Search This Blog

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

Monday, 27 June 2011

27th June - no walking last week not the best prep ;o(

Alas no walking for me or mine this past week, the smallest puppy dog had a operation and needed to be kept still and quiet - erm hello mr vet shes an English springer spaniel - unless i lock her in the cupboard never gonna happen! And we love her for her energy, wagging tail and lack of being still less its barely light out there. I've managed the week by working from home, and taking her to bed, again not much sleep not the best prep for a walking holiday but she got the all clear today from the vets so its back to it tomorrow.

A round trip commute by my own steam to work tomorrow will stretch my legs 2.7miles, then again on Wednesday, a break on Thursday and then a long walk with the puppies and hubby Friday night, maybe across the downs and then one more on Saturday in the morning, this heat isn't helping walk prep at all! Then Sunday morning the road trip to hull, and a wander over the humber bridge and back, just as a hello to the area and one more thing ticked off our to do list.

Am really looking forward to it, so Yorkshire here we come ;o)

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Barley mow bridge to Crookham Wharf - basingstoke canal walk 4.92 miles

We decided to try a little bit of canal walking with the little one. JP is 5 years old, has his own pair of walking boots, which we have used quiet a bit in the last 6 months and he walks at least once a fortnight, anywhere from 1.5 miles to 4 miles long. Normally the destination and incentive is a park for him to play in, but we want to try and include him in our walking a little, or at least that's the intention anyway lol.

He carried his own rucksack containing a regatta soft shell jacket, a water bottle, a sunhat and his snack for the walk a box of raspberries, grapes and gooseberries. I have a new larger pack i need to practice carrying, and thought that today would be a good day to try it out, as i knew the pace would be slowly with JP alongside.  I filled my rucksack with about 15kilos, added in two waterproof jackets as this weekend has been showers, showers and more showers! I too carried a snack pack of grapes, gooseberries and cherries alongside a box of Bombay mix too! It was to be a short walk, so water and snacks were deemed suitable.

We drove down to the car park opposite the barley mow pub at Winchfield Hurst and parked up. It was about 2pm and warmish so i was back in my shorts, t shirt, thermal socks and walking shoes, as was Gary. JP had those wonderfull kid trousers that roll up and attach to a button and can be rolled down at a quick flick of a finger or too. As we parked and locked up, put on rucksacks we took a "we're ready to go photo" too - just for prosperity!

After the last stretch of the canal being full of dragonfly's, birds and other wildlife it immediately strikes you that this isn't going to be the same. There's no dragonflies and its definitely quieter than the previous walk down the canal. The path is overhung and there are many places where you need to pull in your arms and hop over nettles and brambles - though the canopies of the trees provide a lovely shade and help add to the quiet atmosphere. We passed two narrow boats here, one a disabled access boat with a wheelchair user and his family enjoying the waterway, and the other a group of girls dressed up as if on a party/hen night. Then the first bridge - Blacksmith bridge came up - at about the 1mile mark on the map.
You quickly come to the next bridge, Double bridge, which was the only bridge we have seen so far that doesn't have a name plate on either side of the bridge, seems a shame that it hasn't got one.
What you cant fail to notice along this stretch is the amount of former World War II defences that litter both sides of the canal. You can see crumbled down and barely visible air raid shelters, as well as very good condition air raid shelters, pillboxes, and what we later found out from an information plaques, concrete tank traps too.
And as we came up and around the edge of the bridge we saw a white gull/tern coming back off the river with his tea in his mouth, a small fish. It was a great sight too see, but the best sightings of the day were still to come.

A flash of blue flying so low to the water caught our eyes, and my hubby turned to me and said kingfisher, as i turned to look again it flew back past this time flashing it orange underbelly and swooping back into the far side of trees - i could see the smile he was wearing, despite looking at his back, as the kingfisher is his favourite bird and its a dream to catch it on camera. That wasn't too be, but that he had seen it twice was a joy.

We were very fortunate to see another heron, it could possibly be the same one as  before as it was just the other side of the Dogmersfield park estate, which was where we saw the heron on our previous walk. Alas though, this time we were not lucky enough to get anything other than a few blurred  pictures, but the sight of the heron unfolding his wings, with a loud bang, and then flying just above the water down the canal, disappearing around the bend was a great sight, and was JP's first sighting of a heron in flight which he enjoyed too. As we walked on further down the canal, with coxmoor wood backing onto the canal it started to rain and so just before the 3 mile mark on the map we stopped to put on JP's coat and have our snacks.As the little one couldn't walk and eat, it not being something he's mastered yet, we stood and ate under the trees, though he can talk and eat and we were discussing what the air raid shelters were used for. What none of us noticed until we started to walk off, was that the heron must have landed and be stood on the far side of the bank, as once again he flew straight past us and off down the river - again a fab sight to see and we were now just a hundred of meters away from from Crookham Wharf and our last bridge for the day, Chequers bridge.
The car park here, has a lovely etched looking map of the whole canal, so we were able to trace on the plaque where we had just walked. We decided to walk back to WinchfieldWinchfield, and so we left the canal and walked about 500yards on a quiet road to the footpath sign, which helpfully said Dogmersfield on it, confirming we had the right route. Here JP stooped to unroll his trousers down to his boots, because as soon as you stepped over the stile we were walking in a grassland meadow. The great thing about this was as we walked butterflies would fly up off the path and grasses next to the paths, and we saw at least 50 butterflies floating past as we walked. the grasses were still damp from the rains but the path was well used and it was easy to follow, at the end of the first field there was another stile and then across a field used for grazing to another stile.
Dogmersfield. The entrance to this part of the footpath was overgrown, muddy and steep, filtered with tree roots and very narrow, one by one we walked up until we were now walking around the edge of a field. Nearing the 4 mile mark the going was slower, the little one was tiring but we were nearly there and the pace picked up, in fact it was the 2nd fastest mile. Once across this field that path ran alongside  some horses fields and we could once again see the Barleymow pub, right next to the car park. The footpath joined onto the Hart conservation trail just at the end, and as we walked onto the road for a few hundred yards at winchfield we all agreed it was a good day of walking.

Date: 19th June 2011
Total walk: 4.92 miles / 7.84km
Descent: 170 ft
Ascent: 165 ft
Average pace:  29.55 mins a mile
Accompanied: Gary Bygrave and JP

Monday, 13 June 2011

How to choose a weeks worth of holiday walks

I am planning  a weeks walking holiday in East Yorkshire beginning 3rd July, and deciding on which walk / what places to walk is proving difficult! There are so many suggested walks to choose from, inland, coastal and heritage that there's truly something for everything.

We are also wanting to have one day of a longer walk between 12-18 miles, and then 4 more days of between 8 - 10 miles of different moderation's, seeing as we are pretty new to walking we don't want to over do it, but also need to increase the length and difficulties of our walks so that we can prepare for some of the longer distance walks which abound around here.

Also we need to consider do we want an established walk or a walk whereby a OS map and navigation is needed - for me that detracts a little from the scenery around you, but again this might just be because I am new to walking for my pleasure. A few directions/instructions of course, but i don't want to miss something because I'm map reading, its not so much fun - again though if i want to take on the challenge of a longer distance path then re-establishing my map reading skills will be essential ;o(

I'm going to try and put an itinerary together this week and report back - if you have any suggestions though please let me know, I'm open to some help ;o)

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Basingstoke Canal - Greywell (lock 30) to Barley Mow Bridge and back - 11.69 miles

We decided to have a go at walking some of the Basingstoke canal, so having taken out a book from the local library, we packed some supplies into my pack and off we set. We are still working out how much water/snacks to carry, this appears to be a little hit and miss as we had enough water but not enough energy this time round, so we need to work on this for next time. I was in jean shorts, a short sleeved chlorofibre T-shirt, walking shoes, and carrying around 7lbs in my daysack.As we left the car, parked in the lay by by Greywell water treatment works it was a sunny 19degrees. Walking up through the village the signpost for the canal walk is very easy to miss, it just says footpath and Hampshire countryside services, we weren't the only people to look twice before walking up there, you pass through a space between two back gardens and you are suddenly on top of the greywell tunnel. There is an info board just down the slope, detailing the history and use of the tunnel, as well as some info on the bat population in the tunnel. It is an area of Scientific Special Interest.
The first thing you notice as you start the walk down the side of the canal is that despite there being some algae and debris on top of the water, the water itself is crystal clear in this section of the canal - turning to the guide book it mentions that the canals main water supply here comes from springs in the greywell cutting and its always ice-cold at this point - it certainly looks it! On the way back just before we finished our walk it would have been lovely to dip our toes just a little lol.
Just after the next bend in the canal you happen across Odiham castle, and by that i mean it literally does just appear to your left! The castle is commonly known as King Johns castle and is famous as a stop off point on the way to King john singing the magna carta. It's worth having a small detour to look at the ruins, which were being utilised by many people on our way past.
It doesn't take much imagination at all to be able to see what this octagonal, thick walled keep would have looked like in its heyday, its worth noting that the castle fell into disrepair back in the 15th century and yet some of it remains still now.

As you come to the next bend in the canal you pass your first bridge, the lift bridge across the road - the clarity of the water isn't so clear at all now but that doesn't stop the abundance of wildlife. We saw swans and 7 cygnets off to the left in a feeding pond, as well as numerously coloured dragonfly and damselfly's. I'm pretty sure i remember reading that this stretch of the canal is known for its large amount of dragonfly's and is regarded as one of the best populated sites of scientific interest for this reason. You notice as you walk the glorious colours from a deep sapphire blue, to a brilliant gold, a stunning red and a deep black.
 It was tricky to catch them on camera though you wont miss them with your eyes they are all around you.

You walk on under the swan bridge (all the bridges have plaques on them to that you can monitor where you are on your map) and around another bend in the canal. As you come up to Lodge bridge you notice the farming fields on either side of the canal. It was here that we stopped for some photos of the quiet and empty canal. However, its also here that you notice the noise from the road (A287) just the other side of the field, and it makes you wonder if you've ever driven down that road before, as i have numerous times, how comes you never noticed this great canal and wildlife meters away? It certainly opened my eyes about the undiscovered gems hidden behind the next cow fields.
You carrying on walking on, and its a very level and easy to walk path, though not suitable for pushchairs due to some patches off overgrowth and very sharp narrowing of the path in places, we both got stung on our arms and legs from the path side nettles. You pass a great picnic area at the Colt Hill Bridge. You can hire canoes from Galleon marine on the opposite side of the canal, and get drinking water and ice creams there too. We stopped on a bench for a quick rest but it was unshaded and the heat was very warm now, so we walked on to find a more covered resting spot. It was great to see so many people using the canal here, as well as another pair of swans and cygnets.

Walking on up the canal path towards board oak bridge was a pleasant stretch, you saw people passing canoeing and enjoying the river, mostly the dads rowing and the wife's and children enjoying being a passenger. As you walk under Broad Oak Bridge you'll find a row of oaks on the left, giving you a nice shaded cover for a couple hundred meters. It was just past here that we saw the sight of the day, just as we passed a large new build house on the right, and 2 narrow boats with the Dogmersfieldbbq stack on the other bank next to the 2 narrow boats,and we considered walking back in case he flew off again but left him. Upon checking the camera though, WOOOHOOO, i had caught him!

A spring in our step and onwards walking around another bend in the canal brings you to Sandy Hill and Sprats hatch bridges.

I would have to say here that the majority of bike users we passed we decent and either slowed down or waited or vice versa we did to pass each other, but most decided not to dismount under the bridges and it was just past these bridges that the couple walking towards us nearly came a cropper as 4 cyclists sped under the bridge to come to the narrowest part of the path and nearly knock the older guy over. He asked them to get off and push their bikes past him and his wife and when he past us a few feet later was grumpy and mumbling.

We walked on past Basley bridge and Stacey's bridge till the clear mooring area of Barley Mow bridge appeared. this is a great space for mooring and hopping over to the pub for some dinner, drinks or supplies before meandering onwards down the canal. This was the furthest out point for us though at about 5.5miles and 2hrs 25minutes of walking on the maps below. As you come off the canal you walk through a large car park (which will be the start of our next leg down the canal), cross over a b road, and then back on yourself nearly as you see the pub, The barleymow is just in front of you. This afternoon there was a wedding reception going on, and the inside was full, we sat in the shade outside the front doors, and after sharing a larger shandy and a bowl of chips, we decided to head back. Instead of going straight back down the canal path, we started our walk back through the village of Winchfield hurst - we walked along the hurst road, then down to station road (for approx. 2 miles and our fastest paced mile) and we turned left onto a footpath at s bagwell lane which brought us back out at sandy hill bridge. We followed the canal path all the way back from here to Greywell tunnell, spotting another heron on the far bank just after lodge bridge.

It was a great walk, we both ached a little afterwards but had enjoyed the day immensely and would highly recommend it to others.

Date: 4th June 2011
Total walk: 11.69 miles / 18.82km
Descent: 145 ft
Ascent: 360 ft
Average pace:  26.05 mins a mile
Accompanied: Gary Bygrave