracks I used on my way there.

I was probably at the arboretum for half an hour or so, fifteen minutes of which were spent looking for two particular names in the 1952 section of the Armed Forces Memorial (over 1100 members of the UK armed forces died in service in 1952, you know; I read all of their names on Sunday, but didn’t find the ones for which I was looking) and in that time I didn’t see a soul apart from staff and volunteers. It was so eerily devoid of visitors that I was beginning to wonder whether it was actually open (as I’d entered via a Right of Way at the side, rather than through the main entrance, it wouldn’t have been beyond possibility).

Armed Forces Memorial

Monday dawned and I was scrabbling through my mental maps to think of something novel to do, when I pondered the fact that there’s another village 2 or 3 miles distant that I’ve never explored, and I’m quite fond of poking around villages, so that was my objective for the day. Views from the canal towpath en-route confirmed my suspicions that one of my regular routes is currently impassable with deep mires and flood water.

That brings us to today and my answer as to where to walk today was given to me by another blogger, who mentioned that her uncle had an art exhibition going on in our local town library. Going to see it seemed to be as good an objective as any for the day, and I could kill two birds with one stone and take a look at some maps whilst I was there.

The only issue I could see was that there was no way I could walk to town (other than by walking the roads, which I was not prepared to do) without being muddy, and walking through town attired in winter walking garb always attracts stares, and far worse so when I’m covered in mud. I pondered the possible solutions and accordingly took with me gaiters to don when the going got muddy and clean shoes to change into when I approached town. I brought both back with me unworn. I got stared at a lot as I walked, mud-spattered, through town. I got stared at even more as I sat (muddy) in the library with many maps open in front of me. Hey ho. I didn’t see anyone I know, and I’ve now got three possible draft routes for a section of this year’s Big Walk that has been troubling me.

(It’s entirely my own fault that I don’t currently have transport and thus my walking is limited to the local vicinity. However, the MOT is booked for tomorrow, so provided that it passes, I will have wheels again. Unfortunately, it’s only the lack of transport that has stopped me from returning to work thus far, and working will far greatly reduce my outings than the lack of a car has. Harrumph.)


  1. (Hmmm, that was an interesting first attempt to comment...)
    As I was saying, nice to see you've had a successful first week! I've managed more walking in two days than in the previous two weeks, so things are looking up. I know what you mean about drawing stares by wearing walking gear and muddy walking gear at that. I do tend to stick out in a crowd myself.
    I've often thought I'd like a wander about the arboretum, but I can't say we're ever likely to be passing. I wasn't sure if such a curiosity might seem a bit odd, but maybe not.
    Anyway, I should post this before I lose myself again...

    1. If you should find youselves anywhere in the vicinity then you are, of course, most welcome to come and stay ... we make all visitors go to the arboretum!

  2. I am finding geocaching provides a good focus for local walks. Yesterday I found a whole network of paths within a few miles of home that I had not walked before, and they were by way of bonus, attractive, but a bit muddy at the moment.

    1. Conrad, you are a star! My first thought was that I know that I've already collected all of the caches within the immediate vicinity of the village and that I've walked all of the local paths too. But, I checked anyway and found that lots of new caches have been added since I last looked. If I restrict myself to one per walk, even if they're close to each other, then that will give me a good few walks. I also found one local path that I've not walked. I must go and investigate whether it's a mud-fest.