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]

Saturday 22 March 2008

Back To The Chase

What I really wanted to do this afternoon was sit on the sofa and read a trashy novel.

Two other activities were nagging me. If I was to stay at home then there was paperwork to deal with (which should have already been done, except that I got distracted by backpacks the other day). The other activity was going for another walk.

To build the last two days and to give my fitness (psychological and physical) a boost I knew that I wouldn’t be happy unless I took myself out for a few hours.

Despite my prediction yesterday, I couldn’t face another round of the local fields, so at half past one (yet another rather late start – more mundane chores were to blame for this one) I was to be found chugging in the still-poorly car over to Cannock Chase.

Off I set with the same 9kg pack as yesterday, in the company of Harry Potter and getting all sorts of weather thrown at me. At times I was baking in the sunshine with all of my vents open, at other times it was hat and gloves, with hood up in the face of hail and snow showers.

Eight or so miles in I was loathed to cross onto ‘The Other Side of the Chase’. It feels a bit creepy over there and I was by myself. Plus, my original plan had been to do two circuits on the ‘Right Side’ rather than crossing over into Creepiness. However, ‘The Other Side of the Chase’ houses the visitor centre and I was fantasising about a KitKat.

My pace picked up remarkably as I realised that it was heading rapidly towards half past four – the time at which I suspected the café closed. I got there in the nick of time: the café was closed, but they were still serving from the ‘take away’ counter. In the absence of a KitKat (who doesn’t stock KitKats, I ask you?!) a Crunchie was a good substitute and was soon dispensed with.

It a real wish not to cross the Hednesford Road onto the really creepy bit of the Chase (where I’m sure that the Mad Axe Murders do lie in wait for lone females), rather than the time of day, that caused me to dig out a map to find a route that would cut off a corner.

Snow was falling quite heavily as I set off along Marquis Drive, soon getting to the point where I suspected I wanted turn off. The temperature plummeting with the advancing hour caused the fleece beanie to be swapped for the Lowe Alpine Mountain Cap and a polar buff came out for my neck. The anemometer told me that it was just below 2 degrees. Add on wind chill and it was no wonder my hands were freezing each time the buffalo mitts came off.

My navigation proved good; I got to where I wanted to be without any mishap.

By the time I got to the fishing ponds my legs and feet were feeling the effort, the daylight was fading and I hadn’t seen another person for quite a while.

With the failing daylight and the absence of people, the deer had deemed it safe to come out of hiding. A group of nine stood and watched me watching them for a while until I started to creep forward to find how close I could get. A few minutes later I came across a group of six; a bit later, another (ostracised?) one.

The Tackeroo caravan park was the last landmark on my route, being just across the road from the car. It housed quite a few caravans today. Why, I do not know, as it strikes me as a dreadfully dreary location for a caravan park. There are much nicer areas on the Chase.

Unsurprisingly the car park was almost empty by the time I got back to it at dusk. I had walked 11.5 miles with a modest 1500 feet of ascent.

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