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...

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Great Missenden to Amersham

I'm very pleased with the purchase of the Time Out guide to walks near London. Last Sunday, we got up at an unspeakably early hour (those who know me well will know that I value my lie-ins dearly), and took the train to Great Missenden. It was then a 10-mile walk - across fields, through woods (as pictured), over stiles and through a surprisingly large number of kissing gates - to Amersham. The walking itself took about five hours, and luckily we weren't graced by rain. Towards the end, we even enjoyed some blue sky.
I've done a walk (and I say this having just checked my diary) every single weekend since the New Year; even if it's just 90 minutes around Regent's Park and Primrose Hill, it's been good to get into the rhythm of regular training...
...Although there's a small difference between 10 miles and 100km...

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

An accidental trek

Dan's solo training #2, Sunday 23rd Jan:
Somehow a planned nice countryside loop, starting from our front door and taking in a decent pub or two, ended up being a 15-mile hardcore training hike that took around five and a half hours. And the pub was closed. It felt like a very long way and it's still only around a quarter of the Trailwalker distance.
The good news is that no long-term injuries were sustained, and we didn't have to call out the St Bernards. We even managed to resist the siren call of the two Gurkha restaurants on the way back through Winchester. On balance, promising. Although, seriously guys, 66 miles?!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Truly Grim

Dan's 1st solo training outing: The Grim

It had seemed like such a good idea when I signed up for it...
'The Grim', which I took part in on the 16th January, involves running 8 miles through an army 4x4 course, splashing through mud and water-filled canyons and crawling under cargo nets. What better way to spend a weekend?

It was stupid and painful, but I was entertained by some of the crazy fancy dress (I was well beaten by the guy in a full suit, who managed to be both fast and stylish, unlike me!).

Probably not the most relevant preparation for our mammoth TrailWalk, but at least it showed me how unfit I am. Now for the serious miles!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

A walk in the Lee Valley

Just back from nearly five hours of walking in the Lee Valley. Kept snugly warm with about 25 layers, big duffel coat, thick scarf and my bright red leather gloves - important to make an effort, I think.

This is my third weekend walk in as many weekends - building up the time each walk, as I managed to get tendonitis in my right Achilles heel just before Christmas when out walking with Chris. So far, so good!

The last two walks were also lovely - only one in the pouring rain - so have been very lucky with the weather.

Towards Hour 5 this afternoon, I started to have *minor* concerns about The Big Walk in July - it's a long, long way... We will need all the support we can get!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Our First Donation: Just £2,800 to go!

Thank you to Geoff and Cherry Till for their wonderfully generous donation of £200 to get our fundraising started! Giving at that level they'll get invited to our post-walk thank you dinner and, as a small gesture of how important they are to us, on the big day we'll be scrawling their names over various members of the team. Thank you!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Our First Training Walk: Richmond Park

The team did our first (relatively leisurely) training walk today for Trailwalker 2011 - the terrifying event we've signed up for in July to raise money for Oxfam and the Gurkha Welfare Trust.

We decided to take Trailwalker's advice to start training for the event early and slowly so, with six months to go before the event itself, the team met for the first time for a three hour stroll through Richmond Park. The trains were down so getting to the park on our bikes from various parts of London made it a more energetic day than planned for many of the team.

We finished the walk getting a late lunch in the pub (which I hope will be a recurrent theme of our training) and discussing our training and fundraising plan for the next six months. All very exciting!