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]

Friday 21 March 2008

The Canal On My Right

Noon today saw me and Husband indulging in some ridiculous poses in a playing field. A press photographer was directing those ridiculous poses. People stopped, stared and pointed.

A quick visit was then made to Much’s (Much is my Gran), who was horrified when she heard my plans for the rest of the afternoon. Husband was to drop me off at a point on the way home and I was going to walk the rest of the way – all by myself, along the canal. Much obviously believes that the canal is where mad axe murderers and rapists sit in wait for lone females. She really was very concerned.

So, after a quick late luncheon of chips in a pub car park, I set out with a 9kg pack on my back whilst Husband continued on home by car to dose himself back up and continue his recovery.

It was something less than an inspiring walk. Even the wild-life was in hiding. A token number of ducks were playing on the water and a few swans. I spotted what looked like a field fare (but it was by itself, and don’t they like to be in groups?) and a few other LBJs, but little else.

As predicted, the canal itself was busy with narrow boats, many of them hired (no doubt starting their boating adventure today). Even on the hired craft the vast majority of the occupants were aware of the etiquette. Only one party studiously ignored me as I nodded and hailed in their direction.

The tow-path was somewhat quieter. There were dog walkers (mainly female, but fortunately all in control of their dogs), but few others (of those few, two of them had travelled LEJOG, in their case on a tandem and over a course of 3 weeks; it’s a nice change to meet people who say ‘I’ve done that’ rather than saying ‘My goodness. Are you mad?’).

The weather had been somewhat changeable all day. Earlier the clear blue skies of the morning had turned into greyness and rain just as the photographer arrived. As I set out along the canal the sky was clearing. Half an hour in I had all of my vents open and sleeves rolled up, soaking up the heat.

Yet the weather was being cruel. My legs got progressively more tired (I’m still wearing in the boots, not being the most sensible footwear for the terrain they probably contributed to the tiredness; the 9kg on my back probably didn’t help either) but every time I reached a bench and sat down for 30 seconds a shower would reach me, causing me to don my pack and carry on.

Rain turned to hail, then back to sunshine and then the temperature plummeted. By the time I was on the home straights, it was below 2 degrees; with windchill it was negative. The hat and buffalo mitts were appreciated.

The final distance was 12 miles walked, along most of which the MP3 player kept me company, firstly finishing off the latest excellent range of Outdoorsstation podcasts, then a few chapters of Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban.

If I get out for another walk tomorrow, I fear that it will be yet another repetition of my usual local fields.

Finally I reach a bench with no immediate danger of rain - and what an ornate bench!

Now that's a big nest.

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