For newcomers

At the bottom of each post there is the word "comments". If you click on it you will see comments made by followers, and if you follow the instructions you may also comment and I always welcome that. I have found many people overlook this part of the blog which is often more interesting than the original post!

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Monday, 29 June 2015

Macmillan Way


I have had some correspondence with the people at Macmillan about my recent walking of their route and realise that my "Summary" may have created a somewhat melancholy impression of the walk which I did not intend. My comments were aimed at fellow long distance backpackers who I reckon would understand the points I was making without  them being put off at the possibility of doing the walk, and I reckon the accompanying slideshow demonstrates that there is much of quality in this route. I emphasise that I throughly enjoyed the Macmillan Way, but as you all know there are always challenging aspects in any long distance walk, the overcoming of which form part of the satisfaction of the achievement.

Here is a copy of a letter I have sent to the people at Macmillan who have the difficult task of maintaining this valuable LDP.


Hi Jenny,


Thanks for your reply and I am sorry to have dampened your spirits. My “summary” was intended to give an objective view of the walk, mainly for a group of fellow bloggers and friends who do a lot of serious long distance backpacking who understand the problems I encountered and would most likely be amused rather than put off. The last thing I would want is to discourage people from walking the Macmillan Way, but in retrospect I see that some of my comments may be off-putting for the less experienced, and that is something I would regret.

The Macmillan Way has a lot going for it with variation of scenery and the attractive Cotswold villages and a number of fine ridges, and in my opinion compares favourably with similar routes I have walked including the Viking Way,  the Severn Way, the Wainwright Coast to Coast and the Sandstone Trail. All of those routes also had overgrown footpath problems and a fair amount of cropfield boundary walking. The MM has provided a route through worthwhile country which would have been less accessible before its conception. It is a route that would undoubtedly be fulfilling for any reasonably fit walkers. 

I enjoy long distance walking because, after a couple of weeks it becomes like a way of life, so different from day walks. One  can observe the changing nature of countryside, cultivation, and local accents. There is so much to see in our country, and I certainly don’t see my objectives as robotically ticking off these routes - I am just an independent walking enthusiast, and that enthusiasm probably leads me to be more analytical than others.

As I mentioned in a comment, when I had put the slideshow together and ran it through I realised how much of quality there is in the Macmillan Way. Whatever the impression my piece gave I would like to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the walk and would recommend it to anybody. 

It is obvious that much work that has been done in many places clearing paths by volunteers. If I lived closer to the path I would be happy to contribute myself. I did acknowledge at one stage that even a path that has been cleared can become pretty badly overgrown again within a week at this time of year.

Your task of looking after the 290 mile route is not enviable in these days of cuts and austerity, and I am sure there must be frustration at complacency and lack of funding, and lack of enthusiasm encountered from local authorities and some landowners.

I can empathise with your aims for the walk and the overwhelming value of your charity. My wife of twenty seven years was diagnosed with Motor Neurone disease in 1994 and died on Boxing Day 1997. I give a monthly donation to Macmillan along with several other worthy charities.

I really do wish you and your husband well with your continued stewardship of the Macmillan Way. I have now received the Boston/Barmouth guide which I have studied with enthusiasm, and I have every intention of walking that route later this year if certain circumstances permit.

I am posting this letter on my blog which I hope may add clarification and encouragement to the less experienced after my previous summary.

With my very best wishes,

Conrad Robinson.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Lakeland Great Outdoors and Scarpa - thumbs up

Followers of my recent MacmillanWay walk will have read about the problem I had with  Scarpa Cyrus trail shoes.

After returning the shoes to my retailer, Lakeland Great Outdoors at Staveley near Kendal they were returned to Mountain Boot Company at Newcastle upon Tyne who I presume are the UK distributors for Scarpa. Initially Mountain Boot refused to refund because there was no manufacturing fault, but further communication followed emphasising that my complaint was a matter of "fitness for purpose".

I have now been contacted  by Lakeland Great Outdoors saying they have have come to a mutual agreement wtih Mountain Boot enabling them to give me a full refund.

I would like to say that the whole of this matter was handled by Lakeland Great Outdoors' Sales Manager, Geoff Jackson in a professional and courteous manner and I would have no hesitation in shopping there again.

Others may wish to look more carefully next time they are buying trail shoes - here is a copy of the formal complaint that I needed to make to Lakeland:

Lakeland Great Outdoors Ltd
Plantation Bridge
Nr. Staveley
Cumbria LA8 9JA

Dear Sirs,

I bought a pair of Scarpa Cyrus trail shoes from you on 15th April 2015 (£129.80). I have an issue with this purchase and have taken legal advice and I understand my contract is with you as retailers and as such I must therefore claim against you, so please accept this letter as my formal complaint.

I explained to the sales assistant (somewhat boastfully) that I wanted the shoes to walk The Macmillan Way from Boston, Lincolnshire to Abbotsbury, Dorset, a distance of 290 miles. This is a recognised English Long Distance Footpath marked on the Ordnance Survey map following public footpaths and bridleways and some Tarmac roads.

I am a an experienced walker having completed many long distance walks including Land’s End to John ‘o Groats, The GR10, and the GR5 as well as completing all the Munros. I suggest that nobody of experience would dispute the advisability of  wearing good quality trail shoes for the above mentioned long distance walk. 

I tried the shoes in the shop and wore them briefly outside and had no complaint regarding comfort and fit but I wanted to preserve them, specifically because of the long distance of the walk, which I started on 20th May 2015, and finished on 10th June 2015.

After a couple of miles from the start of the walk on 20th May 2015 the soles of my feet became painful, which is a problem I have not encountered before. In my opinion ANY walking footwear should be capable of sustaining comfort for a distance of more than two miles over normal terrain. When I examined the shoes closely I found the soles had no cushioning apart from some uncushioned footbeds. I struggled on wondering if I would be able to continue with the walk until I got to Stamford on the third day which was the first place of any size. By then I could not have continued with the walk at that stage wearing the Scarpas. I was able to buy a pair of shoes from an outdoor shop which were well cushioned, and cured the problem immediately, and lasted for the rest of the twenty one day walk with no further painful soles of my feet. I had to post the Scarpas back home at a cost of £13.75 (I have the postal receipt). 

I returned from the walk on 10th June 2015 and returned the shoes to you on 12th June 2015 and you offered to return them to your wholesaler with my complaint. The wholesaler has since returned the shoes to you refusing to accept any responsibility. I have the original receipt in my possession and you accepted the veracity of my purchase when I returned the shoes.

I am not complaining about a manufacturing defect.

I am complaining about the "fitness for purpose" as required by the Sale of Goods Act. 

There is no question of the shoes being the wrong size, they fit my feet properly. I had equal discomfort on THE SOLES of BOTH feet, not because they were being pinched in any way, but because there was no cushioning. As I stated replacement with shoes that had good cushioning cured the problem immediately.

I would appreciate a rapid  acknowledgement of receipt of this email, and look forward to your considered reply which I would hope to receive within fourteen days.


Regards

Conrad Robinson

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Discovery

I enjoy not the toil of gardening.

After walking for three weeks I returned to overgrown grass and weeds. A gruelling half day foray had the basics under control, but writing this post arises from a not so subconscious deferring  of the need to get out there and do more.

Fronting my road is a bank producing daffodils. That foray brought out my petrol strimmer, a rash indulgent purchase a couple of years ago, to scythe the now wilted stalks and two foot high grass (gardeners have told me you have to leave them to let the nutrients flow back into the bulbs - a likely story). It takes all of ten minutes to cut back the main growth and that is the annual, only use I have for that machine, which is a devil to start, and then has to be cleaned afterwards, and because of infrequent use I had to buy special, expensive two-stroke mixture that has a two year shelf life. I found that ordinary mixture, if left in the machine coats its innards with some sort of lacquer and it was only after being used once it had to go back to the supplier for a carburettor strip down and clean costing a significant percentage of its original price. When I retrieve it from its home under the house I look at it with hatred and the pessimistic thought that it is not going to start again.

For years I have wished I had more knowledge of wild flowers, especially as I tend to visit wilderness regions where rarities may be found. I envy two fellow bloggers, Beating the Bounds  and http://phreerunner.blogspot.com/Phreerunner for their botanical knowledge.

Identifying birds is relatively easy - they fall into categories that are logical and easy to remember and so ordered in bird books. Botany has a similar system (yes, I know about Linnaeus), but it is not so obvious, not to me anyway. Even though the mysteries of plant classification confound me I do have a treasured book which I admire for its beauty alone and the shear dedication and artistic and literary skills of its authors. Marjorie Blamey, at the age of  eighty-six (circa 2003) finished painting the entire British and Irish flora with results that surpass any photography by light-years. Richard Fitter finished writing the text, which is acclaimed for its clarity, at the age of ninety-one, and Alastair Fitter, Richard's son, a professor of biology, produced UK location maps for all the plants narrowing down identification enormously. Wild Flowers of Britain and Ireland - Marjorie Blamey, Richard Fitter and Alastair Fitter is a classic.

To get to the real inspiration for this post my travails had me finding a new wild flower that had appeared in my absence in the daffodil banking. Off I rushed to consult Blamey (in absence of my understanding of the system) page by page, until identification was made. I know the flower is not rare, but it was new to me, and unfortunately it is now past its peak ("gone-over" - a wonderful euphemistic gardening phrase), but the delicacy of the green stalks with their black hairs contrasting with the richness of that burnt-orange in the flower-heads was better than munching good quality dark chocolate.

Fox and Cubs (Pilosella aurantiaca)


Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Macmillan Way Slideshow

Here is the link to the full slideshow WITH CAPTIONS of my Macmillan Way walk:


CLICK HERE


Click on the first proper photo to start the slideshow. The little arrow to the right advances the photos manually (so you can gaze at each one for as long as you want).

Monday, 15 June 2015

Macmillan Way - summary

As a rock-climber you look at a crag and see “lines” of ascent, maybe following a series of cracks, or taking a central route up a fine slab, or following an overlapping edge, all providing aesthetic satisfaction.

It is not quite the same with a long distance walk, but for me having a focus has an attraction. The Pennine Way generally follows the high ground up the Pennines. The Severn Way (and other river routes) follow the course of a river, coastal walks have their own ambience, and other walks link furthest points of the compass from coast to coast, and of course canal walks are entirely dedicated to their raison d’ètre.

The Macmillan way doesn’t really have a  focus. It pieces together parts of other established routes, often using uninteresting,  previously rarely used public rights of way to make the links, usually round or through the middle of crop fields or over rough pasture trodden into ankle twisting unevenness by horses and cattle. It has its exceptions which partly make up for the mundane with the levées and salt marshes at the outset and a number of fine ridges elsewhere and plenty of old pack horse lanes with atmospheric historic associations and even Tarmac that has covered old Roman roads.

Another problem is rapid growth of vegetation in summer. Even paths that have obviously been cut earlier have re-grown, and repeatedly I found myself battling through head high nettles and cow-parsley (or stepmother’s blossom), and that combined with many stiles, often in bad repair, and the need for careful navigation slow average speed enormously. It is all too easy to get on the wrong side of a hedge and end up in a cul-de-sac field forcing retraced steps. At my age I know I don’t walk as quickly as I used to, but I found it frustrating taking nine or so hours to walk my average fourteen miles per day.

Quite a number of the old lanes have been trashed by 4 x 4s, tractors,  and worst of all horses - the latter leave a spread of cylindrical deep holes almost impossible to walk over. Horse riders I spoke to blame “The Hunt” for  this, and undoubtedly they must contribute, but there is much general horse riding in these areas - of course, I admit that they have as much right to pursue their activity as we walkers do ours.

Not taking the tent, and staying in historic country pubs and a number of classy B and Bs was a luxury I had decided to take regardless of cost and that made up for much of the above mentioned travails. I could not afford to do that on a regular basis, but it certainly made this trip worthwhile.

Both my knees are dodgy. Although they are  reasonably ok whilst walking they stiffened up badly once stopped in the evenings and were strangely more painful in bed, but would be recovered again next morning.

Perhaps my age has influenced these comments and I will certainly give careful consideration to future plans with these thoughts in mind.

This may read like a pessimistic account but I enjoyed the trip having met interesting folk, done plenty of people watching, and walked through a large tranch of the country I have not previously visited. The Cotswolds were of significant interest and an eye-opener - like a separate country ring-fenced for the wealthy with villages preserved as if in the 16th century except for the inhabitants, but with agriculture as big business, modernised by expensive machinery, large fields and high yielding crops. The sense of being close to semi-concealed seats of power with all their security and the wonder at how such people have managed to accumulate such wealth gave me an eerie feeling - it reminded me of The Prisoner.

The Macmillan Way guide could learn a lot from Cicerone Press who have developed the most practical format. Macmillan is full of phrases like: turn right, and soon..., or ...after some distance..., rarely are any specific distances mentioned. And even though they highlight historical and anecdotal notes in different text it is still irritatingly inserted into the walking instructions and there may be a dozen lines of this before you pick up the walking instructions again which also include phrases along the lines of: ...at the top of the hill, look back for a good view of the lake, turn right... Walking instructions should be  explicit and specifically that and nothing else. We can decide for ourselves when to look back at a view. There are other inconsistencies such as: ...keep the hedge on your left, then ...keep to the right of the hedge.

It is not a fault of the guide, but it has become well out of date and they have published an ancillary list of corrections, but this is so badly done it is confusing trying to see where the new text should be inserted into the original.

I am working on the photos and hope to produce a Dropbox slideshow with captions shortly.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Katie, Lily update

For regular readers you will know of my granddaughter Katie and her friend Lily. Lily had a brain tumour removed successfully and was sent to USA by NHS for ten weeks for special follow up treatment. Katie has missed Lily a lot but she returned a few days ago.




Katie left, Lily right ( The Two Blondes? An in joke for my circle of bloggers who will understand)


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Bonus day

Wednesday 10 June

The only place to go to from Abbotsbury by bus was Weymouth. Breakfast was at 8:00 so I missed the 8:30 and took the 9:30.

I had four unclimbed Marilyns in the south of England two of which were close enough to climb on this trip. One of the others is at Folkestone and the fourth north east of London. Another bus took me to Dorchester (that bus pass is getting some use at last). A short taxi ride got me to Dorchester Car Rentals and I was off to Swyre Head (SY 934 784).

It was only a twenty minute walk, but oh so rewarding. Glorious sunshine, cropped turf path and the sea to the left. When I arrived at the top I had a moment of panic because it appeared to be an integral part of the SW Coast Path, in which case I would have passed over it last summer. A closer look reassured me when I could see that path wending its way at a lower level below. The views of coast, chalk cliffs and sea were a brilliant contrast to what I have been seeing over the last twenty one days, and a forceful reminder of what a superb coastline we have - I was raring to go again.

A short drive on some frighteningly narrow lanes WITH NO PASSING PLACES FOR LONG SECTIONS took me to Knitson's Farm (SZ 003 807) south of Nine Barrow Down an apparently suitable start for the ascent. Parking was limited to private property of the farm. Nobody was about to ask permission, and I had just decided on a roadside spot when a lady leading a horse appeared walking up the road. She told me the farm people were quite aggressively against parking, but she told me of an alternative ascent from the north where there is a popular viewpoint overlooking Poole Harbour, so another short drive and another twenty minute ascent saw me within twenty yards of the highest point which is marked by a large rusty water bowser on private land guarded by a locked gate and barbed wire fencing. For me, twenty yards from the spot is near enough and I am counting it as a tick on Harold Street.

I had a fraught time getting the car back to Dorchester Rentals, they are located in a difficult to find mini industrial estate. I had stopped to put £10 worth of petrol in as required to bring the tank back to starting point. I couldn't find how to open the filler hatch and so I drove on. At Dorchester Rentals they waived my offer of cash in lieu, and then offered to drive me back into town - they get top marks for service which could only be improved by putting a homing device on each car.

I was dropped off at Premier Inn which is within fifty yards of the station platform I would need next morning. The bad news was that Premier were full, but just as the receptionist was trying to suggest an alternative (GET THIS ONE GAYLE) a guy appeared and said he had just checked in but now didn't need the room and handed me the swipe card and said I was free to take the room which was already paid for! The receptionist went along with that so I have a free room tonight. HOW ABOUT THAT JOHN (bowlandclimber) for your challenge to find a B and B under £25?




Ilchester Arms, Abbotsbury where I had my last night


Swyre Head summit


View west from Swyre Head


Nine Barrow Down summit guarded by barbed wire and locked gate



West from Nine Barrow. The trig point apparently vandalised - it never was at the highest point. The town is Swanage



Poole Harbour from near Nine Barrow summit



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Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Evershot to Abbotsbury

Day 21. Tuesday 9th June (LAST DAY)

My reasoning about the YHA stopover was flawed*.

Taking into account the off-route distance I realised I could get to the finish at Abbotsbry in more or less the same time and have a night there. That would put me in a position to take any early morning transport out of A that may be available. I had pre-booked the hostel, non-refundable, about £18 I think and I have written that off and walked to Abbotsbury today. I did phone YHA to cancel.

I just wasn't happy about spending my final, supposedly celebratory night in a non-catering, dormitory only hostel

I met and chatted with several farmers on their land and they were all pleasant and interesting. The last one chatted with me whilst he went round the back end of his tractor injecting grease into grease nipples - I found this curiously interesting. I suppose at the cost of these present day monsters it pays to look after them.

In the Ilchester Arms, here in Abbotsbury draught cider outnumbers draught ale by two to one on the pumps. I am no great lover of cider. In my room I couldn't open the original 15/16/17 century window without breaking it and having stripped for a shower found I couldn't reduce the temperature from lethal hot. I had to get dressed again and go back to Reception for assistance. A guy came who may be a rugby player and that attribute combined with local knowledge, and his weight thrown against the window got a result. When this window is supposedly closed there is still a three quarter inch gap letting cold air in. He then spent over five minutes fiddling with the shower before getting it to some sort of re-set which proved that I was not just another befuddled geriatric.

The cuisine is produced by an enthusiastic amateur I guess, but at least the menu is original. I had lemon sole with purple potato for a starter which was fine.

Chicken breast served with a red pepper risotto and some baby leeks was a brave effort, but the leeks were a little undercooked and still slightly gritty.

A dessert of perfectly ripe strawberries with pistachio and a fancy ice cream with other embellishments was also fine. All in all not a bad meal to finish off with.

If I had a restaurant the first thing I would do is provide comfortable chairs at the correct height in relation to the tables. After that having tables that don't wobble is another desireable.

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* My father often appeared in court on behalf of clients as an expert on rating valuations. Quizzed by a clever barrister he was asked about a property he had probably not even visited.

"Mr. Robinson, how many floors has the property got?"

GR - " not as many as your argument on behalf of your client"




Partly designed by Gilbert Scot. I introduced the Pizza effect. Cattistock church





As I approached on the road I heard strange noises. It was this fellow expressing some dissatisfaction, and he was pawing the ground with a front foot. I went round by the road instead. I met the farmer's wife and she told me he (the bull) was harmless. Hmm!



Abbotsbury and Chesil Beach. I walked along that coast last year and was not inclined to go down there again and back from Abbotsbury especially as it was after 5:00 when I arrived and I want to be away in the morning.



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Monday, 8 June 2015

Sherborne to Acorn Inn, Evershot

Day 20. Monday 8th June

Within half an hour I was back into jungle this morning. That was interspersed with sections of rough lumpy fields, and quite a lot of road walking which helped to make up time. I met nobody and the scenery was much of a muchness apart from one or two pretty hamlets. This was a short day because of the logistics involved in finding accommodation and I arrived at The Acorn Inn just after three.

I said this walk would take twenty one days and Abbotsbury is actually a good day's march away and I could finish tomorrow, but Abbotsbury is a small town in the middle of nowhere and I don't want yo arrive late in the afternoon with no transport options. I have therefore booked in at the YHA at Litton Cheney which is a mile off route and that will leave me only a few miles to do for the finish next day.

The Acorn Inn featured in Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'Ubervilles as the Sow and Acorn and dates back over 400 years to the sixteenth century.




The Half Moon, Sherborne where I stayed last night


Jungle...


...and more jungle


This field and the one beyond the central tree must previously have contained a network of hedges. The guide navigates you through. I had to use compass bearings to find my way across - there was no evident path on the ground


I wondered about the backstory here. What decided someone to stop work at that point obviously some time ago?






The drive up to Melbury House - just short of a mile


Melbury House


The Acorn Inn, Evershot. Featured in Hardy's Tess of the D'Ubervilles





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Sunday, 7 June 2015

Wyke to Sherborne

Day 19. Sunday 7th June

I had a good breakfast (minus bacon) at my eccentric B and B. With a bit of prompting from me I learned that they are not farmers, there are two elderly ladies who run an animal rescue centre which relates to the veggie thing. My impression was that their enterprise takes up one hundred and one percent of their concentration and other humans are of little consequence. Anyway everything was acceptable at a modest price so I am not complaining.

It was 8:45 before I was away, and then three hundred yards up the road found I'd left my route guide and had to go back.

It has been hot and hard work and a day of contrast between appalling footpath conditions and breathtaking views.

A small ridge between Cole and Ansford looked inviting on the map. The path never went onto the ridge and I thrashed my way through chest high nettles and other revolting vegetation with my feet having to follow the ankle twisting gradients of the slope. Progress was slow.

Castle Cary was an attractive little town and immediately followed by Lodge Hill and its accompanying ridge. The views were as good as anywhere I have been - Glastonbury Tor, the huge expanse of the Somerset Levels, and I reckon distant Exmoor and possibly Dartmoor - wonderful.

Here I met an inspiring group of Bronze Duke of Edinburgh girls toiling but happy and surprisingly confident. It is a joy to see them, but I wonder why somebody doesn't show them how to pack a rucksack properly.

Quite a few crop fields followed where no proper path provision was made, and then green lanes which were literally green to chest and head height, and then more horse trodden quagmire. Despite all that it has been a good day's walking.

At one stage I was worrying, unreasonably, due to the heat I think, about how much liquid I was not carrying. I saw two guys joining my road from a footpath on the way to a hidden car park a few yards further and I quizzed, jokingly " is there a café down there?" They asked if I needed liquid and said they had an unopened bottle of fruit flavoured water in the car which they gave me.

Not far from the end of the day was Corton Ridge contrasting with the fiasco earlier. Here is all a ridge should be: path on the crest, views extensive to both sides and cropped grass to walk on.

Descent into Sherborne seemed to drag but I am now installed in The Half Moon Inn, a Marstons pub. The price is modest, the room good with the largest, quickest filling bath in a pub I have ever experienced.

Down in the bar for dinner a crowd of half a dozen young men were making a lot of noise and using abusive language obviously having had more than enough, and when they started ordering wine by the bottle I moved down the other end of the pub. The waitress has now told me she refused them the wine and I am glad to say they have departed.




The inviting ridge early in the day


On that "ridge"


Castle Cary


I had to take my rucksack off to get through this badly designed gate


D of E ers. Note the views. Even more extensive and detailed in real life




More horse trodden track


Perfect ridge walking


Sherborne Abbey


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Nunney to Wyke (west of Bruton)

Day 18. Saturday 6th June

Breakfast included a long chat covering many points of mutual interest including the arts, and family and friends. Clare has a degree in music and has had an apparently active and varied life. That was the best stay of the trip to date.

Walking was again varied and enjoyable in good weather with about seventy five percent on decent tracks and paths and a lot of time on high with panoramic views. One section of track through a forest was a disgusting quagmire after horses and bikes and many paths were quite badly overgrown.

I am finding stiles more and more tiresome especially many that are in bad repair - they force me to bend my legs in ways my knee joints find unacceptable and I reckon I take much longer to negotiate them than the more able bodied. Their one merit is that they provide a good mini bench to sit on. I did that the other day with all my food and mobile tech spread around when a guy appeared wanting to come over. Sod's law because I am hardly seeing anybody on these country paths.

I arrived at my current destination, a farm offering B and B and vegetarian evening meal at 5:20 to what I would call a businesslike reception. A small vicious looking dog was barking at me from the other side of the fence with the obvious intention of savagery as the lady appeared. "I'm ok with dogs if their ok with me" I said, hoping the barking may just be show, but the lady came back with "he bites" and she put him inside somewhere. I hope the damn thing doesn't escape - I had a bad similar experience last year when I was bitten by a pub dog. Immediately I was told the meal would be at 6:00 and breakfast at 8:00 and there was no further attempt to make any conversation as the lady hurried off to whatever. I just managed to have a shower and presented myself promptly in a lonely dining room. I was served with homemade celery and celeriac soup and a homemade lentil bake, and finished off with Swiss roll, raspberries and cream. The food was good, but again there was no further attempt at conversation, and altogether a rather strange atmosphere. What a contrast with last night and this morning. I'm not really looking forward to breakfast tomorrow morning.

Good news: I managed to book a room in Sherbourne at the first attempt. That is always a big relief. Much time can be spent on that exercise.




This one for Katie really. Twas sent with a text message to her


Try keeping up your 2/3 mph average through this stuff


Numerous panoramas like this today. It feels good to be on high again


There's me talking about folks cutting off my feet when I ask them to snap me, now I've chopped part of this guy's ear off



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Friday, 5 June 2015

Bradford-on-Avon to Market Place Cottage, Nunney

Day17. Friday 5th June

The Swan let me help myself to juice, cereal, and toast this morning at 7:00 am before their normal starting time of 7:30, so I was off to a good start. It turned out that was a good job.

I am now at a stage when I plan a long distance walk it will unavoidably coincide with a previous one. Today, out of Bradford I walked a short stretch on the Kennrt and. Avon Canal which I walked in its entirety in 2013.

Again it has been a pleasant day of walking with variety and good weather. The distance of about fourteen miles is not a problem for me, but today, in particular, the route was split into many short sections which involves frequent references to the Macmillan Guide (dismembered) and the map on my IPhone including GPS, and on some occasions using the compass. Each stop may take a minute or two, and in some cases much longer figuring out where the route goes, and indeed checking that I am still on it. That slows average speed down enormously and so does rugged terrain. There were few sections today where I could walk for an extended period at a good pace. Consequently the approximate fourteen miles took me ten hours. Country walking is much more demanding on navigation than mountain walking. I did stop for twenty minutes at a super post office come café in Frode - coffee as good as any for sometime.

I have now moved well out of the Cotswolds which looking back seemed almost like a separate country reserved for the wealthy. One noticeable change is the accent - well into the West Country, but not yet quite the full rich, rounded brogue.

I met my second bee keeper. He was busy and couldn't really talk being fully suited whilst playing with his hives. I walked on up the track and ten minutes later he pulled up in his 4x4 and apologised for not talking, and then I had a ten minute detailed talk on bee keeping which I think would have been of great help to the previous guy I met who had lost his swarm.

Arriving in Nunney I asked a couple where was Clare's cottage and they directed me.

Clare at Market Place Cottage has given me help above and beyond. She quickly understood my requirement to book ahead for tomorrow night. She just disappeared and must have made over a dozen phone calls before we found a vegetarian farmhouse at Wyke Champflower (more of that later). Clare's is a classy B and B where I have a full suite including sitting room, bedroom and bathroom all tastefully and interestingly presented.

As I entered the pub for my meal the guy who had given me directions was stood outside and we exchanged greetings and he followed me in. I confirmed my table reservation and ordered a pint and was then told it was "on Steve". This seems to be another village with a strong community spirit - long may they thrive.

Back to the B and B now to do photos - forgot to bring the camera again.




The Swan at Bradford-on-Avon


On the Kennet and Avon Canal





Britannia



The post office café at Frode - excellent coffee


Click to enlarge if needed. I bet he was well proud when he'd composed that

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Thursday, 4 June 2015

Owl Cottage, Biddestone to Bradford-on-Avon

Day 16. Thursday 4th June.

Last night I ate at the pub in Biddestone. A fairly unusual item on the menu was an omelette stuffed with potatoes, peppers and onions et al. I do something similar at home so was curious to see someone else's version. I was well satisfied and its size was a challenge.

Breakfast at Owl Cottage was perfection for me in that all details were exactly as I prefer : a large pot of strong tea WITH A COSY that remained HOT throughout, streaky bacon done to a crispness, scrambled eggs not sloppy and not overdone, and thick cut, homemade marmalade with the thick cut in small pieces rather than unmanageable strips a couple of inches long - well done! They were also kind enough to to run me the mile and a half back onto my route, and also gave me a super cheese and tomato sandwich and fruit as a packed lunch. 'Twas all one hopes for at a B and B, much better than hotels.

A bright sunny day and varied ever interesting walking and only a short haul to Bradford-on-Avon made for an enjoyable day. At one stage I met two guys walking with a black Labrador and a Jack Russell and we walked together for a mile. They were good walkers and good company having done the Pennine Way and the Coast to Coast and various walks on the various downs.

The tourist info office in Bradford-on-Avon could not make bookings but suggested The Swan where I am now installed. The proprietor warned me that " parts of the building are 17th century and everything is not straight; be careful you don't put anything valuable on a table. It might slide off". I thought he was joking, but in my room it looked like something out of Alice in Wonderland. The floor is shaped like an upside-down dustbin lid - I thought I'd done with hill walking for the day but found myself doing just that getting places in the room.




There was half a mile of this early this morning


Why were they not out there munching the grass? Waiting for a bus perhaps?


By Brook which I followed on and off for a few miles. I saw trout rising


The guys I walked with. Their black Labrador got himself into this water and revolved round and round no doubt to cool from the heat of the day


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Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Westonbirt to Owl Cottage, Biddestone (2.5km west of route)

Day 15. Wednesday 3rd June

Breakfast at the pretentious Hare and Hounds was served at 7:30. I arrived at 7:29. I was greeted by a matronly "head of-breakfast" in an unmistakably accusatory tone with "you're early"!

Next I had to suffer the "foreign" waiters dressed in black shirts and long black aprons down to the ankles making a big issue out of taking the breakfast order. They could have been undertakers understudies. I find I can't manage all that Full English Breakfast and order scrambled egg and bacon. Mine arrived: one rasher of bacon and a dessert spoon of scrambled egg, artistically displayed I must admit.

Within ten minutes on my route I was circumnavigating the National Arboretum managed by the Forestry Commission, and then right down its centre on a long avenue. There are all kinds of weird trees and if you like them I think you could spend six months looking round. For me they were beautifully presented in the morning sun. A real treat.

Next port was Sherston - attractive architecture and a community run post office and general store (coffee and croissant). I spoke to a number of people gathering round the shop and here is a fine community spirit which was supported by unusually cheery greetings from people passing on my way to the community wood. Here I followed the infant River Avon which flows into the Bristol Channel.

Further on the Macmillan guide warned of a section they found "difficult to describe" and suggested care. Well I ended up in a right old mess. The guide said one thing and a way mark said another. Why can't they get sorted and put up a series of proper way marks? Anyway, it wasn't enough to dampen my renewed spirits, even combined with another similar fiasco later on and an official bridleway going into Sherston which is part of the MW where a huge field of waist high wheat had not had a path cut through - I will be reporting this.

Further pleasant walking took me to Castle Coombe which could be a Hollywood set.

The last mile and a half always seem longer than they should and I arrived in the village hot and bothered. It was after 5:00 pm. I knocked on a door to get directions and combined with a phone call Di from Owl Cottage came and picked me up. I am now in the pub ten minutes walk from the B and B having a decent meal.




In the National Arboretum


Sherston and the post office. A village with real community spirit


Do you think these neighbours are friends?


In Castle Coombe. If you ever ask a passer by to take your photo they chop your feet off - perhaps a good thing in my case.


Crossing the stream just south of Castle Coombe


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