Worth a look

Interesting short 4 part series on BBC2 this week Monday to Thursday, four half hour programmes on The Pennine Way, which has been open for 50 years this year and was the first long distance trail in England. Really brought back some whimsical memories on the long and tough climb up to Stoodley Pike (see picture) and the lovely village of Heptonstall, featured in the first episode. Should have mentioned it before really, but it is available on BBC iPlayer.

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On the way down from Stoodley Pike, there was an incredibly fit and tough female runner, probably no more than 5 feet tall, running up through the boggy terrain and then down again. OK, she was a bit younger than me but it made me feel quite humble how I had become very out of breath just walking up. And I am not as fit now as I was then! But try and catch it – it is worth viewing.

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Wet again, naturally

Well I suppose if you had given me the choice this weekend as to which two days were going to be wet and which one was going to be dry, I would have chosen this combination. A dry Saturday and a full game of cricket, even if the result was a disappointing ‘losing draw’ (don’t ask me to explain that here – if you are bothered about it, please refer to the SEPL website for details of playing conditions of timed games). Two wet days, Friday and Sunday, the first of which was much wetter than today. Still sufficiently rainy on the walk on the Wight side to require the waterproof jacket, but there were a few runners, joggers and cyclists here and there on the long woodland path from my b&b in Carisbrooke to Cowes. Much of the path is pretty straight and you can see a fair way into the distance and the only disappointment was there was very little wildlife, all presumably sheltering from the weather.

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At cricket yesterday we did get the occasional view of an alpaca in a neighbouring field but the most I encountered this morning was a flock of seagulls cawing in a slightly mocking tone, possibly at me walking in such inclement weather.

I noticed that the IOW link ferry between East Cowes and Cowes will start charging foot passengers and cyclists from Monday 27th, i.e. tomorrow, 40p return. This is a really useful service given the island’s geography and I wouldn’t take exception to paying that, but it is a shame when a free service ceases and I would imagine there has been some reaction locally.

Before boarding the ferry back to Southampton, and given 45 minutes to wait, I nipped outside to the coffee stall next door and asked for my usual skinny latte with caramel. The young girl had a real twinkle in her eye as she told me, “sorry, we don’t have skimmed milk, I can only give you semi.” I am sure she could have done better than that given half a chance but I accepted her offer and took my coffee on board, chuckling to myself that I was almost old enough to be her grandfather.

And that was that for the next hour or so as an uneventful ferry journey brought me to the start of the second leg of today’s walk. The first leg had cheered me up considerably despite the rain. I had woken up grumpy and even a lovely breakfast including home made croissants hadn’t quite moved the mood too much, especially as the landlady had erroneously prounced the final ‘s’ in croissants. Now that really was grumpy of me because they were really really tasty, very very tasty indeed. But I think that long walks, or even short walks, can clear some of the clutter from my mind and lift my mood. And that was the case today.

Back to the second leg. I took a pretty standard route for me, as predictable and unimaginative in fact as Clive Tyldesley screeching, “this is Ronaldo / Messi etc. territory” whenever there is any free-kick in the final third of the pitch during any Champions League match, whether or not said players are playing in the featured game. I had said before in an earlier post that this wasn’t really a proper challenge, and the gods of weather have subsequently tried their damnedest to upgrade at least to a mini-challenge by throwing rain and (today) wind in my direction. My thoughts turned to The Truman Show like the director was doing everything to stop me traveling from a to b. At least he hadn’t tried to capsize the ferry but the Itchen Bridge was a tough few minutes with the wind in my face. But wind, rain, nothing was going to stop me, not like those wussy sailing types who can’t hack it in the America’s Cup.

I was pretty tired in the last hour or so and kept telling myself that it would be only 50/45/40 etc minutes until I was home. I had had a minor stomach upset in the morning and needed the facilities at both Cowes ferry port and when I arrived in Southampton. I didn’t have the energy to kick on quickly as I had planned to and resorted to head music to pass the time as the miles and tenths of miles ticked away. Often this is a random song but if I do hear a tune at breakfast it can reappear. Ironically, The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore (Walker Brothers) came on the radio and that one, along with Tom Jones’ Sexbomb and Mama Told Me Not To Come were in my head for much of the walk on the second leg. Did take my mind off an achyfooted and leadenlegged period and the completion of 13.5 miles.

So that was the weekend that was. All in all, very enjoyable but I did miss my Pammy. Thankfully, I am with her now.

Rain doesn’t stop play just yet

It is wet here. So much so that I am wondering whether even to leave my accommodation and walk what would be about 10 minutes into the Newport town centre for food. There are tea, coffee and biscuits in my room, after all. Seriously thinking that tomorrow’s match might well be off despite the forecast that there will be no rain after about midnight and that the drainage at the ground is apparently excellent.

Still, even if it is off, a day wandering around the Isle of Wight would not be the worst Saturday you could imagine. Today, the leg from home to Southampton Red Funnel ferry port was characterised by rain, but not unpleasantly heavy. Imagine the level that would have about two-thirds of cars having full windscreen wiper function and one-third having their wipers on intermittent. Yes, I did take my own survey, that is just me and stats are what I do! The rain ceased shortly before I reached Woolston and the Kitchen Bridge, nay, the Itchen Bridge, thank you autocorrect. I reached the port very much not the worse for wear and not looking wet at all. Just under 8 miles for the home leg.

A very timely arrival too, a mere 10 minutes prior to the departure of the sea vessel. I found a decent seat, hoping to relax for the best part of an hour, only to be surrounded by a host of chav families, scoffing food like they hadn’t eaten for days, one bringing on a large bucket of pungently smelling KFC. The mother, in a tight leopardskin print top, was pigging on some chicken breasts, undoubtedly containing far less silicone than her own.

Thankfully, after I myself had purchased a sandwich, muffin and drink, we arrived at East Cowes to be greeted by steady rain. Shifting to Cowes using the chain ferry, I turned up Bridge Road, noticing that it is uphill in pretty much every direction. Arctic Road wasn’t quite the appropriate name for the turning but the weather was turning even less pleasant. I found the Cowes to Newport path through the woods and it belted down for a full hour. My waterproofs did me proud and kept me reasonably dry apart from some dampness later on inside my boots. That simply goes with walking. Sometimes your socks get wet and you just have to grin and bear it and get on with it. It doesn’t bother me – it’s water off a duck’s back, so to speak.

Magically, as I left the path and reached Newport town centre, the rain eased and then stopped. I spent 20 minutes having a coffee and, as I left, I realised I had wet the seat. Not in a “getting old and unable to control my bodily functions” way but that the rainwater had run down my jacket and onto my chair. I scuttled off to my b&b. Small room, single bed, poor phone signal, not a great internet signal. Don’t even know whether this post will be uploaded. But they do do fresh fruit salad for breakfast and that is indeed a result. 9 o’clock sitting, enough time for me to eat and then toddle along the mile or so to the cricket ground, if the game is still on! Weather forecast is good for tomorrow but not so for Sunday, when I walk back home. About 13.5 miles in total, not the longest and not the most strenuous walk I have ever had, but good fun, despite the weather.

A hard rain’s gonna fall

Yes, I will get wet tomorrow. For all the best efforts of my waterproof jacket and trousers, I will get wet. Rain water always has that knack of getting in somewhere, normally through minute gaps in the boots or through to the face with gusts of wind. 8 miles to Southampton, over the Itchen Bridge (now that is going to be fun) and to the Red Funnel port, probably a bit of time drying off a little, and then just under 6 miles on the other side where I will restock on the soaky stuff.

There is a yellow weather alert for Portsmouth tomorrow. http://www.portsmouth.co.uk/news/local/yellow-alert-weather-warning-issued-for-tomorrow-1-6867195 Not that anyone particularly cares about me, but everyone is so much more concerned for those opting to take out a second mortgage just to buy a coffee and a burger to watch the America’s Cup. The weather is likely to be just as bad around 15 miles west of there and that’s where I will be on the first leg.

Not that I really worry about it that much. I would sooner walk in steady (but not too heavy) rain than a heatwave. I have walked well over 20 miles in torrential rain before. I looked back today at a blog post from the long walk, from Wookey to Bath, 22 miles, and I am amazed how upbeat I sound at the end of the day given I was absolutely soaked, the rain had got into my bag, soaking some of my clean clothes and there were virtually no drying facilities at the youth hostel where I was staying. https://spiceboy80.wordpress.com/2014/03/02/in-bath/

The one thing that will really cheese me off is if Saturday’s game is called off! But it is a bit of adventure and it is far far better than sitting in the house watching TV, or even being at work! Yes, a day of rain will be less pleasant than the perfect overcast 10-15 degrees, but if you look outside tomorrow from the comfort of your office or your home and see it bucketing down, don’t feel sorry for me; I’ll be having a whale of a time. Head music at the ready.

I have all but packed my bag. I have a very waterproof insert for all the cricket stuff – which includes the scorebook – but the bag does feel a reasonable weight. I will certainly know I have been for a walk when I reach my b&b just south of Newport, that’s for certain. I know I have upset some people, or at least lightly ruffled a few feathers, with some views on our cricket club that I posted on our forum, so I am happy if you guys want to laugh at me when you see the weather. Strength in adversity and all that. The ‘In Bath’ day was, for sure (say in a Louis Van Gaal accent if you wish), the day when I knew I would be able to do the whole of the walk. And, of course, Saturday is forecast dry before another rainy one on Sunday, though apparently lighter showers than tomorrow.

Blog post tomorrow night from the Island. Unless, of course, the ferry port is closed due to bad weather conditions.storm

Hot stroll

There have been too many things that have been handy to use as excuses in the past six weeks to stop me going out walking that much. Not least of these has been the weather and cricket. It has been much hotter than I have been used to – in fact I am looking forward to the autumn when it is bound to be a bit cooler and regular 20+ miles will be more than achievable. The ‘all day’ Saturday cricket is a format that I quite like but the concentration that it requires more than saps the energy for the rest of the weekend, and that’s when there isn’t some other cricket on the Sunday to deal with. Very tempted to knock Sunday cricket on the head entirely after the end of this season; it just isn’t fair on the family to have an entire weekend taken up by it – at least with a long walk I can sometimes take Pammy, and that it is doing me some good.

The problem really is that I haven’t got a specific goal like the Land’s End blah blah or the Wight Challenge, which both focussed the mind and body on the fitness required. I will do an ultra challenge next year but I am still to commit to which one. In any case, with a free Sunday at last, I felt like I needed a decent walk and the nearby Manor Farm Country Park is pretty handy on a nice day. Most of my walks from home meander either east or west from here, and northwards is not common for me. So Botley, up to the Pear Tree pub, Hedge End and past the Rose Bowl, West End. Walking up Chalk Hill (which was where my first Southampton student home was) is always a bit tough, but on a hot still afternoon it was tougher still. I barely had a stop on this walk, back through Bitterne for a very quick (15 minute) stop for a cool drink and a very pleasing total of 17.5 miles. Even more pleasing for the fact that I thought anything more than about 12 miles might be beyond me.

It was so warm that I even slapped on some Factor 30. Quite unusual for me when I am walking, partly because I tend to avoid very warm weather, and the mixture of sun screen and sweat gives you a white goo. I will always have a cap or hat in any case, wherever or whenever I go walking. But you can’t be too careful, I suppose.

Yes, this coming weekend sees the Ventnor thing. I hesitate to call it a challenge or even a mini-challenge since it is not even a walk to Ventnor. The background to this has been outlined previously but I will refresh, replenish or just make memories just once more. Last season my team Sarisbury were going for promotion to the Southern Electric Premier Division for the first time in their history. The criteria for the ground appeared to have been satisfied and all we needed to do was to win the league. We were locked in a three-way battle with two other sides and we slipped up more than once in the second half of the season. However, we appeared to be getting lucky with the other sides losing as well and, after yet another away defeat soothed by news from elsewhere, I said, “look, if you guys get us promotion, I will walk to Ventnor next season”. So promotion came to be and the Ventnor (away) game is next weekend. It also appears to be the key match of the season. It is an early start (11:30am) so I will be walking there on the Friday and back on the Sunday. It is around 8 miles to the ferry port in Southampton and around 6 miles the other side to my accommodation – Ventnor play home games only just south of Newport. Contrary to (very many) more than one comment received, I won’t be walking across the Solent. But today was a good workout, ain’t that a fact, but I just hope the weather is cool and dry next weekend. Throwing it down for three days is the worst outcome, walking-wise at least.