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Old Boots

So far for day hikes this year i have been wearing old boots, these did the welsh coast amongst other trips.

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They are split across the mid foot area (upper) but other than that are comfortable and the soles are not worn out, i will have to revert to newer boots for any long trips, and give these old friends the occasional day out. We can get quite attached to kit that works and all the memories that go with it.

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warm and humid, some thunder.  16.8 miles.

There was no way using trains to avoid having to walk back down the Northampton side arm of the canal to carry on with the main grand union canal path, but it’s a different day in a different direction so it might be different and it was. It didn’t take long to get out of town and alongside the canal with a nice old brick bridge to pass.

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There had been a lot of rain, read thunderstorms about yesterday which may turn the path a little wetter in places, and that certainly proved to be true.

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Onward and nearing the motorway bridge i was stopped by three cyclists, did i know how far Stoke bruerne was, before i could get my map out to check another cyclist stopped saying you have some way to go in that direction. That’s sorted then and on we went, when i reached the main canal junction i happened across the three cyclists looking confused, did they wish to go north or south i asked, they didn’t know but had been told to turn left, well this way is left i said, and then the penny dropped, they had gone right (the other left) and found it to be wrong, so they went. moments later i noticed a cottage name which is a good reminder of the times my navigation goes awry.

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Not far down the main canal i happened upon three cyclists looking a board outlining the canal, i pointed out that according to my map the canal will soon go into a tunnel and they will have to go over the top of the hill, right they said is it far, no it’s not far, OK and off they went. When i reached Blisworth i was already hot and sticky in this high humidity, there was a handy bench seat for first sandwich and water oh and there were the three cyclist, is the tunnel far, no according to my map we are real close now  OK and off they went, i hadn’t got half way through my sandwich when they cam back pushing their bicycles, were going back as one of the cycles has a puncture, ah well it’s a lovely day said i. Soon after setting of past Blisworth i passed a lady with a blind dog on reins, rather nice to see and within half a mile i had reached the entrance to Blisworth tunnel.

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It’s 1.75 miles long and i had a steep short slope up to the quiet road that crosses the hill roughly in line with the tunnel which meant i passed a few fresh air vents that went down to the canal. Across the top was pretty easy walking and i nearly missed the footpath turning, this was a gentler slope down the opposite end of tunnel through some lovely wood land and oh what a difference on the path now, there was a blacksmith working, a little pleasure trip boat (20 at a time (see the tunnel entrance and blacksmith)), i gessed it hadn’t come far, there were lots of people strolling back and forth and i soon formed the idea this could mean a tea shop nearby. It was not far to Stoke Bruerne, where the pleasure boat was sailing from, throngs of people (it really was pretty) and a tea shop, so decision made a pot of tea with my other sandwich.

I couldn’t stay to long with mileage to do but it was a welcome rest, to my surprise as i left and reached the road bridge i passed the lady with blind dog again and congratulated her on coming so far (i really was impressed). The path goes back out into quiet countryside and is a dream to enjoy, after some miles of waving back at happy sailors i came upon this ornate piece of towpath crossing a weir.

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They certainly didn’t skimp on design in the good old days. So a few more miles of plodding and i reached Cosgrove which has a superb stone bridge.

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And a bench for a pack of rest, i had been very lucky, at one time thunder set up the worry of a soaking, despite various bangs and rumbles for over half an hour, i must have been near the edge as the rains started and finished withing 10 minutes so not enough to worry about, and i was glad not to put the water proofs on as i was more than hot enough without them. From here the canal goes through the village, along a short very straight bit and then over a steel acuaduct above a river.

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The canal now goes through the back of what was once an industrial area that is now rather a collection of neglected old buildings and of course then comes to canal side residential developments which are nice enough. With once again a piece of art to pass.

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It was really convenient for the station taking a foot bridge over canal then road bridge over railway with station on the other side. This was one superb walk.

 

 

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Mild, little breeze, sunshine and clouds. 17 miles.

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Rather a long time on trains to get here so not the earliest of starts, but away we go down the road and onto canal path. It is a bit noisy from motor way traffic and close railway proximity but these soon move away and a rather idyllic walk it is, the canal is busy with barges to and fro, and in this sunshine they are happy, it sure was a day for friendly waves.

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It was not long before the first clutch of ducklings were passed and other featured quite often today.

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Really it wasn’t a day of any particular highs or lows, just a long walk that was perfectly enjoyable, barges passing through locks, under beautiful old brick bridges and generally puttering along at the same pace as me but i lost them when they next had to stop to work a lock, and on the couple of sandwich breaks they may well pass me again which of course included more waving. canal side pubs were doing a great trade.

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When i reached the junction for the side arm to Northampton i turned left and followed it to the town.

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This section seemed much less popular but is pleasant i must say (except for when passing under motorway) and included some of the oh so lovely tilt bridges.

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And someone artistic had been impressively clever with a load of old wire. a really nice addition to the canal side, i took a cycle route towards town and found the station home. There is something soothing and wonderful about canals, it’s a wonder they are still here after years of neglect but now i can’t imagine the country without them, another great day out.

 

 

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Cloudy, chilly breeze at times, occasional sun, plenty good for hiking. 17.1 miles.

Well a good start as i wandered into Charlbury from the station and noticed a shop for bacon sandwich and coffee. Then pass through this lovely village and find my way back onto the Oxfordshire way which was wide, dry enough not to pick up on the boots so very nice indeed.

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Sometimes in trees and sometimes field margins this was a fine way to get to Stonesfield a nice village with a myriad of streets and i went a bit awry and had to ask a local for position confirmation, seems Stonesfield has more streets than on the map and i had made a right too soon.

Once on the little road to Combe it was an easy cruise to the pretty as picture village, church, triangular green with memorial and bench seats and on the edge a pub.

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From here i headed south then east past Combe station and under a rail bridge soon to pick up a little footpath beside the river.

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This worked well for a fine view of river and bridge i had just walked over it’s certainly grown in size and flow. this path soon left the river side and i had to follow the railway line to a road where i could cross it and pass Hanborough station, this road was a bit busy (read noisy) so i was glad to soon be able to turn south on a minor road which was quieter. I had fretted over map before this walk, and this road section seemed the only way i could keep near the river Evenlode, before Eynsham on the map was a footpath to the river and i found it which worked well keeping me along side the river till near Cassington where i had to wave the river farewell as it headed across a couple of fields to it junction with the Thames. The minor road into Cassington included a road closed sign so it was really quiet and a bench seat opposite a pub was perfect for a sandwich break. The small road to Yarnton got me to a position where i could take the Shakespeare’s way path, this took me past perhaps the prettiest church of the day.

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Turn right here and it’s out across water meadows, they were great underfoot, where there had been flood and mud has now dried with shrinkage cracks and not sticking to the boots. After a while the path has foot tunnel  under the railway and now passable it can be seen that someone had places pallets here for the wetter time that has passed.

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Back across more water meadow, i could mention at this point that today on four separate occasions i had passed a lonesome glove which seems enough excitement for a day, little did i know a mystery was about to come my way.

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A mystery goose amongst other geese, (the two on the right are Canada geese), despite my best goose stalking skills this was as close as i could get and remained mystified as to species all the way home thinking maybe a cross breed !

(later investigation tells me this is a Bar headed goose, and likely escaped form a collection some where in the country).

The trail eventually joins the Oxford canal which is niece enough in itself, there was one canal path flooded sign but obviously someone has forgotten to collect it as the path was good. So there we are, this route is fine and the number of wet fields seen around Oxford is reducing all the time. Now i better decide on where to walk next.

 

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Overcast, mild, one weak shower. 19.8 miles.

The day started with a nice surprise as i wandered to the station as i noticed above me swallows zooming around, ah signs of spring progressing. The journey was nicely uneventful and i arrived at Moreten-in-Marsh on time. This recent walking plan was to shadow the railway from a point i had been on my west/east walk in the past towards Oxford, picking up the river Evenlode on the way to see how the terrain was walking wise following a winter who’s amounts of rain have been well talked about, i should soon cross a tiny stream (one of three according to the map) that will then become the river.

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Moreton-in-Marsh has many fine pieces of architecture to photograph, i choose to put up this shot of a church with scaffold around the top. (oh to go up there on a sunny day).

The path is a bit vague going south through the town but i found myself going alongside allotments and emerging on the built up perimeter very close to where the path set of across a field. i went past frogmore farm after crossing a stream, and beyond with no problem then after a while had to stop and examine the map in detail, had i turned left at the right point, had i missed a sign, not sure, after a bit of field margin i realised i had missed a turning and had to jump a ditch to get back where i should be. somehow i never manage 10/10 when it comes to maps.

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No great problem, i soon reached the little farm bridge over the river Evenlode (it’s not looking particularly high), this is followed by a foot crossing of the railway with occasional Diamond way signs which is the path i’m on. The path leads to the village of Evenlode which is nice like so many around here, with a fine church (i saw so many today i stopped photographing them). As the idea was to try and keep close to the river i swapped to minor roads here walking on the Adlestrop, getting near the major road everything comes together at once, minor/major road, river and railway.

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As i approached this junction i saw the first field that still had standing water in it’s low areas. (that don’t look so good).

A very short bit of major road got me to Oddington, do i need to say how pretty it was! and life soon became quiet again following a bridle path which gradually went into woodland that was passable but oh there was some mud skating to be done, it seemed like a mile of mud so probably was only half a mile but get through i did and when i recognised the disused railway i crossed the underfoot improved immensely via a track then road into Bledington.

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Sometimes we can walk around a corner and see something a little exciting, this sign had tea on it, would they be serving tea earlier than the event, i guess they were a little surprised when i stuck my head in the door but oh no i was far to early for tea, amazing as i had been careful to only stick my head in so the boots stayed out of their sight, the boots were looking like chocolate chunkies. I carried on my wander through Bledington’s lovely buildings and joining the Oxfordshire way at Foscot.

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Here i found a fence to sit on and enjoy a sandwich with water at around the half way point of planned journey. Appetite satisfied i set off along this bridal track not knowing i was fast approaching a most amazing surprise that didn’t even exist on my possible sights list, just how lucky can i be.

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Yes the snake’s head fritillary,  i’m still struggling to believe i came across these in wild and not a classic location, i may use this as an example excuse why i don’t get 10/10 at navigation, my head is always distracted by the sights and sounds of nature so i forget to look at the map as often as i should.

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The path continued, muddy at times but not as bad as earlier in the day. Bruerri Abbey seemed to be under renovation and didn’t offer much to see but put me across some welcome grassy parkland and through woods where plenty of birds were to be seen. There follows a stretch of farm land tracks to Shipton-under-Wychwood (another great name),  as i wandered along the short stretch of main road i spotted a garage and it was open, no tea but a coffee machine so i had to settle for second best. I crossed the railway at Shipton station and found a salt bin to sit on and enjoy second sandwich with coffee. A short uphill plod had me turning right onto the path which gradually descended to the second foot rail crossing of the day, some more open countryside and over the Evenlode into Ascott-under-Wychwood.

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I crossed the railway and just had to photograph a bit of the past that has disappeared from most locations. Hardly a couple of hundred yards had me turning right down a farm track and again passing novelty.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA A tree house/castle, the dates on it make it a few hundred years older than the signal box but i remain to be convinced of their authenticity. Next a small bridge over the Evenlode and a tad uphill across grassy farmland sometimes with sheep, this was all very good as it was cleaning my boots quite nicely. This was very enjoyable, often close to the river which was illustrating the classic ox-bow structure better than the map does,  then came another surprise when i found myself walking alongside a field of bamboo and took what turned out to be an awful photo.

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Around the next bend i came across another field of bamboo, i have just never seen or heard of this before, is it a commercial crop, i don’t know, i would of thought it was to old a brittle to feed to panda’s, if anyone had said i would see this i would of assumed they were pulling my leg, but there it was and remains a mystery. Oh dear it happeded again above Dean grove, the sign to right said footpath, the one ahead said footpath and had a blue (blank) sticker on it, neither said Oxfordshire way, i wanted to turn right but that sticker had me thinking ahead was the way to go so ahead i went, in a valley i had to leap a small stream (quite fun) but going up the other side a church was getting nearer and this told me i had made the wrong choice, but this near i just carried on and ended up in Spelsbury.

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This gave the unexpected opportunity to photograph an unusual building. What a marvelous hikers shelter on a damp day, no this small amount  of mileage wasn’t much of a problem but would i make my planned train or end up with an hours wait for a later one. I became quite warm on the road to Charlbury station walking onto the platform and looking at the clock which said 17:01, train due at 17:03 and on time, luck was with me. (just another great day).

Thoughts, it’s true to say there is still an awful lot of water about, today was an unknown as to how the terrain would be with the get out clause of earlier stations had anywhere been unpassable, i suspect at the moment the situation is worse in the upper Thames area as it’s a bigger river, but the situation is improving nicely. I had a great day and can well imagine in a couple of months time, starting two hours earlier with time to enjoy in better conditions it would be fantastic.

 

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Breezy and sunny, definitely warm, hooray for spring. 16.8 miles.

Yep, it’s been far to long since getting the legs moving over a notable distance, so lets have a look at the Cotswolds. The forecast promised a warm day and what a nice change that would be, luckily i didn’t bother putting a jumper on this morning. Trains to Evesham were pretty uneventful with only a minor delay and i was soon walking into the town and found a baguette and tea as fuel for the journey ahead. After crossing the river bridge i soon passed a rather nice church.

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And it wasn’t long before fields of lambs were passing, a real pleasure to see them enjoying the sun.

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It was going to be some road walking at first but i planned this in advance and should see some pretty villages with traffic diminishing as i got more rural, this proved to be the case as i passed through Wotton-sub-edge (who thought of these great names and could look back on another fine church in a rural setting.

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The first climb of note came on the paths up to Dover’s hill where i seemed to get on the Cotswold way for a while, at the top it suddenly got busy (there is a car park) as was the path down to Chipping Camden. Oh what a pretty place and with the sun out it was being well visited, i took the opportunity to buy a tea and sit on a bench seat that turned out to be at a bus stop (see how much notice i was taking).  Thing is, on the next bench was an old fellow who truth to tell was better dressed than i ever am, but he seemed to be in a bit of a strange world and was being a little cheeky/ flattering/rude with passing ladies,  this seemed to be working well at gaining him a few coins, then low and behold before i had finished my tea a bus pulled up and on he got unloading a pocket of small change to get his ticket. Don’t think i’m being critical (for who knows what the future may bring us), i was most impressed at how the passers bye immediately understood and adjusted to the situation (i didn’t see anyone act in the least offended), the human race is pretty darn good. Leaving the bench soon took me past ye old stone covered market.

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I then got a bit confused with paths, as so often there were rather to many signs then no signs and once again it required careful use of the map. According to the map i may have been on the Cotswold way, heart of England way, Monarch’s way or even the Diamond way, or of course all of them if they share that path section, this continues through Broad Campden and Blockley (both pretty ). Heading uphill from Blockley the path signs said Heart of England way, so i guess it was, either way it was steep but pleasant and on the way up i came across an old friend.

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Yes a lonesome glove, how often hikers come across these is a bit of a lottery but there we are in 2014 they are still to be found. I was glad to get over the top of that hill (well my legs were) and start a long gentle down hill passed the Arboretum which had a Magnolia outside in full bloom.

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Then across fields to Morton-in-Marsh were i found the station and that i had 45 minutes to wait for a train, so strolled back to the high street where i had been assured there was a good chip shop (ask a local when possible for useful information on such subjects), yes they were very good and passed the time waiting for my train quite nicely. Of course the trip home meant a train change in Reading, its Saturday evening so there were more than enough drunk football supporters for company keeping them selves busy trying to stand up and sing at the same time.

There we are, a splendid day which was plenty warm enough, only one twinge from my knee getting over a stile and what was a very bad back in January seems to be just fine now, so i feel lucky and look forward to more of the same.

 

 

 

 

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A rather luxury start to the year at plas tan y bwlch in north wales which runs many outdoor courses.

Lucky with the weather with little rain, some sun, and not particularly cold. (approx 27 miles over 4 days).

Day one we went south and were dropped of near Bontddu heading generally north the route took us along the new precipice path which provided excellent views across the river valley, it got a bit tougher then heading further uphill some times through forest then out onto open mountain sides passing much of interest including old gold mines. we ended in the coed y brenin forest to be picked up after visiting the tea shop.

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Day two started at Capel curig heading mostly south up through woodland and eventually the snow covered top of Moel siabod.

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There was just a small amount of snow at high levels and when the sun came out the white top of snowdon came into view.

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It was certainly chilly at this point so we found rocks to hide in for shelter and enjoy sandwiches, then set of more south westerly passing above Llynau diwaunedd where the reduced wind and sun out made it a real pleasant experience. The route crossed some more testing terrain finally descending through woodland towards Llyn gwynant for our pickup point.

Day three had us starting at Croesor climbing through woodland towards and up Cnicht, near the top it was certainly high winds and we skirted west of the summit across some more tough terrain which uneven and boggy called for constant concentration of the placing of feet, on reaching Llyn adar the route went more east and south eventually reaching the remains of huge slate works and we could follow the miners route down to Tanygrisiau.

The last day was shorter on time before heading home so we had a very nice walk from Rhy ddu to Beddgelert following a new walking/cycling path around Llyn gader and wandering towards/through Beddgelert forest crossing the highland railway several times. A thoroughly good start to the year.

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