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]

Monday, 30 June 2014

On the Viking Way

It was an early start this morning. 0517 to be exact. I do wish that Mick would put the time right on his phone so that when he sets his alarm for 0530, it doesn’t go off at 0517. As it turned out, the earlier-than-intended start was beneficial, as it caused me to be out of the house by 0605, giving me the best part of 2 hours to complete my 55-mile journey by my intended arrival time.

I had expected that two hours would be nearly an hour more than I needed for that journey at that time of day, but what I hadn’t reckoned on was the A50 being closed and major road works for quite some distance as I skirted Nottingham. I arrived at my destination just a few minutes before 8 and after no small amount of faffing (I thought I ought to get most of my faffing out of the way before I was in company!), off I set from the church at Long Bennington to walk towards Marston along the Viking Way.

Aside from having two (mucky-pawed) dogs jump up me in the first mile (separate incidents), missing an unmarked turn which occurs right in the middle of a crop field, and having to stop to apply sun cream under the morning’s glorious blue skies, all was uneventful on my outward leg. I made it two miles into the walk to Marston before I spotted Conrad walking towards me, and as the purpose to my day was to walk with Conrad, I performed an about turn as we met in a gateway to a green lane.

With the exception of the aforementioned unmarked turn in the middle of a crop field, the Viking Way proved to be very well way-marked and very straightforward, which was a good thing, as chatting took precedence over paying attention to our surroundings. Much of the day wasn’t just straightforward, but also about as straight as a walk is likely to get:


We weren’t without our grumbles about the route, mind, when we got to a section of old drove road that had been horribly rutted by tyres:


The ruts were generally much deeper than they look in this snap

By and by, we left the old drove road and joined a disused railway line instead, which runs adjacent to the disused Grantham canal, and a short while later we joined the canal itself. I should have taken a photo of our lunch-stop at a lock, with the lock-keeper’s cottage behind and a bridge in front. Or, of the evidence of the canal being disused. Or, of the pub just over the way. Or, of Conrad, to prove that he really is out walking this walk and not making up his nightly blog posts. But, I completely failed to take any photos apart from the one above and the one below taken from the ‘big hill’ (one hundred feet above the surrounding flatness counts as ‘big’, doesn’t it?):


With time marching on, and the knowledge that I needed to negotiate the road works again on my way home, once lunch was eaten, I bade farewell to Conrad, did another about turn and walked back the way we had come.

An hour and a half later, I was back at Long Bennington church where, conveniently, my car was still waiting for me, whereupon it willingly transported me home. My stats for the day were 16.1 miles walked with somewhere in the region of 250’ of ascent.

It was a fine outing, in fine company, which made a very nice change from the local paths. Thank you Conrad Smile

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

I Fought The Millennium Way …


…The Millennium Way won.

After many recent repetitions of the local paths, I finally put my car back on the road this week*, so today I took advantage of having motorised transport at my disposal to take myself a few miles down the road to walk a 16-mile circuit using mainly the Way for the Millennium for my outward leg and the Trent & Mersey canal for the return leg**.

I don’t think I’ll be walking that route again soon, or if I should get a rush of blood to my head and do so, I’ll wear long trousers. The photo above is the section of my left leg between the bottom of my shorts and my knee. The other leg looks the same. The lower legs aren’t too pretty either. And they smart. They *really* smarted when I applied more suncream at lunchtime and they weren’t too happy with the shower that followed the walk either.

The main culprits for the damage were goose grass intertwined in a field of barley and a field of collapsed rape. Nettles, thistles and brambles also cropped up quite a lot.


The long stuff in this field is a dense blanket of thistles

It turns out that I actually walked over 17 miles on my 16-mile walk. The extra resulted from me going back and forth stubbornly trying to find a path that was being illusive. It was only after I’d detoured via a road and got to its other end that I eventually found it (whereupon I did a quick out-and-back along it to satisfy my curiosity as to why I couldn’t find it from the other direction).

Anquet reports a dizzying 500’ of ascent, but that seems like a wild over-estimate to me.


Scratchy collapsed rape, bearing many pointy pods.

(*Yep, dithered for weeks, then bought car tax with just 7 days left in the month.

**Should have walked it the other way around, to give the wet grass and crops on the Way time to dry whilst I was walking the tow-path first thing; as it went, I squelched a lot.)

Saturday, 21 June 2014


After arriving at Challenge Control, having finished this year’s walk, I declared that I had done something that may be considered as cheating. Reassurances were given; I had crossed Scotland under my own steam, even if I did use gravity and a slippery surface to assist me for a few metres (after all, it was said, if I’d glissaded down a snow bank, no-one would have questioned anything other than my safety-mindedness).

The incident in question occurred in Hopeman, where our route took us through a play park. Mick, rather boringly, walked down the bank. Originally, I only intended to pose for a picture:


But once seated, I couldn’t resist going for the ride:


Excellent fun, and (I would wager) a means of travel not employed by many during a TGO Challenge cross-Scotland walk!

TGO Challenge 2014 – Index of Posts

I’ve been through all of my 2014 posts and, at the bottom of each, have inserted a link which goes to the next day, so as to make them easier to navigate. I’ve also replaced most of the photos with equivalent ones taken with the camera (the original snaps having been taken with my Blackberry) and, whilst I was at it, I couldn’t resist adding in some extras. Having also tagged the posts, I thought it may be useful if I created an index too, so here it is:

Day –1: Strathcarron to before Coire Fionnaraich Bothy

Day 0: before Coire Fionnaraich Bothy to Torridon

Day 1: Torridon to beyond Glenuaig Lodge

Day 2: beyond Glenuaig Lodge to West End of Orrin Reservoir

Day 3: West End of Orrin Reservoir to North Side of Beauly Firth

Day 4: North Side of Beauly Firth to before Nairn

Day 5: Before Nairn to by Findhorn

Day 6: by Findhorn to beyond Lossiemouth

Day 7: beyond Lossiemouth to Findochty

Day 8: Findochty to before Banff

Day 9: before Banff to before Rosehearty

Day 10: before Rosehearty to Fraserburgh

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Getting in a Jam

Most mornings take myself off for a walk. It’s surprising how many different routes I’ve got which start from the front door, but, when walking every day, there is still a lot of repetition, hence they don’t usually get mentioned on these pages.

Yesterday, however, was mildly noteworthy, when I took it into my mind to follow a ‘Permissive Path’ waymark which, having passed it far more than several-dozen times over the years, I have never before investigated.

It turned out to be a lovely! An apparently little used route, it took me variously through old woodland, newer National Forest patches of woodland, and across lovely meadows.

The point of this post isn’t really about that path, but the fact that on my way along it I came across quite a few wild roses, dropping their petals. I have long fancied making some rose petal jelly, so I resolved to return with suitable collecting materials.

On I continued through my circuit and, after some sheep and some tall-grass-wading, into another bit of National Forest woodland I headed. I often pass through this particular plantation these days, having only discovered its paths back in January. (Incredibly, I lived directly opposite that bit of wood for 6 years, until mid-2012, without knowing that there was a network of paths through it*!)

Yesterday it became apparent that I’ve stopped paying enough attention to my surroundings on these walks, as it wasn’t until I had wild roses on my mind that I noticed that there are also plenty in this area too – and far closer to home.

So, at 6.30 this morning, off I set, armed with plastic tubs. Through an overgrown field I waded to get there and with the discomfort of clothing sopping to the waist (a result of the early hour and the dew in the overgrown field), I set about harvesting rose petals. It’s not a quick process, and I visited every single bush I could see so as not to take too many from any one plant.


I duly boiled them up in a jam-making sort of way:


The result of my efforts? Of an hour spent picking petals and the time spent in the jam-making itself? One paltry jar!


Worse, early indications suggest that it tastes of sugar syrup without the gorgeous wild-rose aroma I was hoping to capture. I actually a little concerned that it might set to the consistency of toffee, but I won’t know until it’s fully cold.

What a disappointment! On the more positive side, at least I’ve satisfied my curiosity as to rose petal jelly. I shall now look forward to the blackberry, elderberry and crab apple harvest. I’ve found lots more sources of both the former and latter over the last few months.


One of last year’s (far more pleasing) batches of apple, elderberry and blackberry jam :-)


(*Now there’s a subject for a separate post.)

Monday, 2 June 2014

Anatomy of a 26.3-mile Day

One of the fun things about the Fitbit (which is essentially a pedometer with bells and whistles) is that it provides a graph showing how many steps have been taken in each 15-minute segment of the day. I thought that the graph that resulted from yesterday’s 26-miler was moderately interesting, so I’ve annotated it with seven numbered boxes which relate to the seven observations below:


1) I didn’t leap out of bed and immediately start walking as this suggests. The Fitbit isn’t good at capturing bursts of movement comprising fewer than five steps, and Colin’s size (particularly with the bed still in situ) is such that it’s not possible to take five steps in one go. However, you can clearly see where I set out just a few moments before 6.30 (the red bar, denoting 65 steps is the segment 0615-0630).

2) Look at all those green bars between 0630 and 1130! I clearly didn’t take any significant breaks during that period, I just kept striding along. As a result, I covered 15.7 miles before 1130 (which was A Good Thing – I find it demotivating if I have too many miles left to walk after lunch).

3) The only break I took during the morning was between 0845 and 0900, and must have only been a few minutes, as I still managed 1000 steps in this segment. I stopped at a bench, gave my socks a shake to de-sand them, and shoved a banana in my mouth. I did pause on another bench some time  later to inhale some fig rolls, but that was such a short break that it doesn’t stand out.

4) A good long (early) lunch break, feet up, doing nothing!

5) It looks like I wasn’t feeling as energised as I had been in the morning, as the less active segments are coming far more frequently. In the morning I had managed 2 hours or more between less active segments. In the afternoon the most I managed was 45 minutes.

6) Afternoon tea! A much longer break than I would usually take in the afternoon, and one I wouldn’t have taken to such an extent if Mick and Colin hadn’t been there.

7) The two amber lines are me slogging up the final hill of the (hot) day, at a visibly slower pace than I’d achieve on earlier hills. Then, apparently, at 1645 I sat down and didn’t stand up again. That’s not quite a true representation of reality - see point 1 above.

WCP: Sychnant Pass to by Penrhyn Castle (Bangor)

Monday 2 June (0605-0955)

Distance: 11.9 miles

Weather: Light rain showers

Anyone with an uncommon level of attention to detail, coupled with a good memory, may remember that four days ago I described this as a three-day trip. It would have been more precise to say that this was a 72-hour trip as, having set out from Chester at 10 on Friday morning, we needed to be on our way home again at 10 this morning so as to be in good time for an appointment this afternoon.

Four days (even where the fourth day has to end by 10am) is a much better timescale than three days to complete a walk of just over 76 miles, and thanks to having walked as far as I did yesterday, it was looking feasible that I could today achieve my objective of reaching the point where I’d ended my Anglesey trip at the beginning of May (the end point of that trip not being on Anglesey, but by Penrhyn Castle, east of Bangor).

An early start was called for to achieve the objective, so out I strode at just gone 6am, past the ponies grazing by the van, and down the road. Then I went back up the road, collected my hat, and started over.

The inland route of the coast path doesn’t go over Foel Lus, but I did. It seemed rude to skirt such a nice looking hill, moreover, when there was a very good path to its summit (why is there such a well-used path? I can’t find this hill on any hill list to suggest that it’s a ‘bagger’s’ target.).


As well as the good path, there’s a substantial shelter on the summit, again suggesting that this is a popular little hill:


The views from the top made the effort to get up there worthwhile. Here’s a snap back to Great Orme, with cloud just starting to drift in at low level (good job I was up there early, before the cloud came down):


On the plus side, by taking a direct line up Foel Lus (whereas the official coast path zig-zags up the steep hillside then skirts the top of the hill), I had knocked a mile of distance of my day, bringing it down to just over 12 miles. On the negative side, by 7.30am I had covered only 3 miles, which was making my 10am deadline look in jeopardy – and I really didn’t want to have to stop short unless I really had to.

As well as picking up the pace, I resolved to minimise faffing (which usually takes up a good chunk of my day) and forego any breaks. That resolution lasted until just after I spotted this:


A rainbow ahead of me didn’t bode well for a continued dry day, and sure enough, within ten minutes I was having the first of a few waterproof-faffs. In between showers it was far too warm for a jacket, so it was on and off repeatedly.

A combination of jogging down the joggable downhills and cutting another bit of distance by taking an public footpath which represented the short edge of a triangle of paths (whereas the official route, inexplicably, switches back along the two long edges), meant that by the time I strode through Llanfairfechan I was moderately optimistic that I wouldn’t be many minutes late in arriving at my destination.

Forgetting to pick up my poles after stopping for another waterproof-faff, forcing another retracing of steps, and then another backtrack when I thought the path had been re-routed around an area of erosion, caused me to have to march through the last few miles. Fortunately, even my marching pace is still slow enough to take in the surroundings, even if I didn’t pause for many photos. I did quickly grab a snap of this chap (ex-chap) who made me jump when I looked where I was about to put my foot:IMG_4100

I strode across the litter-strewn car park (McDonalds and Costa detritus, mainly) at my finish point at 0953, but Mick wasn’t there. Whereas at the beginning of May the height barrier had been open, today it was closed, barring Colin from entry. Squeezed instead in a farmer’s gateway, he hadn’t been able to desert Colin to walk out to meet me – but he did have a cup of tea waiting for me when I arrived Smile.

Back to the Midland we then came, having had a thoroughly enjoyable 72 hour trip (well, I thoroughly enjoyed the walking, and I believe Mick enjoyed his bit of walking and all of the reading he did). That section of the coast was so much better than I had expected it to be.

Thanks to this morning’s short jaunt, when I return to do the rest of the coast (which may be over two trips, rather than just one), I can finish at Menai Bridge, having now completed all of Anglesey and all of the coast between Chester and the Menai Bridge.

WCP: Rhyl to Sychnant Pass

Sunday 1 June (0630-1645)

Distance: 26.3 miles

Weather: Mainly sunny. Some hazy cloud later on. Warm.

If anyone had just been driving out of the campsite as I was leaving this morning, I would happily have begged a lift to take me back to the coast, but at 6.30 on a Sunday morning I appeared to be the only person up and about, so off I set on foot.


Lots of beach – and my head and shoulders, just to prove that it was sunny…

Thanks once again to the tides being right, much of the first part of the day was along the beach, saving my feet from the concrete of the promenade. Having learnt from yesterday (which ended with my trousers in such a disgraceful, muddy state that I washed them as soon as we got back to the campsite*) when I found myself straying into the same sort of horrible mud into which I sank yesterday, I stopped, thought and did the sensible thing, backtracking to find another way around. A little sand did, of course, make its way into my shoes, but just a few grains, rather than yesterday’s half-a-beach.

Eventually the sandy beach came to an end so up to the tarmac I scrambled, where I found there to be a huge number of cyclists out enjoying the warm Sunday morning.


The smallest church in the British Isles (at Rhos on Sea), apparently. It seats 6.

After a bit more beach in Colwyn Bay, it was back to the promenade (where I passed some open public toilets!! Those two exclamation marks are thoroughly warranted; open public toilets have not been a feature of this trip, which can be a bit of an issue for a girl walking along beaches in populated areas), not because the beach became impassable on foot, but because I thought Mick may pass by on that section, and I would have been very glad to pick up my earphones which I’d forgotten. He (sensibly) bypassed the road I was on to go straight to Llandudno to bag a parking space, so my audio book remained at the point I left it yesterday until much later in the day.

The coast path doesn’t go over the top of Little Orme, but I did. It’s such an easy walk from the official route to the top, that it would have been rude to omit it. From the top I could see Mick (or more precisely, Colin) and once I’d phoned him and he’d dug out the binoculars, Mick could see me too.


A self-timed photo taken atop Little Orme, with Great Orme behind me

Not long later, I was inside Colin with a cup of tea and enjoying an early lunch. After a good long break, I didn’t set out alone, as Mick joined me on the next section. I have to confess that I omitted a bit of coast here. The coast path doesn’t go over Great Orme, but I did, and in so doing I omitted the walk along the road which runs around the edge of Great Orme Head. Purists may claim that in making decisions like this, I haven’t walked the coast of Wales, but as I won’t be claiming a badge, certificate or other recognition, I didn’t lose any sleep over my decision to see the views from on high, rather than walking a road.


A goat on the way up Great Orme. You may note that it has just one very impressive horn. Surely that amount of weight on one side of his head must give him a dreadful crick in his neck?!

With motorised transport options of cable car, tram and car, there were a lot of people on the top. I suspect that I was the only one who had walked there from Rhyl!


Not the most attractive summit when viewed from the east


Rather more attractive in the other direction

Mick accompanied me down the other side, before taking a road back to his start point, as onwards I continued, through more throngs of people enjoying the seaside on this fine day.


Unfortunately, you can’t see that the woman is engrossed in her mobile phone – just like the youth of today!


Bit of storm damage. Sea wall, roadway and sections of the wall beyond all washed away.

Not being entirely sure how far I was going to want to walk, Mick kindly waited for me again in Conwy, where I likely would have stopped for the day, except that if I want to reach Bangor before we have to head home tomorrow, I needed to get another few miles in today. So, after another good, long break I hauled myself back to my feet and off I set.

There are two route options from Conwy: the coastal route which follows the cycle path which runs adjacent to the A55 dual carriageway; or the inland route which goes via Conwy Mountain. Whilst I didn’t mind the adjacent-to-A-road route the other day, that was only a couple of miles long, whereas this was lots of miles of tarmac, often sandwiched between the dual carriageway and the railway. Thus, I chose the inland route, except I didn’t stay true to it as the inland route doesn’t go over Conwy Mountain and I did. As per Little Orme earlier in the day, it seemed rude to get that close and not go to the top. By this time, the day was very warm, I was very hot and my mind was protesting at me hauling my body up another hill in these conditions. The mental protests were ignored and the effort was thoroughly worth it for the views from the top.


Looking back to Great Orme. All of my route of the day was visible to me from this vantage point – and it looked a jolly long way!

Down was then the direction of travel, all the way to Sychnant, where Mick was duly found, patiently waiting for me.


Colin’s pitch for the night

Another excellent day.

(*Given that this wasn’t a backpacking trip, I really ought to have packed more than one pair of trousers in case of obscene-amounts-of-mud incidents. In fact, a pair of shorts would have been a good idea considering the weather.)