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]

Wednesday 31 March 2010

Day 10 Photo

Ooops - forgot the photo again.

It wasn't a great day for photos, and I even managed to get my overmitt in the way of this one. Still, it shows the lovely grassiness of the latter parts of today's tow path.
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Day 10 - Stoke Hammond to Stoke Bruerne

Wed, 31 March
Distance: 17.5 (Tot: 182 miles)
Number of fishermen seen before 8am: 13

It was a dark and stormy night and the rain came down in torrents...

Actually, between the rain it was quite a light night as the sky cleared and the moon shone brightly.

All the way through it was windy though; a wind which fairly howled through the tent.

On the plus side, there was no condensation this morning as a result. On the down side there was quite a bite to that wind, so as it whistled through it whipped away all of the heat we were generating.

Getting out of the snuggly sleeping bag this morning was therefore something of a wrench, but was made better by having commandeered the toilet block for breakfast and packing.

With full waterproofs on (for warmth as much as for wetness) we headed back to the canal, agreeing that what the campsite lacked in value for money it made up for in location, as it really was within 100 yards of our route.

One bridge later we were surprised to come across a catch (or whatever the collective noun is) of fishermen. An angling competition we gathered, with an early start.

Fishing/angling (sorry, but I have no idea which is the correct term) must be akin to backpacking for the potential to be a gear freak. All of these old chaps had set-ups that looked impressive, most of them also having motorised trolleys to transport it all along the tow-path.

A couple of miles further on, we put into action our 'the weather's cold and miserable and it would be quite nice to knock an hour off the day' plan (which explains why we walked 17.5 miles instead of the intended 20). Instead of following the canal around Milton Keynes, we cut across the town.

Considering that most of Milton Keynes is built on a grid system, and considering that all we needed to do was to follow one road all the way through, it should have been an easy thing to do. The complicating factor was that MK doesn't have traditional British pavements; instead it has walk/cycle ways which run one side of the road or the other. At each intersection of roads there is a roundabout for the cars and a maze of under-passes for those travelling under their own steam.

Just to add a bit of confusion, every now and then, at a set of underpasses, the path would switch sides of the road, but with no indication that if you carried on as you were, you'd end up accidentally turning left or right. It certainly kept us on our toes (only once did we nearly wander off in the wrong direction), and with all of the underpass-detours some of the saved mileage was negated.

Making it back to the canal just beyond a windmill, we only had a couple or so miles until we had earmarked a pub as a warming-up point. As it went, that pub was a short detour off the canal, so we continued half a mile further until the Navigation Inn was found where we stayed for an unreasonable length of time.

Back out to the (now rather choppy) canal, it was back to hoods-up-heads-down (not that it was raining often, it was just so darned cold in that headwind), so not an awful lot was seen.

What we couldn't help but notice was that the tow-path had ceased to be the paved surface which had prevailed for much of the last couple of days, and had become a delightful grass surface. Obviously little used, mud was not an issue even on this damp day.

Having avoided stopping in the cold wind, we arrived at our B&B (Dove Cottage) in Stoke Bruerne earlier than expected, giving us an bonus hour of rest.

With a lack of originality in naming canalside pubs, we're now in our second pub named 'The Navigation' of the day (and Alan, there is a beer in my hand).

For tomorrow we're looking forward to seeing the mileposts count down to zero on our approach to Braunston. It doesn't seem possible that on Sunday those mileposts were up in the nineties.

(Geoff - per your request, I've added the day of the week (that took a bit of thinking about - I've lost track!) and the cumulative mileage. I'm not counting down the distance to go, but FYI the total is going to be somewhere approaching 1000 miles.
Martin - now you mention it, the breeze did pick up yesterday afternoon. I just forgot to mention it at the time.
Odyssee - there are a huge number of local footpaths to choose from towards Ogden, aren't there? Part of that bit of the route are stolen from a route Martin did last year, and, off the top of my head, part of the Calderdale Way features too - I shall endeavour to describe it in more detail at the time.)
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Day 10 Lunchtime

We're sitting in the Navigation Inn at Thrupp Wharf, with 6 miles left to walk today and after a cup of tea and a bowl of soup I can now feel my hands for the first time since we set out this morning.

The roaring fire is making us reluctant to step back outside, but I'm braced to lose my fingers again for the last couple of hours of the day.
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Tuesday 30 March 2010

Hill of the Day

This photo shows the biggest hill of the day. In a day of flatness, I'm surprised that ascending all the way up to the top of the tall bridge didn't induce a nose-bleed!

You'll spot that the day was looking quite dull and damp at this point, not helped by the cutting through which the canal ran for quite a while. We did have better views for the rest of the day, even if it was mainly of agricultural land.

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Day 9 - Berkhamstead to Stoke Hammond

30 March
Distance: 20 miles
Number of wannabe killer geese: 2

I'll start with another 'Thank You', this time to Simon and Jane who put us up (and put up with us!) last night. A bed, food, company and lifts were provided, for which we are very grateful. They even solved our mopping-up cloth problem by donating a J-cloth to our cause, whereupon I promptly threw the less-than-effective predecessor away.

Simon had us back in Berkhamstead this morning before I realised that the J-cloth was still sitting on the breakfast table. Doh! This is getting to be a bit of a farce now; you'd not believe how many times I've gone into a shop to buy a replacement only to realise later that the one item I'd forgotten was the main one I'd gone in for.

As for the walking, it wasn't as interesting today. Almost the entire day was through rural areas without even any villages adjacent to the canal. Moored craft were far fewer too, and of those there were, the variety was not so great. Bird life was still good though, and moving craft passed by every now and then.

Having passed two geese which really didn't want us anywhere near to them, we found ourselves at a lock for 2nd breakfast (our breaks today being timed according to mileage rather than time). We'd just finished up and were meant to move when a chocolate lab, thinking it was still in time to be in with a chance of a morsel of food, came rushing over. Unfortunately, said dog had apparently been rolling in dog poo and had covered itself quite liberally. Rushing around us, it managed to transfer some of that poo onto us. Urgh! Thank goodness for the wet wipes!

Six miles later, the mileage had arrived where elevenses was permitted, but with no convenient bench next to the mile marker, we decided to continue to the next lock (lock gates making good seats - at least until a boat comes along to use the lock).

Our excitement was perhaps a little disproportionate when we spotted the sign on the 'lock keeper's cottage' and realised that it wasn't a cottage but a pub. Having passed no other such establishment all morning (although we did pass a tea room at second breakfast time, but it was shut) our plans for elevenses were quickly abandonned in favour of lunch.

Only seven and a half miles then remained, but they were covered with pounding feet. Dead flat walking, where the feet are always hitting the ground at the same angle and the same muscles do all of the work is always hard on the body, I find.

The miles were made even harder when about an hour after lunch the heavens opened. Into our waterproofs we hurried, and remained in them for the rest of the day.

It was, therefore, a welcome sight when our campsite came into view. It's turned out to be an expensive bit of grass, without the facilities to even vaguely justify the price, but as I lie here listening to the rain pitter-pattering on Wendy's head I have to conclude that I'd rather be here than still being out walking, seeking a corner of a field in which to secrete ourselves.

Rumour has it that this weather is going to persist tomorrow. Oh joy...

(Oh and by the way, having passed a Tesco this afternoon, I finally achived a J-cloth purchase)
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Monday 29 March 2010

Day 8 - Uxbridge to Berkhamstead

29 March
Distance: 21.25 miles
Number of small-but-highly annoying flies: about 2 billion (that may be an under-estimate)

Our starts seem to be getting earlier and earlier, so at 6.15 this morning we were standing at a bus stop waiting for the first of two buses that would take us back to Uxbridge, having spent the night with Vic and Juan in Hounslow.

That saw us back at yesterday's end point for a reasonably timed start, although we did tarry a while for a hot breakfast.

Eighty-one miles to Braunston (where we are due to arrive on Thursday) said the first milepost we passed after finding our way back to the canal. As we counted them down, we repeatedly verified that we were walking consistently at a smidge over 3 miles an hour.

Within a short distance out of Uxbridge (on the veritable mud-fest of a tow path (so much for setting out with clean clothes this morning!)) the surroundings became surprisingly rural, often with great bodies of water on one side of the canal or other (sometimes both). The problem with those lakes (coupled with the lack of a breeze) was that everytime they were alongside we were plagued by millions of little flies.

When the flies weren't driving us to distraction, it was proved that not all canals are dull, with there being things aplenty to gawk at. Between Uxbridge and Rickmansworth in particular the variety and quantity of boats and houseboats was fantastic. Once again there were structures akin to Portakabins on rafts, but there were also lots of other craft of a huge number of designs and covering the whole spectrum of condition from pristine to sinking.

There was bird life aplenty too (probably saw our last parakeets of the trip though - I don't think they've yet spread much further north than Uxbridge), with more varieties than I could name (Mick even saw a kingfisher).

Although it did rain on us a couple of times, that rain was light and short-lived, so given the forecast, we again considered ourselves lucky.

Having not paused for lunch until Hemel, the afternoon was short, which (given my desire to sleep after a meal in a nice warm pub) made the day feel better.

At 4.23, precisely at the time we had estimated, we walked into Waitrose's car park where Simon had arrived to transport us back to his house for another comfortable night in good company.

We've been rather spoiled these last few days, but it's back to Wendy for a night tomorrow (just in time for the wintry weather's forecast return).

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Sunday 28 March 2010

Day 7 - Kew Bridge to Uxbridge

28 March
Distance: 13 miles

After a good evening with Baz and Penny (with the happiness of a home-cooked veggie feast - big thanks go to both for their kind hospitality), we did slighlty bemoan the theft of an hour as we arose from our comfy bed this morning, thanks for the start of British Summer Time.

It was as a party of 3 that we set out from Kew Bridge a while later. Karen, who had heretofore been a complete stranger, but who had been following the blog, was kind enough to travel down to Kew at an early hour of morning to accompany us through to Uxbridge.

Once we had cleared Brentford High St, which was pretty quiet early on this first Sunday of BST, we joined the Grand Union Canal where a signpost told us that it was 139 miles along the Grand Union Canal Path to Birmingham. After the pedestrian signposts through London which told us distances to locations within a handful of miles, it was a novelty to see such a large distance reported. More of interest to us, however, were the mileposts which are counting us down to Braunston, where we are due to arrive on Thursday. The first milestone we spotted told us that it was 87 miles hence.

As for the route, it was perfectly pleasant in the main, with little hints of the nature of the suburbs past which we were walking.

There was life on the canal too, with barges, houseboats which looked like portacabins on rafts, ducks and, most notably, huge groups of swans.

With navigation a non-issue, fast time was made, the map only coming out to check our progress (making sure we spotted the right bridge to leave the canal; we didn't want to overshoot our destination).

Reaching the edge of Uxbridge significantly earlier than expected, a tea-room called our name, where we refuelled for the final mile and a bit to the centre of town.

After a string of lengthy days, it was nice indeed to have a shorter one and an early finish today. It was also a joy to have good company again. Thanks go to Karen for both the company and for lunch - all very much appreciated.

It's back to bigger mileages again tomorrow, kicking off with a 22 miler.
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Saturday 27 March 2010

Day 6 - Maze Hill to Kew

27 March
Distance: 19 miles
Number of runners seen: about 3000 (I may be exaggerating slightly)

Arriving back at Maze Hill just before 7.30 this morning, off towards the Thames Path we headed via what appeared to be the shortest sensible route. It turned out not to be the shortest route when (proving once again the difficulties that can be had in navigating around a city with a 1:50k map) we missed a turning and found that we had walked half a mile out of our way. A further re-route was soon planned to rectify the situation, and so back to the Thames we went.

We did leave the riverside every now and then (either because the Path made us, or because we had chosen a different route) and headed through the local streets and across parkland. A few things struck us, mainly how everywhere was absolutely deserted; how peaceful it was; and how clean everywhere was. Quite a contrast to the litter of Kent.

Gradually more and more runners were seen, as the hour became more reasonable for people to be about, and then as we passed Tower Bridge it was like we had been transported to a whole different place; so many people! We didn't really blend in with the other tourists, with our walking poles and backpacks, but we still enjoyed the sights.

With Westminster immediately opposite us, we noticed that the crowds had disappeared, and once again we were alone with the runners, at which point I wondered out loud how many of them were in training for the London Marathon, which is now just a month away.

In the strange way of these things, only a few minutes after having this discussion, a runner slowed down to ask us about our walk. Julia was her name, and it turned out that she is in training for the Marathon. She also became the source for our first donation of the day (Thank you Julia, and good luck in the marathon!).

Having fairly sped along, we seemed to take an age getting through Battersea Park, but that was perhaps because we paused for half an hour for a cup of tea and to watch some small children liberally smearing themselves with mud as they entertained themselves (and all of the onlookers at the tea-shop) by rolling repeatedly down a muddy bank.

Back on the river, our luck with avoiding the rain ran out temporarily. It wasn't too long-lasting though and just as we were starting to feel uncomfortably soggy (having not bothered pausing for waterproof trousers) the shower passed by - phew!

By this time a couple of rendezvous had been arranged. Barry (who, along with Penny, has kindly given us a bed for tonight, and who walked with us for the rest of the day) was found in amongst an absolute throng of people and boats at Putney, where something of a rowing event was going on with dozens upon dozens of boats.

Having cut off a meander in the river, we were away from the throngs for a while, until we crossed over the river where we caught the tail end of the race. In between, however, we also bumped into two chaps called Adam and Ben with whom we chatted about our walk (Thanks for the donations Adam and Ben - much appreciated).

Vic and Juan were our next potential rendezvous, along with 3-week old Matilda. We approached each other just as we were reaching the end of the day, but having finished the day we backtracked to the nearest pub where we stayed until another heavy shower (with Harry the dog we couldn't go inside) forced us to go our separate ways.

It was another good and interesting day through London, albeit the constant hard surfaces have been a bit hard on the feet. Tomorrow we head out of London, along the Grand Union Canal.

Day 6 - Second Breakfast

And so incredibly quiet at this time on a Saturday morning. We've barely seen anyone since setting out, save for an increasing number of runners.
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Friday 26 March 2010

Day 5 - Stone to Maze Hill

27 March
Distance: 18 miles (plus a 1 mile wild goose chase in a search for the campsite)

The day got off to a bit of a slow start. Firstly there was interminable wait at a level crossing within a minute of setting off, then after a route diversion via Dartford Rly station to meet up with George (, who was to walk with us today, we soon got sidetracked by a Greasy Spoon which sorted out our absence of breakfast.

Having negotiated our way out of Dartford, better progress was made alongside the river Darent, which led us up to the Thames.

A bit of local knowledge from George took us to a Morrison's cafe for elevenses, where a nice man kindly made a donation to Help for Heroes.

Along the Thames progress was slowed by my facination with all of the decaying evidence of past industry (and with some of the modern industry - particularly the sewage-sludge burning power station).

Many photos were taken and I couldn't pass a single information sign without reading it, which meant that I was continually the straggler as Mick and George went on ahead.

With distinctive landmarks within our sights our stomachs told us that it was time for luncheon, and handily the cafe of the Royal Artillery museum was nearby. With fantastic timing, the only significant shower of the day passed through whilst we were inside. In fact, considering the forecast, we were jolly lucky that we didn't get wet at any point.

At the Thames Barrier (where I really wanted to visit the information centre, but had to concede that time didn't allow today) we joined the Thames Path National Trail.

Wanting to omit the meander in the river that goes via the Dome we had intended to take the Thames Path Link which cuts across. Wondering where it was we needed to turn, I looked at the map and asked Mick whether we had passed Greenwich Yatch Club. Mick pointed to the sign about three feet behind me, which confirmed that we were standing outside said club - as if the pound full of yatchs wasn't a big enough clue. Nowt like paying attention to your surroundings, is there?

The short cut ended up making not just for a delay, but also a change in route and of today's end point. In fact we were back on the Thames Path when we came to a hoarding barring the path and citing demolition work as the reason for the closure.

To the roads we took, ending up at Maze Hill.

Although our official walking day was over at that point, we still had to get to the campsite at Abbey Wood (who, when we phoned this week, had no issue with us staying). A train transported us the few miles back east and then it should just have been a short walk to the site.

Leaving the station, a young Polish chap asked us about our walk and having asked where we were staying tonight said he would show us the way. Across green land he led us and through woodland. After a while I voiced my concern to Mick that we were overshooting and as we left the woodland to join a road I was able to place us on the map and we weren't in the right place at all. Parting company with the well-intentioned Pole, we did an about turn and ten minutes or so later managed to locate our night stop.

Even ignoring the wild goose chase and the closed-path backtrack and diversion it turned out that today was a mile longer than I had it marked on the itinerary, so we could have done without the extra distance. Still, we made it in the end and after an excellent and interesting day.

Thanks to George for the company today. After five days of just each other for company, I fear that he may now have earache from our incessant chatter.
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Thursday 25 March 2010

Day 4 - Bluebell Hill to Dartford

25 March
Distance: 17 miles
Number of faffs per mile (av.): 3
Number of kit failure recoveries: 1

My prediction for a poor night's sleep turned out to be true. All was fine between 9pm and just gone midnight (during which a party could have been going on outside of the tent for all I would have known). Then I woke up and whilst lying there contemplating the fact that I really did need to go and visit the en-suite (which was being countered by the fact that it was very warm in my sleeping bag so I didn't want to have to move), the sound of an engine was heard, swiftly followed by the tent being lit up by headlights.

Up I sprang to peer out of the vent, only then to hear the vehicle stop and the handbrake applied, apparently very close to us. At this point Mick got rudely woken by a violent shaking.

Five minutes later another set of headlights lit us up, which compounded my (completely irrational) terror that we were going to be sprung kipping unlawfully in someone's field.

I lay awake for hours wondering what was going on out there (not helped by another car going by just as I was dropping back off at 1am).

Now, I've probably made that sound like we were pitched adjacent to a busy track - and in my irrational frame of mind in the middle of the night it felt like we were. In the reality of daylight we were a respectable distance away, in a field which had no external entrance (we got in by bashing through scrub and clambering), plus we were pretty well secreted behind trees and scrub, such that I would be very surprised if a passing vehicle could see us. As for why cars were going back and forth along what had appeared to be a little-used by-way in the middle of the night, I know not.

So, with Mick mocking me for being such a scaredy-cat, and with me having no idea (by the light of the day) what I had found so scary, feeling a little less than fresh-as-a-daisy, off we set towards Rochester this morning.

Fantastically slow progress was then made. I don't think we have ever before achieved such a level of faffing within the first mile.

In the second mile, with the faffing temporarily under control, we met a chap walking his dog, with whom we chatted for quite a while. Having bade him good day we had only gone a hundred yards further when we saw a chap with a backpack coming towards us.

Trevor was his name and except for being notable by the fact that he was also backpacking (the NDW, heading south, and wild camping all the way), he was also dressed in the exact same waterproof jacket and overtrousers as Mick (after a decidedly wet night, it was a bit of an inclement day). I did take a photo of Howard and Hilda, and shall post it when I download the camera.

After a good chat we were on our way again, but thanks to having gleaned from Trevor that there was a Co-op 100 yards off route, just around the corner, we detoured to stock up on ibuprofen (Mick: sore knee; me: sore achilles).

The day then continued in the same vein with a huge number of faffs and distractions, during which time we left the NDW and set off across fields and through villages.

Some very nice villages were passed through, giving us plenty of opportunity to oggle some fantastic houses, but the niceness of the day was marred by Kent's apparent monster problem with litter and fly-tipping.

We found ourselves in one of those villages at lunchtime, so it seemed rude not to give some custom to a pub there (note Alan, we passed 9 pubs today, albeit we only visited the one).

With only a handful of miles to cover after lunch, our approach to Dartford would have been frustrating had it not been for a chance conversation with the owner of Bean Farm, who handily told us that the by-way we intended to take came to a dead end one side of the A2 and restarted the other side, with no way of crossing what is in effect a motorway. Not only did he save us the annoying backtrack which would have become necessary, but he gave us directions across his fields (not on RoWs) to take an alternative route to the nearest bridge. We were most grateful.

The walk past Blue Water and into Stone (which is where we actually are tonight) wasn't the most inspiring, but it was a small part of the day and led us to our Travelodge room for the night.

Within 5 minutes of arriving the room was liberally strewn with all of our kit. After three nights out in decidedly damp weather much airing of kit was our first priority. After four days out, getting ourselves washed came a close second!

As for the kit revival, Mick's altimeter watch is now fully functioning again. I discovered that if you press all of the buttons at once it resets it. Alas, the mopping cloth still refuses to mop effectively and I still keep forgetting to buy a new one when we pass a shop.

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Wednesday 24 March 2010

Day 3 - Dunn St Farm to Bluebell Hill

24 March
Distance: 22 miles
Number of extaordinarily fluffy cats: 1

When we first started going on multi-day walks, I always found that Day 3 was the killer. The body was tired from the first couple of days, everything hurt and both body and mind objected to another full day of pounding. By Day 4 the body would settle down into acceptance that the abuse was going to continue no matter what.

As we started doing more walking, Day 3 Syndrome lessened, with no such protests being felt.

Perhaps it was a yearning, in my subconcious, to return to such Day 3 discomfort that made me throw a 22-miler in for today.

Given that my mind tends to protest at carrying a full pack for anything over 20 miles in a day, I can't claim to have been looking forward to it.

Now that it's through, I'm pleased to say that it was a Good Day.

We couldn't quite face getting up early enough to achieve 10 by 10, but thanks to the ease of the Pilgrims' Way, we sped along and I was shocked (and delighted) to find that we had covered 11 miles by elevenses (which fell at 11.15 today).

That was at the village of Hollingbourne, where the route left the Pilgrims' Way and went off uphill. In glorious sunshine we fairly skipped along, glad for the dry weather as some of the paths gave evidence that they would be horribly muddy and slippery when wet.

We then found that the route makers were having a laugh. Down a hill the NDW would go, only then to climb up again, with the only thing stopping a shorter route sticking to the ridge being the lack of a RoW. Again and again it did that, until the legs started to grumble that ups and downs just weren't fair on top of the mileage expected of them. And it had started to rain...

The rain came down with a bit of a vengeance whilst we were enjoying a splendid lunch in the pub in Thurnham, but by the time we left an hour later the sun was just breaking back through.

Having opted to take the Pilgrims' Way for the next couple of miles, rather than backtracking from the village to rejoin the NDW, we had only 6 miles left to cover. Pity that the couple along a very tiny lane turned out to be a rat-run for just about every white van in the South East.

Just as 'last half mile syndrome' kicked in our attention was diverted by Kit's Coty House (neolithic burial site remains), and then it was only half an hour to the Robin Hood Inn, which we had earmarked for a drink, a sit down and to top up our water for tonight.
It was shut! Eeek! We needed water! Fortunately, the owner saw us and opened up for us - and very grateful we were too.

With sundown approaching we ambled back off up the road until we found a corner of a field that's not quite as out-of-the way as I would like. I'll probably be awake half the night fretting about being caught by an angry landowner!

(Note to Alan: 2 pubs today - surely that's enough for you? And we walked past one other.
Martin: the cloth is not a threat, but I must remember to buy a new one ASAP. It's not the watch battery at fault - just that all of the buttons have ceased to function.
Robin: Have a good trip at Easter! Carneddau, is it?
Sophie: don't drink too much of that wine on my behalf - I don't want to wake with a hangover!)
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Tuesday 23 March 2010

Day 2 - Etchinghill to Dunn Street Farm

23 March
Distance: 15.25 miles
Kit failures: 2

A quiet night was had in our corner of a field, which was not a pre-certainty according to a sign we passed 5 minutes before pitching. It informed us that we were on an army training ground and that troop exercises occur both day and night using blank ammunition. Happily, last night wasn't one of those nights.

Fog was the notable feature when we arose this morning. Everything was shrouded in dampness and we couldn't even see the collosally big antenna mast structure not far from where we were pitched.

The North Downs Way has been incredibly clearly waymarked thus far, but with the lack of visibility on the agricultural land we were crossing, the map had to be broken out to ensure we didn't go awry.

Farmland was left for some open land with interesting geological features (we wondered if the scars were man made at first, but later an information sign (of which there have been lots these first couple of days) told us about the soil slipping over the chalk subsurface, leading to the ripples and scars we could see). From here the Way once again did an admirable job of taking to the high ground. Early on in the day (across the interesting-geological-features bit) we had supposed that there would be a fantastic view on a clear day. Meeting a chap walking his dog a few moments later he opened with the comment that usually you can see Dungeoness 20 miles away. We could only just see the trees at the bottom of the escarpment!

Happily, the gloom did lift as the day went on (showing that we were standing above a remarkable patchwork landscape of flatness) and the sun even made some brief appearances.

Leaving the higher ground to drop down to Wye we detoured through the village to stock up on supplies and to find some lunch. A pub with a roaring fire obliged with the latter when they served us fine (proper) pizza and pannini.

With feet aching, it would have been nice to spend another few hours glued to the sofa there, but with a handful of miles remaining we hauled ourselves back out the door.

A farm which was a disgrace to farmers everywhere was crossed, and a Christian chap gave us a bible reading apiece in a ploughed field and then we were back onto nice, well kept farms (with the most enormous fields I've ever seen).

The last couple of miles passed quickly and earlier than expected we were pitched at Dunn St Farm where the very nice owner (Joe) has donated the £12 fee to Help for Heroes.

As for the kit failures: Mick's watch/altimeter no longer has any function other than telling the time and the mopping-up cloth has lost all of its powers of absorbency (Mick has asked whether I washed it in Tech Wash, but I swear I didn't).

Highlight of the day: the number of kissing gates through which we passed and number of bunches of mistletoe we walked under :-)
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Start Photo

I forgot to attach the photo last night. There being no-one around to do the honours with photo taking, and the phone not being self-timerable, I couldn't manage a photo with both of us - but I was there, honest!

Also, a quick thank you for all of the comments. When I finally got a signal during our late afternoon break it was a highlight to read them all (even tittered at the 'did you turn the grill off' etc - even though you've no idea how I can panic and obsess at such thoughts!)
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Monday 22 March 2010


Mick here again.

I'm pleased to say that today's whinge count stands at zero.

I know that, because each time I pointed out what I perceived to be a whinge emanating from Gayle's direction she corrected me quite emphatically that what she was saying wasn't a complaint, but merely a statement of fact.

Not entirely sure what the difference is, but there are 60+ days left for me to learn the nuances of whinge vs statement.
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Day 1 - St Margaret's to beyond Etchinghill

22 March
Distance: 16 miles
Ascent: 3500ft per Anquet; 6000ft per Mick's watch(!)
No. of killer dogs: 0 (dozens of friendly ones met)

What an enjoyable day!

It didn't start dreadfully early (we're unlawfully camped tonight so didn't want to arrive until sundown), and it was 10.15 by the time we had faffed with photos and the like on the seafront at St Margaret's at Cliffe and made our way up the road.

What a pleasant surprise St Margaret's turned out to be too. It was chosen as our start point quite simply because it fitted the bill as being the 'bottom right' of the country, and I didn't really put any thought into what the place would be like. Quite lovely was the answer, with the white cliffs either side of the bay being set off nicely by the fine bright day.

It wasn't the most auspicious start to the walk when we went along the wrong path within the first 5 minutes, but it was only a dozen paces before we realised our error and backtracked.

I'd like to claim that we paid more attention from then on, but so sidetracked did I get by the harbour in Dover, that I failed to notice that we weren't supposed to walk its entire length. A bit of re-routing for a mile (including an interesting walk through a housing estate) saw us back on track.

Dover had turned out to be a very pleasant surprise to me too. Last time I was there must have been nearly 25 years ago and as I only went there as a child to catch a ferry I had it in my mind that it was a place you'd only ever go to in order to travel to France. Add to that the fact that all of the media coverage of the area that sticks in my mind from the last decade was negatively focussing on immigrant issues, and it was enough to make me think that the place had nothing to recommend it. How wrong I was!

Back on course and heading up another lumpy bit of cliff (festooned with remains of WW2 structures), the day started to cloud over and the wind picked up, enough to make us stagger at times (fortunately it was an onshore wind so it was pushing us to safety rather than over the edge).

By the time we stopped for lunch at the Cliff Top Cafe (2pm) there was rain to be seen heading our way from Dungeoness - but miraculously (and even though we could see rain ahead of us for much of the afternoon) it skirted us.

The afternoon saw us leave the cliffs, head around the north side of Folkestone and then inland, but it was still a pleasing walk. The bits of route I had thought were on lanes were on the downs, or in fields adjacent to the tarmac, so we got through the day with remarkably little paved surface, considering.

It was gone 5.30 by the time we reached Etchinghill, where we thought we were going to have to make a not-insignificant diversion into the village to beg some water. Happily about twenty paces off-route, in the direction of the village, we found ourselves outside a garage (of the mechanics rather than of the petrol selling variety) where they were more than happy to point us in the direction of their kitchen and tell us to help ourselves.

With grateful thanks we hauled our packs (now with 7 litres of water between us, to cover the camp as well as tomorrow's drinking water (not sure how I got to carry the extra litre!)) onto our backs and headed back onto the North Downs Way.

A short while later, with the first hint of dusk, we found ourselves a reasonably discrete (discreet? I can never remember which is which and didn't bring a dictionary with me) place to pitch.

Here's hoping that tomorrow will be just as good as today. If it goes to plan it should be a touch shorter, with far fewer lumpy bits (in fact the next time we should see a day with as much ascent should be in the Lakes, I do believe).
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Sunday 21 March 2010

Post Blog Note

Mick here. Just thought I'd add some minor detail that Gayle omitted:

Distance walked: 1.5 miles
Height gained: about 250 feet
Number of whinges from Gayle: 4

Whinge number 1: shoe rubbing (within 200 yards of station)

Whinge number 2: hill climb (within 300 yards of station)

Whinge number 3: too hot (as a result of fine weather, hill climb and being dressed for winter)

Whinge number 4: pace too fast (as a result of hill climb and being too hot)

I hope that the whinge per mile ratio doesn't continue at this pace!
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Day 0 - Home to Dover

It was a five-train journey to get down here. That's an awful lot of connections, with an equal number of chances for problematic delays.

The inevitable happened. Someone (of the sort whose attitude I will never understand) thought it was a good idea to throw a missile of some heavy description at our second train. That missile smashed a window and that took a while to get sorted out.

The leisurely 45 minutes we should have had to get from Euston to St Pancras became 12 minutes, which was cutting it fine in the extreme. My intention to walk the distance between the two stations (because I've long been of the opinion that you walk almost as far through tunnels to catch the tube between those stations as you'd walk along the road) had to be abandonned and we positively legged it up and down stairs and escalators.

We made it to our next train a touch out of breath and with a whole 90 seconds to spare.

The rest of the journey was rather less eventful - until just outside of Dover when I caught sight of the cliffs and the sea and immediately became as excited as a child going to the seaside for the first time.

Under fine skies, which we hope will persist into tomorrow, it was a half-hour stretch of the legs (up hill - who threw hills in before the walk has even started?), past the impressive looking Dover castle (wish we'd travelled yesterday now so we could have spent the day exploring) to get to our accommodation for the night, where we are now ensconced ready for the off in the morning.

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Saturday 20 March 2010

K2CW Mick’s Packing List



Osprey Exos 46


Stephenson Warmline Body (Gayle has the poles and pegs; to be switched for TN Voyager Superlite at Easter)

Thermarest NeoAir Medium in stuffsack

Rab Quantum 250 in stuffsack

Silk sleeping bag liner

Cooking and Eating and Drinking
MSR Titan Kettley Thing

Pot cosy

Mugs x 2 (yes, there is a reason why Mick carries mine!)

2-litre platty

2-litre platty hoser (with end cover)

Aquagear Water Filter (the version before the Travel Tap)

Up to 6 dehydrated evening meals

Personal Care and Hygiene
MSR PackTowl Ultralight (small)

Handkerchief x 2


Sun cream

Wet Wipes

Toilet paper and lighter

Sunwise Rush Sunglasses (with two sets of lenses (yellow and brown))


Glass case

Gehwol Footcream (luxury at the end of the day!)

Toilet Trowel (MSR Tent Stake version)

Petzl Tikka Plus Headtorch

Mobile Phone

MP3 Player


Spare Camera Battery

Pacerpoles (Alloy – not included in pack weight as they’ll not be in the pack)

Ortlieb Map Case

Silva Compass

Maps in large ziplock


Pen (wrapped in Duck Tape)


Exped Fold Drybag sack liner

Really Little Exped Fold Drybag for stuff in lid pocket


Clothes In Pack (assuming fair but cool weather)
Berghaus Paclite Extrem Overtrousers

Montane Featherlite Windproof Jacket

Montane Featherlite Windproof Trousers

Icebreaker 150 s/s crew

Vaude underpants x 1

Smartwool Socks x 1 (just for toasty toes in the tent at night)

XSocks Trekking Extreme Light x 1

Tilley Hat

Extremities Powerstretch Gloves

Exremeties powerstretch beanie

Extremeties overmitts

Trekmates Amphibian GoreTex Oversocks

Klatermussen down smock in stuffsack



Clothes Worn (not included in pack weight)

Montane Venture Jacket

Montane Terra Pants Converts

Icebreaker 200 l/s zip neck

Berghaus Fleece

Decathlon’s Kalenji Underpants

XSocks Trekking Expedition x1

Salomon XA Pro (to be switched for Fastpackers in Halifax if Salomon is able to provide by then a pair to replace the ones that have rather prematurely fallen apart, then to be replaced with Scarpa ZG65s before the lumpy bits of Scotland).


That lot weigh in at coincidentally the same weight as my pack at around 6.75kg.

Thursday 18 March 2010

K2CW: Packing List

The bags are packed. In my case there’s not a lot of room left over for food, but hopefully I’ll squeeze it all in somewhere.

My kit-list doesn’t entirely make sense when taken in isolation (and I’m not sure I’m going to have time to go through Mick’s too), but for what it’s worth, this is what I’ll be carrying:


OMM Villain 45+10 MSC (with backpad this time, as I’m not initially taking a Thermarest which can double as a backpad)


Stephenson Warmline poles and pegs (Mick has the fabric; to be switched for TN Voyager Superlite at Easter)

Thermarest NeoAir Short in stuffsack (depending on how I find it for the first 2 weeks this will potentially be switched for my ProLite Girly Model at Easter)

PHD Minimus 300 in Big Agnes Pumphouse

Silk sleeping bag liner

Cooking and Eating and Drinking
Coleman F1 Lite stove

Gas Canister

Primus Windshield


Wash up sponge

2 M&S tough plastic spoons

MSR Titan Kettley Thing

Pot cosy

2-litre platty

2-litre platty hoser (with Camelbak stop-valve and bite valve and end cover)

Hose cleaning brush (not for the first 2 weeks)

Sterilising tablets (not for the first 2 weeks)

Up to 6 dehydrated evening meals

Personal Care and Hygiene
First Aid Kit

MSR PackTowl Ultralight (small)

Handkerchief x 2




Toothbrush x 2

Contact lens solution and pot


Sun cream


Wet Wipes (tiny pack)

Hand sanitizer

Toilet paper

Folding hairbrush/mirror combi



Glass case & cleaning cloth

Soap flakes for clothes washing

Petzl Tikka Plus Headtorch
Mobile Phone
Mobile Phone Charger x 2
(I did try to talk Mick into getting a phone that uses the same charger as the Blackberry!)
MP3 Player
Spare batteries
(AAA, phone, camera)
Foretrex 101 GPS

Pacerpoles (carbon – not included in pack weight as they’ll not be in my pack)

Ortlieb Map Case

Silva Compass

Maps in large Aloksak


Small mesh stuffsack for toiletries

Small mesh stuffsack for holding the little stuff

Exped Fold Drybag sack liner

Little Exped Fold Drybag for hats/gloves etc

Really Little Exped Fold Drybag for stuff in lid pocket



Silk shopping bag

Handful of superflimsy little bags to be used for rubbish

Clothes In Pack (assuming fair but cool weather)
Berghaus Paclite Extrem Overtrousers

Montane Featherlite Windproof (to be switched for Paramo Fuera at Easter)

Longjohns (for sleeping for the first 2 weeks, just because I’m nesh!)

Decathlon’s Kalenji Underpants x 1

Bridgedale Endurance Trekker Socks x 1 (just for toasty toes in the tent at night)

XSocks Trekking Extreme Light x 1

Peaked Cap (to be switched for Tilley at Easter)

Buffalo Mitts (possibly to have a rest at home between Easter and Scotland)

Extremeties overmitts

Rocky GoreTex Oversocks

PHD Minimus down jacket in stuffsack

Exremeties powerstretch beanie

Berghaus powerstretch gloves

Buff (which one? Bright pink paisley pattern or light blue with lizard design?)


Clothes Worn (assuming fair but cool weather; none of the following included in pack weight)

Paramo Velez Adventure Light Smock (possibly to be switched for Berghaus Paclite at Easter)

Montane Terra Pants

Icebreaker 200 l/s crew (now more like 150 weight due to wear and tear!)

Icebreaker 200 l/s zip neck

Decathlon’s Kalenji Underpants

XSocks Trekking Extreme Light

Bra (Asda £4 job – really was the most comfortable I found this year!)

Salomon XA Pro (to be switched for a new pair at Easter, which will be ditched at Kilsyth and replaced with my Scarpa ZG65s)


That little lot (without food or water, but with gas) weighs in at around 6.75kg. A bit meaningless overall as that weight only applies to the first couple of weeks; as I’ve mentioned, there will be some changes in kit at Easter, and some more changes at the end of April (just before we get to the lumpier bits of Scotland).

One significant change that may be made is the substitution of Susie (TN Voyager Superlite) in place of Wendy (Stephenson Warmlite). We’ll be camping for the first three nights, then for 2 nights in the second week. It’s the low number of nights camping in the first two weeks that has caused a preference for the light weight of Wendy. However, if the forecast on Sunday morning suggests that Monday through Wednesday are likely to be wet then comfort will win over light weight and we will unpack Wendy and pack Susie. Susie will definitely be the tent of choice from Easter onwards, when we’ll be camping far more often than not.

K2CW: The Really Really Final Plan

A couple of weeks ago Mick asked me to stop playing with the route. I said I would, and I’ve been true to that. But, whilst the route has been stable for well over a week, there has been much tapping with the mouse and playing with maps, resulting in some little changes to the distances and destinations.

I’ve now printed out the really-final-version and have promised that I will make no more changes.

The really-final-version is also now on Google Documents and you’ll find it here (or via the link at the top right of the page).

The most significant change from the point of anyone thinking about meeting up with us as we pass by home is that we’ve moved our day off from Tuesday 6 April to Easter Sunday (4 April). We’re going to be spending a few days at home and using public transport to continue the linear walk during those days – the problem being that there are no trains going where we need them to on the morning of Easter Sunday. The trains are running properly again on Easter Monday, so the obvious solution was to change our day off. Sorry if that causes any inconvenience to anyone who was going to join us around then.

The other changes are unnecessary refinement (“polishing the turd” is the phrase that springs to mind, but I’m not sure that’s a phrase that is (a) acceptable and (b) in common use!). Some distances have been made more pleasing; potentially better wild-camping spots have been identified. Of course, it’s equally likely that these changes will either be reversed or further changed at the time.


Monday 15 March 2010

K2CW: 1 Week To Go; Sod’s Law Strikes

All being well, at this time next week we will have finished our first day of the walk and I’m pleased to say that with just five more days before we start our journey down to the south coast the stress level has decreased as we’ve made good progress through the outstanding task list.

With the start date rushing up, the dread for the last couple of weeks has been the occurrence of any sort of accident, injury or illness.

Sod’s Law will, of course, dictate that even people who are as healthy as we generally are will become poorly or turn an ankle when a big walk is looming, causing nervousness as to whether a recovery will be made in time. Last time around it was Mick who got proper influenza (not to be confused with a cold) with a few weeks to go.

So, what I really didn’t want to happen with just a week to go until the off is to get yet another infection under a scar on my back (for the sixth time since I had a minor op last July - grrrr). Abscesses on the back don’t really go well with a backpacking trip.

This time I have not taken any chances by giving it time to see if it gets better of its own accord and in the circumstances the doctor also thought that a ‘belt and braces’ approach was required. The tablets will be gone by the weekend, but the cream will be in constant use until the walk is finished to try to prevent a further recurrence until after we’re back.

That’s not sufficient a woe for me. Add to that a minor skin allergy (to I know not what) on my leg, which has been Itching Like Crazy (and those capitals are very important!) for days. Hopefully the steroid cream will sort that one out before the end of the week (because I don’t want to have to carry two types of cream!).

All is not woe, however. Happily, we have thus far managed to avoid slips, trips and falls…


Sunday 14 March 2010

K2CW – Food Logistics


We’ve just undertaken the task that has once again proved to be one of the trickiest/most trying parts of the preparation for our Big Walk: deciding what we want to eat each week for the duration of the walk.

For the third time, all of the food* has been laid out on the living room floor, but this time, armed with a couple of spreadsheets so large and detailed that they are befuddling, we have chosen what which meals are to go into which parcel.

We had already identified eleven food parcels (including the one that we will be taking down to St. Margaret’s with us) of sizes varying from 2 to 6 meals apiece, and having separated out the meals as evenly as we could between those parcels (because we don’t want a week where we find ourselves eating the same meal for three nights), we found ourselves with eleven carrier bags on the living room floor – and one meal left over.

That one meal left over is a bit of a problem. There should not have been anything left over. The numbers were spot on. So, now we’re going to have to go back through all 11 parcels and try to find out if one has a meal missing, or if my spreadsheet was one down to start with.


(*As I think I’ve mentioned before, the food parcels only contain our evening meals. Breakfasts and lunches will be bought locally as we go along.)

Helping Heroes

As some people have already noticed, a few weeks ago I added a widget to the blog which shows a fundraising page that we have set up on JustGiving (you can click here to visit it).

As we are going to wander 1000 miles up the length of the country, and as I’m hoping to give a modicum of entertainment by blogging it as we go, we thought that we would try to raise a few pennies for a worthy cause in the process and chose Help For Heroes.

Here’s how the charity describes itself:

“Help for Heroes was founded by Bryn and Emma Parry in October 2007 out of a desire to help the wounded Servicemen and women returning from Afghanistan and Iraq. The message of the charity is simple: We are strictly non political and non critical; we simply want to help. We believe that anyone who volunteers to serve in time of war, knowing that they may risk all, is a hero. These are ordinary people doing extraordinary things and some of them are living with the consequences of their service for life. We may not be able to prevent our soldiers from being wounded, but together we can help them get better.”

Despite being the least artistic person known to man, I put my best artistic hat on and came up with a t-shirt design, which was duly sent off to the printers. Here’s a close-up of Mick’s chest to show it off:


A t-shirt which will be cut up next week to make panels which will be attached to the back of our packs for the duration of the walk

The group photo, taken with the assistance of a tripod and a self-timer, wasn’t taken entirely seriously:


We’re trying to raise a modest amount for Help for Heroes on this walk. The current objective is £750, but it would be great if we could achieve £1000. We’re already well on our way to achieving that (thanks in the main to the very generous folks at Ferranti Technologies who responded tremendously when we rattled our charity bucket around their office last week).

So, if, in return for all of the witterings that I’m going to post over the next couple of months, any readers of this blog would like to throw a pound or two into the charity pot then that would be great.

(And, just to clarify, we are funding this walk and everything associated with it in its entirety. Every penny of the money raised (less JustGiving’s fee) will go direct to Help for Heroes.)


Friday 12 March 2010

Geocaches, Wee-bottles and Australian Tourists

In between our jaunts on the Chase, we took ourselves last Thursday for a lollipop-shaped walk which mainly featured canals.

The canal bits we have walked any number of times before, but this time we were armed with the GPS and a list of sixteen Geocaches. The bit in between canals we have never walked before, and are never likely to again, what with it being an industrial estate (‘business park’ is how it appears on the signs, but to my mind it’s an industrial estate). The latter only featured on our walk because it handily joined the canals whilst also taking in a further four caches.

It was a chilly morning and with the sun struggling to break through the murk the canal was still mainly iced over as we strode our way through the first few miles. The coldness meant that my hands were staying firmly inside of my mittens, so Mick did the honours with signing logs in the caches once we had found them (and the second cache he had in hand before I’d even had chance to think ‘I wonder where it could be’).

IMG_0075 Striding (Mick wasn’t happy about the face I was pulling as I walked by the camera!)


Boats, icy surface and no small amount of out-of-focus blurriness

The third cache we accidentally strode straight past, but being on the stick of the lollipop of our walk I suggested that we could pick it up on our return, rather than backtracking. This turned out to be potentially crucial for the timing for a later event – but we’ll get there in due course.

A few miles in we left the canals and took to a lane which would take us over the A38, so as to save us from dicing with death by crossing it elsewhere.


It was on the approach to this point that we really started noticing the litter – not just the odd crisp packet, but every verge, bush and shrub absolutely covered with the packaging of food or drink of one description or another. It’s always the case when close to a busy road, but it still always startles me that quite so many people think that throwing litter out of the window is better/easier than putting it in a bin at their destination.

The one particularly notable item of litter that we noticed on the entire section between leaving the canal and rejoining it was wee bottles (that is to say, bottles containing wee). They really did become a theme, particularly as we passed through the industrial estate (where many people in fluorescent jackets stared at us as if we were out of place marching through in our muddy trousers and toting big packs).

Apparently, the etiquette for lorry drivers (particularly those visiting the new Tesco distribution centre, I would suggest) is, either upon entering or leaving, to throw the plastic bottle into which they have relieved themselves during their trip out of the window and down the verge. The place was absolutely littered with them – which is a shame when you’re walking along an otherwise inoffensive Right of Way that happens to be just down a bank from the road. It’s not really a theme you want to find when out on a walk. I understand that the distribution centre in question is relatively new, and bottles take a long time to degrade, so I imagine that the problem is only going to get worse.

Fortunately, we were soon away from the industrial estate, having passed some obvious parts of a WWII air field:

IMG_0641Later we passed, in amongst crop-fields, quite a collection of storage buildings of the same age which are now masquerading as trees: IMG_0642

And then we were back on the canal, with only a small amount of the lolly and the whole of the stick left to go.

Just as it seemed to us last Sunday that March had marked the beginning of the season where the masses pull on their walking shoes, the same date seems to be that on which the less hardy of the boaters get back on their boats. The locks were all in action as we passed by.

The hired boat just coming out of the lock before the Geocache we had missed on our outward journey was going in our direction, so we hurried on past (with our greeting ignored) in order to find the cache away from prying eyes. A good cache it was too, in a rather unusual container, and we were just signing the log when the canal boat chugged on past, soon pulling back into the bank for the next lock.

IMG_0644 Ducks kipping, in between locks

It was at the is point that wee bottles ceased to become the most memorable point of the day.

As we approached the narrow boat the woman was down at the lock starting to do the necessary things with her windlass, and the chap had just tied the mooring line in the middle of the craft to a mooring ring on the bank. Having secured the middle, he then decided that he needed to get something out of the bow, so over he leaned, with both hands on the side of the boat and his feet on the bank (you can see where this is going, can’t you?).

Fortunately (thanks to the faffing with the Geocache) as the front of the boat started drifting out, and he realised his predicament, we were immediately on hand. By now forming a human bridge and with the inevitable within moments of happening, Mick flung down his poles and ran to lend the man a hand.

Sensibly, at this point, what I should have done is grabbed my camera and videoed the whole episode, which undoubtedly would have netted me the going rate from You’ve Been Framed. What I actually did, when Mick realised that he was being pulled into the canal by the man who was by now clinging onto his hand, was to fling down my own poles and grab Mick (just so that we could both be pulled in!).

Events developed at rapid rate, and happily it didn’t have a wet ending for all of us. The chap who we were desperately trying to save from a dunking came to the realisation that there was nothing he could reasonably do other than to let go of Mick’s hand and succumb to gravity.

“Christ, that’s cold!” he exclaimed as he surfaced from the water that had a couple of hours before been frozen over and spat out a mouthful of canal (bet that tasted nice…). As we fished him out of the canal and heaved him onto the bank we learned that he was an Australian tourist. We didn’t ask whether he was at the start or the end of his narrow-boating holiday, nor did I yield to the urge to point out that he wouldn’t try that particular feet-on-bank-hands-on-bow manoeuvre again. Instead, I suggested that a change of clothes and a cup of tea may be in order, and under the kind thanks of his wife (who had trotted back from the lock when we saw what was unfolding), off we went on our way.

We even managed to get a good few minutes away, and well out of earshot, before we laughed. As sorry as I felt for the poor chap, looking back on it, it was undeniably very funny indeed.

We had finished chortling by the time we got back to the car with the stats of 10 miles walked, 15 (out of 16) Geocaches found and no ascent worthy of mention.

Thursday 11 March 2010

Last Week On The Chase

‘Last week’ may be stretching it slightly. I seem to have got a little behind myself (due to far too much time cooking, dehydrating, looking at maps, looking at maps, looking at maps, changing routes, making lists, looking at maps, changing routes, looking at maps, adding more things to more lists, jumping out of bed in the middle of the night to start more lists, looking at maps, and that sort of thing).

The first walk of a set of three on the Chase was on 27 February, when Mick and I thought we would go and stretch our legs (with 10.5kg apiece on our backs – a theme we continued through all 3 walks).

It was one of our usual routes and the only notable thing was that I was wearing brand new shoes, in an effort to wear them in (even though the last pair of the same aren’t quite worn out), just in case I need them on the upcoming walk.

They were jolly shiny and new as we left the car park:

IMG_0628They were, of course, soon baptised in mud.

The stats for that day were 8.5 miles walked with 1200 feet of upness.


Two days later we would have been up in the Lakes ready to join Martin on the next in his series of Great British Ridge Walks, except that other things intervened and I had somewhere I needed to be on Monday afternoon. That didn’t preclude a walk on Monday morning, though, so we met up with Jeff for a quick stroll and a cup of tea.

‘The other side of the Chase’ is what I call the area we visited, and under glorious skies we fair trotted along, past the ponds:

IMG_0630though forestry and thence to the visitor centre where we resisted the cakes on offer (I had homemade flapjack in my bag and didn’t want to carry it back!) but partook in their finest mugs of tea.

It was a short one at a smidge over 5 miles (with a whole 500 feet of ascent!), but it fitted nicely into the time available.


Last Sunday saw us back on the Chase again (in the space of a week doubling our number of visits for the year).

Fortunately, the confusion (on our part) in the arranged meeting place was resolved before the allotted meeting time, and so exactly at the agreed time it was as a party of three that we set out to do a non-standard variation on our usual route.

Once again the weather was stunning, and even better, it was warm too. Better still, our companion for the day pointed out a further variation to our usual route to us, so a bit of extra lumpiness, with the benefit of excellent views, was added in.

IMG_0645 I particularly liked this tree on one of the lumps, even though pausing to take the photo did cause my heart and lungs a bit of extra work in order to catch back up:

IMG_0647 Once again the cloud-factory at Rugeley was trying its best to ruin the blue-skied day:IMG_0649We had earmarked Seven Springs for the location for a cup of tea, and so were dismayed to arrive there to find the only picnic table already occupied. We duly stood staring at the couple-in-occupation for so long that they eventually gave in and vacated the bench for us, and once in situ, we stayed there for a very long time, but so lovely was the weather that I could happily have stayed there for hours.

Eventually I was dragged away, and on the way back to the cars a quick Geocache find was made, which coincided with me receiving a text from Vic (friend who, amongst other things, helps us out enormously with remote logistics when we’re our walking and occasionally appears on the blog to provide holding reports when we can’t get a mobile-blogging signal) telling us that she had just given birth to her first child, a girl :-)

By and by (after no small number of wiggles to avoid the direct route) back to the car park we headed. A full car park it was too. It’s like 1 March marked the day when it suddenly became reasonable for the masses to enjoy the great outdoors again. We’ve not seen the Chase that busy since … well about this time last year, I think.

Just under 8 miles had been covered and thanks to being introduced to the slightly lumpier variation on our norm, 1300 feet of upness was had.


Tuesday 9 March 2010

K2CW Preparations


The title of this post would have been “K2CW Food – Complete”, except that when I updated the spreadsheet with the final two meals (which are in the dehydrator as I type) I also did a quick double check that the ‘staples’ quantities tied up with the meal quantities. What I found was that due to a couple of mis-calculations, we were still six servings of pasta and eight servings of rice short.

There are now six servings of pasta and eight servings of rice in the dehydrator, so by the end of today we should have all of our food cooked and dried.

Not a moment too soon either, as tomorrow we’re hand-delivering one of our food drops to Yorkshire.

Final Prep

The to-do list is long, and we seem to be adding to it as fast as we’re working through it (which at times isn’t very fast – see the next category below). In an effort at organisation, last week we translated the to-do list onto a calendar so as to keep us on track. What that has achieved is a whole new level of stress (for me; Mick is perfectly laid back) as I realise how far behind my own objectives I am and apparently without enough days to catch up.

Selection and Maintenance of the Aim

Mick would tell you that I’m not very good at selection and maintenance of the aim. The selection of the aim I can do, but then I tend to get a bit distracted (‘kangaroo mind’, that’s my problem). So, on Saturday lunchtime, after a morning of cooking, I covered the living room floor with books and maps to set about knocking off the list the ‘Plan Foul Weather Alternatives for Highland High Way’ task.

I achieved that objective quite quickly (I planned a low-level non-WHW route for Drymen to Inverarnan, then conceded that for any other high level days that turn out to be unfeasible, the only sensible option at this stage is to concede that we’ll have to take to the West Highland Way).

Whilst poring over the maps, however, it did also strike me that there looked to be a more obvious route from Carlisle up to Drymen, which route had the virtue of not repeating anything that we had done before (at the time we had a good few days of repetition from Traquair to Kilsyth).

Eight hours I spent solidly planning and plotting the new route. EIGHT HOURS! Eight hours of tapping the touch-pad mouse on the laptop, until my hand hurt with every movement. At the end of all which I decided that I wasn’t happy with the last two days of that route, even though the first few looked good, so writing off those eight hours I went back to plan A.

Not content with eight hours wasted, I then spent 2 hours trying to improve the two days to Linlithgow, at the end of which I conceded that I preferred the original.

The end result of eleven hours of solid planning and plotting (by which time Mick would claim that I was quite grumpy) was that I had changed the final ten miles of the route into Linlithgow (or not-into-Linlithgow, as the new plan doesn’t see us visiting the town).

Checking Accommodation

Yesterday I went down another rabbit hole, when the objective was verifying all of the accommodation information which I compiled months ago.

Somehow, from the simple act of checking accommodation and ensuring that we had it properly identified on the map (not wanting to repeat the incident of getting to the end of a long day to find I had erroneously marked our accommodation as being 2.5 miles away from its true position), I started messing around with bits of the route (obviously not having learnt my lesson from Saturday). In the process I did spot some improvements so glaringly obvious that I can’t understand how I missed them to start with – so I would argue that it was a valuable exercise even if it wasn’t what I was supposed to be doing.

The good news on the accommodation front was that our campsite for the second night, which isn’t open until Easter, has agreed to let us stay. The bad news was that the campsite in London, which is open all year, has said that we can’t stay due to ‘unsuitable ground conditions’; that wasn’t what we expected – we’d only called to see whether it would be advisable to book in advance.

Physical Prep

In amongst all this, we have taken ourselves out for a few walks, none of which I have had the chance yet to write up and post on here.  At the very least I ought to get around to writing a few words about the one with fifteen geocaches, eleven wee bottles and a big dunking…

Tuesday 2 March 2010

February In Graphics

February came and February went, and suddenly March is upon us. Suddenly under 3 weeks remain until we set out on our Walk. Suddenly time is running out to put in any more training. February did see us take a few strolls though, and below is a representation of how the month looked from a statistical point of view.

The miles weren’t as high as in January (and I don’t think I can blame that entirely on February being a short month):

image But, the miles were of a better quality, with more (albeit still not a lot of) ascent:


Compared with the miles of previous years the graph’s looking the way I wanted it:


Compared with ascent in February in previous years we can clearly see that the bar has always been set low: