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 - 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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  1. You must have passed within a mile of Bletchley Park! It's worth a visit when you've got more time.

  2. Looking at the map North of Marsden and the M62 up to Ogden, it's a maze of paths and lanes.
    If Mike knows the route through that's great. That will help a lot.
    For me, being just an observer, it looks quite easy to go astray.
    I look forward to seeing which way you pick.
    Please don't waste any time at the moment explaining the route, i will wait for your blog post on that day.
    Have a good day - Alan