Monday, 7 April 2014

Tramp, tramp, tramp



My sister is doing a 20-mile walk for charity next month (I think it's a route in Oxfordshire somewhere near Blenheim Palace).
She's a pretty good walker and has done this distance before (a few years ago) but was worried that she was among the later finishers.
A 20-mile walk ought to take around six hours, so Holly and I have been walking with her as part of her training regime. Holly, of course, is happy to walk anywhere, any time and in any weather; but I've also enjoyed my trips.
My sister - after years in the Ramblers' - certainly knows her way around the local countryside, so she's introduced us to some new routes that I'll definitely do again.
Margaret (wife), Maggie, Holly and I started with a walk around Burleigh Park. There's a new path which has been put in between Burleigh and Pilsgate, which means you don't need to walk on the road any more. It's opened up a nice route from Burleigh, up the hill to Pilsgate and then on along the footpath to Barnack. You walk through Barnack village, past the Hills and Holes nature reserve and then back into Burleigh Park across some farmland. The route takes you past the water jump on the cross-country equestrian course (where Holly enjoyed a quick dip) and along the side of the golf club to come out on the old A1. You then walk down towards `Stamford and then turn off through the gates back into Burleigh Park.
I have an app on my iPhone by Nike, the company that makes sports gear. It's designed for runners to check their speed and distance covered, but it works quite well for walkers also. It means that my sister can check the distances of walks that she's quite familiar with, but was never absolutely sure what the mileage was. This walk was seven-and-a-half miles and we managed it at an average speed of just over 3mph, which is the target for the 20-miler.
The next walk we did was a little longer (just over 10 miles, according to Nike) and started at Fotheringhay going through Woodnewton, Apethorpe and back to Fotheringhay via Woodnewton, but on different paths. It's nice walking, with three pubs (if you fancy a more boozy stroll) and different things to see - the villages, a water mill, Rowan Atkinson's house, woodland flowers, red kites and a pretty trout stream flowing from Woodnewton past Fotheringhay (where I've seen kingfishers in the past). I certainly knew I'd been for a walk at the end of the trip, but we managed to be comfortably ahead of the 3mph target.
It was time to stretch outselves a little more, so we decided to walk around Rutland Water, the reservoir between Stamford and Oakham which provides our water. It's a fairly nice walk, the only gripe being that the path is shared by walkers and cyclists (and the cyclists are a complete nuisance). My sister had done it a little while ago, with a fellow rambler, but they'd stopped for tea & cake, stopped for a picnic lunch and also stopped to finish a flask of tea. I wasn't having any of that - we had a Mars bar and a piece of flapjack each and would eat and drink on the hoof. Once you stop, you not only lose time, but you also stiffen up, so it takes you half an hour to get moving again.
Nike said the round was 15.3 miles and we were under five hours, so up to the required speed, even if the last three miles were quite painful. We'd parked at Sykes Lane and there was a sign to Normanton Church saying two-and-a-half miles. If my sister walked there and back, that would be her 20 miles.
Last week, we repeated the tour, but this time I dropped my sister at Sykes Lane and I drove the car around to Normanton so that she'd walk the 15.5 miles, plus an extra 2.5 (so 18 miles in total). I had Holly with me and once, we'd got round to Normanton, we walked around anti-clockwise to meet my sister about a mile down the track. We stopped to have a look at Normanton church. This stands in the edge of the water and is flooded up to about 20 feet, so the top stands out of the lake. A stone causeway has been contructed to it and around it and the interior floor has been raised so that it can be used for weddings.
It's a little melancholy; and also sad that villages and communities were flooded and drowned so that the reservoir could be built. On the other side of the lake, Egleton stands at the edge of the water and would have been on the main A606 at one time. As you walk around, you can see where the new 606 cuts across an avenue of trees coming down from Burley Hall on the ridge and the old road comes out of the lake at Whitwell.
Holly thought Rutland Water was a wonderland of ducks and other waterfowl, plus a few really stupid pheasants (including one that wanted to run away rather than fly). We did have some difficulty with a large (fat) chocolate labrador that we encountered in Manton churchyard. He took a fancy to Holly and started to follow us. I chased it, swiped it with my hat, threw stones at it, chased it with a stick, but still the bloody thing followed us. By the time we'd got to Egleton, three miles down the path, it was still on our tail. My sister finally sorted it out by finding a park warden and reporting it to him. he said he knew some people in Manton and would make some enquiries - someone would know the dog. It was very well fed, but had no collar. The dog happily followed the ranger - I think it was fed up with walking and glad to have a sit down.

I know how it felt, but the rest of our walk was completed without incident. My sister completed her 18 miles in less than six hours, so that was also well within her 3mph target.