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 27 November 2007

Around the Coast of Britain

A few weeks ago I read ‘Slow Coast Home’ by Josie Dew, which gives an account of Josie’s attempt (which turned out to be broken and curtailed) to cycle the coast line of Britain. Cycling isn’t my thing, so it’s not the sort of book that I would ordinarily buy, but having been dragged into a book shop (I try to avoid them as a rule: to enter a book shop usually involves accidental purchases) and finding it reduced to £2.99 it seemed like too good an offer to refuse.

According to reviews on Amazon, it’s the worst of all of her books, but I enjoyed it. I’ve not been inspired to straddle a saddle, but it was still a good tale of travel, meeting people, injuries and camping in interesting conditions.

Spurred on by enjoying Josie Dew’s tales of a British coastal journey, I then bought a copy of ‘The Sea on Our Left’ by Shally Hunt, which is the account of a couple’s 4300 mile walk around the coast of Britain in the mid-1990s.

Having already read ‘The Sea Ahead’ by the same person (her account of their walk along the E2 from Cape Wrath to Nice in 2003), I had a feeling that The Sea on Our Left would annoy me a tad. As it went, it annoyed me a lot, and for reasons far beyond those that I had expected.

In my opinion (and it is just my opinion; of course people can walk around the coast against whatsoever rules they chose), if you’re going to walk around the coast that’s exactly what you do. Catching ferries across estuaries is a pretty standard allowance but, in my opinion, catching a bus and a train to the other side of an estuary when a ferry is not running is pushing the definition of walking around the coast. But catching a train past Port Talbot because the industrial area was too dull? Or catching buses because you’re running a bit behind and you have a schedule to keep for accommodation purposes? Now I may be misunderstanding that last point, but it was the impression that I got from what was written.

Even ignoring the fact that they didn’t, as the front cover purports, walk around the entire coast (and perhaps we can forgive someone a few miles out of 4300) most of the book is far from inspiring. It starts off as a very stilted account, which moves between subjects without warning (the bit about looking at protruding ribs in the bath in one sentence and talking about passing a lighthouse in the next confused me until I realised that she’d moved on to another day). And whereas one may expect some amusing accounts of the folk that they met on the way it seemed that, with a couple of exceptions, Shally was determined to find fault with every single person they met on the way and every B&B owner. She comments at one point that she saw herself as a prissy snob, and that’s exactly how she came across. Amusing anecdotes there were not, although I grant that she was pretty enthusiastic about the coast of Scotland and managed a flowing and interesting account of that section.

But, none of that is what really annoyed me about this book. Perhaps I’m picky, but if I’m being asked for fork out £7 or £8 for a professionally published book then I expect it to have been proof read, maybe even edited, and most, if not all, of the spelling errors ironed out of it. On some pages I didn’t spot a single error but more often than not there were several.

I accept that some people have issues with spelling and I don’t claim to be without error myself (but then I’m not charging anyone for my witterings and rants and I wouldn’t dream of putting them in a book shop), but even in the mid 1990s there were spell-checkers and as for place names, all that is required is to write with a road atlas by your side. There is no excuse, as happened far too often, for a place name to be spelt incorrectly in one paragraph, correctly in the next and then incorrectly again two later.

It was with annoyance (and sometime amusement via pure incredulity) that I came across all of these errors (my personal favourite: ‘wear-with-all’).

Anyway, I’ve ranted enough. I must, sometime soon, say something about the books that I’ve read that I’ve enjoyed – I only seem to comment on those that I find fault with. For the moment just let me say that if you want to read an account of a walk around the coast (and bearing in mind that I’ve not read John Merrill’s (oops, just slipped and bought a copy, mind)) then I would say that Two Feet, Four Paws by Spud Talbot-Ponsonby is leagues ahead of Shally Hunt.

Monday 19 November 2007

Gosh I Can Waffle On!

It used to be that every time we went away anywhere, whether on holiday, for a weekend or just for a walk, I would, if possible, send a detailed daily postcard to my gran.

The problem came on those walks or backpacking trips when we didn’t pass a shop or a post-box each day. So that my gran, sitting at home waiting for the tales that she now expected, wasn’t let down I started writing detailed accounts after each of our trips.

Word got around, the circulation of my whitterings grew slightly and the one thing that everyone kept telling me was that I should write a book about our adventures. Bless, eh! It’s like all those people on X Factor whose families tell them that they can sing, without taking the bias angle into account.

However, to keep these people happy, last year I collated all of my accounts for the previous 14 months and had them printed and bound into a hard-back volume, with a copy of each of them. Suddenly everyone was happy.

But, of course, I had then set a precedent. This year I have repeatedly cursed the fact that I ever started these write-ups as I’ve slaved away over the computer after each trip.

Then, about a month or maybe six weeks ago, I started the task of collating, editing and formatting this year’s collection (cursing Bill Gates as I went; why, oh why does deleting one tab in between two photos suddenly change the style of all of my headings?!).

Tonight I have finished and sent it off to the binders.

Having heaved a huge sigh of relief upon finishing, out of interest I looked at my final word count.

Now the more astute amongst you may have noticed that I have the ability to ramble on at some length (no, really!)…

On the subject of this year’s 31 outings I have written 165,000 words, spread over 218 A4 pages. Ouch!

Bearing in mind our plans for next year, I think that I need to go on a crash course in the art of being succinct.

Sunday 18 November 2007

Snow and Stuff

As I drove home tonight, the BBC weather on the wireless was telling me that there was the chance of sleet on high ground.

That forecast seemed a bit incongruous as it was followed by the travel news which featured many mentions of drifting snow. It also didn't tally with the snow that I had witnessed (in Wolverhampton) during the day.

I'm now sitting at home and that 'sleet' is looking distinctly snow-like and it has started to settle.

The lawn is now white.

Husband is just back from his weekend in the Lakes, introducing his 12 year old nephew to the joys of camping and walking.

I think that we can say that the weekend was a thorough success. Nephew was in no way put off by the torrential rain, winds, low temperatures and snow.

He's already asking about the next trip and saying that he wants to go backpacking.

His mother did raise a bit of an eyebrow in Husband's direction when, upon arriving home and enthusing about the weekend, nephew uttered the words 'I think I need some gear'!

Oooops! A gear-freak in the making?

Bit Cloudy Up Here!
It's a bit cloudy up here, says nephew

Oooh - A Break in the Cloud.
A fortuitous break in the cloud

Saturday 17 November 2007

Random Witterings

Progress has been made on my mission to get some of Rights of Way access issues around here resolved, insofar as I now have the contact details of the RoW Officer for the County Council and a copy of the form that I need to complete to report those issues. There will be five forms submitted in my initial correspondence: the five missing stiles/locked/broken gates over which I’m currently having to vault each time I go for a yomp around the local fields. Purely for exercise purposes (my hip’s not liking running just now) I’ve done that walk three times this week. On the frosty days (two out of the three) those gates over which I’m inelegantly launching myself can by awfully slippery. Stiles or working gates are definitely required (although, call me cynical, but I won’t be holding my breath for either).

Once those issues are logged with the council I will start on the issues that I consider more minor. The missing signage where paths meet roads will be up there, and next year I will start attacking the failure of local farmers (not all local farmers, I hasten to add; some are very fastidious) to reinstate paths across crop fields (I feel a little bit uncomfortable about this one – I know what the law says, and I know that it’s jolly inconvenient to me when a field is ploughed right up to the boundary and cropped without any gap left for walking, but I’m sure that the farmers have better things to be doing with their time).

TGO Magazine
The final issue on my current subscription arrived, in an entirely timely manner, on 1 November. Half a month later I find that although I’ve flicked through it a few times, it’s not captured my attention and I’ve struggled to read any of the articles.

Husband commented, on the day it arrived, that the whole magazine was dedicated to Scotland in winter (a slight exaggeration) . I was sympathetic at the time, as it was obviously running a special. However, in that I don’t (yet) do proper winter conditions, it’s not something that interests me.

So, renewal time is not a good time for TGO to have a wholly uninspiring issue (for me, that is). So even the six reminders that I’ve been sent to renew (yes, six! Two first reminders, two second and two third – really, one letter would have been fine, far cheaper and far more environmentally sound) have not caused me yet to renew. I’m sure I will in due course, but I don’t think that it will be for the January issue.

Trail Magazine
Whilst yomping over the local fields by myself this week I’ve been catching up with Podcast Bob’s weekly Podzines.

I’ve listened to them in reverse order, so I started out with the one with a review of the current issue of Trail Magazine. He made it sound so good that I added the purchase of a copy to Husband’s chores list.

Not twenty minutes later, with impeccable timing, I got a call from Trail magazine offering me the ‘3 months for £1 each’ trial. I almost bit their hand off in my enthusiasm to take them up on it. Considering Weird Darren’s experience with the very same offer, I was interested as to exactly what they would tell me as to the trial. As it went, without any questioning from me, they explained exactly what I needed to do if I didn’t want to continue with the subscription after the three months, and made it clear that without any action the subscription would continue at £9.99 a quarter.

I will most definitely be cancelling my direct debit once the payments for the trial have been taken, but in the meantime, I will allow Trail magazine to annoy me (because it almost always does) for three months at a bargain price.

The Lakes
As I sit and type this I am a slight shade of green. It’s not caused by a bad prawn, but by the jealousy of Husband currently being ensconced in a tent in Keswick.

He’s taken his 12 year old nephew for his first camping/walking weekend. Some would argue that the middle of November is not the best time to introduce a twelve year old to the joys of camping and walking up hills. Many others would second that on the basis of the current weather and the forecast for tomorrow (heavy rain, moderate to strong winds and cold). However, nephew seems to be enjoying it so far (it goes without saying that Husband would enjoy being out in a tent in any conditions – I’ve taught him well!).

A bit concerning to receive a report today that my waterproof trousers (nephew has borrowed most of his kit from the weekend from me) are leaking. I’m currently clutching at the ‘condensation’ straws…

Wednesday 14 November 2007

The Wrekin

With both of us remembering our shoes today, our delayed plan came to fruition. We walked up the Wrekin - a hill that stands alone in a sea of flatness, not far from Telford. I’ve driven past hundreds upon hundreds of times but within my memory I have never been up it (according to my Mother I have, but I was very young at the time). So now, not only have we been Right Round the Wrekin (metaphorically, at least), but we’ve also been up it.

This hill turned out not to be entirely what I believed it to be. When I was in Junior School, whilst doing a project on volcanoes, I recall being told that the Wrekin was an extinct volcano. It’s not something that I’ve thought about greatly since, but I did believe it to be true.

Today, we’d not even left the car park when I came across an information board that started with the words ‘One of the most enduring myths about the Wrekin is that it is an extinct volcano’.

I didn’t get to read any more at that point as Husband was already striding away across the road, so I was soon trotting behind him to catch up.

A minute later things took a bit of a surreal turn when we encountered two fairies on horseback, with the horses themselves wearing pink boas and silver tinsel.
Fairies on Horseback

Fairies on Horseback

It transpired that their attire was all in aid of Children in Need. Quite how they came up with the idea of riding up to the top of the Wrekin dressed as fairies as a charitable stunt is a question that I should have asked.

We took the broad, easy and uninspiring track up to the top, meeting lots and lots of people on our way.

Despite the day not being tremendously clear, the views from the top were excellent.

A Fine View

The formation of the clouds coming out of the nearby cloud factory confirmed to us that it was a reasonably still day:
Cloud Factories

And a multi-coloured woodland caught my eye, although the Shropshire hills beyond aren’t too clear in the photo.
Good Views with Colourful Woodland

After the obligatory summit photo (which I’ve not reproduced here by virtue of it being an awful photo of me), we continued off the summit to drop down the south west side.

‘Twas a bit steep, but the pretty woodland and it being a path rather than a vehicle track made it a much nicer route than the track we had taken up. Despite it being by far the more pleasing side of the hill, we were suddenly all alone. Having seen so many people on the main track, during the whole of our return route (down the south west flank, then skirting around the north side) we saw only one man and his dog.

The woodland of our return yielded a good display of toadstools. Husband humoured my fixation with such things and patiently waited whilst I got the camera out.


The whole outing was less than 2 hours, but it turned out to be a lovely day for it – nice and sunny albeit a bit nippy when not exerting too much energy - and a pleasant little walk.

Full set of photos (except for the very dodgy summit one) is here.

Tuesday 13 November 2007

The Walk That Wasn't

On Sunday we went for a walk! (Yes that did deserve an exclamation mark considering recent performance.)

It wasn’t really worthy of any note at the time as we only had a few short hours to spare, so it was just a very quick jaunt over local fields and the local estate. The only novel feature was that a Nimrod flew over. Being a bit of a strange location to see a low-flying Nimrod, we assumed that it was performing a fly-by at a local Remembrance Day Service (at the Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas, perhaps?). Either that or they were just out flying around in unusual areas whilst checking for fuel leaks in the bomb bay…

Once we got home
I finally got around to emailing the local council to try to elicit a name and address for the person to whom I should write about missing stiles, locked gates and the like. I got three emails in return, all giving me different answers, but this is something about which I’m belatedly going to get on my high horse. I’m fed up of having to climb over obstacles on our local Public Rights of Way.

Anyway, that was Sunday. Today, we very nearly went for a slightly more proper walk (only slightly, mind). With four hours of the day free, a plan was formed, a map was printed and out we set early this morning. Alas, the plan didn’t come to fruition.

We were ten minutes away from home (but on a strict deadline for an appointment) when one of us realised that their necessary footwear was still at home. We didn’t have the time to return for it.

I won’t mention any names as to who it was without suitable footwear, but it wasn’t me! (and anyway, being the fashion icon that I am, I’ve almost always got an old-but-serviceable pair of walking shoes on my feet.)

So, the walk didn’t happen.

It wasn’t the end of the world. We had other, far more useful, things with which we were able to fill the day (hanging doors, that sort of thing).

The new plan is to pop out tomorrow instead. Shoes will, of course, be top of the checklist.

Tuesday 6 November 2007

The Mind Boggles

I've still got nothing relevant to talk about (see post below), but I was just having a quick look at my blog stats, to see how many people have been popping by and how they got here.

As I've mentioned before, every now and then a bizarre Google search leads someone here - but usually it's just an occasional occurence in between more obvious searches such as 'Alpkit Hunka' and 'Terrocs'.

Yesterday three people found this blog via Google. And the search terms that led them here? A strange trio:

'compare contrast into thin air book movie' (okay, that one I can understand);
'wet heigh [sic] heeled shoes' (eh?); and
'what is the orange walk'.

Unsurprisingly, none of those searchers stayed for very long!