The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Sunday 24 March 2013

And Still It Snowed

My prediction of slush and mud being the prevailing underfoot conditions for today didn’t quite prove to be true, but before I came to discover that we had to stir ourselves to get out of the house. Ready to go by just after 8am we then struggled to motivate ourselves to set out, as a glance out of the window told us that it had snowed some more overnight and that it was still coming down.


Eventually we had exceeded all previous records for faffing, and out the door we went. It took me fewer than three paces to realise that the expected slush was not going to be an issue. Yesterday’s rutted slush had frozen solid overnight and a fresh layer of snow had fallen on top, forming drifts in the fierce wind.


Mud proved not to be an issue either. The fresh snow boosted the levels enough that only at the boggiest wallow on our route did we sink through the snow and into the gloop. More of an issue was the deeply furrowed field, with snow filling in the dips. We fumbled and stumbled our way across there, sometimes sinking into a furrow, sometimes hitting the high ground.


Our route today took us down a lane I’ve not walked down before, which led me to discover a set of permissive paths that I didn’t know were there (there are a lot of National Forest Plantations around here, all of which feature permissive paths, but there doesn’t seem to be any way of finding out where they all are, other than stumbling across them, as we did today). That’s opened up some possibilities for extending my collection of local circuits.

I’ve included three snaps that I took today, even though one of them bears a remarkable resemblance to one I used yesterday. I can never resist a photo of that church.

Saturday 23 March 2013

Spring is Further Delayed

Yesterday morning’s vague smattering of snow on our lawn had melted by late afternoon – just ready for it to start to snow again. By this morning we had almost as much snow as there was on Cannock Chase yesterday. I imagine that there was quite a bit more on the Chase this morning, but we didn’t venture over there to find out. This time we stayed close to home and set out on one of our local circuits.


It wasn’t a big circuit at just under 5.5 miles, but the snow made it feel like good exercise.

Back at home before 11am, we were faced with three quarters of the day remaining and nothing to do with it. So, we had an early lunch and then went back out for another (different) circuit, this one lying in the opposite direction to the first.


By now the falling snow (it really hasn’t stopped the whole day long) was getting wetter and on this circuit the underfoot conditions often featured very soft mud under the snow. Even better ankle-shaping exercise than the morning’s walk.


The afternoon’s outing was a modest 4 miles long (but with more than 100 feet of ascent, which is as hilly as we get without venturing a few miles further).

I think that we may resort to walking along lanes tomorrow. I’m not sure that I can be doing with the slush/mud combination which, I’m guessing, will prevail tomorrow.

Friday 22 March 2013

Abort! Abort!

With just the tiniest smattering of snow adorning our lawn this morning, we only gave a cursory thought to changing our plan for the day before setting of for Cannock Chase.

The roads got a bit snowier and quite slippery as we approached the Chase and as I drove into the car park I asked Mick whether he thought this was wise. “No!” was not the reassuring answer for which I was hoping.

We weren’t concerned about the underfoot conditions. Our concern was purely about getting back out of the car park and, if it snowed some more whilst we were out, getting back home in one piece (about 50 yards down the road we could see a car which had just slipped off the road as it negotiated a bend).

However, it wasn’t snowing just then and we’d taken the trouble to drive over there, so we decided that we may as well take a very short stroll before heading back home.


I could be wrong, but this might have been the first time that we’ve ever been out on the Chase and not encountered a single other person. We did see a couple of sets of foot prints.

At the rifle range (that’s where I’m nearly up to my knees in the snap below), we took a little out-and-back detour, unsuccessfully looking for the half-a-surf-board that we’d seen abandoned there last weekend. Had we found it (a white object underneath lots of white snow was never going to be the easiest thing to find!) we would have indulged in a bit of ‘tobogganing’ before carrying it off with us for proper disposal. As it went, we had to make do with a snow-ball fight.


Wishing I’d put my gaiters on, as the snow got into my boots…

Just two miles were walked. Not the nine we were hoping for, but we’ll focus on the fact that walking two miles (moreover two miles in snow) is better than walking no miles at all.


Sunday 17 March 2013

A Wee Rantette

Would you believe that today was the first time that we’ve set foot on Cannock Chase since January 2012?

Would you also believe that, on a Sunday morning, we were parked and walking by quarter past eight?

I find both facts quite hard to believe.

Only a few things were notably different from our previous visits, the main one being the amount of litter. Why, oh why? If you can carry a plastic bottle full of drink onto the Chase, surely you can carry the few grams of plastic bottle back off again? If you can carry a snack bar onto the Chase, surely you can carry the wrapper back off again? If you can carry your M&S tray of sushi onto the Chase, surely the crook of a multi-trunked tree isn’t the right place to put the empty plastic tray?

Who do these oiks think are going to clear up after them? What do they think is going to happen to their litter? Who do they think is going to pick up after them? Or do they visit beauty spots like this and still say ‘eeee, int this grand?’ even with the litter?


As you’ll notice if you look at the background, this load of rubbish is right next to a car park. The oiks thought this state of affairs was the better option than carrying their litter fifty paces back to the car with them.

We very rarely come back from a trip on the Chase without a plastic bottle or two. Today we broke our previous record and picked up seven (there’s an orange Fruit Shoot one hiding behind the Coke one).  Depressingly, directly on our route, we left as many bottles as we picked up.

7 Bottles

I imagine that the rigid sports bottle on the left was an accidental loss, particularly as it was still half full.

In one area we passed an entire trail of very recently discarded ‘Chewy Bar’ wrappers. The only people we saw on that section of the Chase were group after group of Scouts doing D of E training. Not that I’m implying that there’s any link between those two statements…

And, whilst I’m ranting, there was one other thing I noticed whilst we were walking: the continued growth of the number of signs littering the verges of the main paths. The one on the left in the photo below particularly struck me. The post on the right has been there for a few years, however, someone seems to have decided that the ‘Road Crossing Ahead’ warning wasn’t big enough – not even when you take into consideration that barriers have been placed as obstacles further to alert people to the presence of the road. So, a whole new post has been added, next to the old one, duplicating the message, but bigger. Surely one post would be sufficient? 

Unnecessary excess signage

In spite of the rants (and the tragedy of Mick accidentally knocking over my full flask of tea, whilst I had the lid off it), we had a good march around our trusty old route, racking up 8.5 miles on this occasion (I call it our trusty old route, but the end has a number of variations to give distances of between 7.5 and 12.5 miles). We amassed more up than usual too, having left the main path at one point to go over (what I call) the ‘lumpy-lumpy bits’.


Tuesday 12 March 2013

TGOC Spring Gathering At The Snake Pass Inn


Arriving at the Snake Inn early in the afternoon, I wasn’t moved to spend the whole afternoon sitting in the car park looking out at the murk; even with the cold that I’d developed on Thursday, I was up for a bit of a stroll in that murk.

It was just a stroll, though. We didn’t take a map, a compass or, well, anything really. We were just going to wander along the river for a while and then wander back.

Except, that when we got to Fair Brook, I commented that we’d never been up the path which parallels it, so that’s where we headed.

I’m not sure that Mick was entirely enthusiastic about the outing:


He was just joshing for the photo (I hope, anyway…)

I can’t say that we saw very much, so after a bit of a wander around we headed back down to dedicate some time to reading our books and drinking tea, before hitting the bar for a bit of socialising and some food. Three and a half miles were walked with somewhere in the region of 700 feet of up.



One of the topics of conversation on Friday night had been how poor the forecast was for the Saturday. It was something to which I had previously been oblivious, having managed to get through the previous week without seeing, hearing or reading a single weather forecast. With the reports I was hearing, I did slightly rue not taking my waterproof set of Paramo…

In spite of the weather forecast, the Saturday walk had proved to be a popular draw and somewhere in the region of 32 people queued up for the stile opposite the Snake Inn:

It takes a while to get 34 people over a stile

There weren’t actually many obstacles on this route, but the first three came in quick succession, with two stiles and the crossing of Fair Brook. Various methods were used for the crossing, from the ‘splosh straight through’ method used by Mick to the ‘I don’t want to risk cold water in my boots today, thank you very much’ approach taken by me.

Soon, another barrier presented itself

After waiting for the group to clear the river crossing, off everyone set again, except for me, as I’d belatedly decided that one of the sheep folds near by deserved a closer inspection. That left me striding up the hill, bringing up the rear of the main group.


I needn’t have rushed to catch up, as even if there hadn’t been a couple of pauses to regroup, there would have been plenty of time to make up ground whilst the third stile was negotiated. This one was (in common with so many stiles) not only designed for people with eight-foot long legs, but also had a wobbly ‘balance post’ too.

We were in the cloud; it was snowing and cold

The problem with walking in such a big group is that it’s unavoidable that there will be big waits for obstacles to be cleared and for regroupings to take place. On a warm, sunny day such pauses can be a joy, but by the time we reached the edge (Kinder’s north edge, that is) as we were well and truly in the cloud, with snow falling, not to mention that chilled easterly wind. All of those factors were combining to mean that I was struggling to stay warm. Having not felt my toes in the hour and a half or more that we had been walking, when we stopped for a quick sip of tea whilst we regrouped, Mick and I declared an intention to help to reduce the size of the group by continuing on at our own pace.

Martin and Sue (providers of fine cake) and Graham heard our plan and opted to come with us, so off we strode, slowed only by some of the patches of snow which proved to be surprisingly deep and (in unpredictable places) soft:

Snow in the gullies was deep and soft

Our numbers swelled when we stopped for lunch, as Dave and Chris joined us. Our notion that they were the front runners of the big group were declared to be false. Apparently, Dave and Chris were bringing up the rear and somehow the other 25 people had passed us by without any of us seeing them – quite where that happened will remain forever a mystery.

We were soon charging on at a merry pace, finally dropping off the west end of the edge and taking to the flagged path of the Pennine Way. I particularly like this photo of our progress along there:

13030930toMoss Castle

My plan at the beginning of the day was that we would cut off down Ashop Clough rather than taking the longer route going via the Pennine Way all the way to the Snake Road, but by the time we got to the path junction I had convinced myself that the extra miles on the Pennine Way and down Lady Clough would be preferable to the wet and boggy conditions in Ashop Clough, so on we went.

I hadn’t been down Lady Clough before and it was incredibly pretty with glimpses, between the trees, of the snow falling and the river running. However, I was becoming desperate for a cup of tea (alas, my flask had long been empty), forcing me to utter those banned words “Are we nearly there yet”. It turned out that we weren’t far away, and at 1630 we wandered back into the car park.

After tea and cake with Martin and Sue in Colin (a statement which will make no sense to anyone not familiar with Colin), we adjourned to the Inn to jostle each other for prime position in front of the fire.

It continued to snow as we sat down for dinner and it continued to snow into the night. As I mentioned at the outset, I hadn’t heard or seen a weather forecast, so the fact that it was snowing at the level of the Inn was as much of a surprise to me as the reports that Saturday was going to be a wet day. I was even more surprised on Sunday when (not insubstantial amounts of) snow persisted so far into our journey home.

Back to Saturday though, and the stats for the day were (according to Martin’s Garmin Gadget, because mine didn’t manage to record our activities, sitting (as it was) in the cupboard in Colin) 12 miles walked with 1500ish feet of ascent.

Just to finish off, here are a couple of photos of the ‘camping area’ on Saturday morning and on Sunday morning. I took both of these photos, but big thanks go to Martin for allowing me to use the ones above, as I only managed to take 3 photos during the whole of Saturday (I had a camera, but with multiple pairs of mitts on my hands it was too much trouble to try to fish it out of my pocket).