Friday, 19 July 2013

Milko Went Walkabout, my review. - Part Two, England to the end.

Scotland had been marvellous; the weather, the people, the scenery. I did feel a little 'flat' as I plodded towards the first destination in England. I really needn't have though. It was a Friday, and the weather was still set fair. The destination, some 20 miles plodding distance from the border, was Talkin village, 3 miles South of Brampton. The walk had seemed a little laboured, probably because I had been so sad to leave Scotland without - I thought - really doing it justice. I had 'done' The West Highland Way, yes, bits of The Great Glen Way. But to walk through this beautiful land in only 25 days, and barely climb a mountain? My Scottish ancestry were looking down on me and frowning!

I had consoled myself that I was definitely coming back before too long, and next time I would work out a much better route, and take in so many more of the wonderful mountains and lochs. I even 'spoke', sort of, to my father's Uncle Bid - official title Captain Alexander Campbell Ritchie, who was in Colditz Castle as a prisoner during the war, and told him I was sorry, but would be back, if they'd have me.

I was thinking a lot about family members passed on, particularly my father and my grandad, and even sent a text message to my mother saying how much I was missing my old dad. Mum replied that he was with me and watching over me, so don't worry and get on with it. As the distance remaining to Talkin was decreasing rapidly, I was sad no more; rejuvenated by happy thoughts of my dad and grandad, believing they were watching my every plod. Mum had said she was enjoying the blog very much, so with a renewed spring in my step Talkin came into view as the last little hill levelled out, and there was a very welcome sight indeed.

The Blacksmiths Arms.

 The afternoon sun had become very warm indeed, my t-shirt was stuck to my back, and even my rucksack was damp with sweat. I walked straight into the bar to be greeted with the lovliest of welcoming smiles. "you must be Alec?!" said the very pleasant lady at the bar. "your bags arrived earlier, with the nice people from Gretna Green!" I smiled back, nodded, and she put a pint of cold water on the bar which I sank in next to no time. "yes, and thank you very much indeed!" I eventually replied.

The Blackies is a family run pub with several letting rooms for bed and breakfast. I was instantly impressed, to a pretty high level. The rooms were excellent, as was the food, the ale - local brewery at Brampton - the service was super and, as already mentioned, the welcome was so friendly. A splendid evening was had here, and the lady with the lovely smile - Emma - even got her hubbie to shift bags on to the next stop. The Blackies was top of my list for superb pub/hotels on the route through England and, though matched a couple of times, was never surpassed in my estimation. I'll most definitely be returning there!

My sadness at leaving Scotland was now gone, and the plod could carry on with renewed vigour. Still in Cumbria, Salkeld was reached and passed

through some lovely woodland alongside The River Eden.

Some lovely people went from passing strangers to friends, even sharing a relaxing evening in a pub, and donating generously to my charity fund. Thank you Craig and Krystyna, it was lovely to meet you both!

Penrith was bypassed on the road to Shap, the gateway to Lakeland and important stop on Wainwright's Coast to Coast, and my choice of a rest day.

I had learned of Brookfield House through a recommendation by the great man (A.W.) some years ago, and that Margaret Brunskill, the host, was an absolute treasure. I met her myself on my own coast to coast walk the previous year with my great friend Helen. Margaret had been so wonderful and welcoming, and gave me the most precious piece of advice I had ever recieved with regard to long distance plodding and keeping feet in good shape. After 4 solid, and tough climbing days through Lakeland my feet were, to put it bluntly, buggered. I woke at 3 a.m. in pain, tried to stand, fell over, and realised quickly that my right foot - whole leg even - was very much not having it, so to speak. Helen woke, told me to just try and get comfortable and sleep, and we'll look in the morning. (though I know she was worried, and so was I ). Margaret quickly realised my problem at breakfast, told me not to fret, and fetched me a bag of sheep's wool. She told me to put it against my skin, particularly on the instep, bind it in with a bandage, sock over that - or two - then the boot, "you'll be fine by afternoon lad!" she told me as we left in the rain, Helen lending me a walking pole as I was still limping. The afternoon came with good progress having been made, and Helen asked how my right foot was, as I seemed to be playing with the pole instead of using it to aid walking. I had actually forgotten about my foot, as all pain had gone! It's the lanolin in the wool, it gently seeps into the joints and has a wonderful effect. To this day I always walk with wool under my socks - just lumps of it that can be found stuck to the fences that surround sheep fields - not cleaned, not interfered with in any way, just as it is when the sheep discards it. Wonderful stuff, and wonderful Margaret for letting me in on the secret!

So, this time around Brookfield was an absolute must for a rest day, to see Margaret as much as anything else; she also makes the most fantastic cakes and is without doubt the best in the guesthouse business bar absolutely none!

Pretty woodland passed on the way to Shap, and the historic village of Clifton. The sign as you enter the village tells it all.

 Brookfield House, and on the right is Wet Sledale reservoir on the moorland near Shap.

Beautiful Swindale, near Shap, and John and June; a lovely couple who also stayed at Brookfield. It was June's birthday, so Margaret slipped out to the kitchen and made her a birthday cake, just like that, amazing lady!!

Onwards from Shap, the route took me over the hills to Orton. The weather was still pretty good but, with stronger breezes and the odd light bit of drizzle, walking was very pleasant. Orton is a lovely little place, hiding a very nice little secret.

The best chocolate shop in the world. All hand made on the premises, you can even sit in the tea room/coffee shop at the side of the shop and look through the windows at the girls hand crafting the choccies!

From Orton the walk went on into Yorkshire, right on the Western edge of the Yorkshire Dales. Sedbergh - which was lovely - then to Casterton, just outside Kirkby Lonsdale, and on down to Settle.

The Dales looking a bit misty, but lovely all the same!

Some damn good ale around these parts, and plenty of good traditional Yorkshire pubs to sell it.

The wide open Dales near Settle, and on the right my friends Julie and Kevin, who very kindly shifted bags, and generously gave to my charities - thanks you two!

On down into Lancashire, in the form of Clitheroe, onto Blackburn. I had felt a little guilty again at this point; why on earth had I only included 3 days of walking in Yorkshire? Oh well, it was what it was, and I knew there were some lovely parts to come just over the hills from Blackburn.

High quality ales brewed around these parts!!

As the sign says, now in Lancashire, and the River Ribble is a good one to follow for a couple of days. I noticed many signs showing the "Ribble Way" walk, it looks a good one and a mental note has been made by the author to check that one out in the future.

The Ribble passing under the bridge at the lovely little village of Whalley, on the way from Clitheroe to Blackburn. Another lovely friend shifted bags for 2 days in this area - thank you Ruth Sloan (and Barry!), and once out of built up Blackburn, a little treat was to follow...

Through the lovely little village of Tockholes - stopping for a splendid brew with Ruth and family - and onto marvellous Darwen Moor, part of The West Pennines. The West Pennines are a bit of a treasure, tucked away a few miles North West of Manchester, they offer lovely scenery and a large area of wide open moorland. There are several reservoirs around this area, with the villages of Belmont and Rivington to pass through on the way, a last really good bit - for me at least - until the South West is reached.

Belmont reservoir on the left, and Rivington resevoir on the right.
The last little bit of semi - rural plodding for a few days, the river from the bridge at Grimeford.
I was, by now, becoming irritated with myself again. Several days of urban plod were to come, with some rural bits admittedly, but why had I done this? I could have sent the route through Derbyshire and the Peak District. Too late now, with bed and breakfast booked all the way down to Lands End I just had to plod the plotted route and console myself that I would get it right next time!

Wigan, Warrington, Northwich were plodded through, as was Alsager (just North of Stoke), then into Shropshire and renewed hope the The River Severn would throw some  good scenery and decent riverside paths. It did, when in the towns that stand upon it, but to a great extent the Severn path was a big disappointment. Most of the walk takes you away from the river, through boring flat farmland, and little used field tracks that are therefore very overgrown. It was on this section that my boots gave way. They got so wet for 2 whole days that - with little chance to get them properly dry - they split, not badly, but splits had appeared. A good friend that lives in the area came to the rescue with some gaffa tape. The rest of the plod my boots held together beautifully, bound with the afore-mentioned miracle tape. They are so comfortable that I was very reluctant to let them die!!
The pictures above are the Severn at Shrewsbury.

Some more pics of the Severn, at Bridgnorth above, and further along a bridge carrying The Severn Valley Railway. It was along this stretch that the two lovely ladies below,
Caroline and Jayne, shifted bags, donated to my charity fund, made me dinner (Jayne, and superb rhubarb crumble!), and generally gave me a wonderful boost for the plods to come, thanks girls - you are a couple of diamonds!!
Onwards from Stourport to Worcester - which was very good indeed - and down to Tewkesbury.

A birds eye view of the Severn Valley Railway, and the river wending it's quiet way towards Chepstow and the estuary.

Worcester Cathedral standing guard over the river, and St Georges Chapel inside the Cathedral. Worcester was a very good choice for a rest day, and a good day was had exploring the Cathedral, as well as watching a bit of cricket at New Road, and supping a few with fellow walker Greg.

Two fine Worcester pubs, The Cricketers above, and The Cap and Gown. Marvellous.

 The cricket ground at Worcester, and Greg. Greg was walking a bit of the Severn, and had a rest day booked also in Worcester. Having a liking for ale and walking in common, we had a splendid evening sampling some fine ales. Cheers Greg!

Above is The Tudor House Hotel at Tewkesbury. It was marvellous indeed. The service was excellent, as was everything about the place - even duty manager Kurt leaving a radiator on all night for the drying of wet boots, which had been stuffed with newspaper!! Good friends Steve and Jane Brooks even made the trip down to shift bags, and enjoy a relaxing evening. Thanks S and J!!

Onwards along the Severn path to Gloucester, then road plod to Littledean on the edge of The Dean Forest, and now The Severn becomes much better. Knowing Littledean pretty well, I was hoping for decent morning weather for the walk down to Newnham out of Littledean on the way to Chepstow. I was not disappointed, the view is pretty good!

The road to Chepstow alongside the river is not too bad atall really, with good views to keep the eyes and soul happy. I had long had Chepstow in my mind as the end of the 'middle-section', and with crossing the river on the M48 bridge the following morning, I knew that only Somerset and Devon were to be negotiated before the final push through beautiful Cornwall, and the weather was still holding! Would it still be good on the Coastal path? I hoped it would...

The River Wye at Chepstow, looking muddy, and a spectacular sunset outside a splendid pub.

 That splendid pub was The Boat, and opposite is Chepstow Castle.

Across the river, then, and down into Somerset, by-passing Bristol, thankfully!

Clevedon and Burnham were nice, then on in Somerset to the wonderful litte village of Bishops Lydeard.

 The Moon and Sixpence in Clevedon, where I met the lovely couple above. Mark and Lisa. They had read my t-shirt, with all the details of my charity walk on it, and sponsored me for a very generous sum, thank you very much guys, that was lovely of you!

The evening sky at Clevedon was pretty good too!
Plodding on through pleasant Somerset countryside, with it's gentle rolling hills, Bishop's Lydeard was reached, and - having already spoken to Katie twice on the phone - I was very much looking forward to Pound Farm.

Pound Farm is very much a working farm, with 300 sheep and a livery yard, and James and Katie Hawthorne let rooms for bed and breakfast as well. Thet really are wonderful hosts, Katie had even called me two days before to ask whether I would like coffee cake or chocolate cake on arrival with a pot of tea!! That kind of hospitality is just fantastic, and so was everything else at Pound Farm. I cannot recommend them too highly, thank you both so much.
Katie and James had, 3 years previously, run the London Marathon together for charity, and James went on to climb Kilimanjaro also for charity! They seemed quite impressed at a plod the length of Britain, and Katie very generously donated to my charity fund, as well as donating some more of her lovely coffee cake!!
The pub in the village - Katie's recommendation - was also very good, with two more donations coming here, courtesy of friendly locals who had again read the t-shirt!!
Onwards to Shobrooke village, just outside Tiverton - now in Devon - and another wonderful hostess with a very charitable disposition. Natalie Dyson at The Red Lion in Shobrooke was very good indeed. The service was excellent, as was everything else, even the sunset!

Whitnage had been very good also, but my thoughts were very much now turning to Cornwall and would the weather keep on this good!!

Natalie donated also very kindly to the fund, provided ice cold bottles of water, a superb breakfast, and a smiling wave goodbye with good luck wishes, another diamond!

At this point my good friend Lynda from Barnstaple shifted bags for 2 days and provided wonderful home made scones with cream and jam - thanks Lynda, they were lovely!

Onwards now, through Sourton - close to Dartmoor - and into Cornwall, Launceston. The White Horse at Launceston was a cracker, but I'd had a tip that it would be!!

The very edge of Dartmoor, and the Prewley Moor Arms at Sourton.

The staff and locals were fantastic at The White Horse. Arriving mid afternoon, with sweat dripping from my shiny old head, I was greeted with handshakes and cold drinks, as well as donations from a table of locals in the pub garden. The evening was similar, several more donations, and lots of friendly banter with a lovely bunch of locals!
Onwards and plodwards to Bodmin Moor and Jamaica Inn - to watch Andy Murray winning Wimbledon on the beeb - and then to Wadebridge for a final rest day.
Brown Willy from Jamaica Inn, a famous hill on Bodmin Moor.
 The flag of Kernow, flying in many places down here!

A small lake on Bodmin Moor, on the way to Wadebridge, on the River Camel estuary.

The best pub in Wadebridge - The Molesworth Arms - and a lovely Aussie couple who were here touring, and not to watch their cricket team!

On to the coast at Newquay, which was disappointingly naff as a seaside town, but the sun still sets nicely there. Then down the coastal path for some of the best scenery in England!

Some of my favourite pictures on the path from Crantock to St. Agnes. Simply lovely.

St. Agnes was also lovely. Top quality pub/hotel with excellent being my rating for everything about the place. Going back there on the return plod, without any doubt!!
There followed only one more day of fantastic walking on majestic cliff tops, alongside the beautiful blue sea on the Cornish coast. It was, though, magnificent.
Chapel Porth.

 Near Porthtowan.

Porthtowan, and the rugged coast that surrounds it.
Turning slighlty inland at Carbis Bay, near St. Ives, a mere 20 odd miles from Lands End.
And there it is, the author at Lands End.

 Mission completed, lots raised for charity - though a long way short of my hoped for target - another day at this lovely place was an absolute must for me.

The morning sea mist cleared, and several hours of swimming in the sea and laying on the beach, were superbly finished off with a lovely evening in here with more lovely, friendly, locals.

The First and Last Inn at Sennen, just short of Lands End.
So, there it is, my review of my dirty great big plod for 4 charities. I hope whoever read this blog enjoyed it as I went, and that the pictures and writings were enough to keep you all interested. Thank you to all of you, and thank you everyone who helped in any and many ways. You all have my deepest gratitude, for me, and most importantly, on behalf of Sense, (W)RVS, Whizz-Kidz, and The A21 Campaign, the 4 charities that I chose to try and help with this walk.
If you enjoyed this blog, you may also enjoy my books. They are on a different subject, but the writing style is all me. Go to 'my wares' on the home page and see!
For now, that is me done. I must get a year or two of hard work under my belt to pay for this plod, and save up for the next one.
Alec Hawkes 19.07.13
please donate if you can.

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