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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!