i’m not quite sure how this post will turn out.
i have mixed feelings about the whole leicestershire round microadventure.
some of it was great. some of it was a chore. these feelings and my worsening work/life balance mean that this write up may be as unsatisfactory as the walk itself with some highlights, some low points and some moments of despair…
the original plan was to complete the 100 miles of the leicestershire round over a long weekend. ted quite rightly convinced me that we would be better off starting on thursday evening after work and knocking off a few miles. if we did 10, that’d only leave 3 days at 30 miles each. we’d be bivvying and so could be flexible to suit mood, conditions or availability of suitable camping spots.
day 1 – 14 miles. old john – thrussington
so after a day at work, gosia dropped us at the old john and after a quick assessment of the route using the topograph, we were off. our early pace was brisk as we covered familiar paths over charnwood and down into the soar valley.
dark fell as we crossed the former gravel pits of cossington meadows. as we walked through cossington village, we saw the domestic peace as people settled into their armchairs in front of wall-sized tvs and indexed the central heating up another notch. the feeling of still being on our outward journey, not sure of where we were sleeping, what the overnight low temperature would be or what time the sun would be up seemed exciting but also faintly rediculous given that i was only a couple of miles from my parents house.
14 miles in and after some navigational challenges presented by crossing the rugby pitches of ratcliffe college in darkness we arrived in rearsby. we sat outside the lively horse and groom pub and settled for pedigree and a bag of crisps, resisting their 64oz steaks.
one thing i’ve read about when people have been on their own microadventures is how they compare adventures close to home to ones in exotic locations. for example, adventurers will tell you about families welcoming them into their albanian/kazakh/tibetan* (*delete as appropriate) homes and feeding them their last chicken/goat/daughter*. i was interested to see if this generosity was limited to english people far from home or if english people would actually show this kind of interest in strangers doing strange things.
sure enough, almost every smoker that left the skittles game or the pub quiz that saw our rucsacks asked what we were upto and where we were sleeping. and while it wasn’t quite the offer of a night in a yurt or a tipi, we were offered some lasagne!
we walked half a mile out of the village and settled down on the edge of a small wood between the river wreake and the leicester to grantham railway line.
day 2 – 26.5 miles. thrussington – hallaton
i woke (i’m not sure ted actually slept at all) to a pinky sky and frost on the bivvy. while we hadn’t realised the previous night, we were just across the river from a large farmhouse. we didn’t see anyone to get annoyed with us sleeping there, although there was a cockerel that sounded a little peeved…
the weather was glorious as we strode through the wreake valley villages of hoby, rotherby and frisby before stopping for our second breakfast of pasties bought from frisby post office. it felt like those two pasties may have double the turn-over in the shop for this month…
the a607 was the first main road we had crossed since the a46 in the darkness the previous night. the sudden rush of traffic was quite jarring after 3 hours or so of babbling rivers, green fields and little, fluffy clouds.
between here and burrough hill, there seemed to be mile after mile of alternating fields of either oilseed rape or lambs and protective mothers, all undulating in a progressively steeper fashion. anyone who ever tells you that leicestershire is flat has never walked (or ridden) much of it, especially the badlands of the rutland border.
burrough hill brought third breakfast, or possibly first lunch and a first consultation with the guide book to work out how far we had gone. i think it was at this point that i first realised 2 things. firstly, the combined totals of the 11 ‘day walks’ listed in the book which, when joined together completed the round, added up to well over 100 miles. and secondly, we weren’t covering the ground very quickly. being pretty tired and with some painful blisters developing, we weren’t even half of the 30 miles i was hoping to cover. it was clear that we were going to have to keep our plans flexible for the evening’s eating and sleeping arrangements.
after buying as much sugary food as we could carry in somerby’s post office, we continued on into rutland. the border was marked by a gate with no fence…
as the sun dropped through the gorgeous blue sky, calculations were made that told us that hallaton would be the last village that we would pass through before we would have to stop. the guide book mentioned a pub called the fox and the promise of food there spurred us on for one last effort.
after ticking off the last hill through the last field of oilseed, we stumbled into hallaton, drawn like moths to the warm glow of the pub’s lights. news that the fox wasn’t doing food and instead was having a cheesy disco was only made bearable by the news that hallaton has two pubs.
the excellent bewicke arms made two hungry, tired and i expect pretty ripe smelling backpackers very welcome, to the extent of offering us their beer garden for our overnight accommodation. even better than that was the fact that it had a climbing frame affair for kids and that means soft landings. bivvying under the adventure playground meant soft, insulating kitty-litter to sleep on, but not before a steak, haddock, chips and veg were cleared in record time. the dutch couple on the next table kept their coats on and looked quite bemused by their weary looking neighbours.
To be continued…