April 5

Day 1 Setting off at last

This morning was interesting as there was more to do than we thought. I should really have put the bacon on earlier but there you go.
It was really nice to get a real send off from Gravels Bank which included a full size Italian flag and wonderful friends.

IMG_0005 the goodbye

As we approached Stapeley Hill the snow became deeper than I had expected, although not much more than ankle deep for much of the hill.

IMG_0008 John Davies clearing snow on the way to Corndon

The difficulties started shortly after another couple, coming in the opposite direction, said “You might have a problem in the track from Mitchell’s Fold to Weston Bank!”. We blundered confidently onwards until both Jnet and I ended up to our waists in snow drifts. Seeing Janet rolling about and swimming through the snow was certainly diverting.

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The deep snow took longer to get through than I thought it would and we started to panic as it looked as though the pub might be shut before we got to it. The Court House Pub at Churchstoke was very welcoming and open and after a glass or two we were able to continue to the Drewin B&B and a great welcome.

IMG_0025 the Drewin and a good night's sleep

April 7

Day 2 The Drewin to Newcastle

Offa’s Dyke
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Not another hill!

The breakfast at the Drewin was a marvel and I ate too much of it as result, which was a mistake as the first up was straighaway and apparently vertical.

I wish that I had paid more attention to the map before departure. We didn’t get lost but it would have meant that I would have been prepared for the steep ups and steep downs. This section of the Offa’s Dyke path is really spectacular but is a challenge for the heavily encumbered sedentary stroller.

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It was quite a relief to be picked up by Bobby Britnell from outside the pub in Newcastle as the pub was shut and the village shop was also shut, unknown to me it (the shop) had been shut for years.

April 11

Day 3 Newcastle on Clun to Knighton

Having eaten Martin and Bobby out of house and home we set out to do the same to more friends, Mattie and Sheila, at Knighton. Just before setting out I noticed, with some considerable dismay, that my waterproof jacket was missing. This waterproof jacket was the best that Charlie’s Stores could sell and cost me some £15, I must have lost it when rolling about in the snow at Corndon. Luckily Martin had a spare coat which I have borrowed. I have been warned that this coat must travel with me to Italy.

Offa’s Dyke, or at least the Shropshire section of Offa’s Dyke, is not for the faint-hearted but this section was not quite as heart breaking as the Churchtown section. Snow was not really a problem today and the views were truly spectacular. It really was a great treat to sit munching our nosh in the lea of Offa’s Dyke and just listening to the skylarks.
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As we approached Knighton we heard a mighty bellow from afar “Hello Mr Higgins”.

Lots of tea and bara brith were the next obstacles eagerly overcome before a fabulous supper and a certain quantity of beer and whisky.

April 11

Day 4 Knighton to Abcott

Mattie and Sheila, being keen walkers and local to Knighton, suggested an interesting route which would take us to Abcott and to Mick and Marion. More delightful scenery on this walk and a lot less demanding on sinews and resolve.

Another delicious supper and a rather tasty nightcap.

01/11/2012 Addition
A quick glance has revealed that I hadn’t really got into the swing of blogging at this point in our travels. I have added a few photos to try and fill in the gaps.

We were delighted to get a visit from Sarah, who turned up at Mattie and Sheila’s house in order to have breakfast and to stroll some of the way with us.

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Leaving Knighton via the A488

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Sarah stayed with us until Stowe and, as is usual with us, we managed to lose the footpath and found ourselves walking through a farmyard, with the path clearly visible about 200 yards away.

Back on track again we soon found ourselves at Hopton Castle.
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April 11

Day 5 A day of rest in Abcott

Shame that I had an attack of the munchies before retiring to bed last night. It is somewhat disconcerting to rise out of bed in the morning after having dropped bits of chocolate the night before into one’s bed.

Today is Easter Monday and the first dancing day of the year for The Shropshire Bedlams and Martha Rhoden’s Tuppenny Dish. We are very pleased to be dancing today as it will probably be the last one for quite a long time. When I said that today was a day of rest I didn’t really mean it.

April 11

Day 6 Abcott to Orleton

Yesterday was quite rain sodden so it was with a stifled “phew” when the sun shone for us this morning. After taking leave of Mick and thanking him and Marion for their generosity we set out once more. Each day that we have travelled the terrain seems to have become more and more level, making the pack seem lighter and lighter.
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Our destination was Perseverance Cottage at Orleton which turned out to be a self contained cottage in the garden of a rather nice house. Having dumped the packs we decided to go for a stroll aroud Orleton and to see if there might be a village shop etc. The shop was shut but the Boot Inn looked very friendly so we decided to eat there.

One of the peculiarities of Orleton was the complete lack of a mobile signal anywhere, odd these days.

April 11

Day 7 Orleton to Leominster

I am uploading the daily trail to a page called Progress Map, not sure if it is working properly.

We attempted to follow the Herefordshire Way today. It has been quite an eye opener for me to see how poorly maintained this route has become. Many of the stiles are in disrepair and the route markers have either fallen off or are difficult to read. We felt that some of the land over which we were walking was owned by people who found the whole idea of the path distasteful and were making it as difficult as possible for walkers. I suppose that we should be pleased that our powers of navigation were tested and that we eventually triumphed.

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A mighty hail storm overtook us as we approached Leominster with stones like lead shot clacking into my pale and pasty legs. Luckily, there was a wood yard with a shed into which we could scuttle for shelter.

Both Janet and I like railways so criss crossing over the track, legally, was quite a treat as we approached Leominster.

I have been quite surprised by the grandeur of the priory and its environs. I had always had a jaundiced view of the town which I must now revise. I got up for a moment at about three this morning and the clock sounded marvelous.

April 12

Day 8 Leominster to Docklow

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Refuge from the gathering storm

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Amazing to think that a week has passed since we set out from Gravels Bank for Italy. Last night was a first for us in that we spent the night in a double room in a Youth Hostel, rather elderly for youths I should say.

Breakfast was a traditional english breakfast eaten at a Wetherspoon’s pub in Leominster. I felt rather odd being one of the few patrons not quaffing a swift pint, although I’m not sure that this is a habit to cultivate. After yesterday’s rather unpleasant experience on the Herefordshire Way we decided to use the little byways today rather than go off road. One of the delights of Englsnd is the frequency with which one passes churches, each little hamlet and village has a church even if there is no pub, school or village shop. For the traveller on foot the church is a real haven. There is usually a seat in the graveyard on which to sit and relax or, if it is raining, hailing or snowing, there is the porch in which to take shelter. From now on we will make sure that there will be a church on our daily stroll each day in which to take shelter.

We are enjoying a comfortable evening in our cottage after a good dinner and a glass or two.

April 13

Day 9 Docklow to Bromyard

The railway embankment

Today’s stroll has been quite short and, for the most part, quite easy. Having spoken to a local farmer in the pub we thought that it would be worth trying to walk along the disused railway line which runs from Leominster to Bromyard. All of the railway bed is owned by individuals and is not a public footpath so it was with some trepidation that we climbed up onto the old railway embankment.

At first the path appeared to be blocked by fallen trees but it soon became a good path with great views over the surrounding countryside. One of the first surprises was the appearance of some rails.

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These rails then led into a beautifully refurbished, but deserted station.

Janet at Fencote Station

Walking on, we arrived at a farmyard with an enormous slurry tank adjacent to the old line. As is the nature of slurry tanks there was a boggy section at its side through which we had to walk, gingerly. At the end of this section we nearly had a disaster as Janet lost her footing, I was able to hold her up but my foot got stuck in the mud so we were dancing around in a very inelegant manner for a moment or two.

It wasn’t possible to complete the whole journey along the old line as we encountered a strong barbed wire fence in someone’s garden and decided that discretion was the better part of valour and headed down to a lane. Imagine our suprise when we encountered Chloe as we emerged into a back lane in Bromyard.

We booked into the Falcon Hotel for tonight and, after a light supper, I am enjoying a quiet pint of Butty Bach as the local brass band serenades me on its practice night.

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The Falcon Hotel, Bromyard

 

April 14

Day 10 Bromyard to Knightwick

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This morning we arose in a leisurely manner and, after a lazy soak in the large bath, had a slow breakfast as this section of the walk is comparatively short. Breakfast at the Falcon was very amusing as the landlady and landlord gave a very good imitation of Sybil and Basil Fawlty. I think that it was the suppressed irritation between them in front of guests that was the most amusing for me although, when the landlady advised Janet that if she had said that she wanted weak tea then there would be no need for extra hot water, I nearly choked over my bacon.

The first section of the walk was up onto the Bromyard Downs, very pretty.

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Bromyard Downs

Part of the stroll incorporated the National Trust property of Brockhampton Estate. A very helpful chap in the tourist information point had given us a suggested route which would avoid the busy and rather risky A44. Our maps were of little use in the grounds as all of the routes were NT routes so weren’t visible. We blundered around for a bit and then, when defeated, asked advice from the gatekeeper who gave us a sketch map. During the walk we noticed an odd shaped stone thing, so if anyone knows what it is/was I would be grateful to be told.

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Odd shaped object

Unlike the Herefordshire Way, the Worcestershire Way was clearly marked and the paths were clear of slurry and other stuff. This change of atmosphere made the day much more enjoyable although not particular in any defined way. We arrived at the Talbot Inn in Knightwick in plenty of time to get to our accommodation and so had a drink and a chat to those clustered around the bar, who were very interested in our stroll.

At the appointed hour we left the pub to make our short way to the B&B, it was at this moment that the awful truth dawned, Google had misled us about the distance between the Talbot and our B&B. Google had also misled us about the direction to our accommodation so we had to ‘phone the landlady who, very kindly, came to collect us. We knew that we were at home when we heard a male voice in the distance shout “George, where are you?” The response “I’m in the hall!” Then “No you’re not because I’m in the bloody hall and you’re not here”

We ate supper at a pub called “The Admiral Rodney”. Admiral Rodney, according to the picture in the bar, had won a famous navel victory at Cape St Vincent.

Tomorrow is going to be interesting as we attempt to get back on track, although strictly speaking, we have no track. We don’t have a map for this bit of the UK either.

 

April 15

Day 11 Knightwick to Great Malvern

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The Talbot Knightwick today

Thanks to the generosity of our hosts Marcus and Christine we were able to continue the stroll from where we left off, outside the Talbot at Knightwick.

We were told that the stone device in the forefront of the photo above was used as a fruit press. The idea being that a wooden pole went through the wheel shaped stone in order for a horse to walk around and around crushing the fruit.

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Helpful notice when lost.

We got up on to the higher ground and found a very helpful notice board which enabled us to pinpoint our position exactly.

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Other path users waiting for us to catch up

Today we seem to have had the path to ourselves, apart from a few locals.

The Worcestershire Way is a complete delight, I had forgotten how many orchards there are here. The trees looked magnificent covered in blossom but still without leaves. The path is really well marked and only an idiot could go off course and do a completely unnecessary loop adding an extra thirty minutes to the stroll.

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Artisan fence repairs
I was very pleased to discover that the system of fence repair common in South Shropshire,  has made its way to Worcestershire. I learned this method at my grandfather’s knee and I share it freely with you here.

 

April 16

Day 12 Kit evaluation

We are 11 days into the trip and having a rest day in Great Malvern. Despite all of the comments about the weight of my rucksack, 12+ Kg, I am finding it quite comfortable and, as yet, have no intention of ditching any of the contents. There were a few comments about my Braun electric toothbrush plus charger but these were from people who like to walk 100 miles in one day. We, on the other hand, are walking 1500 miles in 6 months so need a little more comfort

I would never have bought a Swiss Army knife for myself but, thanks to the generosity of my former colleagues who gave it to me, I would not now be without it.

The most difficult practical matter is how to attach stuff to the straps of my rucksack. During the day it would be great to have satmap, binoculars, camera, knife etc readily to hand rather than in the depths of my capacious trouser pockets. My trouser pockets are so heavy with all of this stuff that I am in constant danger of a sudden catastrophic debagging and consequent loss of personal dignity. I am going to try string today and see how that goes.

We have really undergone a drastic downsizing over the last 4 months. Large 4 bedroom house to small 1 bedroom cottage to 2 rucksacks. The only thing I should like to have had room for in the rucksack, and the strength to carry, is an accordion.

Around Great Malvern
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April 17

Day 13 Great Malvern to Upton on Severn

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Gravels Bank is over there, somewhere!

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An intrepid explorer ascends to the Beacon, Great Malvern

I am sitting in the Little Severn Muggery in Upton on Severn looking forward to liver, bacon and onions.

The weather forecast this morning was very discouraging, rain, wind and other bad stuff. After a hearty breakfast of eggs benedict we set off towards Ann’s Well and then up the Beacon.
We decided to walk along the tops of the Malvern Hills as far as the Black Hill. This path took us on a bit of a dog leg really but it was well worth it as the views were stunning from the top.

The woman in the tourist info place seemed to suggest that it would be possible to walk to Upton via the disused railway line but this proved not to be the case and we had to make a few changes to the walking plan. Instead of arriving early we arrived a little later.

This morning, as Janet was about to order our eggs benedict from the bar. another person was also waiting for attention. It was quite amusing to watch as each of them tried to be more polite than the other, “please go first” “no, no, it must be you” “no, I insist”. We seem to spend a lot of time doing this dance, I quite like it and always feel disappointed if it doesn’t happen.

The promised rain forecast for today was not really a problem when it came and so we dried off fairly quickly as we walked. I hate the rain and I put it down to my time at BT when I had to erect a tent etc when the rain arrived in order to work. Janet doesn’t care a jot if she gets drenched so I am attempting to feel the same way.

April 18

Day 14 Upton on Severn to Tewkesbury

We set off this morning quite promptly, as the weather forecast was less than promising. The flood defence work on the banks of the Severn meant a small detour at the start in order to get to the Severn Way which was the chosen route for today.

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Upton’s flood defences

 

 

The stroll today has been relatively easy, short and flat thank goodness. Strolling by the side of a majestic river is quite pleasant in a soporific sort of way but I now realise that the hills are my particular delight and that wet grassy pastures etc are a bit repetitive. If it were not for some welcome chums I might have become completely somnolent.

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Fellow travellers

 

We encountered swarms of little insects making high pitched whines as we strolled through the long wet grass. These little tykes were irritating by their numbers but they didn’t appear to have malevolent intent as my bare, pasty legs were left uneaten as far as I can tell.

Well, I’ve drunk my Cameron’s White Rabbit, Mattie so perhaps it is time to change out of the wet clothing and see about a spot of lunch.Once more we find ourselves guests at a Wetherspoon’s hotel, the Hop Pole

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Tonight’s Wetherspoon

 

 

Time for a little housekeeping and a nap before going out on the town, in a middle aged sort of way. Perhaps a look at the priory, an expedition to find a new pole for Janet, maybe a cup of tea and a scone. the possibilities are endless.

At some point we shall need to plan tomorrow’s stroll into the Cotswolds but there is lots of time for that.

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Tewkesbury Abbey from the Severn Way

 

April 19

Day 15 Tewkesbury to Winchcombe

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Commuting

Woke up this morning to a horrendous weather forecast, rain all day, thunder, hail, just the ticket for a gentle stroll in the English countryside. I thought that I would give Janet’s idea a go today and see how well a fleece alone copes with a deluge, seems a bonkers idea to me but anything for a laugh. The first part of the stroll gave me enormous pleasure as  it involved crossing the M5 via foot bridge, no car, jams?

The fields approaching the motorway were filled with the sound of skylarks, we even managed to spot some of them, even though the little blighters were hiding in the sun.  Sun?? Yes, really! So far so good.

 

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Janet online

 

I get a peculiar sense of excitement as I approach a railway line so being able to stumble over a railway pedestrian crossing was quite a highlight of today, although it is Janet in the photo.

 

 

 

The countryside here is rather like that which we walked through in Herefordshire, the difference here is that paths are clear of obstructions and land owners seem to have gone out of their way to make things easy for walkers. This has made us feel more welcome and at ease. It also must make things easier for the land owner as there are fewer vagrant walkers wandering in a haphazard way over their land trying to find a way through a slurry pit or over a cunningly placed fence.

Due to the unwelcome rain today the paths have become a little slippery and muddy.

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Mud

 

I think that the weight of mud on our shoes became more intolerable than our rucksacks were during the ascent from Churchtown.

 

 

 

I persisted with Janet’s wheeze of using no rainproof garments until completely wet through. Stupid time to change tack when already soaked but we both agreed that waterproof coats might be a good idea after all. Thank you Martin Britnell for your cast off waterproof coat.

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The White Hart, Winchcombe. Dry and snug

 

Tonight’s place of rest is the White Hart at Winchcombe.

 

 

 

 

 

We were able to book in on spec’ and start the process of drying out clothes before going out for a stroll, a pint and some food. Winchcombe, for those of you who don’t know it, is a typical, beautiful, Cotswold village.

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A great occasion for all

I was rather surprised to see the following notice in the local pub, shame that we couldn’t be there to enjoy the promised delights.

 

April 20

Day 16 Winchcombe to Stow on the Wold

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Socks

 

 

We set off this morning under a watery sun. Today was to be one of the longer days so experimental sock wearing was unwise. Luckily, Janet returned to the old configuration before any damage was done.

 

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Who are the people and what have they done six times?

The first part of today’s stroll included a fairly steep and slippery climb which opened out onto a meadow giving spectacular views over Winchcombe. I took heaps of photos but the hazy conditions, and my ineptitude, meant that they could have been photos of anything. We did pass this interesting tree though. 

 

 

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A tempting offer

 

 

 

Rather foolishly Janet had booked us into the White Hart at Stow otherwise we could have enjoyed the delight of the accommodation we found advertised in a farm yard.

 

Today’s route, for Mattie’s benefit is under construction. I hope to be able to show OS Maps rather than Google but am awaiting my OS Developer Key