Search This Blog

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Mays walking

May 2011 was the first month that i decided to make my commute to work by my own two feet - somewhat based on the necessity of not being able to afford the luxury of running my petrol guzzling car and the need to save a few more pennies, but also because i was fed of 20 minutes a day queued in traffic to travel the whole of the 1.5 miles via the roads to my house. In May 2011 I have walked a total of 46 miles, commuting and on our leisure walks.

The walk from home/school, depending on when i leave for work and how many stops are made along the way can be made in a few different ways. The 1.37mile one way walk is a great way to start the day. My average time is 24mins and If i ignore the sweatyness, and the need for a shower or a rub down and a change before i sit down to work, it actually clears my head and gets me ready for the day.

The return journey is a little more fraught, i worry that i will miss my alarm to leave at 2.45pm and be late picking up the little one, or that it will take me hours longer than it does in the morning and i worry he'll be left at school waiting for me - my neurotic tenancies aside though the walk home again seems to calm me after a busy day and i get home a better kind of tired. A tired whereby i can actually sleep at night rather than lay awake rethinking things.

My hubby tells me my legs are looking better for it, and my bum a little firmer, ill take his word for it as i cant see my fat arse in the mirror when i look to be honest! Tomorrow ill jump on the wii fit board and see if my weight has changed any from it.

We've both enjoyed the extra walking, he comes to meet me from work some nights to walk home together, or we stroll into work together in the morning on his days off. The time shared if we can, and we enjoy discussing where we will be walking next, things we've seen on the walks and things we still want to go see - walking the length of Hadrians wall is appealing, and I'm starting to research this now.

What does June hold for me? We have a 5 day holiday to Yorkshire in July, so we need to get some practice miles in - odiham castle and then newbury to hungerford canal walk are next on the list.

Beacon Hill - Nr highclere castle Hampshire - 1.29 miles

Heading towards newbury on the A34, you exit at the Highclere castle turning, and then turn left at the junction, taking you straight into the car park. It was a beautiful sunny day today.The hill itself is an Iron Age hill fort, and now an area of Special Scientific Interest.

You go through a kissing gate, and there's a picnic area on the right, but I'd suggest you stop and eat at the top, admiring the 360 degrees views of the downs.For the first half of the climb, you can utilise the wooden steps cut into the hill, most of which were in good condition but you still need to take care.

Then you come to another kissing gate, theres a notice here to make sure dogs are put onto the lead, as there are animals grazing in the fields. If you turn and look to the right you will see Highclere Castle, which in itself has many footpaths running through the grounds and is open to the public, though access is restricted when there are events on.

There are no more steps from here on in, its a straight climb and calf strain to the top, but keep going as the view really is amazing. When you reach the summit, you are now walking around the old hill fort. During the walk up we were both comfy in a short sleeved t-shirt and a vest jacket, but when you get to the top you'll need a hat and a jumper at the least cause its bleedin cold. The wind whips around you and you are pretty exposed. We stopped here for a breather, some water and to take pictures of a red kite and sparrowhawk who decided to enjoy the winds and the sun and play around here.

Once you are ready and refreshed, keep walking and you will come to the memorial to The 5th Earl of Carnarvon (who discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun). It is fenced off with a white metal rail.

Then we continued to about half way round the hill fort, the ditches are clearly defined still and then retraced our steps back down.There is some lovely fauna around you, as well as butterflies and skylarks too. You can see all around the valley, and if you are lucky to have a panoramic camera, man would you get a great picture from this spot. Alas, I'm not so lucky but i do have some great views of the lush green countryside from here.

It is somewhat harder coming down, then the climb up. The gradient is harsh and our legs were aching by now. Both the dogs coped okay on the descent, but take care to maintain a slow pace as trying to curb your speed and slow down is so hard.

Date: 31st May 2011
Total walk: 1.29 miles
Descent: 346ft
Ascent: 493ft
Average pace:  56.26 mins a mile
Accompanied: Gary Bygrave, branston and mustard

Thursday, 26 May 2011

A walk along the canal path from Newbury - 5.76miles

If you park at the new library building in Newbury you are immediately on the side of the Kennett and Avon Canal. The car park is a pay as you leave one, so you only pay for the time you are there, which as a walker is a nice luxury as if you over run so to speak you don't have to pick the pace up to get back to beat a ticket! Alas though we choose a typical British day of showers, and some of them were heavy ones. I did manage to nip into TKMax prior to starting out and picked up a great pair of khaki brown Craighoppers walking trousers, priced at a very reasonable £19.99. Also we passed the market in the town square and picked up a cheese and tomato focciata round bread from the bread stall, and a bag of stuff olives from the olive seller, provisions for lunch.

Then we started our walk turning right from the car park and just about got under bridge 58 as the heavens opened and a heavy shower commenced. Walking down the canal path you are somewhat sheltered from the rain, but luckily the shower only lasted about 5 minutes or so and it dried off to a hay sunshine. One of the things i noticed walking down the canal path, was that there was a whole society of house boaters and narrow boat owners that i hadn't previously considered. As you walk past the boats moored up, you cant help but peak into the windows, or look at the flower pots, vegetable bags and assorted goods that you see on top of the boats, and in all those nooks and crannies.

You also see some of the people assocaited with the waterways. As we got to lock 87 there was a man whose boat had already gone through, but who stayed to help a lone sailor get his boat up the lock. We too helped pull the ropes up to tie around the blocks, a thank you offered and accepted. We stopped to chat to one boat waiting to enter the lock too. This was the second year in a row his family had taken a canal boat holiday and he heartily recommended it. Once the good Samaritan had finished helping he quickly overtook us on his jog down the path to catch up with his craft down at the next lock and the comradeship was duly noted.

We passed a moorhen and her chicks and some yellow flowering iris along the way, with nothing to distract whilst you walk along the canal path you can see so much more. The darting dragonflies and the swallows swooping down across the water are a welcome site.
As we needed to ensure we got back to the car, the route was out in about 3 miles, an about turn and then retracing of our steps to get back to the car park. We turned around just after the 3 mile mark on the map, opened up our ruck sac and took out the bread and olives. We munched on these as we walked back and i would recommend them both! the combination was lovely and having refuelled we picked up the pace a little on the way back, averaging 20 minute miles. The rain followed us too, and we walked through 2 more showers.We also noticed a narrowboat that we had seen earlier coming up river who had broken down, being towed into Newbury for repair, the two craft tied together and the different parties swapping stories.

This time both lock 88 and 87 were empty as we past by, but looking up river as the sun catches the water and the light plays through the trees and reflects back at the sky, an empty canal can still be a beautiful sight.
Soon we were passing the houseboats and we were back to the car park. You notice an abundance of swans at the wharfs, and often you will see those sitting on the benches, feeding the numerous swans and ducks you see gathering around. We decided to stop at the teashop by the canal to refresh us a little, and as the sun was shining we sat outside. I wouldn't be able to recommend their cream tea I'm afraid. The scone was hard, the jam was fruity and very nice, though the scrapping of cream could have been more generous. We both agreed we have tasted far better scones that this. The tea was a disappointment too, not enough leaves for the size pot and a rather weak flavoured one at that. The charm of being served in china cups and a proper pot was overshadowed by the quality of the fare.

At least the sun was shining as we walked on back to the car, ready for home.

Date: 26th May 2011
Total walk: 5.76 miles
Descent: 142 ft
Ascent: 81 ft
Average pace:  28.21 mins a mile
Accompanied: Gary Bygrave

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

St Catherines Hill - circular route 2.95miles 25/05/11

Today we decided to walk up and around St Catherine's Hill in Winchester. It's actually part of the South Downs national park and before it was cut through to widen the M3 around Twyford, you used to be able to walk to the very top, alas now its bisected by the motorway. You can hear the noise of the cars, but it didn't detract from the walk at all.

The weather was a warm 21 degrees, and the car park was full when we arrived around 10.40am, including the appearance of 2 police cars, and officers cycling around the hill fort when we got up there a little later on.

After parking the car, we walked through a small stone archway and through a cattle gate, continuing up the slope to the second gate. At the fork in the path we hangered a left and walked up the side of the hill. There are steps cut into the side, and a wooden hand rail in places. Take time to look backwards to the view of the cathedral once you are at least halfway up. There's also a bench halfway up on the left if you need to take a breather at all.

You can also see the prison from here, and St Cross Hospital. We walked across to the information board, advising you that you might be lucky enough to see skylarks, marble white and brown angus butterflies, alongside numerous plants too. The hill is actually designated a Site of Special Scientific interest so if you have an interest in this its well worth researching the area and what to look out for on your walk.

We walked around the edge of the hill fort before descending down the well placed wooden steps. The descent is sharp so using the steps would seem the sensible route to take, but if you are used to hill walking you could descend freestyle. The steps are suitable for all ages, we passed an elderly couple on their way up, but not suitable for prams or wheelchair users. The dogs made good use of the slopes to run their own way down.
Once you reach the bottom, we walked through the kissing gate onto the riverside path. (This is the 1 mile mark on the gps map) A note of caution for dog walkers here - there are no signs to say you are very nearly next to the weir as soon as you close the gate, and both of our springer spaniels were straight in the water, needing to be pulled out. It should really be signposted a little better as it could have been a very sad tale at this point. Once the dogs were on the lead and dried off we set off left down towards the Viaduct.

The path follows the course of the river, if you look through the trees you can see two disused railway bridges, remains from the time when the railway used to be here before it was closed and moved in the 1960's when the motorway was constructed.We walked down until the crossroads and headed right, towards St Cross on the sign. Passing through the gate you walk along a paved road, the viaduct can be clearly seen to the left and then you take the next right following the signs to st cross. We saw this earlier from way up on the hill.

Walking up the lane, continue straight over a stile - this was quite steep and carries a notice that dogs should be on a lead no longer than 2 meters in front of you, the path is tight next to the river for a couple of hundred yards and then opens up a little more. Walking along the path still you come to St Cross hospital. there's a bench alongside the walled garden and a grassy bank area, if you were looking for a picnic spot or a place to take a short respite then this would be it. There are doggie bins and a black rubbish bin here too. We saw a young swan enjoying the cool water and looked over the railings into the churchyard at the gravestones.(this is slightly after the 2 mile marker on the map).

Walking alongside a small river, with plenty of shallow dipping places for the dogs you can follow the path up towards the main road, and turn right onto Garnier road. Here you are walking on the pavement next to a main road, so dogs need to be controlled and on a lead. You will pass the old pump house on your right, and the remarkable company who now own the building have maintained the old wheel and other features from the pump house so take a peek as you pass. You cross over the road to the path and then walk across the tunbridge, turning right back into the car park. Take a few minutes to walk down to the river and watch the swallows swoop under and around the bridge, if you are fast you could catch them in a picture.

Date: 25th May 2011
Total walk: 2.94 miles
Descent: 303ft
Ascent: 327ft
Average pace: 38.21 mins a mile
Accompanied: Gary Bygrave, mustard and branston

Tuesday, 24 May 2011


I decided to create a blog page to share my pictures, thoughts and opinions on walks / tours / views I've come across around the UK. I'm fortunate that my partner loves photography and always wants to be out and about, as it compliments my love of history, so we indulge in these two passions as much as possible. We go on driving tours around the UK, following whatever catches our eye, we go on walks - sometimes following a guide or a trail route, other times its whatever takes our fancy.

After each occasion we have a heap of pictures, discussions that have taken place whilst walking or driving, questions arising from things we saw, things we didn't see, things referenced to what we saw, and a notebook of things to remember or at least be my guide in writing the trip up properly.

At the start of this blog May 2011 - I haven't had anything published yet but its my goal to start submitting articles to magazines that share my love of the countryside, my enthusiasm for being out and about, and whom understand the simply beauty of a picture.

Of course you'll all be the first to know how I get on!!!