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.