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, 23 August 2008

Stop Press: We Went For A Walk!

After a month of studiously turning my muscles to lard, and with it in the forefront of my mind that it’s just a few weeks until we set off to walk 180 miles across England, I had allocated today as a walking day.

It was a bit short-sighted given that in these parts it is a Bank Holiday weekend. Worse still (in terms of the numbers of people) it was a sunny day. The horrors of sunny-weekend quantities of people put me off a jaunt into the Peaks or the Lakes but being determined to get a bit of fresh air and exercise, we were going to go walking today even if it was a jaunt over the local fields.

In the end, and unsurprisingly, the Chase won as the location and laziness (mental rather than physical) led me not to look at a map but to decide instead that we would just walk one of our ‘training circuits’.

Arriving there the fact that we were one of only three cars in the car park immediately struck us. This was the middle of a sunny Saturday, for goodness sake!

The popularity of the pay-to-park areas has always astounded me, considering the close availability of free parking areas but, even so, I would have expected a good handful of cars there on such a sunny weekend.

The other thing that struck us was the ‘Emergency Path Closure’ sign that told us that a handful of the paths that we had intended to use were the subject of an emergency closure due to the need to spray herbicide to control the bracken.

An emergency need to spray bracken?!

Bracken has a long time been a problem on The Chase. It grows in spring each year and each year spraying attempts to control it. Being such a regular problem, quite how it suddenly became a surprise this year and warranted an emergency closure, I do not know.

Thoughts turned to having to dig out the map and plan a different route, but then I thought to look at the date on the notice and realised that being dated 1 August and with a duration of 21 days, we were okay to proceed.

(I was going to rant about the herbicide spraying activity we found later and one single notice out of many that was dated 22 August, and the possible danger to members of the public due to failure to post proper notices, but it would have been quite a rant, so I'll stick to the subject instead.)

The skies were blue as we set out, the ground was muddy (it’s been a bit wet of late, hasn’t it?)

and surprisingly even the paths within half a mile of each of the parking areas we passed were quiet. Even Stepping Stones, where we stopped for a snackette after positively route marching our way there, was almost devoid of people.
Quiet and pretty - and in the Midlands!

Finally reaching the Visitor Centre, where I was banking on getting a bit of lunch, we found out where the masses were. They weren’t at the seaside as we suspected, but rather flocking to a single half of a square mile area in the vicinity of the building that houses a café and an information room (both of which were pretty empty today, so they didn’t account for all of the people who had opted to pay to park here).

Tea and food revived my flagging energy, but no sooner had I finished chewing my last mouthful than Mick was hustling me out of the door.
Unexpected and unwelcome visitors in the Ladies (note: when deciding to take a photo when enclosed in a toilet cubicle of busy toilet facilities, turning the flash off will reduce enquiring looks from others when you emerge)

Within thirty paces from the Visitor Centre we passed through a fence, and suddenly we were back by ourselves. It was spooky how it was like Newquay beach in summer on one side, and yet no-one had strayed to the other side.

Onwards we went, under now very cloudy skies, until a short time later we took a left.

Five minutes later I decided that it wasn’t the left that I’d intended to take, but another couple of turns rectified that and before we knew it we were paddling through another ford (opting not to wait for the stepping stones to be vacated by a family who seemed to be having lots of fun using them). Minutes later we were passing the fishing pools, which weren’t being shown to their best advantage today.

A picture taken on a different day (in a different year) showed one of these pools at its best

Mick then decided to put on an even faster sprint than he’d been keeping up thus far. My legs refused to follow suit, although a certain stubbornness did see me keep up as we made our way up the final hill of the walk.

A near killer dog incident (i.e. we passed a dog that looked like it should have been a killer but turned out to be innocuous) saw us into the home straight and just over four hours after we set out, we were back at the car.

We had covered 11.5 miles and stopped for more food than was reasonable for the distance, but most importantly we had had a good walk on a lovely day.


  1. Great stuff! You make me feel very lazy, though. I must get out... but I can't get away from the computer *g*

  2. Hi Gayle, Mick
    If you feel like hearing more about our Italian trip whilst doing another spot of training somewhere between you and Manchester (some of the Sandstone Trail circular walks are good), let us know.
    We are now 'gathering lard'!
    Friday to Monday is best.
    Contact us via
    Martin and Sue