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Wednesday, 31 August 2011

August summay

Whilst August was never going to be the best month for walking, due to accomodating the school holidays and all that goes along with that, we managed to put a few miles down - and the little one had his BEST month ever for walking!!!!!

He was pretty thrilled when he found that out, and has just picked out his first ever proper backpack so that he can learn to carry his own water, coat and snacks. For us, it just opens the door to being able to share walking more with him, we can start to accomodate him into our walking more, and you'd be surprised how much easier a 5 year old will listen to you talking about the second world war, as you are walking around and through a world war 2 shelter you have just come across!!!

So in august the totals were:

Me - 33.5 miles
Gary - 47.61 miles
JP (the little guy) - 20.71 miles

Dunkery Hill - Exmoor - 1.82 miles

You may look at the title and think, hmm that's not particular a long walk I wonder why she felt the need to publish a blog about that. Well, as its my blog it matters to me and as a personal achievement it doesn't matter how big or small or what view you have or where in the world it is, what matters is that sense of achievement that hits you when you reach your destination.

We found ourselves driving through exmoor and parked up at a spot that had an amazing view.
We had just finished making and eating some free range scrambled eggs, the sun was dropping but not too fast and there is only so much exmoor pony watching you can do sat on the heather at the side of the camper van. So we decided to put on our walking shoes and wander over to the marker beacon to see where a couple of people had strolled along up too.

The sign said Dunkery Hill 3/4 miles, so there and back should be doable, before the sun went down. Whilst we could see the beacon in the distance higher than we stood, we knew an ascent would be needed and that it might be a little tight on the thighs, but we decided to have a go at reaching the beacon.

Whilst the path was easy to follow, the stones underneath were loose, and the mud around them dry and cracking in most places. Once the little one fell and put his hand down to steady himself and had i not been holding onto him he would have fallen. In a few patches the ground was soggy and wet but would pose no problem if you had proper shoes on. As the sun was coming down a little bit more, we carried on upwards. Surprisingly your view changed quiet a bit as you walked up, you lost the view of the road where we were parked and you could see the water on the other side of the hills, across the water to wales.
 At the top of  the hill is the monument commemorating the handover to the National Trust., and of course no better marker than here to make a memento of the climb you have just made!
The views as you catch your breath are amazing, and a complete 360 degree turn and the picture changes with every angle.
 The stillness of the air, the quietness and the sun glowing in the background was fab, added to which the sense of pride that our 5 year old son (who had already walked 5 miles that day) had walked on up with us, made for a lightness in our steps on the way down. You do need to be steady on the way down though but take time to look up from your feet and glance around, the view was why you walked up there.

Date: 28th August 2011
Total walk: 1.82miles / 2.9 km
Descent: 0 ft
Ascent: 299 ft
Average pace:  28.56 mins a mile
Accompanied: Gary Bygrave and JP

Thames path from Greenwich to the london Eye - 10.75 miles

We decided to go up to London for the day, and couple a ride on the London eye with a walk along the Thames path from Greenwich back to Westminster. As always we drove to Richmond and then tubbed it into Westminster, its a no direct route and cheaper than the whole journey by train, or trying to park in central London.

As the day was glorious and going to be hot, we decided to treat ourselves to a boat ride down the river to Greenwich first. We opted for the city cruise, slow boat, service and was rewarded by an entertaining and very informative talk by one of the skippers. The amount of history of the river, buildings and people who worked there made the £10 each one way ticket price defiantly worth it. Though it was a little worrying when we got off at Greenwich and mentioned to the boatsman that we would be walking back to the eye, he laughed and said no way!

You can see so much more from the river, the wharfs which helped build the city,
 the memorial to the great fire that burnt down the majority of the city,
and the regeneration of the area in all the new flats and apartments that have been built now. As well as all the users of the river today, which ranged from the commuting Natwest river clippers, to a canal narrow boat,and a sailing ship with a Dutch flag on it. There were also police crafts, speed boats and we even saw a dinghy being used to reach a capsize small sailing boat. If the Thames was once the heartbeat of the city, then today its at least a major artery still. It was great to hear about what goods used to come into each area of the docks, and i didn't know before the trip that the product or country of origin was where the dock names came from. We did enjoy the ride down to Greenwich.
A note of caution here though, the pontoon was very unstable as we disembarked and you need to be careful as you alight. When we had researched the walk the guidebook said there were various places to stop along the route, so we carried a minimal pack. Water, first aid kit, waterproof coats and some lunch.

As we walked off the river and around to the Thames path, we opened our lunch, which was fresh french stick and a slab of brie, apples and water and ate as we walked. If you had wanted too, you could have used the tunnel here at Greenwich to cross over the river and walk the opposite bank, we decided to stay on the south bank. There is some regeneration work around Greenwich at the moment, and although the path is marked the whole way, it got a little confusing around the works - we also noticed a few signs missing too - not so important on a walk like this as you can always take a bearing from the river.
Also, i wouldn't really want to walk this as a single women, you do go through two residential areas and back streets. The path does attempt to stay right on the river bank, and you benefit from being right across from the old piers, jetties and warehouses of which some remains are still visible today. We saw a coromot and a heron on such a industrial island - the heron really the spot of the day for me.
The walk is mainly level and on paths, though there are a few cobbled areas as you come into central London, and we found that the path took us past just one garage, just out of Greenwich and one cafe - the next water stop from there was back up past tower bridge and nearly at our destination - so we would recommend you carry your water rather than try to pick it up along the way unless you like to stop in a pub and then there were about 9 along the way.

We also saw an abundance of butterflies, a couple of red squirrels and surprisingly green spaces, in the form of gardens, parks and even a farm.
If like me you're a bit of a people watcher, walking past the apartments and waterside houses, you can sneak a peak into them and the communal courtyards. I was a teeny bit peeved that the path diverted twice back onto the road and then around a block of flats and back to the riverbank just because the direct path route was "private access"! The signs for the path get confusing as you walk into the car park for the Hilton, the signage directing you across the car park, but in fact you need to walk down onto the road and around the hotel before walking back up to the bank.

We also passed a Victorian hydraulic lock and sluice as a canal boat was entering in to it, we didn't really have time to stop and watch the mechanism do its job, but alwaking around it and over the bridge to the other side of the lock, you got to see most of the workings.

As you approach Tower Bridge the path starts to mingle a little more with the buildings around it, you start to walk through the buildings rather than along the river back. This area was a lot more busy than the path had been before, this was probably as it was a Saturday afternoon, and a sunny one at that. If you have time wander around the little shops here before you pass under the bridge itself, or even take a tour of the bridges workings, its definitely worth a short stop.

This last section of the walk was all about the city and its people, whereas the first part had been about the life and times of the river. Here the views were more concrete, or glass, and the variety of people and activities, the street entertainers, the free speakers, the tourists and the locals. The history was still all around, I knew that this area had been controlled long ago by the bishops of Winchester and that they had their hand in every pie from prostituition, to wharf  customs control to building but I  never knew that there was once a cathedral here built by the bishops of Winchester, and you walk straight past the remaining holding wall. Squished between the modern buildings its hard to imagine what this would have looked like in its time. As a side note, all the ill gotten pennies made by the bishops actually paid for the real Winchester Cathedral.
As we walked past the national theatre, the royal festival hall, the skateboard underground park, and southabnk which had been turned into a beach for the weekend, we saw the Eye close in quiet quickly and the end of our walk approached.
It's one i would highly recommend, the combination of the old and the right now is very appealing and if like us you enjoy a walk which isn't just about mountains and greenery and the obvious WOW factor, then you would enjoy it too.

Date: 13th August 2011
Total walk: 10.75 miles / 17 km
Descent: 400 ft
Ascent: 294 ft
Average pace:  25.43 mins a mile
Accompanied: Gary Bygrave

Monday, 8 August 2011

July 2011 - 54.7 miles for me

Its been a long month, July, very warm in places, and so busy at work - I only managed 54.7 miles of walking, including our holiday in Yorkshire.

Im hoping for a little bit more in August, but school holidays may curtail that a little - we'll have to see!

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Robin Hood Bay and Cinder trail - 5.94miles

I had seen a good robin hood bay walk on the east ridings website but wasn't sure if i wanted to walk it or not. When we were discussing our walks with the relatives we stayed with, we spoke about the pros and cons of robin hood bay over Runswick bay slightly further up the coast, and after flicking through a visitor guide we elected to walk Robin Hood. The guidebook, published by the council, described this walk as "easy and level" but if was anything but and very misleading.

We parked at the station car park at Robin Hoods bay, and the ticket price was very reason for what is so clearly a tourist seaside town. Again we changed into out walking shoes and off we went. As you leave the car park you cross to the left of the road and follow the Cleveland way signpost, up a residential road and then through a kissing gate.
You are immediately at the top and on the edge of the cliffs, and you walk around the end of Rocket Post field, the information post explaining that the post was used to fire rockets off to help in rescues. You can see a great view of the bay behind you and theres a bench to sit on to look across the waves.
On the left hand side you can see some of the railway tunnels that mark the cinder trail opposite the Cleveland way for the first part of the walk. You are walking around the edge of fields, being used to graze cows and you come to the old lifeguard lookout at around 1.5 miles on the map. Up until now the path is a sandy cliff top path, with  a few cobbled potholes in places but relatively flat, we cut across a field diagonally, theres a stile on the way into the field and out of the field at the other side. At about 2 miles you can see the scars left on the cliffs from the Jet mining which used to take place around here.  A little bit further on and the first small descent comes, the path is very uneven in places and in the wet would be tricky to say the least. before you start the descent, look back over your shoulder here for a view of where you've just walked, its much prettier looking back, than just the fields you pass on the inside.
The climb up is steep, uneven and hard work! we passed a few walkers and a spaniel on their way down, but the path is crumbly and weak in places, people walking to the side of the cobble stones used for this climb. Here the guide book is blatantly wrong, its hard work to get to the top and you feel it in your legs. A short water break stop at the top and we walk on. At 2.5 miles you come to a caravan site, and you turn left here and walk up through the park, this is the end of the cliff side part of the walk. It was on the grassy bank just before the caravan site that we stopped for our lunch, a welcomed break in the sunshine. Then after a short while, we packed up and walked up, and man is it steep walking through the park! in fact after the rest our muscles were crying out here. As you come out of the caravan site you are walking along the road for a short while. Whilst its a quiet access to the site only road, be careful its very narrow and winding, you wouldn't want to meet a caravan here. A little way up the road and you see the cinder trail which we took to go back. You are now walking on the old railway line, it was discontinued as a line in 1965 and has been made into a cycle and walking path, its clearly signposted as the cinder trail.

The walk is faster and pleasant, less windy than the clifftops, and the gravel underneath is sometimes loose so watch your step along here. We saw a dozen or so cyclists both young and old and some in between all using the paths. At this stage whilst our legs were feeling the walk so far, the view of another walker on the horizon behind us and a pride of not being overtaken, made us pick up our pace a little and miles 4 and 5 were 20mins and 22mins. You walk at the top of the Bay Ness field, having walked along the bottom on the way, as you can see we weren't the only ones enjoying the view!

The path ends just down from the first gate you entered, and we decided to walk towards the village store, to pick up a cold drink and a flapjack square. We discussed walking from Robin hoods bay to Whitby as you could see it in the distance and it couldn't be more than another 2-3 miles from the caravan site, and it would be all coast paths if we came back again.

Our first proper coast walk and we both enjoyed it, the level walk back along the train route a nice combination too.
Date: 5th July 2011
Total walk: 5.94 miles / 8.83km
Descent:253  ft
Ascent: 297 ft
Average pace:  24.09 mins a mile
Accompanied: Gary Bygrave

Spurn Head- 8mile walk

Spurn Point had been recommended to us as a good place to walk, and after having a look at the great website - - I had downloaded a map of the headland and we were ready to go. It was a late start for us, as we stopped off for some fresh supplies in the form of apples and some handmade scones on the way in driffield, and then we drove down to the point, parking in the Kilnsea car park at the top of the spur, furthest away from the lighthouse. Please note, that the drive down to the lighthouse is on an un level, sandy and twisty road so if you aren't keen on that sort of thing, or like us drive a lowered sports car, then best to park at the car park at the top and walk down rather than vice versa. Also check the tides too, they do wash over the road and the estuary side path when they come in.

The temperature today was hotter than yesterday, maybe 30 degrees. You can see the lighthouse in the far distance as you set off, so if walking towards your goal does it for you, this would be a great walk, for me, seeing the end point all the time from the beginning, if somewhat smaller and far away, was a little bit galling as you're wandering along but was an incentive to keep going in the heat. The head is a National Nature reserve, and house an RNLI lifeboat station at the far end, close to the current lighthouse, and the remains of the original lighthouse.

Again after we changed into our shoes (i had put shorts on today), packed up our ruck sac and used the toilets, we set off through a gate and along the path marked spurn footpath. You start by walking on a grassy footpath along the edge of the beach, and you couldn't fail to see the butterflies and moths flying around and by you. We saw copious amounts of these red and green ones, but haven't researched what type they are yet.

Walk along the grassy path, until the path curls around some white bungalows, you may see birdwatchers here, you walk past the bungalows and here you can choose to walk the estuary side of the path, or the beach side, we choose the estuary side. The water was out a little, exposing rich grass verges to the water, and the mudflats the other side. There were many waders, and birds foraging around in the mud. we tried walking along the mud side, but the path was through long grass and on a soft uneven mud/sand mix we decided to scramble back up to the road and walk along that for a little while.
The worst thing about walking down the road was that on either side of you there is a bank, meaning no wind, no whispers of relief from the sun pounding down on you and it was hot and sweaty. At around the 3 mile mark, we moved across the path and onto the beach side. You can see a lot of man made debris, concrete slabs, iron work and sea defences at the edge of the water side and there are lines of groins just laid out on the way to the waters edge.

At one point, as the the falling rocks had blocked the beach and the bank up to the coast path was too soft to climb up, and so we took the road path instead, though we had to scramble through prickly bushes to get there, so if you are walking with kids be aware of this.

There were 2 hides along the estuary side too, both well located and easy to walk down too, and both empty when we passed by. Dotted along the road we also saw this blue tinged thistle too.
As you approach the end of the spurn, you reach the lighthouse, unfortunately now its closed to the public, but is still an impressive structure. The paint is peeling but that's not surprising considering how isolated and windswept this part of the world is.
As you pass the lighthouse, you come to the RNLI houses. When we were here the RNLI information hut was closed, and make a note there are no facilities down here, no toilets, no cafe, not even a vending machine. You can see the remains of the previous lighthouse, due to the constantly shifting nature of the head, there are a couple of other remains of previous lighthouses too, though we didnt see them, they may be buried.
We did have a look around, and wandered over and across the WWI ruined buildings just past the Pier and we watched the swallows fly across and down the Pier wall, if you're light of foot and like the history of the war, its well worth a scramble around down here, you can imagine the atmosphere and each building tells a story if your mind is open. We walked back to the RNLI hut, and on the grassy bank, sat down to eat lunch. The apples and scones purchased earlier on in the day hungrily eaten and washed down by a cold coffee for me and water for the hubby.

It seemed even hotter than when we left as we turned around for the walk back to the car. Again we walked some on the road, and some on the beach path, you cant go much wrong here you can see the way back, and you may even get like us and count down the pylons towards the end, less than 10 a welcomed thought by this time.

On the beach there were families and couples enjoying the weather, but make sure you suncream up on your walk as we were both caught out by the sun and caught the sun a little too much, i forgot to apply cream to my calves and these were red and hot by the time we got back to the carpark. As we came back to the first set of houses, and crossed back onto the grassy path we were nearly home, just before the path ends at the carpark there is a small pond of water to the left, and as we passed a group of starlings flew out of the water and around, just posing for pictures and brought a final smile for the day from us both.

I would recommend this walk for any birdwatcher, and would carry an extra bottle of water if i come back.

Date: 4h July 2011
Total walk: 8.10 miles / 13.03km
Descent: 34 ft
Ascent: 67 ft
Average pace:  26.57 mins a mile
Accompanied: Gary Bygrave

Walking over the humber bridge and back - 3.92miles

One of the things that always signifies "up north" to me, is when you have to cross the Humber bridge. We have driven over it on every great tour we've made up to Scotland and it evokes many great memories for me. This time i knew it was going to be different though, as I had very reluctantly agreed to walk the bridge both sides on this trip north. Now, to me, being scared of heights, this was to be quite a challenge,and that was before arriving at the car park and checking the temperature which was flashing at around 29degrees! Its an impressive structure as you drive over it, even more so as you leave the car park (which was much larger than i had anticipated, great facilities, lovely clean toilets, open tourist info centre, and a hand full of shops and cafes. On the Sunday we visited it was near packed in the bottom car park, cloest to the cafes and again, it was a surprise to see this area being so well utilised by people).

For me walking under the bridge and up the steps to the start of the bridge you notice the length of the bridge, you can see the middle but not the end. You cant see over the edge of the bridge as the structure here is large concrete supports, a few hundred yards forward and the edge becomes visible as it changes to a hand rail. To someone like me, scared of heights, its hard to do anything but walk roadside of the path, furthest from the edge but settling into a walking rhythm calmed me down a little. Hubby keep on saying "look over, come to the edge" wasn't overly help full but hey. I was doing well and enjoying the walking until about half way when i realised that a skirt wasn't the best thing to be wearing to walk. The journey up had meant that i wanted to be cool, and i changed into my walking shoes in the car park, thinking nothing of the fact i was in a skirt. The chaffed inner thighs i was left with at the end of the day, is a reminder i will not be forgetting anytime soon ;o(
When i did venture to the edge the view, and a little of the breeze coming across the water, was more than worth it. You can see clear across the Humber, you can see the hessle viewpoint below and the RSPB centre on the far side. The water was murky and muddy but had plenty of life still in it, and the birds circled and flew past at regular intervals.

The first crossing just under 2 miles went quickly and walking down off the end of the bridge to cross under the road and start again wasn't as bad as it felt starting the walk. The second side seemed to go quicker, maybe as i finally found my head for neights, well if not my head for it then at least an acceptance of being so high. As we walked back on the left hand side of the bridge, we saw the launching of a hovercraft, a sight not seen before and was a welcomed short break before finishing the crossing.
A nice easy start to our holiday, and a big tick off my personal to do list, i would have preferred a cooler or even a drizzly day, but apart from that a nice stroll out.

Date: 3rd July 2011
Total walk: 3.92miles / 6.3km
Descent: 174 ft
Ascent: 165 ft
Average pace:  22.55 mins a mile
Accompanied: Gary Bygrave