Walk 1000 Miles: January 2018

I finished January having walked 61 miles. By my reckoning, I should be averaging 2.74 miles a day so am currently about 24 miles behind. But, I will not get despondent – it’s only January and longer days are ahead!

Views from the Bridgwater & Taunton canal (Bridgwater end)

I have done a fair amount of pavement pounding and what I would term “functional” walks, for example, walking to the shop rather than driving. I try to get out in my lunch break, but this doesn’t always happen. One of the walks I do over and again is what I call my Lunchtime Canal Circular which begins at Bridgwater docks, follows the canal as it loops around Bridgwater before cutting back to work.

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From the Nynehead Circular I frequently do

I have increased my miles by parking on the outskirts and walking in to work and this is something that I will try to continue to do because it forces me to “get my walk in” whatever the weather!

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The moon – my camera doesn’t justify how bright it was this week!

I have come to the conclusion though that I don’t even mind walking in the rain too much, as long as I have the right coat on!

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Blackbury Camp and Knapp Copse Nature Reserve

20180107_111847Distance: 2 1/2 to 3 miles

Terrain: Steep and boggy

Amenities: Small car parks at both Blackbury Camp and Knapp Copse.

Our intention was to walk at the wonderful donkey sanctuary near Sidmouth (see here for a walk we did two years ago), but were seduced by the English Heritage sign for Blackbury Camp before we got there. We knew it was a hillfort, but that was all – it is actually Iron Age.

It is a stunning location, and you can clearly see the ramparts as you drive up to the car park. The ground is scattered with flints which were used to both build the ramparts and as tools. If you are interested, you can read more about the history here.

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We had a little wander around – no obvious walks signposted, but we had not brought a map so didn’t want to go off-piste! It’s a very pretty area, perfect for picnics and small children. I am definitely planning to come back in the spring when it is reputed to be awash with bluebells.

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Heading back on the main A375 road towards Honiton, we stopped off at Knapp Copse Nature Reserve to see if we could get a proper walk in. I think we got more than we bargained for!

Knapp Copse is at the site of a former council tip which ceased in the 1980s and has been a nature reserve for about ten years. The East Devon Way passes through the nature reserve.

We started to follow the circular route, with blue waymarkers not knowing how far the circular route was. We decided that if the route didn’t seem to be turning back on itself after half an hour, then we would retrace our steps. The actual route we followed was the permissive path (marked in an orange dashed line here).The car park is at the top of a hill, so we descended diagonally down into the valley through fields which were becoming ever boggier. The water collecting in the mud had frozen in places so it felt as though we were breaking glass with each step. Despite the waymarks, there was no obvious path.

At the bottom of the valley, the blue signs disappear and in their place, several other footpaths are marked. After a little retracing of our steps we turned right along the bridlepath before crossing the stream and picking up the path again.

If we thought the first part was a steep descent, this was nothing in comparison to the ascent of the other side of the valley. Let it be said here, that I am no mountain goat!! Again, the ground was very wet – so wet that there were some boardwalks in place – and I am sorry to say that where there weren’t, the only grip I could get was by treading on the rushes. As much as I moan about the hills, these were very pretty parts of the walk.

At the top of the hill, there is a short walk right along a track on the edge of the nature reserve before descending again and meeting up with another track which is the short hike back up hill to the car park.

Clatworthy Reservoir

Walk Details

Distance: 8 km/5 miles

Terrain: Steep in places but mainly fairly flat and even. Can be muddy in Winter (it was!).

Amenities: Car park and toilets on site, open every day but gates close at dusk. For more details see here.

I am the mean wife/Mum that dragged her husband and son out on New Year’s Day for a walk. I wanted to start my Walk 1000 miles challenge with a proper walk as there will be plenty of dull pavement pounding on weekdays. I also wanted to wear my¬†new walking trousers which were a Christmas present – once I have worn them a few times, I will review them here.

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Clatworthy reservoir is nestled in the Brendon hills and is the main source of water for Taunton Deane. The walk starts by crossing the dam. Auspiciously, there were a pair of cormorants near the dam – it’s great to spot wildlife. A little further on into the walk we startled four deer who bounded up into the oak woodland before I could capture them on camera.

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One of the best things about walking around Clatworthy, is that you don’t need a map: it is very clear where the path is and there are posts indicating how far you have walked.

Given that it was New Year’s Day, there were very few walkers about. We passed an older couple who said they wished they could still walk at our pace (I confessed to them that I wished I was walking at theirs ūüėĄ) and a man who stopped to eat his lunch and still managed to finish before we did!

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I remember doing this walk on a boiling hot day as a child and thinking it was interminably long (it took us just under two hours this time), and the other thing I remember is a dead sheep upside down in the mud. These random things do stick with you.

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We were lucky in that it only rained very briefly and that produced a beautiful rainbow. A great start to 2018. Happy New Year!

 

Virtual Walking with Reindeer

The weather has been pretty horrendous recently but I have spent a fantastic two hours watching a real time reindeer walk, All Aboard! The Sleigh Ride. It was part of a slow travel series and shown on BBC4, and follows a couple of Sami girls in the north of Norway walking (and riding on their sleighs) with their reindeer on an old postal route.

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It is such a gentle watch, devoid of anything modern – the way is lit by little fires. It was an absolute treasure, and if you are searching for the perfect antidote to Christmas excess but can’t get out for your own walk, I really recommend it. It’s still on BBC Iplayer for another couple of weeks.

This is not a sponsored post – I just fell in love with it!

 

 

 

 

Nynehead Circular

Walk Distance: 5.35 km

Terrain: Road, uneven path, muddy tracks and fields

This is one of my regular walks which I don’t have to get in the car for. I am gearing up to do the Walk 1,000 mile Challenge for 2018, so have been trying to get out (in this limited light) as often as I can. Anyone else doing this?

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The walk starts for me on the outskirts of Wellington near Cadeside Caravan Park and follows the country road in the direction of Nynehead until you reach the crossing point for the West Deane Way. At Wharf Cottage, turn left onto the West Deane Way in the direction of Tonedale. This first section is quite interesting, in that you can see the remains of the Grand Western Canal and Nynehead Lock.

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This is the view towards Nynehead court from the top of the lock. The mainline railway runs alongside the West Deane way here for a while, so although it is generally quiet, trains do periodically puncture the silence. The path is wooded and pretty eroded with exposed roots ready to trip you at every turn.

Take the first turning on the right in the grassy area towards Nynehead itself. The path drops down into a dark and eerie cutting but then emerges into a field. Sometimes there are sheep grazing here.

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Head towards the bridge and cross it into an agricultural field. It is amazing how much this field changes over time (spring, summer, autumn):

 

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The path ends at Nynehead Court, through whose grounds you have to walk to the main road. Turn right out of the gates onto the road and right again at Island Cottage. The route then follows the road back to Wellington and your starting point.

Acle to Acle Bridge

Walk Distance: 3.8 km

Terrain: Flat. Part pavement, mostly muddy paths

Amenities: Acle Bridge Inn provides a lovely lunch and log fire! There is free parking in the village centre near the recreation ground.

Walk Details: For a full 4.5 mile circular, see this walk leaflet

Who is crazy enough to drive from Somerset to Norfolk for the day? That would be me – who thought it would be fun to accompany my husband on a visit to a school. And who is enough of a numpty to forget to put the memory card in her camera and think she is taking wonderful pictures of the Norfolk Broads? That would also be me! I took a bad batch of photos on my phone (as is evident below)!

So, not the most promising of starts. But after a six hour journey we arrived in Acle near Norwich. Whilst my husband visited the school to talk exam syllabuses (or syllabi?) I planned to walk on the broads.

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Acle is a sweet little village with traditional village shops. From the village, I walked down Bridewell Lane, onto Old Lane and crossed the main road to Boat Dyke Lane. As it’s name suggests, at the bottom of this lane is a dyke with lots of boats moored nearby.

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The little gate to the left is a squeeze (and I am svelte size 12)! To the right were the boats and to the left were some sheep with orange-painted bottoms. The path follows the line of the top of the dyke. I noted quite a few goldfinches along the fence.

At the end of the dyke, you reach the River Bure where you will have to imagine I took a photo of a swan swimming, some beautiful seed heads standing tall above the reeds and some moored boats.

At one point, I heard a lot of squawking and looked overhead to see this:

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I think they were some kind of geese. There was another formation following on behind.

There were some lovely looking horses grazing in a field with red berried bushes framing the field. Intermittently there were sections fenced off with Caution, deep soft mud signs – I wasn’t planning on straying in there!

It wasn’t long before I reached my destination of Acle Bridge Inn where I was due to meet my husband for lunch, but I was early, so decided to continue on the Weavers Way, crossing Acle Bridge and continuing on the other river bank.

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There is a shop called Bridge Stores on the bank of the river, which was closed, but presumably open for boats during the summer. I continued on for a little bit, past a motley crew of sheep (without painted bottoms) until the heavens opened and I decided I was wet enough to earn a place next to the log fire of the pub. I read a ghost story about Acle Bridge:

John Burge was a local businessman who beat his wife and starved his children, who one day, beat his wife to death in a fit of rage. He was acquitted of murder, but his wife’s brother knew the truth and on the 7th April cut Burge’s throat from ear to ear on the bridge. Unfortunately, another local man was convicted and hanged for his murder. The wife’s brother was horrified and returned to Acle Bridge on 7th April to think about what he had done.¬†As he peered into the water, legend tells of a horrendous twisted figure appearing out of the mist. The next morning the brother was found dead in a large pool of blood on the bridge, his throat cut from side to side. Whether it is the blood of John Burge or his wife’s brother, that appears every April 7th is unclear! Source: http://www.tournorfolk.co.uk¬†

Lunch at the pub was great, and set us up for the long journey home. Before we left Norfolk, we stopped at the infamous Wroxham or locally known as Roystown because the shops (even the Mcdonalds) are all owned by Roys!

 

Hilton Falls, Halton

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Walk Details

Distance: Approx. 5km

Terrain: Woodland paths – some steep

Price: $6.75 adult, $5.00 child РI now realise we are spoilt in the UK with not having to pay to access our natural habitat!

Amenities: Visitor centre at the main car park and natural toilets en route!

I loved this family walk to Hilton Falls when I stayed with my sister in Canada a couple of months ago. The boys went ahead on mountain bikes and we sauntered off with a rendezvous point at the campfire by the falls. We had Mel’s little King Charles Spaniel trotting along with us.

From the car park, we took the Hilton Falls Trail initially upward to the falls. It is so lovely to see some different flora and fauna – these chipmunks are quite a common sight but are so sweet! I thought that the flower (above) was a hellebore, but it is a May Apple.

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There had been a fair amount of rainfall in Ontario just before we visited, so the falls themselves had more water than usual. At Hilton Falls you can also see the mill ruins – what was once an old saw mill which used the water to power the mill.

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Fred wasn’t impressed with his marshmallow!

Apart from the falls, the other main attraction (certainly for the boys) was the campfire that is maintained by the conservation staff. Mel supplied some marshmallows and the children ran off to find appropriate sticks.

 

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Once sugar fuelled, we set off back to the car taking the Red Oak Trail around the reservoir. Actually the reservoir was the least picturesque part of the walk.

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There were lots of these bright Columbines at Hilton Falls.

Toronto: Urban Street Art Walk

I have just returned from an amazing trip to Canada to visit family, and whilst there we did a funky urban walk (based on Stroll 1¬†from Nathalie Prezeau’s book Toronto Urban Strolls for Girlfriends).¬† The walk is centred around the Financial District.

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We exited Union Station onto Front Street West and headed along to Brookfield Place, where we spent an enjoyable hour (well at least for my husband and son) at the Hockey Hall of Fame. The best part about this was the fabulous stained glass panel in the roof of the Great Hall.

At Commerce Court, which is west off of Yonge Street, and which was eerily quiet on the day we went, there are some random elephants.

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Tembo, Mother of Elephants: Commerce Court, Toronto

From here we headed over to Scotia Plaza (which is a huge reddish brown skyscraper). Inside (it was also devoid of people) is an enormous picture of a waterfall.

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Our next stop was the Cloud Gardens on Temperance Street, which had a couple of parkourists (is that a word?), despite the No Parkour sign, and another guy with a mask on chanting, so needless to say we didn’t hang around!

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Usually, there is a waterfall and stream running through it and there is also a greenhouse open during the week. The different panels on the Cloud Garden wall represent different construction materials and is a monument to construction workers.

We then went off of Adelaide Street East to the Financial District Courtyard:

At Courthouse Square, where there were some more people “hanging¬† out” I spotted this strange mural.

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Finally, we stopped at Berczy Park (the mural is on the far side of the Flatiron Building). This kitsch dog fountain amused me Рa tiered fountain of dogs with a bone at the top!

And from here, it is an easy walk back to Union Station.

I learned later that there are plenty more sculptures in the Financial District that we missed – there is an interesting article here.

Walking the West Deane Way: Langford Budville to (almost) Cothay Manor

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Walk Details

Walk Distance: Approx. 2 miles

Terrain: Combination of footpath, country road and field.

Amenities: Parking on the roadside in Langford Budville. The village pub, The Martlett Inn, has a good reputation for food, as does Scarlett’s Garden¬†which is only open during the Summer season.

This part of the West Deane Way is much more picturesque than the other parts I have walked so far, but there were unfortunately a lot of livestock too.

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After a short walk on the main road heading out of Langford Budville, you turn right up what is ostensibly someone’s private drive before taking the narrow, overgrown footpath skirting the owner’s garden¬†to the left. Crossing the field at the top, you reach the B3227 which you cross and follow left a short way before going off road, again down someone’s drive!

The next stretch is through pleasant woodland, which I believe belongs to the Somerset Wildlife Trust. And then we arrived at a field of horses. As mentioned previously, I am not a big fan of walking where there is livestock, but actually, these horses were good natured and not interested in us at all (phew)!

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The West Deane Way then ploughs downwards through three gloriously buttercupped fields of sheep! Departing the field at the road which is pretty much in the middle of no-where, we encountered a wild looking man on a mobility scooter with no idea of where he had come from or where on earth he might be heading!

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We crossed the River Tone on a footbridge, and followed it a little way adjacent to a pretty meadow.

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And then, we might have got a little confused with the navigation which seemed to divert us around a large field, only to end up back where we started. However, the silver lining was that we got to glimpse the most glorious bluebell wood!

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There was a large area like this, which I presume is a badgers sett. We continued walking through a little glade, dipped between two fields, and crossed another country lane before being thwarted by a field of cows. I just don’t like them and that was the end of the walk for me! I don’t think we can have been all that far from Cothay Manor either!

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Walking the West Deane Way: Roughmoor to Wellington

Walk Details

Distance: Approximately 5 1/2 miles (it took us just under two hours)

Terrain: Flat fields and footpaths

Guide: Annoyingly, Taunton Deane Borough Council have just updated their website and removed all the walk guides, including the sections of the West Deane Way! The route starts in Taunton at Goodland Gardens and the section that we have done is Walk 2 and part of Walk 3 from their guide.

I have been walking on my local section of the West Deane Way for some time since I discovered it last year. It is a long distance circular footpath of about 50 miles encompassing Taunton & Wellington in Somerset. I won’t lie to you – it’s not the most picturesque walking route ever (from the bits I have done so far), but it is local and a challenge, so I thought I would have a go!

This section of the West Deane Way starts in the¬†Netherclay Community Woodland which is a lovely¬†area¬†just outside of Bishops Hull. It’s not a great start when you are faced with four different footpaths! My son, Fred, who I dragged along was not impressed (I really must learn to stop vocalising if I don’t know where we are going)! As it was, we chose the wrong one, but as the West Deane Way follows the path of the River Tone, it was quite easy to remedy this. As long as you keep the River Tone to your left, you can’t really go wrong.

The footpath then becomes less exciting¬† as you run parallel to Norton Fitzwarren. I admit to having a nostalgic moment passing the back of an old college boyfriend’s house on the way to the Victory Inn!

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There was a patch of wild garlic a little further on which smelled really strongly. I love the smell, but Fred held his nose.

We passed a couple of walkers at this point who told us that the pub at Bradford on Tone was shut¬†but we weren’t planning on stopping there anyway – we were headed for Wellington and home.

IMG_20170417_115910950There are some lovely views across to the Blackdown hills and Wellington monument on the stretch to Bradford on Tone. Fred had moaned a little and I did concede that he could have a lift home from Bradford if he wanted, however, as we approached the tiny medieval bridge in the village, he brightened up and volunteered to finish the walk.

From Bradford on Tone, there is a little bit of walking on quiet country roads (and a hairy level crossing to traverse) before heading off onto a footpath at East Nynehead. This is where Walk 2 turns into Walk 3.

After a bit of field walking, we met up with the River Tone again just in time to witness a fisherman catch a fish. At Wharf Cottage, where the footpath meets the main road to Nynehead, we turned left into Wellington.