for every step there was a local boy who wants to be a hero

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
route planning
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.
late night rearsby
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
camp 1
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…
damp start
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…
road
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.
field #829
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.
rutland border
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.
reward
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…

ready to go

tomorrow, ted an i set off on our microadventure to bivvy our way around the leicestershire round over the long weekend.
packing
click on the picture to see the version on flickr with my stuff tagged. it adds up to 17 kilos to cart around.

the route we’re taking is shown below;
– thursday evening’s 13 mile leg-stretcher in red goes from the top of old john to thrussington through the soar valley and over into the the wreake valley,
– the greeny/yellow leg is friday, taking us from thrussington, via burrough hill and the rolling hills of rutland to the langtons.
– the big day is saturday. 35 miles across south leicestershire via foxton locks, ending at the field formerly known as bosworth battlefield.
– sunday is just 20-odd miles back via thornton and markfield to finish again on old john in time for sunday lunch in the pub
the route

where did you sleep last night?

open your eyes
After work on Thursday, Ted and I set off to walk the Leicestershire Round in 4 days. That’s 100 miles and 3 nights out bivvying before we get home sometime on Sunday.
bivvy night
So as a dry run, a chance to try my new sleeping bag (an ajungilak kompakt which proved to be superwarm) and because it’s a microadventure without much effort, I walked out to bivvy last night. After riding 3 times yesterday and then walking in, I was tired and slept within minutes of getting into my bag.
First time i woke was when the alarm went off. i’d set the alarm for 5 minutes before sunrise and was rewarded by the most glorious dawn…
bivvy night

the charnwood marathon 2010

today saw my first go at a ‘challenge walk’.
the charnwood marathon is an event for runners and walkers of 16 or 26 miles. despite it only being a few miles from home, i was unaware of it until i read about it in t.g.o. magazine last week. it was in their events listings with nothing more than a title and an email address. even google failed to yield much information, with only the events own website (which leaves a little to be desired) and steph cooke’s report of the 2007 race.
i can only assume that the entry fee goes to charity and the excellent volunteers who ran the event gave their time freely. i made contact with carol, the organiser and arranged for me to collect registration on the morning of the event.
charnwood marathon
so at 7.30, i arrived at quorn village hall, not really knowing what to expect. first thing that i was surprised by were the sheer numbers of people milling around and preparing themselves in various ways, from sucking hard on thermal mugs of coffee (ok, that was me) to rubbing embrocation into their calves. in the hall, there were plenty of people to shepherd us into the right queue and deal with registration, route queries etc.
(i later learned that 387 people took part)
charnwood marathon
to start the race, a town crier rang his bell – but not before telling a gag that got the crowd laughing – i wonder if he used the same line to start the later race.
charnwood marathon
the route takes in all the high places of charnwood – broombriggs, beacon hill, mount saint bernard’s, bardon hill, copt oak and, rather harshly, old john after 20.5 miles!
even though i was in the walker’s group (that starts at 8am – the runners start at 9), there were still plenty of people who jostled for position and broke into a run before we had done 1/2 a mile – we didn’t see these people again for the duration – i’m not sure what was to be gained by entering the walker’s event and then running…
what was comical was a late middle-aged couple who kept running past us, bustling along in a flurry of gore-tex and flapping of map cases, only for us to meet them further down the trail as they emerged from yet another wrong turn they’d taken.
charnwood marathon
despite an hour’s headstart, the first runner passed me after only around a third of the distance. he was flying. i wouldn’t be passed by another runner for a good ten minutes.
charnwood marathon charnwood marathon
weather conditions were perfect and despite heavy rain at times through the week, the course wasn’t nearly as muddy as i though it might be.
charnwood marathon charnwood marathon
bardon hill, the highest place in leicestershire was the halfway point and checkpoint 4. never having been up there, it was amazing to see the huge hole that you look straight down into from the trig point.
charnwood marathon charnwood marathon
past a few more local landmarks
charnwood marathon
i’d promised myself an ice cream at hall gates, knowing that as there was only another 5 miles to go from there and needing something to keep me going
charnwood marathon charnwood marathon
over the great central railway near swithland and there were dozens of twitchers (or whatever the train spotting equivalent of a twitcher is) waiting for the guest loco. i got a decent view as the path passed right next to the line as ‘tornado’ steamed past.
leicestershire
leicestershire’s renowned boggy paths weren’t going to let us get off clean and sure enough, the final path down into quorn proved to be a mudfest.

i was back in 6 hours and 49 minutes. i reckon i was one of the first back who actually walked. it was hard work and i expect going up and down stairs could be difficult in the morning. it was however a great route, a very well organised event and excellent practice for our attempt at the leicestershire round in 3 weeks time…

google earth version of the route…

beacon for breakfast

during my convalescence, i spent probably too much time reading blogs by adventurous, outdoors folk like al humphreys, andy ward, tim moss and many, many others.
i especially like al’s idea of microadventures. he describes them as “simple expeditions and challenges which are close to home, affordable and easy to organise. ideas designed to encourage ordinary people to get out there and do stuff for themselves, even in these tightened financial times
this means just doing something different”. maybe it means walking to work rather than taking the car, sleeping a night in the garden, running to meetings or wild swimming. it can be anything. it’s all about just having new experiences and to see a different perspective.
so with his do lecture ringing in my ears, i planned an (micro) adventure of my own…
my plan was to get up when i woke up and walk to beacon hill, the highest point in the area, and have my breakfast.
the first part of the plan went well (i got up) and i was delighted to see that the forecast snow had actually materialised.
our street
the street looked a picture, deep, crisp, even and best of all, deserted – it was 7.30 on a sunday morning!
roads
i crunched through virgin snow as i crossed the fields and it wasn’t long before i entered swithland woods. it was incredibly beautiful and silent apart from the hundreds of blue, great, coal and long-tailed tits that were hunting out anything that wasn’t frozen solid, chirruping as they went.
trail
i crunched along trails that i’m more used to mountain biking in the dark.
first footsteps in swithland
it’s is strange that no matter how old i get, the enjoyment of leaving the first set of footprints in fresh snow never fails – i did draw the line at snow angels though.
as i got to the climb up the beacon i crossed the cloud base and visibility dropped significantly and the view i’d hoped for at the top and the reason for carrying an extra couple of kilos of camera gear wasn’t going to happen.
breakfast on the beacon
view
breakfast was a huge mug of steaming percol, frankfurters and hobnobs (for pudding!).
as i headed back off the hill, the temperature was increasing quickly and the snow in the trees was falling like rain as it melted.
sledgers
by now, the crowds were coming out to sledge on what was left of the snow.
cropston reservoir
so moved quickly through the park and on past the reservoir back to home.
18km covered and back home before noon.

part of my route was along the leicestershire round (a 100 mile footpath lap of the county) which got me thinking… as mr humphreys points out, adventure can be on your doorstep. there’s no need to travel the globe looking for the next challenge. so, starting with an ebay session buying maps this evening, i am now in the planning stage of a three day attempt at the leicestershire round path, bivvying the overnight stops…