Archive for April 2012

Helen’s Thoughts and Thanks   5 comments

Well here we are at Ian & Sue’s like so many times before and yet not. It feels so unreal, like I dreamt it all, but reason (&feet &legs &back) say differently.
Prior to starting I had said to Rita that if I could walk half of it I would be pleased. It was prearranged that I should only walk alternative days the first week to ease into it but after that it had become a personal challenge to finish every step. And that was what it was somedays, just focusing on the next step until Derek would let us stop for coffee or lunch.
I wouldn’t have done it without D. His planning meant that we didn’t need to worry about finding accomodation or working out best routes (although I did make some minor changes; some for the better, some for the worse). He brought me cups of tea in the morning, opened gates to avoid climbing stiles, carried my coffee, came back down the hills to take my rucksack when it got to steep. But in turn, I made sure supplies were restocked and there were clean socks.
Everyday life as we know it ceases to exist. It just becomes about the journey, in a physical sense. The cost of course is losing contact with friends and family, but through D’s blog and the feedback that was minimised but still missed the socialising. Without the B&Bs we could have gone for several days without chatting with anyone – now I know why the guy from Hay and the guy from the US, both walking Offa’s Dyke alone, were so keen to stop and chat.
Would I do it again? Yes (if D will do the planning). We thought maybe next time we should head north into Scotland but then we came across the Wessex Ridgeway from the Wash to Dorset and I quite fancy that.
So until next time, bye and thanks for “listening”.
Oh and just to set the record straight: Derek 78 sausages, Helen nil!
The beautiful countryside and views which took on different characteristics with each county.
The messages via the blog and email and the generous donations which picked us up at the end of a long day.
Sitting on a grassy bank in the sunshine listening to classic fm.
First pain free day, thanks to Jan Oldfield for the Bowen therapy and Rachel Williams for the yoga stretches.
Walking into Bath wanting to shout “I’ve just walked 260 miles!”
The final, perfect day: large coffee, leisurely pace on good paths, lanes, woodlanes, even passing some well behaved cows, lovely sunshine and a great welcome and soak in the bath.
The weather which was never as bad as the forecast and fortunate that we can count on one hand the number of days we got rained on.

Choosing the country lane to find that it was used as a short cut to/from the motorway, at motorway speeds!
D’s insistence on doing the blog at the end of a long day when I just wanted to turn in and go to sleep.
Arriving at a campsite in icy rain (there had been hail earlier in the day) to find the porta cabin (housing the shower & toilet) unheated and the following morning running over in the rain to find only icy cold water for washing the dishes.
Aggravating an old injury to my SI joint the night before we set off, then adding to it over the 40+ stiles enroute to Malpas until the whole of my lower back and upper back were in agony.

And, of course, if you’ve enjoyed our blog then please feel free to visit our ‘Just Giving‘ page and make a small donation to Nightingale House Hospice.

Final resting place for Boots


Posted April 18, 2012 by derektruby in Uncategorized

Derek’s Thoughts and Thanks   3 comments

We’ve both had different experiences on this walk and seen different things and thought different thoughts so we’ve individually listed a few of these things below just to bring the blog to it’s close :-).

First and foremost a big thanks to everyone who’s supported and encouraged us both along the way. I’ve been constantly amazed at the amount of people who have taken an interest and commented and supported us in various ways throughout the duration of the walk. The comments have made a huge difference to our enjoyment and kept our spirits up if ever they started flagging at all and knowing that people have been reading and even occasionally enjoying the blog has made it a real enjoyment to write each night, (even though, much to Helen’s annoyance, it’s sometimes kept me up much later than it should have done). Apologies if didn’t answer all the comments by the way, I would never had had time for the walking if I had.

While we are on the thanks bit, I should also add a big thanks to all the B&Bs who let us into their homes and treated us as very welcome guests. Almost without fail each one said they thought our walk was a wonderful thing to do and I think quite a few were truly envious that we had the chance.

And of course thanks to Ian and Sue in Southampton for being such good friends over the last 40 years

Some things that amazed me, some that surprised me and some that simply caused me to smile:

The way each county is different, almost noticeable as soon as you go over the border. The amount of greenery and countryside that still exists in England (and of course Wales and Scotland), I would say 90% of our walk was in countryside. The fact that walking seems to make my eyebrows grow bushy. The friendliness of everyone we met. The weather for March, probably the best tan I’ve had in years. The ever increasing size of the arable fields as we got further South, sometimes we would walk along the same field for over 20mins. The fact that Helen was only expecting to complete approx half the walk but ended up doing as good as the whole thing. The fact that I suffered no problems at all apart from the odd twinge from my left knee that I somehow managed to twist on the very first day as we were going over all the stiles. The dung heaps, especially the ones that had ‘self ignited’, now there’s an ambition for my compost bin.

Some things I never managed to get in the blog:

I somehow never managed to mention that when we took my Mother out into the country she used to look around at all the greenery and fields and say ‘ I don’t know what all the fuss is about, there’s no end of space left in this country to build houses and suchlike”

On arrival at the B&Bs the first thing we used to do was fight over all the electric sockets (because there were never enough) and go about plugging in all our various bits of technology to recharge all the batteries. What with 2 phones, a netbook, a laptop, the kindle, the GPS, the camera and the MP3 player each having their own chargers and their own multicoloured charging lights we definitely never needed a nightlight to see our way around the room in the dark.

We’ve both learnt that most farmers don’t deserve the poor reputation that they have where the countryside is concerned (even though some do insist on ploughing over our paths). If it wasn’t for them and the incredibly hard work and long hours they dedicate to their jobs, through all weathers and seasons, we almost certainly wouldn’t have the lovely countryside that we do have.

Now, the big question……. Has it changed my life ? No, of course not, although I think every experience, good and bad, changes your life just a smidgen :-).

Can’t wait to get home now and go through all that post. I luuuurve going through all the post after 2 weeks away, 6 weeks will be a real treat.

And, of course, if you’ve enjoyed our blog then please feel free to visit our ‘Just Giving‘ page and make a small donation to Nightingale House Hospice

Final resting place for the boots 🙂

Posted April 18, 2012 by derektruby in Uncategorized

Romsey to Southampton 9.1mls, Ascent 510 ft. Total miles 370.9   9 comments

Well, that’s it, we are there ! 370 miles later

Robinia Green, City of Southampton 🙂

A very short blog today but we will make up for that in the next couple of days with some thoughts and thanks 🙂

Posted April 16, 2012 by derektruby in Uncategorized

Romsey   6 comments

Slight change to plans and we’ve had two days in Romsey, well one in Romsey and one at Mottisfont Abbey to be precise.

Caught the bus into Romsey on the Saturday and we had a bit of a wander whilst we dodged the heavy rain. At least Caffe Nero’s was dry (although not the best Caffe Nero’s I’ve been in)  and it gave us chance to “read the form” for the Grand National. After placing our bets we went in search of somewhere to park the motorhome up for the final day’s walking – you’d think the Tourist Information Centre would be a good place to start but they were pretty useless so we spent a good while touring Romsey’s car parks, at least we now have an in depth knowledge of the best car parks in town 🙂

Called in The Olive Tree for lunch and then Ian and Sue came out to join us from Southampton, (mention pub and they’re there like a shot), and then we all went for a whistle stop tour of Romsey Abbey before having to visit another public bar to watch the Grand National. Helen somehow managed to make £10 profit on her bets which should go some way towards buying a new set of plasters for her sore feet.

Sunday saw us at Mottisfont Abbey on a lovely sunny but freezing cold morning. It was fairly interesting but we’ve been to better and it was just as well there was an art exhibition on upstairs that whiled away a fair amount of time. This area is known for it’s watercress and the NT had made a pea, pear & watercress soup which succeeded in warming us up a touch.  We got back to the van quite early but at least this gave us time to get the van nice and warm and cosy and get some reading and relaxation done in preparation for the final 9 miles or so tomorrow.

Can’t believe it’s all going to finish tomorrow and that we’ve been walking for 6 weeks 🙂


Romsey Abbey


Plaque by the River Test in Romsey

Superb horse sculpture at Mottisfont, made entirely out of chicken wire


Mottisfont Abbey



Posted April 15, 2012 by derektruby in Travel

Broughton to Romsey 13.3mls Ascent 730ft, Miles so far 361.8   2 comments

Broughton - Romsey

Our penultimate walk today and it couldn’t have been a better start to the day with the smell of freshly cooked bread wafting up the B&B stairs and bright sunshine streaming through the windows. A lovely path from Broughton took us along the Monarch’s way and Clarendon Way until we met the Test Way and turned South, initially  following the old Sprat and Winkle railway, then onto footpaths down towards Romsey in the Test Valley.

Just before we turned onto the Test Way we met up with the River Test which is actually split up into half a dozen different tributaries at this stage with various footbridges and picnic areas dotted around them. It was a lovely tree lined route and it was good to see quite a few walkers, cyclists and runners utilising it. We followed the Test Way down to NT’s Mottisford Abbey and once again felt we ought to take advantage of our membership and spend a few pounds in their cafe. Easier said than done for pedestrians as the National Trust were determined to send us around and down the main driveway which would have added 2 miles to our walk ! We didn’t fancy this at all so put on our innocent faces and sneaked in the staff entrance. Thought our chances were dashed when we came across a door with a security keypad on it and were about to turn back when I thought ‘I’ll just try it’ and lo and behold it just opened at a push 🙂 leading us straight through into the grounds and almost next to the all important cafe. I believe there’s an abbey of some sort here as well but that didn’t come anywhere near as high on the ‘visit’ list.

Carried on with full(er) bellies and encountered our first problem in the whole 6 weeks with some super frisky bullocks in one of our fields forcing us to make a rather bramble infested detour and then through some Mangrove style swamps before walking into Romsey just ahead of an approaching thunderstorm.

We are having 2 days off in Romsey now and the final walk into Southampton will be on Monday.

Speckled Wood butterfly spotted en-route


First view of the River Test


The lovely Test Way

Looking along the Sprat & Winkle railway

Posted April 14, 2012 by derektruby in Uncategorized

Winterbourne to Broughton 9.7mls Ascent 893ft, Miles so far 348.5   8 comments

Winterbourne - Broughton

It’s a small world isn’t it, the owner of our B&B last night was from Chester himself. It’s quite amazing how many people we have come across on our walk who have either lived in Chester or have relatives who live there now.

Our route today, once again on the Monarch’s Way took us past another hillfort that appears to be even earlier than iron age by all accounts, Figsbury Ring. Apparently it has too many ditches to be an iron age fort and has the experts a little baffled until they can get more excavations done. Quite an impressive site.

Mostly going along a Roman road, that looks quite boring on the map but turned out not to be that way at all due to the variety of terrain and views as we came over the brow of each hill, some of the way was lined with trees each side . Before long our route joined up with the Clarendon Way, a popular 24 mile route from Salisbury to Winchester and this accompanied us all the way into the village of  Broughton. (It’s surprising how many Broughtons there are in the country).

Chances of a bus from here back to Winterbourne were just about non-existent so we had to fall back on a taxi again, a little wary because the prices have been increasing substantially as we get further south. However, our worries were unfounded and the price was actually a little less than the last couple of rides.

Been noticing an awful lot of small aircraft overhead both yesterday and today, they appear to be preparing to land and must be coming overhead about one every 15 mins or so. I guess there’s a very popular private airport hereabouts.

It’s really strange to see signs now pointing to places like Andover,  Winchester and Romsey and indeed Southampton. Brings it home to us that we really are getting close and we really have walked this far 🙂

Tomorrow is another milestone as we turn south down the Test Valley for our final days. (SUE! GET THE RADOX READY x)

Leaving Winterbourne


A bit of Figsbury Ring

Roman road near Middle Winterslow


Posted April 12, 2012 by derektruby in Uncategorized

Gt Wishford to Winterbourne Earls 8.7mls Ascent 633ft, Miles so far 339.8   9 comments

Wishford - Winterbourne

More of the Monarch’s Way today, in decidedly better weather than last time we walked on it 🙂

I would just like to mention that this morning we saw loads of pig farms and indeed pigs whilst we were driving back to Gt Wishford from the campsite. Happily I can now put your minds at rest and state that there is no substance to the rumour that there is a shortage of pigs in England due to the fact that I have eaten them all for breakfast :-).

Anyway, back to the walk, we never really got the chance to see Gt Wishford the other day as we were straight in the warm pub out of the rain, so we took the opportunity to have a little walk through it today before we set off and it’s a very pleasant little village with thatched cottages and a church wall that has stones set in it stating the price of bread, by the gallon!, at various intervals from the year 1800 to 2000.

It was a good walk today, mostly along green lanes, first of all we

Bomber command

passed half a dozen field hares (think that’s what they were anyway)   and later on it was good to get some more views of a now much smaller River Avon as we went through the lovely little village of Middle Woodford. As we got near to Winterbourne Earls we were treated to the sight of a low flying military plane of some sort that must have done at least 10 large circuits above us. Every time it circled I tried to take a decent photo but I find it’s very hard to take photos of a moving subject with a digital camera due to the time delay between pressing the button and the actual shutter operating. Just as well it wasn’t a film camera though as I would have gone through at least a full roll of film only to find that the first photo I took was the best one. Wouldn’t you know it 🙂

Arrived in Winterbourne just before 14:00, had a lovely lunch sat by the river and then caught a bus back to Salisbury, where we just had time to pop into Cafe Nero’s for a coffee before catching another bus on to Gt Wishford.

Wishford in the sun


Field Hare ?


River Avon at Middle Woodford (and Helen's sneaked in there as well)

Nice spot for lunch just before Winterbourne

Posted April 11, 2012 by derektruby in Uncategorized

Salisbury   5 comments

Salisbury Cathedral

A free day in Salisbury today, which was probably quite fortuitous as it gave all our wet clothes and rucksacks from yesterday a chance to dry out 🙂

A lovely sunny morning had us having a leisurely muesli breakfast with the van door open before we caught the 10:15 bus into the city. The bus driver made the journey worthwhile when a ‘youf’ got on the bus and stated where he wanted to go to the driver only to receive the response ‘ask me again in English and we’ll see’. Funny to us but the young chap probably didn’t understand what the problem was :-). It was a long journey in as the bus went down every conceivable country lane en-route even needing to turn around at one time when the lanes became to narrow.

Eventually got there, gasping for a coffee. Not being the type to pass up nice comfy looking armchairs and coffee both together in one place we called in a cafe called Nuggs1268 and took full advantage of their free newspapers for an hour or so before wandering around a large market located in the town square. Markets are normally good because along with the normal things that they all seem to sell, there’s often something just a little different and this one didn’t let us down with a stall selling watercress and cheese bread, watercress, cheddar and mushroom pasties and literally anything you could think of that could have watercress in it along with another stall selling wild garlic pesto and local ‘foraged’ mushrooms. We’ve seen that much wild garlic on our journey that we didn’t buy any pesto but we did try a sample and managed to get a rough recipe off him to enable us to try it ourselves.

As luck would have it, our Southampton friends Ian and Sue were travelling back home today after spending Easter up in Chester, so after a quick perusal of the Cathedral exterior we met up and went for a jolly good long (late) lunch in the Cote Brasserie where we exchanged tales of our walk with updates on Chester FC’s glorious season.

They then very kindly gave us a lift back to our van and we parted ways for our last week before meeting up with them at our final destination next weekend. They did let slip also that they probably aren’t going to be in on the 15th when we are due to arrive (we walk 363 miles and they are out……….).

(To be fair they did mention this on the first day we set off 🙂 )

Salisbury shopping

Archway to Cathedral Close

'Statuesque' Cathedral


Posted April 10, 2012 by derektruby in Travel

Hindon to Gt Wishford 12.7 mls Ascent 937ft, Miles so far 331.1   3 comments

Hindon - Gt Wishford

Left the B&B in the rain, a little peeved with the thought that we were probably the only guests paying full price due to a recent Groupon offer they had going on. Thank goodness we haven’t had weather like today for the whole six weeks and it could so easily have been the case. It’s rained all day from the minute we set off to the minute we finished and it’s still going on now after getting a taxi back and picking the van up and transferring it to our new camp site the other side of Salisbury. Blowing a real ‘hoolie’ now as well. Got to feel sorry for all the Easter holiday makers.

Left the Wessex Ridgeway behind us and started a couple of days on Monarch’s Way which we actually came across a couple of weeks back whilst walking from Wooton to Petty France but it didn’t go the way we wanted to go at the time. It’s a huge path going on for 615 miles from Worcester to Shoreham 0n Sea and approximates the escape route taken by King Charles IInd after being defeated at the battle of Worcester in 1651.

Most of it today was on tarmaced tracks and forest tracks which didn’t do much for the route but was probably just as well in this weather, at least we weren’t going to get lost in wet muddy fields. It was lucky that we passed through a few forests en-route which allowed us to at least shelter a little for our coffee and lunch.

Arrived at Gt Wishford in record time 🙂 and dived straight into the pub which purely by luck had only re-opened last Thursday after closing down in the New Year. Would have been a nightmare if it had been shut as we weren’t prepared with details of taxis today. Luckily they could help and before we could finish our drinks, we were being whisked back to Hindon for the van.

Received great news whilst writing this that Chester FC have won the Evo-Stick Northern Premier league championship today. Well done them 🙂

Monarch's Way

Posted April 9, 2012 by derektruby in Uncategorized

Warminster to Hindon 13.1mls Ascent 1186ft, Miles so far 318.4   5 comments

Interesting route today, once again on the Wessex Ridge. Lots of variety with Iron Age forts, although not as good as Little Sodbury, nice paths, woodlands, streams and pastureland. It’s been very chalky underfoot recently and somehow it feels softer than other surfaces even when we are on rocky ground. I suspect it would be very slippy indeed though when it gets wet.

Shared the first section with the Imber Perimeter path as we skirted the remainder of the military area and this was quite busy today with families and dogs, probably due to it being Easter Sunday and then later on we met up with a local walking club walking around the perimeter of the fort. Not used to all these people on our route, roll on Tuesday when all should get back to normal :-).

Book Swap phone box

Not mentioned before but we’ve met a few phone boxes on our walk that have been put to various uses, apparently BT have been selling them to local Parish Councils for £1 if they are no longer financially viable. Met the best one so far today that had been setup as a ‘book swap’ 🙂

There’s a photo below of a crop that we have been encountering almost since the start of our walk which is quite surprising being as we have been through humous rich soils, clay soils and now very chalky soils. It’s not a great photo but can anyone out there put us out of our misery and identify it for us ?

Mystery Crop ?

Looking back towards Warminster

Posted April 8, 2012 by derektruby in Uncategorized