Friday, 10 October 2008

The unexpected assault course- Tewkesbury to Gloucester

Glenda was inside Tesco's buying sandwiches for lunch, I was outside waiting to meet the next WHI group and Beverley had run off with the proprietor of the B & B.
A fast mover, I hasten to add, she was after my rucksack, not the man, and was back in a flash to join the rest of the party. Rushing to keep this 10 am appointment I'd left my bag behind. As Dennis & Annie had driven all the way from Leominster with two of their walkers, Jason and Carl, to walk part of the way down the river with us, I didn't want to be late.
After I'd got over the shock of B & G wanting to join in again this year after they'd endured the arduous assault course that was the Pennine Way last year, they then preceded to lay down the conditions. "No hills, no scrambling over rocks, refreshments en route, toilet facilities,nearer to home, and definitely no more than 15 miles, oh, and for one day only. Ok, can you organize that?" I most certainly could. Today's walk was one I'd been looking forward to. Rated as one of the five best walk of travel writer Mark Moxon's L.E. to J.O.G. trip ticked all the boxes. And this was how I "sold" it. "A pleasant meander along the banks of the river Severn, with the opportunity for frequent liquid refreshments at any one (or three) of the delightful riverside pubs. The added bonus being, we were unlikely to get lost"
And all was well, for the first few miles. The six of us set off downstream at a cracking pace, none more cracking than Jason and Carl. Charging ahead of us, theirs was a real WHI success story. When Annie first encouraged them to walk, they could barely complete a mile in 40 minutes. In less than two hours we'd clocked up 5 miles and were enjoying a picnic lunch in the sunshine.
Soon it was time for us to bid fond farewells, and move on to find one of those delightful pubs Mark waxed lyrically about. Well, we found one and yes, the setting was ideal, the pub less so. Never the less, surprisingly good coffee was served with a smile, and as we contentedly sipped and sat at a wooden bench by the river, we eyed up the route ahead and encountered a problem. Where exactly was the route ahead?
When the only way forward seemed to be ploughing through the undergrowth and scrambling up the bank to avoid falling in the river, I sensed dissent among the ranks. Hearing mutterings from behind of "This is worse than last years climb up Stoodley Pike" we reached the mutual decision to backtrack to the pub, whereupon in full embarrassing view of the pub clientele we spotted the sign which would continue our journey on the "Severn Way"
I'd like to say, it got better, but by courtesy of Gloucestershire C.C. who'd decided to put maintaining public rights of ways at the bottom of their "To Do" pile, we encountered our old friends, the nettle family.
So what with that, the mud, and thoughts of a long drive home ahead of us, we settled on the minor road option for the final few drizzly miles into Gloucester.

Saturday, 4 October 2008

A hole in my shoe- Worcester to Tewkesbury

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

A warm welcome to Worcester

"Cashier number one please"
9.00 am, and I was first in line at the Post Office in Stourport upon Severn. I hadn't realised getting my "walking passport" stamped would be such a trial. "I'm not signing and stamping anything unless I know what it is" cashier number one retorted, flicking the passport from side to side, suspiciously. "Ere, Shirl, ever seen one of these?" Cashier number two (Shirl) heaved herself slowly of her stool and lumbered over to take a peek. "No, can't say I have" Meanwhile, an impatient queue started to form behind me, because as we all know, there are only ever two post office windows open at any time. I started again "I'm walking from..." Eventually she reluctantly signed, stamped and I went on my way.
Either it was the weather or the early start, I don't know, but I seemed to whizz alongside the river, and still have time for two pub stops along the way. And there's nothing quite like sitting by the river with an ice cold drink, on a sunny day.
I was looking forward to meeting Peter, his wife, Marguerite, walk leaders from the "Pitchcroft Pacers" in Worcester and Elinor, from Droitwich. But try as I might, I couldn't help conjuring up images of little men in farmers smocks trekking round the racecourse, with pitchforks for walking sticks.
We met, as planned at the "Sabrina Bridge" so called, as she is the Goddess of water. But not without a detour. The effects of last years floods meant I had to leave the riverside and the prospect of gawping at the houses on "millionaires row" for a much less attractive route down the main road into town. But what a warm welcome I received when I got there from the three of them. Why, Elinor had even brought me a present!
We all walked up to the Pump House together for a welcoming cup of tea, where we met and chatted with the young girl from the press, before posing for photo's outside.
Later when Peter and Marguerite dropped me off at the dubious looking B & B, I kind of regretted not taking them up on the offer of a drive out to the Malvern Hills and a bed for the night. But it was too late to run after them, and shout "I'm a tired traveller, get me out of here!"