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]

Sunday 14 December 2008

Fresh Air & Exercise

“What are you doing?” asked Mick as I pored over a rather holey map of Cannock Chase just before leaving the house.

“Deciding where I’m going to walk.” was my quite obvious response.

“But you’ll just do one of our usual routes.” he said - and he was very nearly right.

Work commitments prevented Mick from joining me on this short outing (which commitments also led to the cancellation of the (already postponed) trip to trial the new tent), so I was on my lonesome as I stood in the car park pondering which direction to take.

The first deviation from the norm was starting the usual circuit in reverse.

Fifteen, maybe 20, minutes later (I couldn’t look at my watch, it was under my gloves, under my jacket), I was approaching the familiar sight of two fishing ponds. The grey skies didn’t set them off as well as blue skies do, but the surfaces were prettily reflective in the still air.

Looking east, over the bigger of the two ponds

And looking west over the smaller one

And playing with the self-timer, feeling a little bit silly with so many people around, and failing to adopt an appropriately nonchalant pose.

After the ponds, tradition would see me turn south to head toward’s Marquis’s Drive, so today I turned north and headed towards the Birches Valley Visitor Centre.

With the benefit of hindsight it was a bad move. It had already crossed my mind that a Sunday is perhaps not the best day to be heading towards a place that I know to be always busy, but what I hadn’t factored in was the proximity of the path to the road and the popularity of the Christmas Tree Sales Centre next to the Visitor Centre.

If the quantity of bikes hadn’t been sufficiently off-putting (was it National Get On Your Bike Day today? There really were abnormally large numbers of bikes about), the number of cars and people around the Visitor Centre was horrendous. Admittedly, had I carried on through the Centre it may have been quieter half a mile the other side, but I didn’t feel inclined to find out.

Instead I turned around, walked back fifty yards and took a signed Bridleway – and finally I was by myself for a while. Admittedly I wasn’t quite sure where I was heading, but for a stretch I didn’t even see any bikes.

A while later some houses came into view and, recognising them, I realised that I’d looped around to a point I’d already passed earlier, on my way to the ponds.

Past I went again (encountering a potential killer dog as I went; by good fortune a chap was approaching from the other direction at the same time and by some judicious slowing on my part the dog’s attention turned from me to him) and, surrounded once more by bikes, I made my way back down to the ponds.

This time I turned to the south after the ponds and took the usual route. Huge amounts of forestry work have been going on in the vicinity of the Chase Visitor Centre – most ugly – but it didn’t take me long to pass it by and through the seething masses of people and dogs, out enjoying a Sunday afternoon stroll.

It was then just a hop, skip and a jump to follow a few tracks back to the car.

The Stats: 2 hours; 6.25 miles; a whopping 600ft of ascent; and 954* bicycles encountered.

(*perhaps a slight exaggeration)

No comments:

Post a Comment