Friday, 28 November 2008
Friday, 10 October 2008
Saturday, 4 October 2008
That's me, on the right, riding the crest of a "Severn Bore" wave. Not bad for a novice, if I do say so myself!
I lie, of course. But I was interested in finding out about the phenomenon of the "Severn Bore" and would I actually see it? On the internet was a mind boggling amount of information about precise times, dates, places, statistics and an awful lot of charts. It was all getting far too technical and I sensed I was entering "serious anorak" territory. Time to switch off, but not before ascertaining that I wasn't in the right part of the river to view a sighting anyway.
And so onto today's real, but slightly less exciting adventure.
There was no denying it, I could feel pavement through my sock, and on investigation there was a sizeable hole in my shoe. Well, all things considered, they'd lasted me well to get this far,and just as well I was in a town with a "Miletts". Half an hour later, I was bouncing down the High Street the proud owner of a replica pair of new boots. Somehow or other they bounced me in the direction of the Cathedral. As if by perfect timing I arrived during a morning rehearsal. Lighting a candle, I sat back in the pew, closed my eyes, and let the wonderful sounds wash over me.It was so incredibly moving, I really wanted to stay forever (or at least until I was thrown out) but I had to go. Another day, and another rendezvous. Today I was meeting friends from home at Upton-upon-Severn, or that was the plan.
I got there, Beverley and Glenda didn't. Caught up in traffic on the motorway, they were hours behind schedule, giving me time to check out Upton and bus timetables. Tomorrow, Sunday, we needed to get back from Gloucester to Tewkesbury. (buses ran every day-except Sunday) Oh dear!
I dawdled along the river, stopping to buy an Ice Cream. It was a lovely sunny day, and the weekend crowds were making the most of it. What a shame B & G hadn't got here to enjoy it.
Or, perhaps not. The wide path slowly dwindled down to a narrow unkempt one. That I could cope with. A couple came walking up. Stopping for a chat, their parting shot of "watch out for some nettles further along the way" proved to be the understatement of the year. 1/2 mile of waist high nettles is not "some nettles"
I pulled up my socks, pulled down my shorts to try and cover any inch of exposed flesh, raised my arms high up above my head and waded through. It hardly made any difference, the little b.....s managed to find a way. In what seemed like an eternity I finally saw an end in sight, and hoped that was the worst of it. I needed to warn the obliviously happy pair, who were by now making their way out of Tewkesbury. "Are you wearing long trousers?" "Don't be ridiculous, it's a lovely sunny day, why?" Well, fortunately for them, that was the rest of the walk into Tewkesbury was nettle free. Feeling quite brave and macho I proudly displayed my battle scars, which resembled the crater like surface of a very fiery red moon. Ever the prepared girl guide she once was, Glenda whipped out her travelling medicine cabinet and put out the fire.
As we passed by, I looked longingly and nostalgically at the "Tudor House Hotel" Although they must have been ravished by last year's floods, they were up and open for business, but unfortunately not for us. As in Worcester, in desperation, I booked a "cheap" triple room in a Guest House. In my experience, cheap does not necessarily mean poor standard, and it wasn't really that bad (for one night only) Put it this way, we were as cosy as the three bears, but there definitely wasn't room for Goldilocks.
Friday, 3 October 2008
Sunday, 28 September 2008
The phone rang "Hello! Peter here! I've arranged for the press photographer to meet us at the Pump House at 3pm, is that ok?" I gulped, and quickly set the calculator whirring in my head. Bewdley to Worcester, 20 miles at approx. 3 miles an hour, with extra time for brief stops and getting lost, meant leaving at 7.30 am. "Fine" I said, breezily, "I'll see you there!"
Oh, it was so hot, sticky and unbearably humid today, I couldn't wait to get down to the river. To spur myself on, I earmarked a "blue cup" on the map, to treat myself to a large orange juice with plenty of ice, and what passed the time was meeting a retired policeman, full of local knowledge and stories of last year's floods. In the pub garden, it was hard to believe a year ago I'd have been 3 foot under water.
Was it the heat and fatigue that had made me imagine the haunting distance sounds of a steam train? Or was it all the nostalgic thoughts of yesterday? No, as I reached the river, there up above was the "Severn Valley Railway" chugging back and forth between Ardley and Bewdley. I had to take a look, not least because there might be the prospect of an Ice Cream. Sadly, it was already getting late and the shop was closed. As the last train to Bewdley pulled up to the platform, it was calling out to me "Come on Carol, you're tired, hungry, and it's only 5 miles, I'll get you there in a jiffy"
Now, can you imagine the powers of restraint I needed not to jump on board?
Saturday, 27 September 2008
Dumping the rucksack in Penkridge I made my way to Pattingham by train and bus. With an hour to spare in Wolverhampton, while "Curry's" were obligingly charging up the camera for me, armed with a town trail map I explored. And was pleasantly surprised. Wolverhampton is like one of many post industrial towns, making the best of their heritage
For the first time in the history of the Lejog/Jogle I found getting lost actually worked to my advantage! Following the Shropshire Union Canal, watching the barges chugging slowly up and down the canal, I started to muse about how our whole transport system had completely changed, for the worse really, in the last 50 years. While Beeching was ripping up train tracks, canals were drained, and tram lines removed, arteries of motorway were threading throughout the land, and the age of high speed travel arrived along with jumbo jets and Concord. Deep in thought, I found myself in the middle of a housing estate, and on asking for directions, was guided to the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal all the way into Penkridge.
So back to the Transport Manifesto. It seemed to me that in the name of progress we'd actually gone backwards. All because we've lost our sense of time. Continuously seeking ways and means of getting ourselves, and goods from A to B faster. If only the time element was taken away, we could return to the days of transportation by foot, bycycle, train, boat or barge.
But it would take a brave Transport Minister to radically tackle today's problem of pollution, overcrowded roads, and a confusing and inadequate railway system. I reckon whoever is in charge of National Express should be appointed. What a fantastically efficient way of travel. How else can you travel from London To Inverness (return) for £2?
And so all the new Transport Minister has to do is make us all go on compulsory "Canal Bank Holidays" Why? To get us all to de-stress and chill us out to the level where we can accept a slower pace of life. I've never been on a canal boat holiday, but it seems you've got to learn the art of travelling slowly and waiting patiently at all those lock changes.
And so, after a day of sunshine and "bon homie" along the tow path, I spent the evening in the "Littleton Arms" with Kim and her husband, good food, wine and lively conversation. Perfect!
Tuesday, 16 September 2008
Monday, 15 September 2008
Or maybe not. The next morning dawned with drizzly rain as we set off along the last stretch of the "Tissington Trail" towards Ashbourne. Circumnavigating Ashbourne, by the third "I think we've been down this road before" experiences, we were confidently giving directions to the locals, never mind the passing tourists looking for Uttoxeter race course.
Fed up with all this "which way" confusion, we decided the best option was to find a road, any road, that would take us to Uttoxeter- our destination. Happening across a farmhouse, in the middle of nowhere, we knocked on the door. It looked like no-one was home, until through a window we saw this old crone in nylon overalls, circa 1950's, (the overalls, not the crone) of about 104 heaving herself out of her chair. Three years later she eventually managed to open the door. Now, we didn't quite get what she croaked in answer to "Where is Uttoxeter?" but she pointed wildly in a southerly direction, and that was good enough for us. Where there's a farm, there has to be a road. Unfortunately it was the A515 into town. And even when we got there, the next problem was how to get to Penkridge? The bus driver at the bus station obviously hadn't chosen local Geography GCSE, as he hadn't a clue, but fortunately a passenger on the bus had. According to her, if we got a bus to Stafford, we could then get a train to Penkridge. But not before we had to kill time waiting for the bus in the greasiest of spoon cafe's where, lingering over a stewed cup of tea, we had time to admire how the proprietess dealt swiftly and efficiently with the local "Riff Raff" Any attempt by them to loiter in the caf and they were sharply booted out.
And so it was after a long, long, day we finally arrived at the "Quality Inn" in the middle of a wedding reception. Too tired to venture further than the bar, we joined the wake of the wedding party and the bar staff around the TV watching Wimbledon Highlights. The highlight of our day was a pedometer reading of 20 miles walked. 2,800 calories used which = eat, drink and be merry-Hurrah!
Saturday, 13 September 2008
After a lunchtime and coffee encounter with a longdistance lorry driver who without any reluctance unfortunately showed his injured ankles(?!), and Carol tried to persuade him how much he needed to join a WH group (to no avail sadly), we had a pleasant afternoon's walk along to Tissington and its famous Hall; a 'stunning Jacobean manor house' - a lovely spot to which I must return with husband Neil sometime, not least for the delicious cream tea which to our delight, awaited us when we stopped off for a break. Tissington village is a lovely spot and has one of the Peak's renowned Well Dressing festivals, usually in May each year.
From there it was a short hop to Fenny Bentley, strung out along the main Ashbourne to Buxton road, but thankfully the comfy looking B+B where Carol was meeting Sheila was high above it in a really peaceful spot. We parted there and I made my way back to the main road for the bus back to Parsley Hay, hoping I had done my bit for WHI and Carol this year. Will be back for more (and to make sure Carol and Keith do the 'missing' Hope to Bakewell bit or thereabouts!)
Back over to you Carol...
Thursday, 4 September 2008
In the spirit of it can only get better, it did. A totally different scene emerged the next morning. Leaving from the more prosperous leafy south side of town (in the sunshine) was more Harrogate than Halifax. Imposing Victorian mansions bordering vast green parks paved my way towards Huddersfield.
There's something quite exhilarating about standing on the brow of a hill looking down over Huddersfield and being able to see the far side of town, knowing where you're heading. To the canal, that's where, and to any long distance walker the prospect of walking alongside a canal is a welcome relief...for about the first 5 miles, then, it gets boring. Two days later you come across the next one, and the excitement starts all over again...
And so I wended my way to Holmfirth. Somewhere I'd specifically chosen to get to. Not because I'm a huge fan of "Last of the Summer Wine" but I figured the location of an incredibly long running and boring series must have something about it. Disappointingly not. It wasn't just mediocre, it was dire. While waiting for Jane, my next host, to arrive, I attempted to walk the steep hill to "Norah Batty's House" Halfway there I thought "What is the point?"
I just didn't get it. How could a "comedy" about three men, who never seem to get any older, still be going for over 30 years?
And so with a sigh, I made my way back down the hill.
Tuesday, 2 September 2008
In a supreme effort to avoid hills (difficult in the Pennine region) I chose to follow the River Aire out of Skipton. Following a river is easy, trying to negotiate a miriad of "ways" was definitely not. From Keighley to Haworth there was "The Worth Valley way", "The Bronte Way", "The Howarth Way", "The Railway Children Way"...confused and disorientated I could have been on the "Jenny Agutter Way" for all I knew, but somehow I stumbled out of the undergrowth onto the road which led up a very, very, steep hill to Howarth. Did I need to take it? No, I didn't. Not only did I find a flat river option but also, as luck would have it, a lady dog walker to guide me up to the main road into Halifax.
Why no photo's? Well, with a borrowed old phone of Alice's. I took the pictures but have no way of getting them out. Hopefully, eventually...where there's a will there's a way.
Thursday, 28 August 2008
Like a pack of cards, things started to tumble. Starting with phones. My super dooper radio/camera phone dropped down the toilet, water damaged, it was useless so I took Sophie's phone with me. When it fell out of my pocket somewhere in the middle of the Dales, I not only lost photographs, but more tragically, something of very sentimental value.
And then there was Darlington. Looking up bus timetables on the internet it seemed the last bus to Barnard Castle was at 4.30pm. My train didn't get into Darlington until 4.40pm so I had to book a B & B in there. It was something else. To say the owner was a fan of Nelson would be a gross understatement. Like stepping into a museum, it was stuffed with memorabilia. Led to my room passed a wall long mural of the battle of Waterloo, he proudly told me he'd been collecting for the last twenty years. The room was small, basic and reminiscent of my attic abode in Wick, but thankfully, Nelson free.
And now for somewhere to eat. Not a great deal of choice, and I made a wrong one. Tapas bars are for sharing platters with friends, not for sad and lonely singles. How does one choose two dishes from about fifty selections on the menu? Gloomily I went back to the "Admiral" Lot's of noise and jollity hailing from the "Waterloo" bar, tempted to join them, I thought better of it and headed to my room.
The next morning at breakfast the table was adorned with red, white and blue napkins and little union jacks waving between the salt & pepper pots. Outside in the garden, the flags of England, Scotland,Ireland and Wales waved back.
Wondering how any wife could put up with this Nelson fanatisism, she told me she herself was also a fan. They'd got married on the HMS Belfast, in full costume (of course) as seen on the photo of their business card.
Phew! with a quick salute to the flags at the front door I was off to Barnard Castle, a lovely dales town with lot's of lovely places to stay, eat and drink. Grrr!
First stop, the Information Centre. I needed to know how I was going to get from Reeth to York tonight. By taking three buses and a train apparently, and the last bus from Reeth was at 5.30.
Right! Better get going then. All was going well on the yellow roads. The sun was shining accompanied by a gentle breeze until I hit the high road. Battling in the wind across the moors, I somehow lost my way and when I saw a dirt track I took it -because it led back to a road. Disorientated setting off in the wrong direction, I soon realised I was heading north, not south. Now I may be crap at map reading but along the way I've picked up a bit of geographical knowledge as I'm able to tell the difference between the rugged northern pennines and the rolling dales.
Scrambling down to a ford I stopped to fold the map. This is where I guessed, later, I must have lost the phone, because not long after that I tried to ring York. I wasn't going to make that bus tonight.
With no way of contacting my friends I just hoped and prayed there'd be somewhere to stay in Reeth. It was a pretty big village with five pubs and a couple of B & B's but- It was Saturday night, and with a wedding party in town, to every knock the answer was "No room at the Inn" My last hope was the "Temperance Hotel" As I started to knock, the door flew open. The owner was dashing off to Evening Service, and I just caught her in time. With everything crossed I asked the question. Yes! She did have a room "But did I mind being alone in the house with Bob?" the only other guest. Did I mind? Did I care? Most certainly not, but first I needed to use the telephone.
I had a super large room in this huge three story Georgian House, I was amused to read the notice in the bathroom about how the ten reasons people give for not washing can easily be the same reasons people choose not to go to church. Well, as I needed some cleansing, spiritual or otherwise I was pouring bubbly into the large bath from the "help yourself" array on the shelf when I spotted a blast from the past "Goya's Aqua Manda for Men Aftershave" One quick sniff and I was catapulted back to the Seventies (A decade with a lot to answer for in Fashion and Musical taste-well some of the music was ok, but a lot wasn't) Dancing to the "Revolution Shuffle" with spotty youths in wide flares and ludicrously tight cheesecloths shirts ,who somehow, in the cold light of day, never looked as dishy as the illustrated boys in "Jackie" magazine, were stood up on the first date.
Ah well, back to 21st century and food. Not having eaten since breakfast, choosing somewhere to eat wasn't that difficult as all the pubs were heaving. Wedged between the Billiard table and the wall, I read the B & B lady's account of her "Coast to Coast" 25th Anniversary walk with her husband.
As Alison (WHI Co-ordinator for this region) hopped on the bus outside Hexham, I knew today could only get better. The sun was shining and so was the map holder slung around her neck. Yes, I was off map control duty for the next two days!
We arrived at Bellingham, and after a brief chat with some local walkers we were off on our way. With Alison map reading, I could concentrate on what I do best -talking! We compared notes about our respective Co-ordinator positions and before too long met yet another lone "Lejoger" He certainly didn't look like he'd make it to Bellingham, never mind John O' Groats. Oddly, he was wearing all his waterproofs. Sweating profusely, in the heat of the day, he explained he was trying to minimise the weight on his back. At 4.30am with a minimal water supply he'd set out from "Once Brewed" or was it "Twice?" I can't remember now, but feeling very sorry for him we decided it was time for our own "brew" and stopped off at the delightful little teashop cum Post Office in Simonsburn. An estate managed village, it was a picture postcard place with all the houses painted in heritage green.
We had to speed things up a bit as I'd arranged to meet Alec-a walk leader from Cramlington, who'd driven over here especially to meet me. We eventually caught up near Hadrians Wall where Alison was leaving us to return back to her village. Back in map control, within five minutes, Alec and I managed to get lost in a field. After going round in circles a few times we eventually found a dog walker who guided us towards the minor road into Hexham.
The next problem now was guiding Keith (mapless husband) out of Hexham to come and meet us. Now I read maps in a colour coded way. Yellow=ok for walking. Orange=not ideal, but ok for a short stretch if there's no alternative. Red= to be avoided at all costs, unless absolutely necessary. Blue=If found walking on one of these you should be carted away in a little white van.
Anyway, Keith is taking directions down the phone. "Yellow road, what yellow road? are you mad?" he barked down the phone. "What the hell are you talking about, all roads are grey!"
Fortunately, as Hexham was his childhood stomping ground he knew where he was going and we all eventually walked into Hexham together.
Bidding farewell to Alec, with promises to meet up next time he was down in Redhill visiting his family, we set off back to Stanhope.
Monday, 25 August 2008
When I set out on the "Lejog" trek last year, the Blog became the millstone around my neck with never enough time to keep it up to date. This year, with a job & domestic activities piling up every time I came home between each leg of the journey, "Writers Blog" set in. It stuck at the bottom of a "To do" list.
Now, I'll endeavour to catch up, but keep it brief. The notes are all there for the longer journal (which may eventually be written) but for the loyal supporters of WHI groups who've enthusiastically joined in to support me I want to get it finished!