Sunday, 7 January 2018

Great English Walk - planning

In the past, when undertaking long walks (a prime example being my LEJOG in 2009), I have planned my route and identified usually a campsite at the end of each day so that I've generally known where I will be each night. This time I shall not be doing that. In fact, I haven't even looked at campsite locations. I shall aim to camp every night (unless something else presents itself such as a bit of trail magic). Instead, I intend to camp wherever the fancy takes me and when I find a suitable spot, obviously well out of sight. All I need to do each day is to make sure that my 2 litre water belt is filled somewhere along the way.

What I have also tended to do on past trips is to post (or have posted) food resupply parcels a week at a time. Food would be the main items but also batteries, loo roll, wet wipes and maybe a razor. This time I shan't do that. Not only does it make my pack much heavier for the first couple of days after resupplying (and slow me down as a result) but, having explored my route, I shall be passing through villages with a shop where I can resupply two or three days at a time (sometimes less). The further north I go, the fewer shops there are but I shall get by.

Monday, 11 December 2017

Great English Walk - introduction

This is the plan for 2018. Starting on 17 March, I intend to walk the Great English Walk. It starts in Chepstow and ends in Berwick-upon-Tweed, a total of 583 miles. It should take around five weeks. It isn't well known although there is a published guide to it, in two parts. The first book will take me to Hathersage in the Peak District and the second one from Hathersage to Berwick. I intend to camp every night unless an obvious alternative presents itself.

Why am I doing it? Well, it is a walk I like the look of and the distance is something of a challenge. Also, I want to raise money for a charity that is now close to my heart and, also, my one remaining kidney. The charity is Ucare Urology Cancer Research and Education. As some of you may know, I had a kidney removed in January 2017 at the Churchill Hospital, Oxford. It had rather a large tumour around it. I feel fine now. Ucare was set up ten years ago. Its aims are:

  • To support research into the causes, prevention and treatment of urological cancers and related conditions.
  • To promote the development of new technologies that will help to improve the diagnosis and treatment of urological cancers and related conditions.
  • To provide equipment and facilities for research, and for the treatment of cancer patients.
  • To provide information and education about urological cancers.

Here is a link to Ucare's video.

I have set up a Just Giving page so I hope some of you will support me. I shall aim to blog daily here, subject to phone signal.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Backpackers Dartmoor midweek Day 3 - 6 October

I had a visitor to my tent last night. I heard a rustling and on turning over saw, in the gloom, my foodbag disappearing under the flysheet. A bloody fox. I shone a light outside but couldn't see anything. When I woke, I ascertained there is a Londis store in the village so made a mental list of food items to buy. However, when I emerged from the tent, I found my bag about twenty feet away, a tear on the side and my three remaining M&S chocolate chip shortbreads gone but everything else was untouched.

We started the day with a visit to Fox Tor Café just down the road. I had an excellent black coffee.

The weather forecast was good and we had a warm and sunny day. We took the bridleway east from Princetown to cross the bridge over the River Swincombe, then right alongside the river for a short distance before cutting across country towards Ter Hill. Much of it, maybe 1.5 miles was over rough clumped grass which didn't make for easy walking.  We all complained and Howard said maybe the next Dartmoor meet would be on better paths. Still, at least it wasn't raining and we passed by one of the two ancient crosses marked on the map just to the north of Ter Hill.

Near Princetown
Once we reached the Sand Way path, things improved and as we approached Michelcombe, where we are camped, the descent on the wide grassy path was a treat with amazing views beyond the eastern edge of Dartmoor.

The descent to Michelcombe
We have spent the evening in the Tradesman's Arms in Scoriton.

Backpackers Dartmoor midweek Day 2 - 5 October

It was a little windy in the forest but we were quite sheltered. Howard and John, outside the forest, were windswept, I think. The worst we had was overhead wind noise. "We" was me, with Pam on one side and Lawrence & Leslie on the other. At the forest edge about 100 yards away were Nige on one side of the gate and Brian & Jill on the other. It came on to rain in the night so I closed my tent flap and the rain, sheeting at times, continued until late morning.

Starting off at 9am, Howard led the way over pathless moorland to Sittaford Tor. Later, reaching the East Dart River, Brian, Jill and I waded the twelve feet or so across in trail shoes, about calf depth. The others, wearing boots, wandered about a quarter of a mile along the river bank before eventually crossing one by one using Lawrence's sandals.

More pathless terrain brought us to Lower White Tor followed by Higher White Tor. A path emerged after our late lunch stop below Littaford Tors, eventually arriving at the road by the Two Bridges Hotel. We then road walked two miles into Princetown and our campsite behind the Plume of Feathers.

Once the rain stopped, it was a very pleasant day. About nine miles walked.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Backpackers Dartmoor midweek Day 1 - 4 October

An uneventful train journey to Exeter, both trains were strangely unbusy. I met with others there; seven of us caught a bus to Chagford, meeting with two others there.

We walked along narrow lanes for a couple of miles before entering access land at 699870 (Teigncombe), following faint paths. After a mile, we crossed a grassy track and went straight ahead over pathless long grass, heading for the northernmost tip of Fernworthy Forest. The wind got up but it remained quite sunny. The ground was a bit boggy at times.

We found our pitch for the night at Long Ridge. Two of our party are camped outside the forest but the rest of us are scattered in amongst the trees where it is rather more sheltered, although the wind is quite loud. There is a good water supply nearby at North Teign River.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Hertfordshire Way Day 7 - 24 August - Reed to Bishop's Stortford

Started walking 7.10am
Distance walked 15 miles
Finished walking 7.30pm

After only a few minutes walking, I came across a bee hotel!

I reached Barkway at about 7.30am, a delightful place despite the road passing through it. In the churchyard, I found a small wooden cross leaning against a wall. The lady I met at Reed yesterday told me about it so I was curious to see it. She told me that it commemorates a man (a hermit, I suppose) who lived in a nearby wood for many years. The cross appeared to be deteriorating and I couldn't make out much of the carved lettering. I can't find anything online about it.

At Nuthampstead, I stopped by the pub, The Woodman Inn. It wasn't open for business but I went in and they kindly filled my water bottles. Outside The Woodman is a large memorial stone dedicated to the United States 398th Squadron which was based here from 1944-1945 from where Flying Fortress missions took off.

After Little Hormead at a remote farm, Mutfords, I saw what appeared to be a graveyard for several Austin A40s.

I hadn't been to Patmore Heath for a very long time. I remember Sunday afternoon drives there from home with my family. At a house overlooking the green, a lady sold home made confectionery. I particularly remember coconut ice.

Approaching Hadham Hall, there were official notices posted at field edges here and there. They were giving notice of proposed compulsory purchase orders relating to land which is to be acquired for a bypass to the north of Little Hadham, a nearby village on the A120. This is lovely countryside here and the works will seriously diminish this part of the Hertfordshire Way. I suspect the occupants of the rather posh houses and apartments in the nearby Hadham Hall aren't very happy about it either.

Just past Hadham Hall, I stopped to get the stove out to make tea as I had time to spare before meeting Amanda at Bishop's Stortford Tesco. 

I really enjoyed the eighty or so miles of the Way. I didn't meet anyone else also doing it, just the odd dog walker, which was a real shame as it is quite delightful. The only other blogs featuring it are either cumulative day walks or continuous walks but ending at maybe a B&B each night. I was keen to see how easy wild camping would be (because that is what I do) and there were so many opportunities. However, water has to be sourced and carried along the way.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Hertfordshire Way Day 6 - 23 August - Therfield to Reed

Started walking 11am
Distance walked 8 miles
Finished walking 5.45pm

Another short day. Steve and I drove to the Silver Ball transport café on the A10 south of Royston. I had an excellent breakfast; Steve managed an apple juice whilst looking longingly at my food. He promised the owner, who he knew, that he'd be back when he could eat properly again.

Parking Steve's van in Therfield, we picked up the Hertfordshire Way and followed an easy path down towards the A505. There were wide reaching views across nearby chalky soil fields and beyond. Just short of the A505, we turned north west and into a racehorse stable place. We had obviously missed a HW waymark as we were apprehended and told we were on private property. Without demur, we scrambled through a hedge and down an embankment to where our path was.

The Way skirted some rides on Therfield Heath and then a golf course, the fine views continuing. Into woodland and then Steve and I parted company, me to continue on the HW and he to follow the Icknield Way Trail back down to Therfield.

I skirted the edge of Royston to then pick up the HW again as it left the town to head south. The path was clear and followed field paths down to the village of Reed. A friend I worked with many years ago came from here. He died in 2008 and, although he wasn't living in Reed when he died, I was curious to find out if he had been buried here. The Way went through the churchyard where I met a lady doing some clearing work. I asked if she knew of the family and she was immediately able to take me to my friend Andrew's grave. We had a long chat putting the world to rights.

Not far out of Reed, I found my woodland pitch for the night. There is no aircraft noise, just the distant sounds of combine harvesters and the odd car or horse going past on a farm track about fifty yards away.

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