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]

Thursday 27 August 2009

Friday 21 August: From Cannock Chase to Wolverhampton

I’ve been following Richard’s progress southbound from John O’Groats since he set out in July and knowing that he would be passing close to us got in touch with him (via his support team back home in New Zealand) to arrange to meet up.

Having met him for the first time over a pint and some dinner on Thursday night, I was standing at his rapidly collapsing front door (he was just taking his tent down as I arrived) bright and early on Friday morning and ten minutes later we were outpacing the midges (midges on the Chase? That’s a first to me – I reckon Richard could be right when he says that they’re following him!).

Richard declared that he was having an easy navigation day as he had a local guide with him and perhaps I should have forewarned him that I haven’t got a particularly good record at accurate navigation when I’m busy chatting. He soon got the picture when just a few miles through the day we merrily walked down the wrong track (thank goodness (a) for the pylons and (b) that I noticed that we shouldn’t be walking towards pylons, or we could have gone seriously awry!). We shunned backtracking though and simply re-routed slightly with no extra distance caused.

The start and end points of the day dictated that much of the walking was on roads, so Richard got a tour not only of little lanes but also a few housing estates where I thought they looked like they would offer a better route to where we were going. Only a few hundred yards along the A5 towards Cannock (where the traffic was stationary thanks to the V Festival) were unpleasant and we wouldn’t have even been on such a major road if it hadn’t been for the complete impassability of the right of way that we should have been taking.

The forecast had been for heavy showers so we counted ourselves lucky to have fine skies for the first half of the morning. Then a few spots of rain were felt and we grasped at the straw that we were just getting the edge of a shower. Five minutes later waterproofs were donned. Ten minutes later the sun was beating down on us and off the waterproofs had to come. It became a bit of a theme for the day.

The heaviest downpour of the day cruelly hit us just five minutes before we reached the pub at Essington, which we had earmarked for a break, it was then sunny for the whole time we were inside and promptly started raining again as we left. Harrumph!

Roads and footpaths took us to a canal towpath, which would not only lead us to Wolverhampton but would bypass the dodgy areas that Richard had plotted on his map. Right into the city we did not go though, as Richard’s route had him finishing the day to the south of the city and taking a detour to see the sights of the centre didn’t seem a priority to add to a 18 mile day.

I managed to pay enough attention to our whereabouts (whilst we put the world to rights on the subject of gas and electrical regulations) to find the right bridge to take us off the canal so that we could pick Richard’s intended route back up and fifteen minutes later we were done for the day having covered 18 miles.

With the V Festival traffic thwarting Mick’s plans to drive over to pick us up, the local public transport was sampled (oh the joys of ‘exact fare only’ buses when you’ve intentionally spent all of your loose change so as to save weight!) as a bus was caught into the city centre and thence a train back to Rugeley where we found Mick waiting to whiz us back to our house for the night.

It was an good day in excellent company only marred marginally by a few inconsiderately timed heavy showers and by the discovery that the poorly knee is still far from better.

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