Climbing, swimming, riding, rocking and rambling

We’ve managed to squeeze some rambling in between loads of fun family time this week so thought I’d write it all into the blog.

Sunday 14th November 2021

Started the day with a splash around in the sea, as you do on chilly November mornings. Were well and truly rewarded with an amazing display of dolphins playing in front of us … as always, hard to catch on camera!

Talyllyn Railway’s steam engine was our mode of transport for the afternoon taking us on a joyful ride from our town of Tywyn, which sits on the edge of Snowdonia National Park through to Nant Gwernol, buried deep in the mountains of Abergynolwyn … as you can imagine the views were spectacular. The carriages were a little bijou so we were squeezed and cosy. When Steve had booked the ticket he had ordered a little treat of Prosecco to sup along the way. This delighted one of the guards who took to referring to us as “the alcoholics carriage” at every opportunity… and with a little chuckle asked us if we were going to the pub when we got off!!

Monday 15th November 2021

We were all up early this morning to set off on the drive to Mount Snowdon for a little amble up that legend. Weatherwise it wasn’t the best of days – low cloud and drizzle – but it didn’t deter us, we were on a mission! I had climbed Snowdon many many years ago but had forgotten just how steep it was (and we had chosen the easier route). It was fabulously scenic though despite walking in mist and cloud.

I have to confess that the final path was a ‘steep” too far for me …. it wasn’t the going up so much but the thought of coming down (I had no walking poles) in this slippery weather. I have slipped down many a coastal path and just didn’t fancy the risk. So the others trooped on up to the top and I enjoyed a slow and peaceful trek back down. And the very best thing of all was that at the base of the mountain I stumbled upon the most wonderful tea room where I was greeted by an elderly chap with such warmth … we chatted and chatted as I was the only customer and he brought me hot tea in elegant china and a plate of the most deliciously buttered bara brith. All of this in front of a roaring fire – it was like stumbling upon an oasis in the desert, I was in heaven.

But hats off to Steve, Tom, Jess, Alice and Jon who persevered to the top … sadly finding themselves shrouded in cloud so no amazing views …. but a great sense of achievement.

Tuesday 16th November 2021

So today was my birthday … and I was spoilt from the off. Cards, presents, birthday banners and a bagles/cream cheese/bacon and bucks fizz breakfast. Alice and I braved a little paddle before we headed off to Aberdovey for lunch and after a little art gallery mooch we enjoyed a first class pub lunch … more wine! Then it was home for board games, champagne and tons of giggles. Finished the day off with a takeaway Chinese meal (Tywyn seems to close down on Mondays and Tuesdays – no restaurants open) … photo session on the balcony at sunset, more fun and games – Steve and I retired to bed exhausted about 10pm while the younger ones carried on till the wee hours.

Brother and sisterly love

Jon missed out on the daytime festivities as he had to drive back to Manchester for a check up on his broken little finger – they were concerned that it wasn’t setting straight, and they were right. This resulted in an early appointment on Thursday morning for a break and reset …. and much bigger bandage!

Crooked finger!
The aftermath … finger clinically broken and reset!!

Wednesday 17th November 2021

Today was our last full day in Wales and the sun was shining, it felt warm. The night before after several beverages had been consumed, Tom, Jess, Alice and Jon had set themselves the challenge to fully swim in the sea the next morning. So, true to their word, they hit the waves … and I went along for the ride too. It was FREEZING but so so exhilarating – I can recommend.

Finally the ramble itself. Feeling mighty alive after a swim and hot tub, Steve and I set off on another one of those coastal rambles. There was a bit of a bus muddle resulting in a lot of grumbling and a phone call to Tom to come and drive us to the start of our walk in Llwyngwrll.

Not far from the off we were climbing … and climbing Snowdon style! And the first half of the walk continued in this style – up up up and down down down. But my goodness the views were absolutely spectacular- it was worth every ounce of exertion. And we faced it all – muddy terrain, puddles, overhanging brambles, ladder-like styles and those precarious stepping stones – but all in all it was a splendid walk. We sat on a rock amongst the hundreds of sheep to eat our picnic lunch and just soak up the magnificent sight of the Welsh hills and attractive coastline.

They seem to love a green caravan in Wales!!

Another 9 miles done and dusted …. and throughly enjoyed.

Last night dinner at “The Proper Gander” restaurant in Tywyn – fabulous meal

So, this week I have turned 63 … I have walked 32 miles of coastline, I got a PB at Parkrun, I climbed Mount Snowdon, I partied hard with the kids, I had a November swim in the sea … and I have pink hair. We have the best family every and we’re loving life.

From reverence to revelry

Thursday 11th November 2021

At the cenotaph in Caernarfon … at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month …

They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.

After checking out of our airbnb and before leaving Caernarfon, we took the opportunity to pay our respects at the Caernarfon Square War Memorial. An inspiring local attendance and proud ex-military presence – we felt privileged and humble to stand amongst them.

We also spent a couple of hours visiting and soaking up the history of Caernarfon Castle – I was convinced that we’d been there before but I obviously had got my Welsh castles mixed up … I had to admit that on this occasion Steve was right!! So really found the walk around the castle walls, the museum exhibits and the film shows interesting. (You were right Corinna – it’s well worth a visit).

Then we set off on the drive to our next airbnb in Tywyn. A stunning drive along winding roads bordered in the most stunning of autumnal nature. And so to our house on the beach, our arrival coinciding with a spectacular sunset.

We arrived first, followed by Tom and Jess, and then Alice and Jon shortly after – SO wonderful to all be together. And the inevitable first night of the holiday party ensued.

First night of the holiday bubbles …

Friday 12th November 2021

We all woke up still full of holiday excitement and what else do you do in November at the seaside … you head for those waves!!! Well, Tom did it big style with a proper swim while the rest of us splashed around in the shallows getting frozen feet and whinging. Great fun though.

Quickly headed back to the house for some hut tub time.

And we spent a lot of the afternoon wandering around the pretty town of Tywyn with its interesting craft shops, churches, hillside views and Magic Lantern cinema. Tried out a local coffee shop and the pub in all in one outing.

The Magic Lantern Cinema in Tywyn

Saturday 13th November 2021

It’s Saturday, it’s 9 o’clock …. so guess where we are? The parkrun of course … and this time it was in Dolgellau.

And the afternoon carried on in energetic form as we all set off on some coastal path walking. This time we caught the local bus to Aberdovey and walked the 6 mile stretch back to Tywyn. It was ironic having Alice with us on this section because, when we did our two month walk of the South West Coastal Path some 4 years ago, Alice had this image of us strolling along golden sands each day! For those of you who have walked the coast of Somerset, Devon, Cornwall and Dorset, you know that this couldn’t be further from the truth. But today the walk involved just that – walking most of it along golden sands. A little tough at times for Tom and Jon who were struggling with sore calf muscles after the morning’s Parkrun!

Leaving Aberdovey in drizzle
Some stunning coastal views walking from Aberdovey to Tywyn

Back in Tywyn, we called into the local for a swift half before heading home for a hot tub session while Tom and Jess cooked dinner. And it just turned into one of those evenings of fun and games, drinking, eating and laughing lots. The ‘elderly’ amongst us retired at a sensible hour while the girls had their party heads on till 4 in the morning – oh, I remember those days!!

It’s been great so far ….

The road to Trefor

Wednesday 10th November 2021

Today we got the 91 bus to Dinas Dinlle again, the same friendly driver as yesterday and the same hazardous narrow country lanes. But not so bleak today … not exactly sunny but bright, no wind and no rain … that’s a winner in our books. There was a big hill at the start but fortunately the OS app directed us to walk along the road – we certainly weren’t going to argue. This did take us away from the beach but as there was a distinct lack of coastal path signs we relied on the app to steer us in the right direction.

The hill that we didn’t have to climb!!

It turned out to be a whole route of road walking today, some quieter roads but to be honest the bulk of the 9 miles was along a main A road with vehicles whipping by us at 70mph – there was pavement though so grateful for that. The distant hills were scenic and initially shrouded in low cloud.

Passed through a number of pretty villages with grey slate cottages – great sense of Welsh community, all cocooned in the surrounding hills.

A dip in the well followed by a night on the cold church floor is said to cure epilepsy!
Translates to “the end of an era came but no memory”

The last mile took us away from the busier roads and down into the village of Trefor, our planned destination for the day. We tucked into sandwiches as we waited for the number 12 bus to take us back to Canaerfon. 9 more miles in the bag.

A few funny incidents today:

  1. Whilst waiting at the bus stop a young lad beside us lifted up his arms to smell his armpits, then proceeded to pull out some deodorant from his bag, lift his shirt and give himself a good old spray both sides. That was a first!
  2. Whilst on the bus this morning, we passed through a village where I spotted an elderly lady waving from an upstairs window. I waved back and smiled. It’s been playing on my mind all day though as to whether she was OK – I really hope she wasn’t waving for help!
  3. A female walker, much to Steve’s amusement, waved to the sheep as she passed them – ah, that was me! It’s just that they always stop and look at you when you’re near … so it would be rude not to!

A day off walking tomorrow. We’re going to visit Canaerfon castle and then head south to meet up with Tom, Jess, Alice and Jon for the week in the seaside town of Tywyn … I am beyond excited. Bring on some family time, fun, games, hot tub and lashings of prosecco!!

Enter the dragon … we’ve arrived in North Wales

Yesterday we made the four hour journey to North Wales and were greeted by these spectacular skies … it really felt like entering the mouth of the dragon! The drive was straightforward but as usual my passenger anxiety was bonkers – Steve calmly tolerates my gripping, squealing and jumping but it’s getting ridiculous – so wish I could find a cure (answers on a postcard please)!! We GPS’d our way to our Airbnb accommodation in Caernarfon and it all worked … managed to park outside, key safe worked, key worked and it was toastily welcoming inside. Hurrah!! We have ourselves a stylishly converted basement flat in a large elegant Victorian terrace property on a hill, for three nights.

After a quick turn around we headed into town for some sustenance. We found ourselves an establishment called ‘The Black Boy’ – a famous and recommended old pub in the town, thought to date back to 1522. There are a few suggestions for the name including King Charles II’s nickname, chimney sweeps, black bouy in the harbour … hopefully nothing racist. It turned into a jolly first night situation as Steve got stuck into some local real ale and we enjoyed some delicious food and red wine. It was fabulous to hear so many customers and staff speaking in the Welsh language and, as we mellowed in the warmth of the log burner, it really felt we were abroad on our holidays.

Tuesday 9th November 2021

We were up early birds this morning to set off on the first leg of this bout of coastal walking. We found the local bus stop and caught the bus to Dinas Dinlle (I know!!!!?) An interesting ride along the narrowest of country lanes – facing numerous stand offs and resentful reversing! Little did we know that later we would be walking along part of this road as well – lots of squeezing into hedges.

Said Dinas Dinlle was a little bleak – a pebbly beach frontage but not a shop, cafe or pub in sight … or person come to that!! Not helped by the fact that it was a foul weather day – low cloud, misty, driving fine rain, windy – you know those days. But we were layered up and ready for a stroll along the Weslsh coastline.

Luckily this was facing the other way … it’s the start of tomorrow’s walk.

The walk to Caernarfon started off with beachside paths but soon diverted inland due to military land and marshland. This meant a long stretch of sea defence walking with the driving rain on our backs, we were soaked. After this there was a mix of more sheltered country lanes and as I mentioned before some road walking … dodging the traffic.

The signage was pretty good on the whole but I have to say there was definitely at least two points where lack of signs could have caused havoc, had it not been for our trusty Ordnance Survey App. However, that provided the opportunity for us to have a good old grumble.

The last few miles saw us back beside the sea so we could enjoy those fabulous seaweed smells and the sound of waves lapping – always a happy place for me.

There’s always one!!!!

And so we strolled back into Caernarfon – the famous castle domineering in the distance – windlashed and dripping … but energised and pleased to tick off another 8 and a half miles of the UK coastline walking. Steve managed to slip the camera into fancy mode by mistake!

Dodged into a cafe for some lunch and warmth … or as they say in Welsh … “caffi.”

Feels great to be back blogging, it’s been a while. Loving Wales – haven’t seen any dragons yet but PLENTY of sheep.

Hwyl fawr. Yaki Da (or in correct Welsh “iechyd da.”

The mighty Chesil Beach …

So I’d been enjoying a few chilled weeks in Weymouth with family and friends … an almighty heatwave had forced us into lazing on the beach, bobbing about in the sea and generally not doing anything too strenuous. Then, Steve decided to join us for a few days which meant only one thing …. Coastal Walking!! Luckily I had come equipped for all eventualities so dusted off my walking boots and prepared for a bit more adventure.

Tuesday 27th July 2021

I started off the day quaffing bucks fizz and pancakes at Anne’s Birthday breakfast on Portland. The next thing I knew I’d agreed to tackle a section of the Jurassic coastline with my trusty partner Steve. We drove and parked the car up in Abbotsbury and took the bus to Burton Bradstock, a point we had walked to previously …. thus picking up on final sections of the South West Coastal Path.

There was an uphill start ( always a winner) which took us up onto the coastal path … and it felt good to be back on it. Our first bit of coastal walking since October last year. So we enjoyed the odd climb, the stunning colours of wildflowers, birds and butterflies brightening up our walking and of course the true spectacle that is Chesil Beach. At the point we joined, the path going in the other direction was closed off due to cliff erosion – luckily we’ve ticked that bit off already.

Bit of a mixed day weather wise but we were equipped. A few other not so nice bits (1) the constant reminder that there were adders in the area!! (2) about a mile of walking on shingle … and not the compact type but the feet sinking deep type! (3) pretty overgrown in parts -brambles, thistles, stinging nettles – in fact everything that’s out to get you!

Met some gorgeous livestock on the way, although the cows took a little persuasion to let us through at Swyre.

It didn’t take too long to complete the 7 mile walk – the path taking us through the woods into the stunningly picturesque village that is Abbotsbury.

Wednesday 28th July 2021

Today we were able to leave our car behind and catch the bus from Weymouth to pick up where we left off yesterday in Abbotsbury. As I mentioned before, this village is the epitome of ‘chocolate box’ beauty and charm … thatched stone cottages in abundance, striking floral displays, tea rooms, pubs and the famous swannery. I can never hold back from commenting on the gorgeousness of the houses but as ever Steve’s response comes in the form of “yeh, but busy road!!” (Is that a man thing)!!?

Found the start of the path which involved a relatively high climb over quite a natty stile.

Stone stile – very stylish

The walk started off with quite a climb and took us away from the beach – but it did provide us with magnificent views of the Fleet and Chesil Beach as well as St. Catherine’s Chapel perching on the hillside so eloquently behind us.

Abbotsbury Swannery
St. Catherine’s Chapel

The path eventually came in nearer to the beach passing numerous camp sites and caravan parks. Another prickly day today – actually drawing blood!! The guide and the signs had indicated that this would be a 9 mile walk … so trusting this we had not brought food … just water. After 4 or 5 hours of walking (and not passing any eating establishments) our energy levels were beginning to drop .. and grumpiness crept in! The Fat Badger would have involved a walk up the hill, Billy Winter’s would have meant an extra walk along the Beach Road so we just kept to the path. We finally reached Sandsfoot Castle gardens after 6 hours and an estimated 14 miles of walking. And I can tell you that the piping hot Cornish Pasty and coffee from the cafe there was like manna from Heaven!

The Fleet And Chesil Beach
Sandsfoot castle, Castle Cover and Weymouth Bay

So, another couple of sections completed – we’re chipping away at it. Next month we’re heading North.

Cathedrals, white cliffs and kestrels … but not a bluebird in sight!

Sunday 11th October 2020. Day 3 of walking

It was bright and sunny most of the day as the three of us walked from Deal to Dover (even Steve took his jacket off at one point). 10 miles of spectacular coastline walking – clifftop and seaside – this is what it’s all about. Some steep climbs at points and particularly narrow paths with sheer drops at the side – the type that keep you totally fixated on your feet only.

And certainly no shortage of white cliffs (Alice really got her fix) – we were just missing the bluebirds (what would Vera say)? Lots of kestrel activity though.

When we were nearing St. Margaret’s Bay, we all got a text from our mobile network welcoming us to France. Hilarious …. apart from the question mark over quarantining!?

As you reach Dover the ferry terminal dominates seafront with the castle and imposing white cliffs peering over the town. A great walk today.

Deal or no Deal

Kestrel hovering

Monday 12th October 2020. A DAY OFF WALKING

Something different today – spent some time exploring Canterbury. We’d been out a few times in the evening but wanted to see more. Alice and I started off with a little retail therapy then met up with Steve for a visit to the city’s cathedral. Despite the exterior being cocooned in renovation materials it was still an inspiring place to visit – steeped in history. Had lunch in one of the many arty cafes and then enjoyed a beautiful riverside walk back to our accommodation.

Canterbury Cathedral

Unfortunately the rest of the day turned out to be rainy but we didn’t let it beat us. We drove to Broadstairs and had a wet wander around the seafront area. Then, best of all, we met up with friends Russell and Mandy for a few beers and an Italian meal. A perfect evening – great food, wine and company. So enjoyed seeing Steve and Russell laugh like teenagers, reminiscing about their village cricket days in Little Kingshill.

The Roses … with Russell and Mandy 😊

Tuesday 13th October 2020. Day 4 of walking

Alice drove back home today so it was just the two of us on a jaunt from Dover to Folkestone. We selected this 7 mile shorter walk as we were meeting a friend at 5pm back in Canterbury. Well …. that 7 miles turned out to be a killer. From the minute we left Dover we were climbing and climbing (a mixture of practically vertical slopes and endless flights of steps), then descending steeply before going up again and again and again. Oh the joys. And it was raining, so nicely slippery underfoot. At times we had to cling on to fences to pull ourselves up or steady or way down.

Definitely the hardest day so far … even though it was only 7 miles.

Dover castle
Tortuous uphill walking … in the rain
Battle of Britain Memorial

So got back to Canterbury just in time for a quick turn around then out to The Foundry to meet our friend Paul, who had travelled up from Maidstone to see us. Another fun evening and many wines and beers consumed.

Steve with Paul

Wednesday 14th October 2020. Day 5 of walking

And today it was Faversham to Herne Bay – a mere 14 miles!!

Walked through the pretty town of Faversham to reach our starting point at the quayside. Some interesting boats, pretty packed in and lots of activity on the quay. The coastal path from here was 5 or 6 miles of riverside walking before we reached the open sea. As estuary walks go it was quite pretty and lots of bird activity. Stopped to say hello to a lone walker/birdwatcher … and half an hour later we managed to break away …. think he was lonely …. but we’d learnt a lot about wind directions, kingfishers and how to avoid earache!

Faversham Quay – lots of houseboats

After what seemed like an eternal path of sea defence walking, we finally reached the beachside village of Seasalter which faces the Isle of Sheppey across the estuary. Walked through the village before making our way back down onto the seafront as we neared Whitstable.

This is our second visit to Whitstable this year. We drove down last month to visit our friends Jeff and Tracey … only to find out that they weren’t due down on their holiday until the following week !!! Oops.

So it was good to see Whitstable again – a popular summertime resort. It was chilly today though and the trudge between Whitstable and Herne Bay seemed to take forever. Probably linked to last night’s wine merriment but I struggled these last few miles and was mightily relieved when Steve finally declared that we had reached our end point in Herne. Then it was just a mile walk to the car!

Thursday 15th October 2020. Day 6 of walking

To improve on yesterday’s wind conditions, we decided to mix it up a bit and walk in reverse – so today it was a 12 mile walk from Margate to Herne Bay …. with the wind behind us.

We walked along miles of unfenced promenade which was littered with seaweed, pebbles, oyster and mussel shells. The sea was incredibly choppy and at high tide, so spraying all over our path. It was exhilarating at times, sometimes a little scary. I was constantly looking for escape routes in case we needed to get up onto higher ground quickly, even if it meant scrabbling up the cliff. Occasionally the path did take us up on to the cliff tops where once again we marvelled at the luxuriousness of sea view living. It was another great day of walking though, one where it felt good to be alive. We enjoyed watching the seabirds flying en masse, bobbing and jumping over the waves.

We passed through the site of a Roman fort and the twin towers of St Mary’s church at Reculver, now a ruins. And we treated ourselves to a little lunch break. And from there we rambled our way once again (from the other direction) into Herne Bay – finishing off our week of walking.

Margate – still mad people swimming!
The twin towers of St. Mary’s Church, Reculver
Finally reaching the end …. for now!

It’s been a fabulous week and we’ve ticked off another 65 miles of the UK coastline – our long term project continues. Loved having Alice with us and so good to catch up with lovely friends too.

The house-sit was a slight disaster in terms of cleanliness … it was like living in a fur ball … and the hoover didn’t work. But we’ll put that down to experience and start planning our next rambling adventure.

Bye for now and remember …. Hands, Space, Face ❤️

A-rambling we go … in sunny Kent 😎

Thursday 8th October 2020

We set off on Thursday afternoon – I was ready on time with my bags packed …. Steve had literally done everything else, as usual !! I really should start taking an interest in the planning and logistics – but then we all know that Steve loves a project! And so our next walking adventure had begun.

We’re staying in Canterbury to house-sit two very fluffy black cats, Bella and Zoe. They’re indoor cats and are exceptionally timid …. and there’s a definite feline aroma around the house! But it’s a cosy terraced house, just a short walk from the cathedral and lots of interesting shops, cafes, bars and restaurants…. and it’s free!

Canterbury Cathedral (under renovation)

Friday 9th October 2020. Day 1 of walking

Today we walked from Margate to Ramsgate – 8 miles of easy and flat terrain with scenic views, pretty much sticking to the coastline. We saw plenty of swimmers, some in the sea, some in the lidos …. whichever it was, still think they’re bonkers! Of course there are white cliffs a plenty – absolutely love them. I’m always envious of beachside properties but North Foreshore is in a league of its own – an eclectic mix of period properties and modern architect designed – all of them jaw droppingly stunning.

We stopped for coffee in pretty Broadstairs – it felt like about 20 degrees as we sat outdoors soaking up the autumn sun. Finished off the walk just in a T shirt – well, and trousers (and shorts in Steve’s case, always shorts). Fell in love with Broadstairs, pretty beach and town, feel sure we’ll be back.

Setting off from Margate

Saturday 10th October. Day 2 of walking

A long walk today, Ramsgate to Deal – 14 miles. Alice had joined us last night for a few days, which meant she got roped in to some ‘rambling with her parents!’ To hit her with 14 miles was a bit mean and to be honest this wasn’t the most interesting coastal walk as it took us inland a fair bit, Alice never minds though, she just goes with the flow … and is certainly fitter than me.

There were some clifftop climbs to start off, with some incredible views (Alice got to see the White Cliffs at last) followed by woodland paths. Unfortunately the coastal path then took us for a few miles along busy roads and industrial estates – not so glamorous – leading us into the very pretty historic town of Sandwich. Temporary dilemma on finding the town bridge closed, hence sealing off our path. While Steve busied himself looking for ways to get through the construction barriers, Alice and I spotted a notice about a transit service to ferry us into the town – relief! The bus appeared and took us a fair old distance to get into the town centre … it was so good to have a sit down.

We alighted the bus in Sandwich, it was lunchtime, so there was only one thing for it – ‘a sandwich in Sandwich.’ We chose an attractive looking hostelry, got ourselves settled in only to find they didn’t do sandwiches! So, jacket potato it was.

The next part of the walk was across endless fields and past golf courses until we finally found ourselves back to sea views and some promenade walking. The day had turned chilly so we were relieved and weary when we finally got back to the car. We would sleep well tonight …. a quiet night in with fish and chips, cups of tea and an early to bed.

Setting off from Ramsgate
Socially-distanced and Mask wearing in transit service – Sandwich town
The historic town of Sandwich

Back for more tomorrow 😎

Walk and talk … the Hanslope Circular Walk

Someone recently mentioned the ‘Hanslope Circular Walk’ and that was it … Steve was on a new mission. The maps were out, Ordnance Survey app fired up, route investigated, fellow walkers recruited, messenger group set up, details informed – logistics completed. And off we go again. 😎

This was a 20 mile cross country walk conveniently designed in ‘an almost’ figure of 8, which meant we could make two pleasurable circular walks out of it. We plumbed for a 12 mile day on Wednesday and an 8 mile walk Friday. And, to make it even more convenient and pleasurable, both walks ended by a drinking establishment … now that’s planning at its best.

The Hanslope Circular Walk

Wednesday 22nd July 2020

So our fellow walkers were David Rose, Stuart Sullivan and Sheila Quinn. We all met sharpish at 9.00am in Castlethorpe, eager beavers setting off with our rucksacks to cater for all weathers and eventualities – sun gear, rain gear, water and snacks. The only one to walk empty handed was our troop leader Steve, not even water – he’s like a camel.

Despite the early overcast weather, we enjoyed the open countryside walking, chattering as we went. Stumbled across many a farmhouse to envy with views stretching for miles. The sun and blue skies soon appeared so layers started to be removed and suncream applied (be prepared)! As always, many discussions on the crops … is it wheat, is it barley?

The distinctive spire of Hanslope Church
Barley or wheat!?
Barley or wheat!?
Some of the houses were quite remote and so had their 4 legged alarm systems installed! These two friendly but efficient doggies were not going to stop barking till we were well off their land!! 🤣

The route ran alongside Hanslope Park – Her Majesty’s Government Communications Centre. It appeared to be all very ‘secret squirrel’ stuff with its barbed wire fences and security gates. We hoped they didn’t mistake us for Russian spies as we sneaked a few photos. Sheila’s son Dan works there so we were peering (from a distance) through windows and waving – how embarrassing would that be!! 🤣

And so we continued all the way back to Castlethorpe by which time we had packed in 12 miles of rambling and a whole load of chatting. As Redway Runners we’ve known each other for years – but walking gives so much more opportunity to chat and learn about each others’ lives. I do love a chat!

We were so near ‘The Navigation’ pub it would have been rude not to stop for a beer and a bite to eat. David sadly had to leave us due to work – he’s retiring any day now so packing in some last minute handover bits. Sheila, Stuart, Steve and I enjoyed a touch of normality – first time eating out since Lockdown for all of us. We had fun but sadly not the best experience as service was incredibly slow – over an hour until our food arrived … they were very apologetic though and gave us drinks and chips free of charge (and with the wine at £8.95 a glass, we were quids in)!!

View from ‘The Navigation’

Friday 24th July 2020

A shorter route today so we met up at a more civilised time – 10.00am, for an 8 mile circular walk from the Black Horse Pub at Great Linford.

Another scenic day in open countryside – fields and farmland stretching for miles, relatively flat so easy going. Incredibly peaceful and away from civilisation – no face masks required!! Rivers, lakes and canals today as well as woodland. As the name suggests, at all points we could see the distinctive spire of Hanslope Church. And stunning houses and gardens – so much envy.

Stuart settled into his high chair, waiting for his packed lunch!!
Some incredible wildlife photography from David

At Little Linford we had to do some roadside walking and it was fairly busy traffic too. We caught up with a large group of ‘Ramblers’ – there must have been more than 20 of them which surprised us in these ‘regulated’ days … I don’t know, elderly people today!! 🤣

The final stretch took us alongside Redhouse where we viewed some of the artwork trail and then canal side all the way to the finish line at the Black Horse pub. We had made good time too – only two and a half hours (so we were early for our table booking).

Our pub lunch awaits

We enjoyed a fabulous lunch, delicious food and first class service, top marks.

The two days of walking had been so enjoyable – absolutely recommend it … and NO stiles.

And as for the chats … we’d talked about our families, our weddings, the good old days of our childhoods, our past careers … you name it we discussed it. Sheila even enlightened us on the unsavoury after-affects of sugar free gummy bears – oh we learnt so much about each other.

And the great thing is – we all want to come back for more. So it’s head down for Steve, planning our next local walking adventure.

Five go MK rambling …

Day 81 of (gradually easing) Lockdown. 12/06/2020

Today’s walk was from Waterhall to Stony Stratford and our Famous Five gang consisted of me, Steve and Tom … plus Jess and Alli. This was the final leg of the MK Boundary walk and we intended to finish it in style.

A socially-distanced selfie 😎

The day was forecast for a mixed bag of weather so, being the professional walkers we are, we came prepared for all eventualities!

Our route first skirted along the edge of the Lakes Estate – in fact along a particularly overgrown and rubbish strewn path – not the most scenic of starts but we battled our way through. This led us into Newton Leys which seems a very pleasant newish MK development – pretty lakes and landscaped areas. Our OS app then took us through a woodland trail all the way to the fields in Newton Longville (Alli’s home patch).

So, a familiar walking/running area for Alli – we set off down a lane to link up with Route 51. A little way along an elderly couple stopped us in our tracks to explain that the way ahead was closed – believe it or not more bridge reconstruction – these darn bridges!! Naturally we had to go and see this for ourselves so we advanced onwards, with fingers and toes crossed.

And yes there were big red plastic barriers and padlocks and all sorts of signage …. but not a worker in sight. We did a quick ‘risk assessment’ and established that it was safe enough to climb over said red barriers. No extra 4 miles for us today – not playing that game again!!

We picked up Route 51, touched on Tattenhoe Valley Park and onto North Bucks Way. All very scenic and easy enough walking. A mixture of woodland and open fields – sometimes basked in sunshine and sometimes overcast.

Two by two – they walked and talked ….

Lots of fields and lots of stiles. Luckily Tom and Jess were leading and managed to spot some fairly well camouflaged turning points – literally holes in hedges.

As we neared Calverton the heavens absolutely opened … thank goodness for all our sensible waterproofs. I was very envious of Alli’s new North Face autumn patterned shower proof jacket (it’s fab) – but when the rain hit hard she pulled out a full on waterproof from her tiny backpack (that’s Girl Guide level preparation)!

Some slight discussion as to whether to walk on the road from Calverton into Stony Stratford or to continue across fields and along the river path. The latter won. This did involve crossing a little river at one point but nothing too life threatening!!

As we walked along the river path into Stony Stratford – where we had started the route all those days ago – the sun came out in full shine. When we were back at the car we had been walking for 4 hours and had clocked up over 13 miles.

The original guidance had suggested the route was 63.3 miles – our Garmin and Strava totalled almost 70 miles … but then we did get diverted on occasion!

And so in glorious June sunshine, in great euphoria, we tucked into pate, barbecue chicken and egg sarnies, almond kisses (lovingly baked by Jules) … and lashings of fizzy … in fact the real stuff for this occasion – chilled champagne.

It’s been a Lockdown blast … go explore!!! 😎

A bridge too far …. 😫

Day 79 of Lockdown. 10/06/2020

Today’s walk – Salford to Waterhall

Having had two rest days (for Tom’s blister to heal), we set off heartily on this the penultimate leg of the MK Boundary Walk.

Leaving the village of Salford

An early part of the route involved crossing a bridge to take us over the M1 – simple – we just needed to get to the other side. But, oh no, the bridge was closed for construction purposes.

Tearoom in Salford …. (note to ourselves to come for afternoon tea after Lockdown)

Plan B – we just needed to walk a little further out to get to the next bridge … it would add a little extra on but hey ho, we were keen. Next bridge – closed for construction! Steve suggested jumping the barrier and going over anyway but no no, not for anxious me.

On his app Tom identified another bridge a bit further along so no worries, surely this one had to be open. So, adding a bit more on to today’s route we plodded on. As you may guess – No Entry … Construction in Progress. This time, Steve did jump the barrier to investigate – he was gone ages – but finally reappeared to say that there’s was no way through at the end of the bridge. I was imagining Tom going to find Steve and losing them both in the process.

This led to much discussion – do we go back? Do we carry on going further and further out until we find a way to get to the other side? We’d already added 2 miles onto the journey at this point. It looked like the next possibility was junction 13 of the motorway – God knows what that would involve but there had to be a way over somehow. And that’s the path we chose – not the greatest of starts to a day’s walking.

It’s not often during a ‘ramble’ that you find yourselves walking along the edge of a dual carriageway – it was scary stuff. We hoped that we wouldn’t get picked up as illegal immigrants. Afterwards we did laugh – suggesting what the drivers must have been thinking … “All this countryside and they choose to walk here!!”

After some dubious crossing of the M1 Junction 13 slip roads we found ourselves clear of craziness and finally on to the side we needed to be …. and facing a much longer day of walking. The men then got their heads together to work out the next stage – me, I just follow!!

It all got so much better after that. Still a fair amount of roadside walking but through villages rather than high speed thoroughfares. We passed through Husborne Crawley and into Aspley Guise – another day of complete house envy.

From there on it all started to get a bit hilly. We walked through Woburn Sands and into Aspley Woods, soaking up its natural beauty. Spectacularly tall conifers, huge ferns, rhododendrons and wild foxglove. And we skirted parts of the magnificent Woburn Golf Club course.

There were more woods at Brickhill and some particularly narrow prickly paths, then into long grass. It was at this point that I regretted watching Springwatch the previous evening, where they had an item on it being the season for slow worms, grass snakes and adders.

After this we crossed numerous fields, plenty of them with horses – seems to be an equine area … and plenty of horse poo come to that. In one field the horses were keeping company with goats – felt relieved they were all laying down – didn’t like the look of those horns. I was once chased downhill by a goat at a goat sanctuary – he apparently took a liking to my handbag! My sister, Geraldine, found this hilarious.

I was relieved to climb over the stile … but only to come face to face with a ‘kid’ (with horns) who had obviously managed to stray. He looked at us menacingly and then darted between us, turned around and then started towards us. As Tom said “Don’t run” – he and Steve ran and I was left frozen to the spot. As I took off my rucksack to defend myself, Tom came back to rescue me and the ‘kid’ just bleated and let us go on our way.

A pretty straightforward walk after that and so much more level and downhill. Had one scary moment when the path took us through someone’s front garden – really felt for Tom as two pointers charged towards him (he’s not a great dog lover having been chased down the road by a Rottweiler when he was young). He did the right thing by standing still and the dogs turned out to be lovely, not guard dogs after all. It always seems strange when the Public Footpath takes you onto someone’s property.

The last stretch took us along the canal towpath which made a welcome change. And finally we were at Tom’s car at Waterhall car park, our destination for today. I’m not ashamed to admit I was somewhat weary after what turned out to be 14+ miles – it plays with your mind springing an extra 4 miles onto a planned journey but, as Judi Dench once said “It is not good to cross the bridge before you get to it.”