Archive for the ‘Walking’ Category

East Portlemouth in the mist

This is a few months old, so apologies for that. I’ve been havering back and forwards as to whether to post anything about this brief visit or not, and have finally decided that I ought to.

In late October I went back back to Salcombe, just for a few days – just two full days, to be truthful, plus the late afternoon of the day I arrived. There’s no need to write about the journey – I drove from Sheffield to Salcombe in S. Devon via the obvious route – or the reasons for going. I took a camera system because the weather forecast look reasonable for at least one of the days.

I’m familiar with Salcombe but seeing it out of season did make it look different. For example, when I arrived I was initially pleased to see that the town’s main car-park, nicknamed the ‘boat park’, appeared to have lots of spaces, but I soon discovered that this was because it was mainly closed to cars because it was (partly) occupied by boats that had been taken out of the water for the winter. It was also odd getting used to the much shorter days – I’m used to the long hours of sunshine in mid-summer.

The weather, too, was very autumnal, at least at first – it was raining steadily on the afternoon I arrived, so no sitting on the terrace at The Ferry Inn this time. The day after was grey and miserable, with quite a stiff breeze, but this meant that we had East Portlemouth beach almost to ourselves for the obligatory game of beach cricket. But the day after that, the last full day of my visit, was glorious – perhaps the best day I’ve ever had there. Along with a couple of family members I walked from East Portlemouth to The Pig’s Nose Inn at East Prawle, a distance of perhaps three miles each way. On the way there we tried using some field paths in order to stay away from the lanes but we got rather muddy so on the return we just strolled along the lanes. The weather was wonderful – warmer than I’d expected (approaching 20 degrees), and very clear. Best of all I was able to get some good pictures.

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Last weekend I was in London for 24 hours. My wife and daughter were visiting a sewing show at Excel so I had the day (Sunday) to myself. The weather was glorious – sunny until late in the afternoon, quite still, and quite warm by mid-afternoon.

We were staying at in Stratford in East London and on looking at a map I spotted that there were a number of canals and waterways nearby which I decided I would spend Sunday walking along.

First up was the River Lea Navigation, which I encountered in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic park. It’s been significantly tamed – as you can see from the couple of shots I got of this waterway, it’s been incorporated into the Olympic Park.

Next was the Hertford Union canal, a short (couple of miles) canal linking the River Lea with the Regent’s Canal. This was very much a typical narrow-boat canal of the kind I’ve seen all over England. There was even some canal boat activity – saw a boat being locked-down towards the River Lea. The environment this canal runs through is quite ‘gritty’ – there are still a lot of older building backing onto it, and the canal-side architecture has been ‘enhanced’ by the street artists. However, the canal also runs alongside Victoria Park and I diverted into the park for a while.

The western end of the Hertford Union forms a T-junction with the Regent’s Canal. Annoyingly, this was the only area on this walk where I had to divert away from the canal. There’s an apartment development under way – Bow Wharf – with the apartments expected to cost up to ¬£1M. How the East End has changed! – although I suspect that this part of the East End was always one of the better parts. Once back on the Regent’s Canal I was walking along the edge of Mile End Park the Regent’s Canal runs alongside it for a mile or more – and I was struck by the new architecture on the opposite bank. Was this canalside the focus of early development? Certainly it all looked much more modern than the housing along the Hertford Union. Not a much life on the can, however – for long stretches the surface of the water was completely covered in green algae which suggested to me that there wasn’t much traffic along it.

The final stop for this main walk was Limehouse Basin, at the end of the Regent’s Canal, and the site of a junction between the canal and the Thames. That said, I assume that the purpose of Limehouse Basin was to permit transhipment of goods from canal narrowboats to Thames barges & lighters, and vice-versa – I’m not sure about narrow boats on the tidal Thames! Today, as can be seen from one of the pictures, Limehouse Basin is home to a great many pleasure craft of different sizes.

Later – after a break for lunch and a relocation to the O2 area, via Canary Wharf, I walked along the Thames from the O2 to Greenwich. By this time it was getting hot, and annoyingly i again had to divert into a back street because the Thames path is currently blocked by a new development. But the walk along the Oval College was as magnificent as ever, and there was a cruise ship moored at Greenwich Pier.

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The view from Monsal Head (taken on a different occasion)

Since I retired I’ve been able to get back to doing some walking in the Peak

District. I’ve been pleased to find that I can still do 10 to 12 miles over the hills, although the longer distance does now leave me tired. This year I’ve been out a handful of times. A couple of these were quite hard – I remember one in the upper Derwent Valley when I went badly off the path and spent a very tiring half hour floundering through waist-high bracken and heather which was very successfully concealing uneven ground below; the result was several stumbles and much hard work. I was glad to finish that one. But in mid September the weather cleared up after several days of rain and I went out again, to an area that I’ve never really walked – just to the north of Monsal Head.

The walk was about 10 miles round altogether, and was quite easy underfoot. It divided nicely into two – out and back. The outbound half took me to Foolow Village. After a couple of miles climbing up not-too-steep slopes the route levelled off and I had another couple of miles walking across the limestone – pretty level, and good underfoot. This was a really good section. A final stretch along a lane took me into Foolow village where I ate my lunch – alongside the pond, no less.

After more walking across the fields to Wardlow Mires the return section begin in earnest at the entrance to Cressbrookdale. This continued easily for a mile or more, and indeed I could have stayed on the path in the bottom of the dale all the way to Ravensdale Cottages, about three miles or so. But I was tempted by a suggested diversion on a side path, steeply up the side of the dale to the rim for the sake of the views, and I did this. Readers, the views were great but it was hard work! Then down an equivalent path back to the dale bottom. Beyond Ravensdale Cottages there was some road walking untilI I reached Cressbrook and the river Wye, where the path took me up to the Monsal Trail. It was about a mile along that to the viaduct over Monsal Dale, followed by the sting in the tail – the climb from the viaduct up the Monsal Head hotel, back to where I’d left my car.

As ever I had my camera and took a number of pictures. Looking at them on the computer I decided that they felt very ‘monochrome’ so that’s how I’ve processed a number of them.

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Three Walks

Looking back towards Salcombe


Well, after a long pause with no posts I’ve finally got something to write about. So why haven’t I posted since I got back from Crete in June? – well, mainly because this is my Travel blog and I haven’t done any actual travelling since then…. Several trips were planned but subsequently cancelled, hence the paucity of posts. But I have been doing some walking in one context or another, so here are some posts about these walks.

The first walk was in August during a family holiday in Salcombe in the South Hams district of Devon. This was the third such family holiday in four years. I decided there was no need to do posts specifically about the holiday – it was pretty much the same mix as on previous years. However, for those who might be interested, here’s a link to a previous post. One difference this year was that our younger daughter, Jude, was with us and she had made it clear that she wanted to walk a stretch of the South West Coast path; and would I like to accompany her? Yes was the answer, of course.

We decided to do the stretch westwards from Salcombe round to Hope Cove – that’s about 8 or 9 miles – then head back to Salcombe across the fields to the village of Malborough – that would add another 2 or 3 miles to it. Then we’d aim for one of the occasional buses that run from Kingsbridge to Salcombe via Malborough. Along the way we reckoned that we might also enjoy a cream tea at Hope Cove, so we weren’t aiming on breaking any records on this walk.

My recollection is that we set off before 10 o’clock and did the familiar walk along the road to South Sands. Beyond that we climbed steeply uphill towards Overbecks, a National Trust house which sits high on a cliff overlooking the Kingsbridge estuary. (It’s actually a ‘Ria’, I’m told, since there isn’t any river – it’s completely tidal – and there has to be a river for there to be an estuary.) We turned off the paved driveway to the house and at last found ourselves on the actual SW Coast Path heading southwards round Starehole Bay and towards Bolt Head. This was where things got dramatic and beautiful, of course.

I won’t bother describing the route in detail, but here are some impressions of it that I remember:

  • it wasn’t quite as much ‘up and down’ as I’d expected – there were some white long stretches, e.g. over The Warren, that were on a level. I recall getting very tired many years ago during a walk over the Seven Sisters in Sussex, but this was no where near as bad;
  • we were surprised to notice that a group of young people were going a long way off the path to avoid a herd of cows (and they were cows….). In my experience you’ll be OK with cows as long as you don’t get too near to the rear end – that can get messy with not a lot of warning. Horses, on the other hand, can be vicious brutes;
  • the stretch around Soar Mill Cove was quite steep, on both sides, and we were surprised to see several older people being helped down the paths (which were quite rough thereabouts) towards the Cove. I couldn’t help feeling that getting the old folks back up was going to be difficult. (And before anyone criticises me for being age-ist, I’ll just say that I’m 67 and these were people who looked considerably older than me….);
  • walking around Bolt Tail, with Hope Cove constantly in sight – indeed, at one point we were walking from Hope Cove – was hard.

In Hope Cove we each had a cream tea to die for, at the Cottage Hotel, and then set off across the fields to Malborough. This section couldn’t help but be a letdown after the coast path, but it was the best way of getting back to Salcombe. In Marlborough we had a quick drink at the Royal Oak and then headed off to the junction with the main road to catch the bus. We left with almost 10 minutes to spare, but all we saw was the back of the bus disappearing up the road – it had left early.

I knew the name of the bus company (“TallyHo Coaches”), got their phone number via the mobile, and immediately rang them to complain, politely but firmly. They were very apologetic; confirmed from their equipment that the bus had gone through the timetabled stop at Malborough Garage 7 minutes early; and duly sent an 8-seat minibus from Kingsbridge to take us to Salcombe, at no cost. Well done TallyHo! – it’s how you recover from a cock-up that give you an opportunity to impress customers.

Tomorrow – or soon, anyway – a walk in the Peak District.

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One of the joys of last year, my first year of retirement, was rediscovering my love of walking. When we first moved to Sheffield over thirty years ago, I used to go walking quite often at weekends. But some years ago I suffered a slight but niggling injury to my knee – I took up cycling for exercise, and one day stained something in my knee when pushing too hard up one of Sheffield’s many hills. It took a long time to clear up, and was always liable to reappear if I pushed things too hard, so out went not only the cycling but also the walking. Then after leaving the Civil Service I got jobs¬†that were either a long way from Sheffield and entailed living away, or involved very long hours, or both, and I lost the appetite for spending more of my precious free time walking.

Last year was different, of course. I went back to the walks quite carefully – I was worried about overestimating my capabilities and getting myself into a situation where I would need assistance. However, I found that I was still able to do 10 to 12 miles, i.e. four or five hours on my feet, and I had some wonderful times. I tended to stay on the eastern side of the Peak District – i.e. fairly near to home – but there’s a range of walks available in that area, either in the north on the millstone grit, further south on the limestone, or in the middle, along the Mam Tor ridge.

Everything stopped for the winter, however, despite my thoughts at one time that I would try to keep it up. The very wet weather early in the winter didn’t help. But yesterday (13th of April) was wonderful – a classic spring day, warm enough, blue sky, dry and not too windy, so I was off out. As a starter I just did four or five miles. Starting from Abney village I walked up the narrow lane near Fold Farm, and where it ends (GR SK189802) I turned right onto a path. At the end of that I turned left onto Shatton Lane, an old upland track, and followed that down to the point where it turns sharp left where I left it and followed a footpath across open fields down to Offerton Hall. From there a sharp right turn and a stiff climb took me up onto Offerton Edge, with the path continuing across the open moorland and crossing Siney Sitch. A (more or less) straight line across the moorland led me to the slope down into the other end of Abney village.

All in all, about 90 minutes or so walking on a wonderful spring afternoon.

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