Thursday 30 June
Burton Hill (SO395488; 294m)
When Mick sent me his customary ‘Good Morning’ text at five to six this morning he was audibly surprised, when I phoned him straight back, to realise (from my huffing and puffing) that I was already on my way up my first hill. And I’d had a half-hour drive to get there too.
Why the masochistically early start this time? Well, the parking area I’d identified looked perfectly big enough for a car, but a bit tight for Colin, so I figured that if I was going to partially obstruct a gateway, I’d best do it very early in the morning when I could almost guarantee that no-one would want access.
Actually, I was barely across the gateway at all.
Through the gateway where I’d parked were a couple of permissive paths…
…but I’m not sure they weren’t confined to the area of the field, as at the top boundary I found a double-strand, permanent electric fence. With Mick still on the phone I took off my pack and commando-rolled under it. He also got a commentary as I got stung by a nettle as I found my way through the hedgerow beyond, which landed me on a public right of way which would lead me to the top. At that point, Mick rang off to go and prepare himself for his final day at work, and I made my way up a very slippery path.
With the top of this hill being relatively flat, and with any slight raises hidden by the whole area being thoroughly covered in brambles, I can’t say for certain that I stood on the highest ground. However, I did have a good tramp around (stopping every now and then to remove thorns from the knees of my trousers) before climbing up onto the fallen branch that you can see in this next snap…
…which was clearly higher than any of the ground. Thus calling the job a goodun, down I went. It was a short outing, at just 1.3 miles with 500’ of ascent.
Hegdon Hill (SO585539; 255m)
It’s possible to drive to within a minute’s walk of the top of Hegdon Hill, but I’d planned a 3.5 mile circular walk from Pencombe, using the Three Rivers Ride long distance route for my outward leg, with a lane walk for my return. Then I got to Pencombe and, over breakfast and a cup of tea, decided that I couldn’t face wading through yet more wet greenery. I still walked, I just opted for tarmac in both directions.
What I hadn’t considered, in my wet-greenery-avoidance decision, was that the summit of this hill sits on the inside boundary of a crop field, meaning that I didn’t escape wading through the wet, long grass of the field margin. In fact, by the time I took the selfie below, my shoes were full of water and my trousers were sodden to mid-thigh:
Fortunately, the trig point (visible mid-shot) isn’t the highest point of this hill, so there was no issue of crop-trampling. The summit is right on the fence-line, just where I’m standing.
Getting back to Pencombe (2.9 miles, 300’), I was so amused by the parking situation, with Colin completely blocked in (it was school drop-off time), that I took this photo:
A minute later, as I was unlacing my shoes, a woman appeared and started questioning me as to why I was taking photographs. I assumed that she thought I was going to complain about the parking, but no, she thought I might have caught a child in my snap. I insisted on showing her the photo to prove that not a single child was included and she went away happy (with the comment that I wouldn’t be going anywhere for a while; good job it wasn’t my intention to move straight away, as it was a while before my exit was cleared*). I went away a little sadder about what a suspicious (and would I be wrong to say overprotective?) world we live in.
And that was that - the end of this little trip. Next it’s back to the Pyrenees for us, picking up the GR10 from where we left it last July.
(*It would have been perfectly possible for those people blocking me in to have parked without obstructing anyone, but they would have had to walk, oooh, maybe 50 yards further.)