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 19 November 2009

Wednesday: Ludlow Castle

If there’s a castle nearby, then we need to go and see it. With Ludlow Castle being within a five minute walk from our accommodation it would have been more than rude to shun it. So, ignoring the fact that Ludlow Castle doesn’t feature roofs and that today’s weather was more wet than dry, that’s where we headed this morning.

Last time I visited was in 1984, when I was in Mr. Taylor’s class at Palmer’s Cross Primary. I remember the trip, but today I realised that I have no recollection of the main structure of the castle itself. I probably had less interest in things historical back then.

We explored every nook and cranny and took 42 photos plus one 360 video snippet from the top of the Keep. I will post the 360 video snippet next week (when I’m back in the land of sensible internet access). In the meantime, I will post a little snapshot taken from the top of the Keep:


Following the visit to the castle we proved what a small town Ludlow is by repeatedly bumping into our holiday companions in the streets, in between which random meetings we popped into The Olive Branch, a whole-food restaurant which gave us a tasty lunch with a plentiful pot of tea.

Suddenly I find that it’s Wednesday evening* already, with only a couple of days of holiday left. There’s lots and lots to do around here (and equal amounts of good food to eat). A week just isn’t long enough.

(*bit of a delayed posting there)

Tuesday 17 November 2009

To Bromfield, And Back Again

With our numbers swelled by one today, by the arrival of Vic’s dad on a day-trip, the nominated outing was to Bromfield. A verily good destination for two reasons: The Clive Restaurant and the Ludlow Food Centre.

As it went, we had spent an unreasonable length of time buying nice local produce in Ludlow Food Centre yesterday so that only left one objective of today’s outing: a nice lunch at Clive’s.

We left Ludlow via Ludford Bridge and took to the riverside to take us to the bridge by the castle:

Bromfield Ludlow Castle Look at that sky! (And the castle is hidden behind the trees somewhere)

Then it was onto field paths (at times very slip-slidey in their muddiness), where I couldn’t help but notice that autumn seems still to be in full swing with the colourful leaves:

Bromfield Autumn Colours Bromfield was reached after a very leisurely stroll, which had created sufficient time since the substantial second breakfast for lunch to be an appealing activity.

The food was absolutely excellent and whilst I couldn’t find fault with my spinach and goat’s cheese filo parcels I did have a little food envy for Vic’s Sea Bass and veg. Still, I won on the pudding with the most enormous apple tart ever seen.

Replete with lunch, I waddled back, but fortunately an easy route had been chosen along tracks and lanes, and just as the light was fading the castle was reached and thus we were nearly back.

Apart from lunch, the highlight of the day was the plethora of mushrooms and toadstools which not only gave the opportunity to test the macro function on the new camera, but also accounted for the majority of the day’s photos (if it wasn’t for the limited connection I would likely post them all, so be thankful for the lack of wifi here!).

Bromfield Shroom

The stat for the day was that 6.25 miles were covered (in surprisingly good weather; there was just a smidge of drizzle in the last ten minutes of the day). It didn’t feel that far, perhaps because a two-hour lunch broke it up into two 3 mile strolls.


Monday 16 November 2009

Long Mynd

On checking various weather websites yesterday evening it looked like today’s weather would be better than the next few days, so we earmarked the day for a trip from Church Stretton up Cardingmill Valley to Pole Bank.

Whilst making mountains of sandwiches to see us through the trip the weather changed from rain to fine and an hour or so later, as we set out past the Visitor Centre, it was looking like it would be a dry trip:

Long Mynd1 Just before Light Spout, which was full of water today (“drippy moss” was how Vic described its appearance last time she saw it) we paused for snackettes and Mick snapped a rather good group photo (albeit, for obvious reasons, he was missing from it):

Long Mynd2

A short while later I braved a wet right foot (my one Salomon Elios Mid has sprung a leak) to cross the torrent to get a good snap of the waterfall:


I’m using mobile internet this week so, for fear of falling asleep before blogs have posted, I’m limiting the number of photos. Therefore I won’t share with you the two pictures of various members of the party accidentally captured in ridiculous poses around this point of the walk.

We made it up to the top of Pole Bank where the views were spectacular but the wind rather keen, so we opted to drop down a bit before stopping to make a dent in the sandwich mountain. The substantially-pregnant member of the congregation claimed to be okay to complete the 8-mile circuit, but knowing that she has another walk tomorrow we didn’t want to wipe her out, so an executive decision was made to take the shorter route back.

A good decision!

Lunch was had not far down the hillside and about two minutes after we hauled ourselves to our feet, the rain that we had seen coming from the top hit us.

Oh my! That was twenty minutes of exciting weather! It was an uncommon combination of heavy rain powered by mightily strong wind and it positively stung when it hit bare flesh.

It was only when we dropped down into a steep valley that we got out of the worst of the wind, and a while later the rain eased off a bit too. Finally being able to look up without fear of suffering a stinging face I couldn’t help but notice what a spectacular valley we were in:

Long Mynd4 In complete contrast to the rain-lashing at the top, by the time we reached the bottom the skies were so stunningly blue and devoid of cloud it was difficult to believe that any other weather condition could have prevailed in the recent past:

Long Mynd5 Getting back to Cardingmill Valley it seemed rude not to take the short detour to the tea room to refresh ourselves with plentiful pots of tea and large slabs of cake. There, B found that her waterproof jacket could no longer claim to be waterproof. After wringing out her t-shirt she was glad to have a spare fleece in her bag. But, as she said, better to have found out on a short walk with a bit of violent rain than on a long wet day. She’s now in the market for a new jacket (any recommendations/gifts gratefully received, she says).

It was a very enjoyable outing, with 6 miles covered with 1500 feet of upness.

Sunday 15 November 2009

Canoes On The Weir

There wasn’t a great deal of activity in the house today. A-C was only able to join us for 24 hours so last night was a Good Night Out with fantastic food and a small drop of wine. Today was allocated as a lazy day. That every single one of us managed to make it out of our pyjamas (albeit it was knocking on for 3pm when that occurred) was miracle enough. There was scant chance of there being any other activity.

There was, however, much gazing out at the weir, and we did observe that the water level had dropped and that the water was not quite so brown and angry.

Then a canoeist hove into view, followed by half a dozen more. Our interest was piqued and our attention captured for ten or fifteen minutes until their manoeuvres over the weir had been completed:

Canoe comes into view; a couple of passers-by stop to watch:


Red canoe starts to toy with going over the weir:


More passers-by have gathered (just to add the pressure for red-canoe-chap) and he makes a move over the weir:


Manoeuvre successful, he looks rather pleased with himself:


(all photos taken whilst wearing pyjamas and slippers, from the balcony)

In momentary denial of how cold that water must be, we did want to go and have a go ourselves.

There are intentions to be a little more lively tomorrow, so there may (weather dependent) be photos of something other than the Teme.

The View From The Balcony (Take 2)

(I seem to be having a few technical difficulties; let's try that last post again and see if the photo appears this time)
Vic is the queen of choosing holiday accommodation.

The attached photo is the view from the balcony, of the horseshoe weir at Ludford Bridge.

Unsurprisingly, given the weather over the last couple of days, the river is high and very churned up and muddy.

Hopefully the weather will take a turn for the better (although our bags contain lots of Paramo items, in case it doesn’t) so it will be interesting to see how the view changes as the week goes on. I wonder if those trees are usually on the edge, rather than in the middle of, the water?

Saturday 14 November 2009

The View From The Balcony

Vic is the queen of choosing holiday accommodation.

The attached photo is the view from the balcony, of the horseshoe weir at Ludford Bridge.


Unsurprisingly, given the weather over the last couple of days, the river is high and very churned up and muddy.

Hopefully the weather will take a turn for the better (although our bags contain lots of Paramo items, in case it doesn’t) so it will be interesting to see how the view changes as the week goes on. I wonder if those trees are usually on the edge, rather than in the middle of, the water?

Friday 13 November 2009

Photos a-go-go

For those who didn’t read my last post, let me just repeat the important bit: we got a new camera this week. That’s no real excuse for posting quite as many photos as appear below, but today was its first proper outing and so I took an abnormally large number of snaps.

This was the exact same walk as I took last Friday, except that I was half an hour later setting off. Once again Mick dropped me off in the next village along, right by this bridge:


I’ve walked past and over that bridge any number of times and yet had never before noticed that there’s a big weir on the upstream side of it (probably because the pavement is on the other side, so I always look over the downstream side).

The view on the downstream side made me remember that it had rained a lot in the night. It’s not usually this high (nor so muddy):


Green lanes and enclosed paths followed for a while:



Across the first of the open fields I had my first dog incident. Having charged at me it turned out to be friendly enough.

The next field used to house a ‘watering hole’ where I have often seen a herd of cows wallowing. This year it seems to have turned into a bit of a puddle and is rapidly reverting to being just a sunken part of the field.


Sheep were encountered (non-killer variety):


And then I was into a section of National Forest plantation, where I had my next dog encounter. Much to its owner’s embarrassment it ran up to me repeatedly to place its muddy paws on my trousers (it was too small to reach my jacket); even I couldn’t categorise this one as a killer.

The large man-made lake here seems also be filling in and now it looks more like a marsh than a lake, but I’m sure that it’s still a friendly place for much wildlife.


The viewing platform was less friendly; those planks were mightily slippery in today’s damp conditions


Onto crop fields and the path was the cause of much slipping and sliding. I reached the roadway with half a field’s worth of mud adorning my shoes.


But first there was a real sense of deja vu when I had an exact repetition of last week’s dog-running-at-me-at-full-tilt incident (same dog, at the same point in its walk, with me at the same point in my walk, ran around me and barked, then left at the same speed with which it had arrived):


A four-ball on the first tee caused me to pause part way across the golf course and whilst paused I looked over to the club house. Funny that I’ve walked past it so many times and yet somehow never really noticed it. I suppose I’m usually more interested in the golf course itself (particularly if there are any balls flying around)


Approaching the river/canal junction my eyes were once again drawn to this building. Every time I walk past I wonder what its history is


Once at the canal/river junction there is a sign warning craft not to venture over the tall weir between the canal and the river


And just to be sure there’s a barrier to prevent incidents involving people who haven’t read the sign. Until late last year that barrier was in a much worse state of repair, and during its disrepair period we did witness a narrow boat in quite a pickle there (but I was too polite at the time to take a photo of their panic and predicament)


Mallard are starting to pair off again, but some fussy females are keeping their options open


The Navigation Warning System on the lock before the river section shows that conditions are just about qualifying as ‘normal’.


I’m sure that it will only be a short while before the ‘open as normal’ becomes ‘proceed with caution’ for much of the winter, with occasional closures (at which times the lock gates will be chained shut).


The next mile of the canal would be nicer save for being immediately adjacent to the A38. The volume of my audiobook had to be pumped up at this point to be heard over the traffic.

This sizable residence across the other side of the road looks to be falling into disrepair


Hardly surprising when you consider the usual traffic conditions right outside of the front door


With attention back on the canal, here’s a better version of the bridge-bridge-lock combo that I snapped with the Blackberry last week


Last pic of the day (sigh of relief all around). Much smoke coming out of chimneys along a residential section just before I left the canal, walked up the roads, past the ponds and called Mick to beg for a lift the rest of the way home.


Unsurprisingly the route was still 7 miles long and still featured a negligible amount of ascent. As you may have noticed the day was grey, but the rain was good enough to hold off until I got home.

Camera Troubles

At the beginning of September, at a critical moment whilst standing atop a model of a section of Hadrian’s Wall at Vindolanda, our camera’s auto-focus ceased to focus. For a couple more days it was a bit hit or miss as to whether it would play along, or whether it would whir away before coming up with a nasty blue error screen. Then it died completely.

That was disappointing indeed. I can’t say that I thought much of the picture quality that it produced, but we had only had it for 20 months and I was a long way from ready to fork out for a new one.

As much as I wasn’t impressed by the Olympus mju700 it has four benefits: 1) at 104g it’s very light (the main basis upon which I originally bought it); 2) it’s weatherproof; 3) I already own spare batteries for it; and 4) I already have the right memory cards for it. Buying a new camera would likely result in something heavier, not weatherproof, and it seemed highly unlikely that the chosen model would require the same battery or memory card.

The happy solution seemed to be to take the ‘spare camera’, which we inherited, out of the drawer and use that instead. Much chunkier and less user friendly it may have been, but it took decent snaps.

Alas, on its first outing, on Dartmoor, we came to the conclusion that the battery indicator is dicky. Sometimes it’s happy that the brand-new lithium batteries are good. Sometimes it’s convinced that they’re dead and switches off. Sometimes it takes one photo in the belief that the batteries are good, then switches itself off. Switch it back on and it may be fine again for a few more shots or it may randomly decide that it’s powerless. Add that fault to the bulk (it won’t fit in my hipbelt pocket) and it didn’t take long for me to become resigned to getting a new camera.

As much as it rankled to settle for poor picture quality again, if I could have picked up another Olympus mju700 at a reasonable price then I would have, because for my level of snap-shots the plus-points outweigh the major drawback. But I couldn’t pick one up at a price that justified that decision, so it was back to the drawing board.

The new camera arrived last Monday (Canon Ixus 95IS). My initial test shots that afternoon, around the River Crane and the outside of Twickenham Stadium, in failing light, were highly uninspiring. So when I popped out for a walk this morning I took an abnormally large number of photos.

See next post…


Monday 9 November 2009

Shuffling Around The Block

As I set out along the track just up the road from the house this morning, I regretted not having a camera on me – not even the one on my phone. The fields were hoary, with the early fog just starting to burn off on what was setting itself up to be a glorious day. One field in particular looked particularly fine in its whiteness, and my immediate thought was to get a photo of it, but even upon realising my lack of equipment I wasn’t moved to return home to pick up a camera.

My attention was soon drawn instead to the other side of the track and, more specifically, to the most enormous bull in the field there. There is seldom a fence between that field and the one across which I was about to walk (when there is it’s a temporary electric one), and from where I was standing I could see no cows to keep the bull distracted.

There did turn out to be cows, and they did follow me, eventually breaking into a trot (the cows, not me; surprisingly I remained calm even when the trotting caught the bulls attention and he started making his way over for a look too). By then I was almost at the next gate and over its icy bars I vaulted (not out of haste, just because I know that this gate doesn’t open).

The track which I cleared of overgrowth back in February, and found out in August was practically impassable again, has benefitted from the autumn. The undergrowth has died back a little and so I was able to pick my way along without being slapped about the face or grabbed or tripped by spiky things.

There was an unusual amount of livestock on my route today (this being my bog-standard ‘shuffle around the block’ route), but fortunately the only other cows were completely uninterested in my presence as I slip-slid my way through the churned up muddiness of their field. The only other animal incident of the walk was another dog which bounded over to place it’s muddy paws on my jacket (why is it that since I stopped shrieking and hiding behind the nearest tree/person every time I see a dog they take it that I’m the friendliest person in the world and want to jump up me?!)

I would likely have walked an extra mile and a half, returning home over more farmland, except that to do so would have required a repetition of the frisky-cow-and-bull-field (or alternatively a walk along a busy lane in dubious visibility), neither of which appealed, so I cut into the village to walk back home along the road. The road walk did at least give the opportunity to see how various building projects are progressing.


Random hoary photo from January this year;

it looked nothing like that today!


Saturday 7 November 2009

Little Josh

Mick holding first-born Grandson for the first time:



He’s five days old now (Josh that is; Mick’s a tiny bit older!), and weighing in at over 10lb at birth, is a big lad for his age.

He was declared, before our arrival, to be the “most perfect baby in the world” and having met him, we are inclined to agree.

Congratulations go to Nick and Holli (the doting parents of whom we failed to take a photo with Josh – but hopefully they’ll send some through soon).

Friday 6 November 2009

The Trent & Mersey

Having announced that I was taking myself out for a walk this morning, Mick asked where I was going. I gave the matter some thought and reeled off four options.

A while later, as I laced my shoes and put on my jacket, I still hadn’t made a decision but surprised myself by asking Mick whether he could give me a lift down the road to the next village. A fifth option had apparently popped into my head, which would have been dismissed for the certainty of being chased by three large horses. Getting a lift 3 miles down the road would avoid the horse situation.

As I set out into the gloom a few minutes later, it occurred to me that my concern about the horses had prevented me from thinking through the rest of the route and the fact that it often features cattle, sometimes of a troublesome nature. It also passes through some areas popular with dog walkers, so killer dogs were a further danger.

Just as these thoughts were in my mind, a dog suddenly started barking ferociously about three feet away from me. Having returned to land after leaping six feet in the air, I calmed myself as I realised that the killer beast was securely behind tall palings.

Minutes later I was looking to be doomed to be a nervous wreck when I heard hooves stampeding behind me. Looking over my shoulder I identified the source of the sound as four horses, and gave myself a good talking to as, being on a narrow green-lane, it should have been quite obvious that they were safely in an adjacent field.

It seemed inevitable after such a start that I would come face-to-face with the hugest bull known to man upon entering the first field.

Happily, all of the first set of fields were empty and even more happily all of the dilapidated and missing stiles have been replaced with sturdy new ones.

The 7 miles didn’t all pass off entirely smoothly. Although the only cows I encountered were so small as to be no threat at all, I did have not one but two dogs turn from their owners and stride out at top speed towards me. Both turned out to be less threatening than their approach suggested. The second one turned out to be very friendly indeed – so much so that it left a lovely muddy paw-print on the front of my bright orange jacket.

Anyway, enough words, here are a few (poor quality) snaps:


Into the misty gloom


Friendly cows


Swans and ducks organising themselves by colour


I like this bridge-bridge-lock combination on the Trent & Mersey, but I’m sure that I’ve got better photos of it



The water in all of the local ponds was remarkably low

A Touch of Disappointment

P5120103Places on the TGO Challenge were announced earlier this week, followed swiftly by much comment around t’internet as people expressed their excitement at being selected or their disappointment at being on the stand-by list. As I read all the excited postings, I found myself (rather ridiculously) in the category of ‘mildly disappointed’.

That we didn’t get a ‘You’ve got a place!’ email wasn’t a surprise, really, given that we hadn’t entered. But, now that we’ve taken part and understand the attraction of the Challenge, there was a tinge of sadness that we had chosen not to join in the fun next year.

Mick had been all for applying, and for a while I had entertained a plan whereby we worked the Challenge into our K2CW (albeit with some assistance of motorised transport).

Mick remained enthusiastic about that plan, but the more I thought about it the more I dismissed it. Amongst other issues, the biggest argument in my mind was that by delaying our progress north by over two weeks we would be putting ourselves more firmly into midge territory during midge season.

Besides, who in their right mind would incorporate a TGO Challenge into an End-to-End walk?

So in 2010 we will be enjoying the TGOC via the blogs and reports of others. And, in 10 months from now we won’t be dithering; that application will be going straight off for the 2011 Challenge.

Sunday 1 November 2009

Step Away From The Pudding…

(This is a missing post. Typed on Friday evening, it should have preceded the last two, to explain where we were and why. It’s failure to materialise in the right order was entirely operator error (pressing ‘send’ always helps…))

"I'm going to take you away for the weekend" announced Mick a couple of weeks ago and it didn't take me too long to work out that the occasion prompting this was our wedding anniversary.

"Where?" was my natural response, but Mick maintained that it was a surprise. He wasn't even drawn in by my probing questions.

It was the apparently innocent statement of "We'll travel down on Friday" that led me to guess the location - much to Mick's consternation. It was the word "down" that did it.

"Down?" I repeated "Not up?". Mick tried to back-track. "Warren's Farm?" I asked. Mick looked sheepish. I grinned.

We discovered Warren's Farm in Yeoford (thank's to Vic's assistance at short notice) during our Big Walk last year and it maintained its 'best B&B' ranking throughout the entire trip. We not only vowed to return, but as a result of some comments in the Visitors' Book last year we quite fancied sampling one of Winnie's (the host’s) famed three course meals.

We arrived at the farm on Friday afternoon

IMG00173 and with the friendly welcome came the apparently bottomless pot of tea and warm scones. Mick's eyes lit up at the sight of the large helping of clotted cream which he knew he would enjoy all to himself.

We had a different room this time, but once again it was large, comfortable and full of character (and it had a bath in the en-suite, making me rue not having that room last year when the bath would have been even more welcome).IMG00172

The evening meal was superb, even if there was enough food to feed a family of six hungry people.IMG00155 After cream of mushroom soup with sunflower-bread, it was pheasant cooked in a delicious sauce, served with roasted parsnips and swede, broccoli, cabbage and leek and carrot, a whole head of cauli baked in cheese sauce, and potato croquettes.

We were absolutely stuffed after the main course (and yet struggling to stop eating whilst it remained in front of us, so tasty was it), and then came the dessert. With Winnie being Belgian it had seemed wrong to request anything other than the Belgian Chocolate Mousse, and it came served in two very large bowls.

I took a couple of mouthfuls and found it to be very rich indeed and declared that no-one could possibly finish a whole serving. Mick, however, was making a brave attempt, and possibly would have made it except that in the end I suggested (for his own good) that he stepped away from the pudding.

Later we reclined in bed complaining that we had eaten far too much. I wouldn’t hesitate, next time we visit Warren’s Farm (for I’m sure that there will be a next time), to have a meal here again (albeit next time I will take a bottle of wine to make use of the redundant wine glasses that were curiously part of the place setting).

A fantastic B&B, with a fantastic host and plentiful tasty food. Bliss!

(subsequent note: After Winnie’s excellent breakfast on Saturday morning I was so absolutely full that I skipped lunch and tea and didn’t suffer from any hunger until Sunday morning – almost unheard of for me!)

A Day on Dartmoor

A lengthy bumslide was certainly a quick way to descend Great Link Tor but it wasn't my intended method. What it did achieve was the deeply unpleasant experience of continuing onwards to Kitty Tor with sopping trousers slapping against my legs and a soggy sleeve where I had managed to scoop up some quantity of water. Mick was mercilessly unsympathetic.

Fortunately the mishap didn't occur too early in the walk. We had already walked from Meldon Reservoir and up Sourton Tor before pausing briefly to watch a running event pass by.

As my photo from the top of Kitty Tor showed, visibility up there wasn't great, but it was better than we got for our next objective.

Being woefully lacking in fitness our plans for the day weren't fixed and from Kitty Tor we thought it likely that we would take the easy option of tracks back in the direction whence we had come. A surprising (to me anyway) level of energy remained when we reached Kitty Tor, however, so we took the more interesting route to yomp pathlessly over to Branscombe's Loaf.

A significant amount of murkiness persisted which made the yomp all the more interesting (compass in hand, "to that tussock", "which tussock?", "that darker one" pointing in the direction of any number of tussocks of various shades).

Our navigation proved good (in contrast to earlier in the day when a brain-fart (or plain rustiness) saw me struggling to remember how to take a bearing) and after wading through much bog (oh how magic my GoreTex socks are!) we found ourselves back below the cloud, exactly where we needed to be.

Past a large herd of tiny ponies and normal-sized coos we went, then steeply down to join a path that would lead us to the path around the reservoir.

"How long does it take to walk around" a heavily necklaced woman asked as we skirted the south-east side of the reservoir. "You have just walked around, haven't you?" Well, technically we had but I don't think that our route was the one they intended. We gave them the benefit of information read from our map and they merrily continued.

Thanks to having taken a detour in the morning to buy an emergency map case (having failed to pick one up from home), we ensured that the threatened rain would hold off, and so it did.

A mighty fine walk it was too. Women in heels and necklaces, old chaps in shirts and ties, runners in skimpy shorts; sunshine, mist and murk; paths, bogs and yomping - and freakishly warm for the time of year. What more could one ask for?
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