I wish I’d taken more photos and written more blogs about this. Below are the only extracts I can find from this trip in 2016. I’d made the basic error of planning days that were too long in order to fit around accommodation, and paid the price quite early. Having said that, it’s a lovely gentle walk.
9th July 2016: Trainers, a Tilley Hat and a Trail Guide. Ridgeway – tick
What a lovely day, slightly overcast and breezy for the final stretch. The route turned out to be a little shorter than I’d expected, and the views were wonderful. At one point I was walking on springy grass across the top of a ridge with Ashridge Forest to my right – the top of the Bridgewater monument visible above the tree line. On my left in the valley I could see Tring with its reservoirs, the Pitstone windmill, Edelsborough church on it’s mound in the valley, and even the wind turbine at Hockliffe in the distance. There was a bit of a misty haze, otherwise I think the turbines at Bedford would have been visible even further north.
It’s Saturday so I was accompanied in all directions by people with variously sized rucksacks and assorted kit regarded as essential. One chap going in the opposite direction wearing a Reading Road Runners top appeared to be in training for the Ridgeway Ultra – at least I think that’s what he said! (Edited – exflyboy – looking strong)
The Beacon was crowded, and almost everyone was wearing heavy boots. I did the whole thing in trainers, and it was the right decision for me. Trainers, a Tilley Hat and a trail guide were my three basic items.
At one point I met a puppy in the woods with tiny needle teeth that drew blood without mal-intent. He was actually rather gorgeous, but I thought of a friend’s dog and smiled. Sadly Jet had a sore paw so couldn’t walk with me today.
8th July 2016: Intent becomes Actual
The walk was 7.5 miles, and it was lovely.
Through Wendover woods where the beech leaves kept a shower from touching me, and then through Tring Park where the most amazing views are being recovered by some judicious tree felling.
Jet enjoyed it too.
I eventually met up with Mr and we went to The Greyhound in Aldbury for lunch.
Knees held up well – the shorter distance plus a better walking surface and no steep downhills meant today was exercise enough-but-not-too-much.
The sensible head requires a rest day tomorrow before finishing the walk on Saturday.
6th July 2016: An Intention
Originally my plan had been to complete my Ridgeway walk on Tuesday with the twelve miles section from Wendover to Ivinghoe Beacon. It was clear as the walk progressed that I should have factored some rest time into the plan. The usual twinges and figgles developed, steadily (and it should have been obviously predictable but my memory is over-ridden by optimism far too frequently). During the last day my speed had dropped from 18-20 minute miles to 36 minute miles and downhills were… painful.
Determination is all very well, but it doesn’t compensate for common sense, and as I’m not trying to prove anything there was no point in creating more injuries.
So I’ve taken two days off, put compression bandages over the swollen bits and spent the time with my feet up, only walking a mile or so each day. I’ve also re-planned, and tomorrow will attempt a six mile section to Wiggington to test recovery. I’ll then decide when to do the final section.
Jet is coming with me 😊
5th July 2016: A dog’s tale
It’s been a long time since I told you about the life of a spaniel, and it’s been an exciting week.
Helegant and Mr packed the car and I made sure I jumped in so that they didn’t forget me- ooh I do love to travel in the car – and we went to stay in the blue tent in a big field with horses on each side. One of the horses kept chewing the fence and it made a crunchy noise that I wanted to investigate, but Helegant said I wasn’t to bother the horses, or the five cats that lived in the tin house opposite. The cats tried to tease me by walking around just out of my reach but I was very good, and although I glared at them and whined a bit to let them know that I’d chase them the minute I got free they knew that they were safe for the time being.
(I got my own back on the last day when Helegant let go of my lead while she was loading the car to go home and after all the cats had shown that they were really quite cowardly by running away I ate five cat breakfasts. Helegant said I should have tummy ache, and I did, a bit, but it was worth it.)
Anyway, we went for long walks each day in strange places, which was fun, except… on the first day I got a bit confused because all three of us went to the same place in the car, then Helegant took me out of my crate and started to walk. But… she left Mr behind, and that’s not the way to keep a pack together. And then Mr and the car vanished. And then we walked for miles, and I kept telling Helegant that she had forgotten Mr, but she just kept walking, and even though I tried to climb up her leg and to trip her up to tell her she wasn’t listening and she said it was Ok, which it wasn’t and what is a pathfinder dog to do when it’s human is being so stubborn?
Eventually I decided it was a tail-up sort of day and I might as well enjoy it, so I ran in front to find the best fun and found lots of interesting side routes with fields full of interesting smells and I managed to do some bounding and jumping and wagging and found some chalky puddles to stand in to cool down and some more puddles to drink from and Helegant said I looked like a ‘right scruff’ which I think is a compliment.
I told Helegant about the more interesting routes but she kept on her path – could she really not *smell* the rabbits and voles and other animals and the stinky mud? So I ran in front and kept on pathfinding; never let it be said that I sulk. I give my advice and if the humans won’t listen, well… I’ll still enjoy life.
We had been walking for a couple of hours when I heard a familiar ‘woo,woo,woo’ noise and I only know one person that makes that noise. Which was very odd because we had lost Mr a long time ago. I looked behind and couldn’t see him. Then I looked under all the bushes and in the long grass and he wasn’t there. So I got confused again and bounced around Helegant, and then I noticed she was pointing at the path in front, and I saw that Mr was walking towards us. So I raced to him as fast as I could in case he got lost again and wrapped myself around his ankles and he said “Geroff, you’re filthy”, and then I raced back to Helegant and did the same, and I kept running between them until they found each other and the pack was back together and then it really was a tail up sort of day.
5th July 2016: Ridgeway Challenge
So there I was, sitting down, resting the figgles because it was a long hot day on my feet (Stokenchurch to Princes Risborough), and wondering where I could get more water, and along came the ultra runner training for the August event. He had ‘only’ run from Ivinghoe Beacon and was on his way to Lewknor. I had a backpack with waterproofs, a change of clothes, compass, iron rations, spare shoes, very pistol, canoe, parachute etc. He had a piece of string round his neck and a map in his hand.
Challenge means different things to different people, and I saw more than one person who looked as if they were training for serious distances.
Trail runners, I salute you.
4th July 2016: Gratuitous comments
“You look a bit old for tenting.”
The woman, who I will swear was older than me, stood in her smart summer dress and neat red shoes and supervised while we put the tent up, offering occasional comments. “Is that a porch? It’s extra for a porch.” “No. it’s an extension, like a car port.” “Well if it was a porch it would be extra.”
“You’ve got a dog.” “Yes, we said that when we booked.” “Only I’ve got five cats. Does your dog like cats?” I didn’t suggest that I wasn’t sure because I’d never fed a whole cat to Jet. “It’s OK, the dog is on a lead.”
(It transpired that she lived in the caravan opposite, from where she was able to look straight into our tent. As we were packing up on day three I forgot to tether the dog, who ran straight for the caravan scattering cats in his way and ate all their food (blush).)
Later that day, “There’s going to be heavy rain and strong winds later on. And tomorrow.” “Thanks for letting us know.”
I’ve been walking chunks of the Ridgeway. On the way past Waylands Smithy a group of young people with their leaders passed me in the opposite direction, “Are you sure you’re going the right way?” asked one of the leaders. “Definitely, thank you.” His excuse would be that in the strong winds and driving rain it is difficult to assess the age of anyone as covered up as I was. I just smiled and wished my specs had windscreen wipers.