(Not so) far from the Madding Crowd

28 May 2017- Lulworth Cove, Dorset

Me, Jim the Alien, Big O and the Doctors

A weekend away visiting the Doctors: in training for a family climb of Mount Everest Ben Nevis in the summer, a BIG walk was promised on Sunday. We thus headed off to the south coast, to walk a section of the Dorset Coastal Path.

Parked at Lulworth Cove: completely beautiful spot in the sunshine, we fantasized about swimming in the cove on our return. After a slight detour round the village, we headed up and down some steep inclines before heading onto the ridge walk eastward. Really tough on the legs, but incredible views along the coast and over the sea.

Lunch was sandwiches at the top (during which we learnt there was a definite split in the party re: the acceptability of mayonnaise or not), fruit, and sweets (during which we learnt that I am out of touch with modern sweets- Moams- but it doesn’t matter as they are very strange). All these things rendered insignificant by a fascinating weather front which turned the horizon into a dark purple haze and then vanished: but we guessed rain was not too far away.

All fears of the walk being boring were banished as we entered the range walk at Lulworth Camp. The view opened up inland across the live firing range, where, so the Devil’s Window informed us, the Armoured Fighting Gunnery School practices what Armoured Fighting Gunnery characters need to learn. A fabulously wild and woolly landscape where wandering around and picking things up are clearly a bad idea, and where old tanks go to die. Extraordinary herds of rusting military hardware dotting the landscape.

The final section included some really, really tough climbs and descents, as well as the ditches of an Iron Age hillfort (suspiciously cratered looking). We picked a summit, and having crested it, called it a day, heading back to our lunch spot for a rest, then along a slightly inland path for variety, before final descent to the beach at Lulworth. The weather having turned a bit, stone skipping seemed a more appealing activity to finish, followed by cream tea and icecream.

Really fab walk, probably 8-9 miles, extremely tough on the legs, and made by the fabulous, fabulous views. Enjoyed being educated about lepidoptery, especially the Lulworth Skipper.

 

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Urban Fidkin

6-10 March 2017- Clodock, Herefordshire

Me n PG

IMG_4232Such a lovely, lovely holiday, back to one of our favourite parts of the country*, to a stone cottage by the River Monnow in Clodock, just near Longtown. Slightly taken by surprise by the ferocity of the river by the cottage, a touch in flood but also a weir just outside**. Otherwise a peaceful spot (cottage on the river footpath and not a road)- just so relished the enormous number of birds, everything from sparrows, chaffinches and blackbirds to dippers and kingfishers, all busy about their feathery business…

We strolled around the vicinity quite a bit, visited the castles at Longtown, and learnt about St Clydog after whom the village is named. Murdered by a jealous suitor of a would-be suitor of his own, his body became supernaturally heavy and the church was founded where he fell. Yet another illustration of the dangers of unwise wandering in this part of the medieval world.

IMG_7975We managed one big walk, up through the village and then across into the pleasing Olchon Valley. Walked up the river, then back along the eastern ridge. Most fascinated by the very derelict Yellow House Farm, where the roof had clearly blown off as one event, and the rafters were laid out on the ground like a giant skeleton.

 

 

IMG_1037On the final day, we parked at the Bull’s Head and walked up to the head of the Monnow, where it disappears into a squelchy collection of springs, site of the ruined Craswall Grandmontine Priory. Glad to see the walls and earthworks under renovation. Then it was a drive down into the Golden Valley to stop at Abbey Dore. Absolutely one of my all-time favourite buildings, so obviously the melancholic remnant of a once much greater (Cistercian) whole, everything about its strange proportions and chilly interior appealing. Then it was fish and chips at Ewyas Harold, obviously a regular friday treat for many locals, and rightly so, delicious.

IMG_1010Too many other great things to mention really, it was a week of molehills and molecatchers, lambing, good food, amazing apple juice, and a pub that made it straight into the best pubs ever list- the Cornewall Arms in Clodock. Just one perfect room, full of great things and great people, you can’t ask more of a pub than that. And possibly more churches than PG would choose to visit left to his own devices…

And Urban Fidkin. In a holiday of characters and stories, he was the best. A nineteenth-century (petty) criminal who made it to America, made his fortune, and then came back to Herefordshire, changed his name (to his brother-in-law’s), and became the miller at the (still working) Clodock mill. Marvellous.

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*Ysgyryd Fawr, The Revenge Stone

** Totally forgot (the horror) to mention that PG caught his first trout of the season on the Tanhouse beat.

 

Riversides

12/19 February 2017- Conham and Bitton

Me, PG, Mother-of-Two, Slide, Two and the H’s; Achilles (or Donut), Lady Legs, Noodle and the babyimg_0958-1

Two lovely February walks, the first along the Avon at Conham to view the herons (again) . Nesting and flapping, followed by lunch at the Lock and Weir. Still very wintry, landscape bit bleak and muddy, but a few trees budding. Extremely good walking by all members, hardly any complaining…

Then a new stroll from the Avon Valley Railway at Bitton, along to the river at Wilsbridge Mill and back. Highlight of the walk undoubtedly the extraordinary number of frogs froggling away in the nature ponds at the mill. Heartening sight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Festive fun

21 January 2017 Boiling Wells

Me, PG, KF1

The annual Wassail at Boiling Wells. Tiny slice of tradition, frost and gamechanger cider. Precious.

img_0757Also reminds me we managed a few lovely- not quite walks- more like short strolls and nice times over the festive season, which have gone unrecorded. Inaugural company Christmas lunch in Ludlow in December, with a cold, crisp stroll around Mortimer forest and a rapid run around the castle and town as it went dark. Must go back, so many beautiful buildings and brilliant blue plaques…

On Boxing Day, enjoyed the duck race in Kenilworth, although could hardly see the ducks for all the people… and then a great trip to Suffolk for New Year. Tudor barn, costumes, silly dancing, 24 hour pork and another beautiful town (Lavenham) to stroll around: if only it wasn’t so far away.

img_0891And two lovely Sunday outings to open the year as well… an interesting east-west stroll around Bristol harbour with Slide and family (8 Jan), from the Barleymow along for lunch at the Cottage. Good singing to get us through the last stretch home, and Annabel taught PG essential dabbing. Then a damp and chalky walk around the stones at Avebury (15 Jan) with KF1, Magic Dave and the Faringdon archaeologists followed by lunch in the Red Lion. Atmospheric.

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365 steps

29 August 2016, Chepstow

Me, PG, Kate Force One, Magic Dave

IMG_0453A post-holiday six miler and return to the Mullett, oh the joy! From a carpark outside Chepstow, a stiff ascent of the 365 steps, then a circuit taking in incredible views over the Wye Valley and Severn Estuary, both bridges on the horizon.

The weather was very hot, and the route was tough enough to satisfy Kate Force One’s need for walk-based training. The countryside was beautiful: lots of classic rolling hills, wild hedges and blue skies with fluffy clouds. We enjoyed a food break in the church field at Penterry, learning about some of the village’s darker history.

Highlight without a doubt was being stalked across a field by a few (what is the collective noun?) buzzards- one in particular flying slowly around us at not much height. Majestic.

Good to return to the Mullett after a considerable break, he never disappoints. An interesting walk and only the one obligatory section of misleading directions which left us facing a field of head-high corn…

Finished off with a drink by Tintern Abbey, watching a bushful of sparrows getting on with their fluff and feather business right there in the pub garden. Ace.

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Ridge and Furrow

14 February 2016- Severn Estuary

Me, Paddy Garcia, Kate Force One and Magic Dave

photo 1First proper walk of 2016, we headed up to the Severn Estuary on an archaeological mission. Parked the mighty micra at the White Hart in Littleton-upon-Severn and walked north to Oldbury-on-Severn.

It was extraordinarily wet underfoot, hard on the out-of-practice legs, but glorious sunshine, proper cold winter weather. We climbed up to St Arilda’s Church, perched on top of a dramatic (not-Iron-Age-Hillfort) hill, with commanding views up and down the estuary, including the old Severn crossing and the decommissioned Oldbury power station*.

photo 3We were too muddy for the perfect carpet in the church so settled for a quick look through the door, and cake on the churchyard bench whilst we pondered the fate of poor St Arilda, beheaded by a rejected suitor. Then it was on to Oldbury proper, to search out the Toot Hill, an Iron Age hillfort, our archaeological goal. After some milling around the very lovely village (must return in summer to visit The Anchor), we found ourselves in the middle of it, having not noticed that we’d climbed up the earthwork bank earlier (oops).

 

Then we looped out to the estuary, past an impressive lock that guards the Oldbury pill, and walked back along the coastal defences. Saw an unusual bird of prey (?marsh harrier), and enjoyed the low sunshine over the estuary, the boats balanced in the sticky mud. We traversed many, many soggy fields of ridge and furrow, dodging from ridge to ridge and considering how different this landscape must have been in the middle ages.

We stumbled into the White Hart on our tired legs for much-enjoyed drinks, snacks and sofa time before heading home. Overall, marvellous to get out for some green and cold sunshine, there just hasn’t been enough (?any) of it this horrible wet, warm winter. And hoping the furrow of no blogging is over.

*One day, Magic Dave hopes to visit…