Monday, July 12, 2010

371.2 kms: Chester-Stoak-Boat Museum, Ellesmere Port-Eastham Village-Bromborough-(by bus) Liverpool

What is not to love about canals? Canal boats are beautiful and invoke the imagination into romantic daydreams of a different type of life. Canal paths are flat: no need to explain the benefits of that. After a chatty breakfast (rarity for anti-social me), I headed out on the canal headed north. It was drizzly and grey—but that in fact only seemed to make the canal even more romantic. I must be in a good mood: I'm making rain romantic. What are you saying, rain is romantic!

Stopped for soup and coffee in Stoat, and coffee and Vimto at the Boat Museum in Port Ellesmere. I never know what to have when I stop. It's just an excuse to stop. An excuse to stop that involves buying something you don't really want just for the right to be able to use the bathroom ultimately.

People are funny. I know we all know that, but it bares mentioning again every now and then. I was asking people to direct me around the weird off and on ramps in Port Ellesmere that stood between myself and the way I wanted to go. My plan was to walk as far as I could towards the Ferry ('cross the Mersey) until five pm, and then catch the bus. It was, I suspected, eight or nine miles to the ferry and I had already done eight and a half for the day so was feeling quite confident. But everyone I asked told me that I couldn't possibly walk that far—inconceivable! Lordy, how have I managed to walk two hundred and fifty miles if it is impossible to do nine!

Turned out that I didn't walk all the way to the ferry. Turned out that I didn't actually catch the ferry. I had seen a bus route on a pole I passed that mentioned a five-o-five bus to the Ferry terminal. Close to five I started to try and find a bus stop which showed the same route. No luck. It must turn off somewhere I had already passed. I asked the next bus driver who was showing my destination, he told me that he went the long way and that I should catch the four-o-one. I asked someone where I was while I waited for the bus. As he showed me the bus launched past at three hundred kilometers an hour. No way it was stopping. Felt guilty because the guy I had distracted was waiting for the same bus. The next four-o-one arrived late but the driver told me to take the forty-one as it went closer to the terminal. A hundred number one buses had gone past. They went to Liverpool via the tunnel. At the risk of being told to get a different bus and with the last ferry leaving very soon, I gave in and jumped on a one. I was seated next to the window: double glazed. It had three or four inches of water between the two panes. As we dipped down in the tunnel under the Mersey the water would dip with us. I figured that the water was rain that was precipitated from the Mersey and so water beside me was as good a ferry ride 'cross the Mersey as I needed. The bus dropped me in the middle of town—which was just about when I realised that a bit of research is better for accommodartioin in a city, rather than the drop-in approach I use in villages. Oops. I had no map, no idea of where accommodation would be. I eventually found a labelled hotel (Premier Inn). It is Graduation Week though and lots of the hotels are booked out. They were full but they kindly found me a room on Albert Dock, at the Jury's Inn. It was dearish but less than I thought it would be. I was so footsore though that I actually caught a taxi—bit silly because I got up later and walked a million miles to find dinner two hundred yards from the hotel. My feet were so sore I couldn't even get out of bed to get drugs to deaden the pain. I lay in my fancy bed and watched the Liverpool Eye go round until I fell into a heavenly slumber.


Good night to Liverpool, good night to you.


Sunday, July 11, 2010

346.6 kms: Churton-Aldford-Eccleston-Heronbridge-Chester.

Not a great night of sleep: weird dreams about teleportation, time travel and the inadequecies of apricot coloured, eighties two-piece suits in the fifties era. I clock-watched. 3.19, 4.35, 5.46, 6.15, 6.39, 7.03, 7.14. I decided to get up at the last time-check and so managed to get a solid forty-six minutes more. I just made the post-office in Aldford, bought breakfast and ate it in a lovely field behind the church: red bull and jam fancies. It was a short day of walking—I was at the Chester Tourist Information by one. Short but lovely; mostly along rivers and through parks. When I got there I discovered it was Chesterval (of course). I panicked because there were seven million people there for the weekend: there was no way that there was going to be any room for me at the Inn. The first place I rang told me they had no singles. Three octaves up I asked about the price of a double; thirty-five pounds. Oh, um, okay then, I supppose that would do. Silent yahoo gestures made in the phone box—that's actuallly a good price and not what I expected to pay during Chesterval. The only thing was that they don't live on site so I had to wait until four to meet them. I had a antipasta plate and elderberry cordial in a cool underground tavern to pass the time. The B&B was just outside the North Gate, around a corner and behind the car park. You needed to pass a very interesting shop full of knick-knacks. I spent a fair bit of time looking through their windows—everything from art deco chandeliers to stuffed cougars to bronze-age helmets. The thirty-five pounds belay (past tense of belie?—it's surely not belied, is it?) the quality of the room. It was ace! Lovely big bed and a sunken bath. I mean a sunken bathroom. For come reason the bathroom was a couple of stairs down from the room. Weird, but lovely, and it had a skylight. Had a shower (nice after being out asleep in a mosquito-y dust-bowl all night. And then I went for a walk. I'D had a bit of a walk around while I was waiting and Chester is a pretty town with a lot to have a look at. It has a wall that goes all the way around too, and you can walk around it. It is about XXX kilometres, so I took a leisurely stroll. Leisurely because I wanted to savour, and leisurely because I keep having dizzy spells. Really not sure what that is all about. I like to think low blood sugar but I know how much sugar goes in and there is no ways that that constitutes the word 'low'. In Bath, and her in Chester, there is a strange fibreglass revolution taking place. Bath was lions. Chester is rhinos. Artists get given a large fibreglass animal to decorate. Then they place them all over town for people to see. There is an auction to sell them and all the money goes to charity. Makes for an interesting tour around town. I particularly like the roman themed one in the forum. I really fancied a curry. I couldn't for the life of me find a curry house and so I ended up in a pub. (The Victoria—with a fine portrait of the same in profile out the front. Why was she so partial to her profile? Maybe it's a stamp thing.) They actually did a curry. The women in the table beside me were vocally disappointed with their dinner. This is England people! The chef revolution is still a process in process. The curry wasn't too bad—just not spicy enough. When I got backed to my room, I sewed a sequin, and I slept like a baby that actually sleeps. Good night to Chester, good night to you.          

Saturday, July 10, 2010

334.8 kms: Ellesmere-Penley-Worthenbury-Shochlach-Castletown-Farndon-a field near Churton

This is the stuff of crying, in the face of something good to say that is. I am re-writing this because my Blogsy app is wacky. I'm not a fan of re-writing. Not when I can't recall what I wrote last time. What I wrote last time has disappeared into the internet somewhere. The annoying thing, like it is in your brain, is that it is probably still in there somewhere—I just don't know how to access it. Suffice it to say, what follows is a shadow of what was there before. I have slightly lost the passion behind this day. The landlord was a lot nicer this morning. Possibly I just thought he was because I had been able to sleep in due to a later breakfast time. I headed out of town via a quick look at the mere. I passed a couple on the way out of town and then I passed what I think was their twenty pound note. The gap between the one and the other was larger than I thought I would be able to make up if I turned around and so I took it to mean that providence believed the value of a sheep is twenty pounds. I was determined to use that twenty poounds, but providence had gone somewhere else for the day. The PH   (that's the little symbol I look for on my Ordnance maps to denote the Public House (pub). It is usually the only place to get food and drinks; there is sometimes a P, which is semi okay too because it means the Post Office, which usuallly has food and drink to by of the d.i.y. variety), so  again, the PH, in Penley was being demolished, the PH in Worthenbury had closed down and the one in Shochlach closed up for a private function about ten minutes before I got there (that was the worst—I could see people eating and drinking from the cold, rainy outside). I'd decided to stay the night in Farndon. You  guessed it: booked out.  Everything in town: booked out. I threw my usual caution about letting people see me walking of out of town with a great big pack on my back at bed time to the wind and spent some of my twenty on dinner. It wasn't fabulous.  And then I walked out of town with a large back pack at bed time. It took me a while but I found a flat sandy patch in the middle of a field of yellow flowered bean-like-object producing plants. It was a warm, rainy night and so I had to close up the bivvy bag. The mossies were so loud I could hear them from inside. And they would manage to get into the tiny hole in the top of the bag and into my skin. I am annoyingly bitten but mossies, let me just tell you, you are nothing, inconsequential! Next to these damn horsefly bites that is. I have one in the  palm of my hand. You could quite easily go mad from horseflies. I am really glad I am not a horse. Good night to a field near Churton, good night to you.      

Friday, July 9, 2010

307.6 km: Llanymynech-Maesbury Marsh-Tetchill-Ellesmere.

Heavenly walk along the canals. Flat. I had morning tea at an out-of-it's-element eco-cafe in Maesbury-- divine coffee, sublime carrot cake with the best cream cheese icing, high-tech bathrooms. There were unfortunately already people sitting in the little rail carriages spread out around the garden so I sat and got drizzled pleasantly on and patted the dog, who, like every other dog in the universe was only in it for the food.
The hostess was the spitting image of a boss I had at a restaurant that I worked in in the late eighties. Look, manner, everything. It was spooky. She made the mistake of liking my dress verbally-- called it retro. I sprouted forth about the blog and the theme and the beaver. I could see regret in her clouded-over eyes.
Lunch was eaten with feet dangling over the edge of the canal. It was changeover day for all the house boat rentals and new captains were directing their boats down the canals with fervour. Waves (of the hand) and shouted hellos were the day's fair. Canals are fascinating places. The machinery for the locks is so interesting. A family was even doing the trip in a couple of kayaks. The kids were young, the parents were stressed and they seemed to have to get the kayaks out and carry them between levels of the locks. They didn't look like they were having an overly fun time of it. Kids: why are we having to do this? Adults: why did we bother?
I was sitting around having another break a little out of Ellesmere and got talking to a couple of men and their dogs that overran me on the ground. They recommended the Red Lion to stay in in town. I took their word and went straight there. It looked lovely from the downstairs. The proprietor had too rooms. An ensuite for fifty pounds or a shared bathroom room for thirty. I couldn't justify twenty pounds for a bathroom. He called me a backpacker. It sounded like an insult. Does he know how far unlike a backpacker I actually am?
Dinner downstairs. It was okay but the waitresses seemed to be going out of their way to avoid the strange lady eating on her own and I had to basically trip them over to get service. I was tired and went straight to bed. Sleep was not easy though. First the bells rang at the church next door for one and a half hours--solid! Then the drunks went outside to smoke and be very vocal. Then the police helicopters started. There better have been something serious happening--I'm expecting cordoned off roads, crime scene tape and chalk outlines to justify this malarkey.
Goodnight to Ellesmere (if you ever get to bed), goodnight to you.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

284.7 kms: (Welshpool)-Buttington-Rhyd-esgyn-Four Crosses-Llanymynech.

After a not fabulous night of sleep—unable to really say why, horrible, nagging dreams that even in your dream state you know don’t make sense and don’t warrant the anxiety were partly to blame—I was up and out as planned and sitting with a takeaway coffee and baked goods waiting for the Buttington bus well before time.
I packed for the dark skies and the rainy potential, but it never came to fruition. I love a cure through prevention and superstition. It was actually quite a fun day. I crossed fields and encountered a herd of friendly bullocks—it’s mostly been sheep this trip. They did the scared, followed by curious thing and ended up following me though the field. Now, I am not so paranoid about this behaviour and we had a good chat and a photo opportunity at the stile at the end of their field.
More animal incidents occurred when I played ‘sheep search and rescue’ on the Montgomery Canal. The day included a couple of miles walking along the rebuilt and quite lovely Canal that had been used for years in the past to transport lime. As I walked along I saw a sheep was in the water, on the opposite bank. I thought that it was dead and just floating. Its head was lying on the bank. I clapped and made noise to see if it was alive and it wearily raised its head and looked at me. Unlike any other sheep I had encountered, my presence was not enough to scare the willies out of it and get it scooting up the bank. I supposed that it had fallen in and was now near exhaustion with trying to get back out. There were marks up along the bank that seemed to point to it having tried and tried to get out of the water. It appeared like it had now given up. I could think of no worse way to die—to stay standing in that water until pure exhaustion caused you to slip away and drown. I imagined it’s mother (it seemed like it was the size of lambs, large lambs, that were still, all over the place, feeding from their mothers) crying for it on the side of the canal until she realised that it was lost and just, in the cruel reality of life as an animal, turning and walking away. Maybe it would get out, maybe the farmer would turn up and drag it out—I couldn’t take the chance. So I walked to the bridge a few hundred meters up, hid my pack in the thistles and proceeded back along the opposite bank until I found it. There was no way that I would be able to pull it from the canal—the side was too steep, I wouldn’t get a handle on it—so I had to overcome my extreme dislike of inland waterways, strip off to my bike shorts, singlet and bare feet and jump in the canal. Eeough!! The sheep was a little panicked and definitely had enough energy to resist. I had to play tug-o’-war with it to get it a little further down the canal where the bank was less steep. Lucky sheep wool is so thick: it was a great way to hold on, but probably hurt like hell to be dragged down a river by your wool—thus warranting stepping on my bare feet with your cloven hoof! I had to get my arms in under the sheep and hike it onto the bank. Then get in under again, along with a knee in the jacksie, and push the rest of it out. It finally managed to find the strength to walk away, shook its tail and wondered off without a single word of thanks. I dressed again and walked back to my bag covered in mud that would slowly get fouler and fouler smelling as the day proceeded.
I felt elated as I walked along. The path followed the Severn River again. It was much smaller this far up the country. Along the path was a sign for eighty-five pence coffee and biscuits. I stopped in. It was someone’s yard. I had been waiting for this moment since the house who had ‘Water for Walkers’. I think it’s a brilliant idea if you are a house along the Offa’s Dyke and you are retired. There was a bell in the back yard that you rang and a gentleman popped out and asked you what you were after. He then sat and chatted about the state of things. His chickens pecked around for crumbs and only got a bit of my leg. He was funny. He liked to play with statistics. If twelve percent of all car accidents involve drivers who are sober, then eighty-eight percent are sober people—it would be better, then, if all drivers were drunk. He filled me in on my possible destination for the night, Llanymynech. It is the only place in the UK which has a border run through the middle of it—the English-Welsh border runs right through it. This means that at some times there has been taxes applied to one side and not the other. And the Welsh pub nearly went out of business when the non-smoking laws came in there nine months before they hit England.
Two times I walked along the Montgomery Canal today. It got me thinking. The canals are lovely—house boats, locks, lock houses. Lying on my English side hotel bed—completely luxurious, enormous bathroom; as big as the room—I decided the time had come to leave the Dyke. I was more than likely two days prior to when I would have left anyway. I will miss a large climb and probably get to where I wanted to get either at the same time or earlier (Chester). I miss the climbing but not the downhills; I’ll miss the climb but not the lack of facilities. I will not miss Offa’s megalomaniac tendency to place his dyke on the crest of every possible hill. This is a good decision.
In the meantime I ate dinner. A lady approached me in the restaurant and told me how brave I was to go out for dinner on my own. It’s do it or don’t eat when you are alone, I told her. And even if all these people think I am a fool, they won’t see me again so it doesn’t really matter. I was a little warmed to hear it though. Thanks lady.
Good night to Llanymynech, good night to you. 

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

267.7 kms: Montgomery-Fordon (II)-Beacon Hill-Buttington-(Welshpool).

There is a movie, or a book, in which someone has to earn a rite of passage by making it through the first meal at boarding school, a plate of kippers, without giving-in and admitting he has no idea of how to eat them. I would have given it a red hot go, but in the end, would have done what I did this morning, and decided I just wasn't that hungry. What an awful experience! Actually it may have been Oscar Wilde's biography now that I think about it. I was back on the track within an hour and then stopping to gear up for rain. At Forden II I ran into a lady who I had met twice before—she had passed me once, a good few days ago when I was sitting on the side of the road, and she had been staying at the same hotel last night. This morning she was waiting for the bus outside the pub. With the rain and the upcoming hill she had decided this was not a 'holiday'; she was throwing in the towel and heading to Welshpool on the bus. I, on the other hand, went inside for my weirdest pub experience to date. I rang the bell as the time showed it should be open. The girl who answered the door told me that they 'open for walkers'. I guess this means not for other modes of transport. Open was a loose interpretation. I think they may have turned on one light. There wasn't really anything to eat as such, but I did have a tea and a lemonade while the girl and her boyfriend babysat her mother's infant. I was very glad to get back in the rain and up a hill. That says something. On the walk up the hill I decided to stay the night in Buttington. Rain, I decided, was stoppIing play for this day. The walk on the hill, I must say, was glorious. It went through a forest that was, frankly, enchanted. Nothing like magical scenery to take your mind off the gradient. Buttington had only a camping ground. No way. I, too, caught the bus to Welshpool. The owner of the B&B gave me her room. It is strange to invade people's lives like you do in some B&B's. You are in their house. Looking at the things they use everyday. While they are ... where? I had dinner at a snooty pub where they couldn't spell sausage (unless sauasage is an allowable derivative). The bangers and mash were reasonably priced but I stepped over the reasonable line and had a glass of wine and a raspberrry pavlova which was to-die-for. Early night followed. I have one hundred and thirty-three kilometers to do in eight days. Eek! Good night to Welshpool, good night to you.  

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

252.1 kms: Newcastle-Hergan-Dog & Duck Cottage-Montgomery.

‘Just head up this road, turn right into the High Street, across the bridge and past the Church. Then you are going UP! It’ll be really hilly.’
‘I am sorry, but that is what everyone says, every morning.’
‘No, this is actually the hilliest part of the whole walk.’ There is a certain sort of pride to be had in being the —iest in something. Offa’s Dyke Path towns seem to choose ‘hilliest’. Unfortunately, my landlords were right—again! I am in the Shropshire Hills. Do you remember that Nescafe ad: ‘How exotic, where are you from?’ ‘Shropshire.’ ‘Oh.’ On the sign that Welcomes you, they have illustrated the hills like a series on ‘n’s—straight up and a slightly more sloping down. That pretty much got them right. L— and D— from the Crown Inn told me there were four bad ups, three bad downs and then a lovely sloping down onto the Montgomery plain and the Severn Valley floor. But hills aren’t like going to the second floor of Chaddy—I was never quite sure when I had done one climb or one descent. It was a greatly challenging day with some really lovely scenery. It was a gratifying moment to finally look down and see the long, long slope of the last downhill.
I did have two epiphanies today. One: busting a gut is not worth it. It is only me who sets a standard of how far to go each day or as a whole and so there is no one to impress with making it unenjoyable. Two: it is no longer worth the lack of sleep and discomfort of sleeping outdoors just to save money you have saved to take a ‘holiday’. I decided the rest of the holidays I would stay in B&Bs or camping grounds if they appeared.
This then made me stress about getting one type of accommodation rather than having options. I am my own worst nightmare! I started looking for accommodation in Mellington Hall then Brompton Farm. No luck. I had to do the speed walk into Montgomery and then bite my own words by paying an exorbitant amount for the only available indoor accommodation! That’ll learn ya.
The room was nice though, looking out onto the square, comfy soft sink-into bed, alarm clock (no stress-about-waking sleeping), and even a tiny little carafe and glass of sherry for before bed. And everyone in the hotel was chatty. I chatted over dinner to a couple who holiday either here or Scotland, but the latter is too wet this year. Chatted to the landlord who was formerly the mayor. Chatted to the whole family of landlordians who needed to clear out the garage tomorrow. Chatted to another single female, carrying (ie. not having her luggage transferred from B&B each day and only having a day pack; my word to distinguish the ‘real’ walkers from the imitation). She was about fifty-five, maybe older. She had passed me one morning earlier in the trip when I had crashed out for a break on some soft grass. Now, she had had enough and was going to walk one more day and then find a nice place to stay in Welshpool for the rest of her holiday. Chatted to another couple and their cutest little gem of a dog—Gem—who holiday either here or Scotland, but the latter is too wet this year. P— used to be a merchant seaman and had spent a lot of time in Melbourne—mostly St Kilda—in the early sixties. Needless to say it was a late night—and I still had to have time for my before-bed sherry. There was a decided lack of sequining going on tonight.
Good night to Montgomery, good night to you.

Monday, July 5, 2010

233.2 kms: Knighton-Garbett Hall-Newcastle.

The day started with the usual beamingly delivered instructions: ‘Head up the High Street, turn off at the Offa’s Dyke Centre, along the river, over the railway lines and then UP. No, I mean really up, it’s HUGE.’ Unfortunately, unlike the people who, when they are asked for directions, respond with the false ‘oh, you can’t possibly walk there: it’s at least three miles away’ (I’ve only gone two hundred miles, but you are right, the last three are possibly unachievable), this man was right. The hill was a killer. But slowly slowly does it, and soon you are walking along the top with amazing vistas all around and sheep with legs marginally shorter on the port side than the starboard.
The ‘Land’s End’ of this trip has been the Ridge and Hay Bluff. Every time I thought I had travelled a distance, I would look around and there it would be, hanging over my shoulder like a reminder of the slowness of this mode of travel. Hill two today, though, finally obliterated them from sight and the illusion of distance travelled was again possible.
I had been told of a booklet available at the Offa’s Dyke Centre which listed the B&B’s all along the path. I got tight when I saw it was five pounds and decided I had winged it this far so I might as well wing it the rest of the way. The lady at the counter had informed me that there were a few places to stay in Newcastle though, and after a little walking I decided it was time for a slack day and that I would stop there and have a relaxing afternoon. Typically, I normally get up late and arrive late. My post-walking activities usually only include washing smalls, eating dinner, sewing sequins and crashing into bed—no time for lying around in sunny parks, reading a lot more, writing lists, day-dreaming; all the things a holiday should be about.
My eyes look like racoon’s or prize fighter’s, so another night indoors would also be highly beneficial.
I ended up in a lovely B&B at the pub. It was very specsh. I faffed, napped, showered, rotated smalls in the sunny window to dry, even managed to wash bike shorts and one dress for a lovely clean refreshing feeling tomorrow—grubby does become the norm, but like converting pounds to dollars, it is something worth not considering.
The pub was having a carvery that night due to a large booking that was there for a celebration. That was pressed upon me in a friendly way as the ‘best’ dinner option and so at seven-thirty I was there with plate out requesting lamb and pork please, no Yorkshire pudding. That is a weird item isn’t it? It’s like someone just thought that it would save on gravy boats if they made a pastry one, ate it and didn’t have to wash it later—all the fussiness of cleaning lumpy gravy from a spout maybe. The group was a table of teachers from the next village—approximately thirteen women and one man. They were the second noisiest thing I have ever heard. But very good eaves dropping material. It was one of those things where you didn’t realise how noisy they were until they all of a sudden left and the silence poured in. I had a nice chat to the proprietors and then went to a lovely bedded sleep.
Good night to Newcastle, good night to you.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

219.1 kms: Kington-Kington Golf Course-Pen Offa-Dolley Green-Knighton.

The sun was like me today—reluctant to really do the job with full and devoted commitment. It semi shone on my east-placed bag, but still left me sleeping ‘til late and didn’t really dry off all the wetness of the night. I was similarly lack-lustre and only made it a mile to the golf course before stopping for the first time for coffee and scones I didn’t really need. In truth I thought the day was going to be more of a doddle, but the golfers set me straight—it was a long walk. The golf course was quite cool. I would love to have played a round but they only allowed guests who could produce some kind of card that proved they weren’t hacks—I am a hack. I had been wondering why I kept seeing golf balls as I came up the hill. The course was on the moors—and there I was yesterday thinking that part of the moors looked like perfect places to play golf. The English find any space and pop in a golf course—I have run into them on sand dunes by the beach and among specially placed pile of refuse on the outskirts of towns. Part of that last sentence may be a lie. Being a moor, of course, there are sheep wandering around keeping the grass trim and golf-course-like and nibbling the purple bits off thistles. I wonder how many sheep get donked on the head by golf balls. I wonder how many golf balls roll off the hill never to be found again. Do golf balls cost a lot?
This second trip back to walking has been decidedly greyer than the first. Thankfully, though, all it takes to make the rain stop is to stop, take off the pack, rearrange all the outers, gear up for the wet weather, put the pack back on—rain stops the minute I click the one part of the pack strap into the other. I was listening to music today to facilitate hill climbing—there was, surprisingly, a lot today, with fabulous views. I sang to the sheep. Music does not calm the submissive beast. Maybe it’s just my lack of talent combined with breathy uphills.
I was doing the stress about accommodation thing as usual—two nights on the ground made me desperate for a bed. I lucked a great room at the George and Dragon in Knighton. They all had names rather than numbers—nice touch. I was in the Kite’s Nest.
I had some dinner and spoke to some more walkers—these ones doing Glyndwr’s Way which is the national trail that loops into Wales off the Offa’s Dyke. When I went back to my room it was like swimming in the creamy white sauce of my fish pie. It was like being completely off your tree drunk. It was exhaustion—again! I am boring myself with this exhaustion thing. I waded through showering, washing undies—the eternal chore—and making a cuppa to read by. The last did not happen. Last night I had a snotty filled nose all night and it ended up making the back of my throat sore—you are so happy to have read that detail aren’t you? I think I may have been just a tad under the weather. I think I woke and drank the cold coffee about midnight and crashed again.
Good night to Knighton, good night to you.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

197.3 kms: Hay-Chapel House-Disgwylfa Hill-Gladestry-Hergest Ridge-Kington.

You may have noticed a gap in the dates between this blog and the last: I have been giving my feet a bit of a break by putting them up (a little) in Cheltenham. Thinking that Hay would be a good place to get to other parts of the country from on the basis of its touristyness, I embarked on the journey. It ended up being a four bus, four hour journey. I am disorientated as to where I am in relation to anything else, but I feel quite sure I am not four hours away from Cheltenham. It was a lovely break. In the evenings A—— and I would go for adventurous drives in the surrounding country—enabling me to see more of the Cotswolds. We went to a roman villa which we peered at over the National Trust walls; we went to the alternative source of the Thames, which I found almost a little religious. It is called Seven Springs. You descend into a hollow, between a main road and pub of the same name, and a truck stop, and there, from the wall of the hollow, are seven points where water, cold and fresh, comes from the ground, and possibly ends up carrying ships and the mighty city of London on its back. We also went to Hidcote Gardens which is an amazing warren of garden ‘rooms’ in the grounds of Hidcote Manor. It was beautiful. We were lucky to be there late and so fairly alone as we wandered around and walked barefoot on the grass.
On the second I started back to Hay—thinking I would arrive lunchtime and be able to walk out straight away. I did not factor in, again, my penchant for late lie ins. Although S—— woke me at eight, I slept again ‘til at least ten. I think that my dizzies were the result of pure, unadulterated exhaustion, and the lovely long sleeps I have had in the last few days have completely cured me of them. I got ready and started the journey back after twelve which meant that I didn’t get back to Hay, this way, until fiveish. I didn’t want to walk out at that time. I also didn’t want to pay for a B&B, and so was happy to notice a camping ground just outside Hay. It was nice comfy grass and relatively flat with a lovely sunsetting view over Hay—it almost made me like camping. I even slept quite well.
The sunshine in relation to a perfectly positioned, east facing, bivvy bag placement got me up at sevenish and on the road by eight-thirty—miracles do happen! It was flat for all of about three minutes and then the hills started. There was an evil field to cross first though. It’s a strange phenomena these rights-of-ways. Do they precede land ownership? Do farmers who are obviously adverse to them—obvious through their posting horrible little, yellow, signs that ask you to please ensure you stay on the edge of the field to avoid damaging their crops and then don’t maintain the path so that your choice is stepping on their crops or traversing every conceivably horrible weed known to mankind—meet the same criteria of people who move into St Kilda and then complain about prostitutes? Suffice it to say, in the damn annoying habit I have of trying not to offend, I mostly didn’t step angrily on whatever crop the farsehole was growing and ended up with welted red legs that itched all day.
It makes sense that if you want to either protect your dominion, or let others know that you place a border between them and you, that you would place your dyke (if that’s the border indicator you are wont to use) where everyone could see it most easily or you could see them most easily: on top of every hill. So over every hill we go.
I stopped for the drink of choice for this trip—OJ and lemonade, just a tad of ice, no wonder I am not losing any weight—in Gladestry and then up the biggest hill for the day. I bemoan the hills, but they are amazing when you get to the top. They are mostly moors, lots of sheep to scare, great views. And I actually like going up—masochistic I know, but it is a great sense of achievement and makes you hurt in a way that feels good. What I can’t abide is going down. If it didn’t mean that you would end up in the stratosphere (which again I don’t mind, it would be nice and cool, but slightly hard to breath in), I would be happy to go up and along forever. But no, along comes ‘down’ to spoil the day! So down into Kington I went and decided on the success of last night to camp again. The ground was even flatter, even more lovingly green grassed. There were good strong pressure showers. But the sleep wasn’t fabulous.
I went back into town before that though and had a pretty mediocre dinner. I was watching the village politics between three girls in a group of boys. One was pregnant. She came along with the father after I had been there for a while. The girls said: ‘Ooh, we were just talking about you.’ I had wondered who they meant a few minutes earlier when they hoped that someone was just about in the worst possible labour pains she could be.
I think everyone thought I was a little mad spending Saturday night down at the pub sewing sequins. Is it any madder than the usual things people get up to in pubs on a Saturday night.
I was just trying to settle into bed when the people in the caravan next door decided a few fireworks in the field next door would be the greatest of ideas. Every boom scared the bejeebers out of me. Blessedly, it also scared the bejeebers out of their own dogs and children. It did also wake up two walkers who must be the early walking type because I think they had been in bed since prior to my arrival home. They didn’t last long, and I drifted into the restless sleep of the camper in a Gore-Tex cocoon.
Good night Kington, good night you.