Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Two get a soaking in the Chilterns

On Sunday, possibly the wettest June day I can remember Deborah and I did a 22 mile walk in the Chiltern Hills.  I met Deborah in Henley-on-Thames and she drove us up to Christmas Common - it was raining long before we'd even started!  We set off over the ridge of Christmas Common with fantastic views over Oxfordshire we then dropped down off the hills onto the start of the Ridgeway and then slowly made our way back up to the top of the Chilterns.  Well it was a training walk after all.   Indeed, it turned out to be a rather hilly 22miles anti-clockwise circular-ish route taking in such places as Swyncombe house (amazing views), Ewelme Park, Park Corner, Nettlebed, Stonor and Pishill.  

Apart from the rain we had a couple of other obstacles to overcome, for example some tricky bits of navigation, avoiding being trampled by a heard of excitable young bullocks.  We had to fend them off to stop them from chasing us down a steep hill the bottom of which the stile was.  At one point I did a little dance to scare them off (which was quite effective intially) but they just came at us again.  So we kept shouting at them to keep the cows at bay and we managed to get out of the field unscathed.

So, after all that wet (did I mention it rained all day?!) walking we managed to complete the 22 miles which involved 4398ft of climbing (almost the height of ben nevis) but generally rather slow going at 2.5mph - there was an awful lot of stopping to look at the map etc and some fairly steep hills.

Deborah kept the spirits up on the last long climb back up to Christmas Common with a superb rendition of Thine Be the Glory and various other good traditional hymns!  However it was a definite relief to get back into the warmth of the car.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Yesterday, Team Sole Mates completed our longest – and wettest - training walk to date: 24 miles, on the South Downs.

We set off nice and early from a starting point near Petersfield, and began with a long, steep incline to get us warmed up. Gorgeous views were to be enjoyed, against ominously grey clouds. We completed 10 miles by lunchtime, when we stopped off in a pub at Exton for a bite. By the time we started up again, the rain had started. And it didn’t stop. All afternoon. So, it was 15 miles in the rain – but we kept our spirits up with Dan’s delicious homemade flapjacks and occasional outbreaks of singing (Joseph).

At 7pm, we walked into Winchester, ready to collapse with a cup of tea on Dan and Jo’s sofa. We all definitely felt that we had worked hard – blisters, sore legs and soles of feet – and that the 100km is going to be a major endeavour.

Simon’s very clever GPS machine told us some interesting stats about the walk:

Total distance: 24.19 miles
Total time: 9 hr 5 min (including a prolonged 90 minute stop for lunch as it took 45 minutes for our food to come!)
Average speed (including the 90 min stop): 2.7mph
Total calories: 3250
Total ascent: 2313 ft
Total descent: 2626 ft

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Afternoon walk on the Dorset Coast

I spent last weekend with some friends in a cottage near Corfe Castle in Dorset.  Admittedly, most of the weekend was a fairly lazy one (lots of eating and drinking).  On Sunday afternoon, after taking the steam train to Swanage, Ruth (my girlfriend) and I departed from the our group and set off to walk back to the cottage via the coast (about 8miles or so).  What we lacked in organisation, we made up for in determination (we had to buy a new map and a bottle of water!) we made good progress getting away from Swanage and away from the busy section of the coastal path. We wended our way around the wooded area of Durleston Country and out onto the open downland which made up most of the rest of the walk.

Sea view from Durleston Park
 The weather was fantastic, nice and sunny although fairly windy and the scenery of this part of Dorset's Jurrasic oast was fabulous - with grassy slopes tumbling down to sheer cliffs.  We saw plenty of sea birds - lots of cormorants making their way up and down coast skimming low above the water.
Good example of a Jurrasic Ammonite - or remains of!
It took us about 4hours to do the walk - as you can imagine, it was fairly up and
 down and lots of wriggling about along the coast - so it could have been a bit further than 8miles.
Me - with the scenic coastline

Sunday, May 15, 2011

A Haslemere Circular

This was my first training walk in a while, though I did spend the three weeks preceding it doing quite a bit of exercise: cycling 324 from Northumberland to Aberdeen with my tent on the back of bike, learning to dive in a dry suit in the Orkneys and sea kayaking and walking in the Shetlands.

But, back in London now, and with only a couple of months to go until the big event, I decided it was time to get on with the training walks.

So, along with Deborah, I set off for Haslemere, about an hour out of London, for a ten mile circular walk from the good ol' Time Out book of Country Walks. This was a relatively short and gentle one: although, in theory, all that holiday exercise was good for me, I managed to screw my right knee and Achilles tendon, so I am trying to ease back into it gently.

The weather and countryside were gorgeous, with some fine views, blooming rhododendrons, and varied woodland. The lunchstop was roast beef in a country pub garden, the most difficult challenge of the day being leaving the pub for the rest of the walk.

It was also my first walk trying out walking poles, which are supposed to reduce strain on the legs and particularly the knees, so they seemed like a good idea. Trailwalker advises people to use them for the long walk. I'm pretty sure that I looked like a bit of an idiot, and it felt a little like I was just making my tiredness to my arms as well, but my knee certainly held up. I'll see how it goes when we do something a little more hardcore in a couple of weeks.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Walking back to Nuffield

Another early start this morning. I came down to Nuffield last night for a weekend of relaxation chez parents; Mum and I decided that we'd do a Saturday walk. So this morning, Dad dropped us at Christmas Common, and we meandered back. It was probably around 9 miles, and we encountered lots of challenging Chilterns hills, as well as red kites, robins, and the first of the bluebells. We lunched just outside Maidensgrove (having walked through Pishill, a village which still elicits the odd chuckle), and spent time walking though the Stonor Estate and along both the Oxfordshire Way and the Ridgeway. Lots of wonderful daffodils and magnolia trees.

And then home for tea, crumpets and The Times. Divine.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Lots and lots of walks

So, walking has become my new major activity. I've been at it most
weekends since my last blog - and I'm powering through Time Out Country Walks Vol 1.

Today, Simon Till and I conquered Walk 27 - Milford to Haslemere: it's supposed to be 11.6 miles, but I think we might need to add on an extra mile or so after finding the book's directions a little vague at one point, and making them up. The morning was gloriously warm, and then the afternoon moved from a light shower to proper full-on rain. Go England! However, despite the damp, we enjoyed Bagmoor Common's heathland of wonderful purple moss and heather; Thursley Common's eerie barren feel, post- a terrible fire in 2006 which has left it looking rather like an African savannah; and views down onto Devil's Punch Bowl after a steep ascent. The latter apparently received its name when the Devil scooped up earth to throw at Thor, the God of Thunder, who lived in Thor's Lie (Thursley). Not something I learned at Sunday School.
I opted to start at Milford after last weekend's fab walk - Walk 20 - Milford to Goldalming. Although helped somewhat by bright blue skies all day, all 11.1 miles of this was beautiful. Lots of beautiful old houses and mills, the village church in Hascombe with its remarkable Moorish wall decoration, and Winkworth Arboretum's blossom trees and daffodils together all made for a walk where the definite challenges of steep uphills were very much worth it.
Other walks have been plentiful - around the Lee Valley; Borough Green to Sevenoaks; and several more. The early starts on Saturday and Sunday mornings are still a little painful, but I'm glad to be spending so much time training for the big walk in July. My boots still give occasional blisters (generally in the same place), but just thinking about how much money we will hopefully raise for the two charities always keeps me going!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A walk to work.

As I've not done any walking lately - or indeed made any blog entries,  I thought I'd better rectify that.  So this morning, I dismissed my normal form of transport (my bike) and set off on foot.  I wasn't even swayed when I went past East Finchley train station.  Then it was up the hill to Highgate, skirted around the cemetery, and then down past Tufnel Park all the way to Kings Cross.  An easy route to follow and not totally unpleasant.  Waterlow park in Highgate (I couldn't cut through the cemetery) was very nice, especially on such a beautiful morning (bright, cold + frosty).  That said my hands were freezing by the time I got to work and I could feel the different use of muscles in my legs.  It gave me a sense of acheivement (albeit minor) and a nice feeling of having done something useful!  I think I'll have to do that a few more times before July.  The distance was just under 10km - so repeat 9 more times to match the distance we'll be covering in July...  Mmm - some work to be done I think...