The complete route – 204 miles (although the last 1.5 miles isn’t shown ):
I wasn’t particularly looking forward to today. It promised the longest walk of the week (at 28 and 2/3 miles), the biggest climb of the trip at the end of the day (I live in the hills) and I’d been unable to avoid planning in quite a few miles on B roads with no pavements late on in the walk (which often means lots of traffic to dodge). Not to mention the fact that very changeable weather was forecast.
I started pre-dawn in order to ensure as little traffic during my walk as possible, meaning I was done by lunch. Couter-intuitively the walk wasn’t as bad as some others – particularly as it turns out my feet stop hurting when I’m trekking up-hill.
The River Severn featured frequently today, with my route following the river quite closely, and crossing over it a number of times. For me today started at 04:15 as the rain commenced outside my hotel room. The forecast was for rain until 15:00 and then thunderstorms. As it was, it only rained constantly until 08:00, and then drizzled off and on until I got to Shrewsbury at lunchtime. In the afternoon the sun even came out from time to time. I spent my time walking soaked from head to toe, and didn’t stop to rest until I arrived at Shrewsbury (probably not a very good plan, as I didn’t eat or drink very much).
I had been expecting a fairly uneventful day. My planned route had only two off-road footpaths planned, one of which was a bridleway (being the holy grail of a farm track without head high undergrowth to push through) and the other being the Severn Way. The Severn Way sounds posh doesn’t it. Nope, it was heavy going and it was nearly my undoing. Shortly after this:
I found the path taking me through even denser undergrowth and I fell twice – once on back (no big deal, as my rucksack both reduces the height I fall, and cushions the landing) and the other only my front, as I struggled to climb a muddy bank. In the end I managed to scramble up on hands and knees, stinging my hands in the process. I wish I’d taken the slightly longer way around on the road, but little did I know it was available. See the map below – the circle highlights the hideous path I took, and the arrow shows a track (not strictly a public right of way) I could have taken instead.
Another incident occurred when I was daydreaming, and took the wrong turn. In all fairness Homer and Wig Wig did sound like places I wanted to visit:
Alas no. See the 50mph sign in the distance? My turning was there. I’d gone half a mile out of my way before I realised my mistake, and this prompted an unscheduled third footpath of the day. Mercifully this wasn’t too bad (but did soak my boots through completely). I imagined crocodiles snapping at my swollen feet as I took this footbridge:
Nearly there I passed Attingham Park, where the children have been a few times, but I have never visited. Some good venison is available there.
In Shrewsbury there was some very funny goings on:
A short day today, after a day off in Stratford-upon-Avon yesterday. Today’s journey was only 22 miles – primarily because of the dearth of hotels (or anything really) for the few miles west of where I’m staying. So I’m in Bromsgrove/Catshill/Upper Marlbrook tonight – take your pick.
The astute reader may have noticed before today that my finishing times had been moving backwards, despite starting off at the same time (5am) every morning. This has been due to 4 reasons:
Walking further – the day 3 and day 4 walks were much longer than days 1 and 2.
Using more footpaths – as well as finding the correct route, fighting through undergrowth (or even grass) takes much longer than walking clear tarmac.
Getting slower – although only towards the end of the longest walks, and that seems not unreasonable when you’ve been walking for > 8 hours.
Taking longer rests (although finding benches to sit on in Worcestershire has been a challenge).
When it become clear walking footpaths is slower than tarmac, I re-evaluted my subsequent walks, including today’s, to focus more on (quiet) roads. That meant that even including rests, today’s 22 miles was completed in 7 hours and 15 minutes, or am average speed of greater than 3 mph.
I’ve now also rerouted days 6, 7 and 8, with them coming in at:
– Day 6 – 25.3 miles (Catshill to Bridgnorth)
– Day 7 – 22.74 miles (Bridgnorth to Shrewsbury)
– Day 8 – 28.66 miles (Shrewsbury to home)
Day 7 looks like it’ll be the wettest including thunderstorms from 3pm, so I’m happy that it’ll also be the shortest.
Sleep last night: 5hr 47min
Miles covered: 22/125 (today/total)
Miles to go: 77 (new estimate)
Steps: 48,221/265,416 (today/total)
Walking speed (kph): 2.4-6.4
Arrival at hotel: 12:15ish (except I couldn’t check in til 3)
Today was a much more challenging day route-wise than yesterday, as I was mostly in the countryside. I had predicted a 22 mile walk, which with good access should have taken between 6 and 7 hours. As it was I covered 24 miles, taking nearly 9 hours.
Instead of laying out my own route, this was my first experience of following a slowways route. Slowways is a new initiave, launched this year to connect every settlement in Great Britain with walking routes. I used it for the overall planning of my walk, from settlement to settlement, aiming for a roughly straight line. For example yesterday covering Enfield-Potters Bar-Hatfield(-Flamstead). However, I’ve mostly used the actual routes Slowways gives as guidance, and optimised them myself – primarily to reduce the overall distance (and I’m generally happy walking on roads so long as they’re not too busy).
But today I followed Winlei one, between Leighton Buzzard and Winslow in Buckinghamshire. It wasn’t a great success – follow the link and see my review for more details.
I got here eventually though, and am now safely ensconsed in the quaint Bell Hotel, Winslow. Their specaility is pies, so given I didn’t manage to find one last night, I’m expecting great things tonight.
Things I have learnt today:
Do not wear shorts when trying out new footpaths for the first time in summer. Stinging nettles are legion.
Listening to music when walking not only runs your headphone batteries down faster than audiobooks but also means you can’t hear a car screaming towards you with its horn blaring.
England has better 4G coverage than Wales. In fact, so far it seems to have 100% coverage.
Haribo are the densest and tastiest form of carbohydrate.
I’m not looking forward to the thunderstorms forecast tomorrow.
To answer the evitable question, “How was day one?”:
my feet hurt
and It was all so very English.
All so English? How so? (Don’t worry I’ll come back to my feet!)
The guy and his mates swearing at full volume outside the Travelodge at 1am, as I attempted to get a good night’s sleep to prepare for the challenge ahead.
The run-down Enfield Travelodge in the drizzle at 5am looking every inch the grim hostelry it is (never, ever, try the sausages – trust me).
The sign at Barclay’s in Enfield proclaiming it as the site of the worlds first ATM (cash machine not Asynchronous Transfer Mode).
Oakwood and Cockfosters tube stations in the grey early morning light.
Every single train which went blatting past me up and down the Potters Bar line as I trudged alongside.
The M&S petrol station I bought some limp yesterday’s sandwiches in to have for my breakfast(s).
The St George’s Cross hanging from the window of a council house.
The cars veering violently when they finally spotted me traipsing down the side of the road towards them.
The soft and unsatisfying chocolate chip cookies I procured from a village Co-op. (I’ll be on the lookout for jam doughnuts tomorrow.)
Saying hello to every passing fellow stroller and cyclist.
The guy in the BMW reversing his Lotus Elise on a trailer up his drive despite the squealing as the bed of the trailer caught on the slope of the tarmac. (Despite this, it was a very well cared for Elise.)
The chatting with the other passers-by who stopped to watch about how he was still much better at reversing a trailer than any of us.
The kids playing footpall on Harpenden common.
The Lambo and Bentley dealer. OK, not English. How about the Jaguar and Land Rover showroom next door? I was tempted to go in and buy one of the second hand Jags on the lot and use it to drive home, forgetting the foolishness I’m undertaking.
Every field I walked through, especially the one with the acres of wheat being guarded by a sole oak tree in the middle, which had been there long before I was born and (I hope) will be there long after I’m gone (dead, I mean, not just out of the field).
The couple and their son all perched together on a modest sized rock in the middle of the undergrowth eating their lunch. My goodness they looked so uncomfortable but the upper lips were mighty stiff.
Walking underneath the M1 as the cars screamed past hooting each other, presumably to share their entertainment at the fool who was shuffling along behind the crash barrier – as if that would help if a car came off the road!
The rolos I’m munching as I write this, particularly the last one.
The England shirt I’ve just changed into, and the pub i’m going to for dinner. Probably for a steak and ale pie.
Thoroughly English and a good day. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
My feet? Well, they hurt. This happens 10-15 miles in to every walk I’ve ever done. The pain starts with the soles of my feet, and radiates up my ankles and into my calves. Every step is painful, but I get used to it, and so long as I keep going nothing really terrible seems to happen, so that’s good. What else can I do – stop? I’m 175 miles away from home! I now know why marathon runners do that weird thing with their hips towards the end of the race, as it they’re actually flinging their legs forward with the action – I think they are. (Don’t worry I’m not under the impression that my athletic endeavour is anything like running a marathon.)
If I stop once I’m well into the walk even for a few minutes everything seizes up and it takes a few minutes to ease back into it, but I get there. I seem not to get blisters (something else to be grateful for), but I did notice a little trickle of blood running down from one of my nails when I stook my socks off. Of well, I suppose the nails will go black and fall off so I don’t have to worry about them anymore. Fine by me.
Sleep last night: 7hr 10min (Yeah, right! Apparently something kept my heart rate up last night – those idiots shouting abuse outside my hotel room window.)
Calories expended from walking: 3,852 (hmm, dubious, but I’ll restock tonight just in case)
I’ve been commuting semi-weekly between my home in mid-Wales and my employer’s office in Enfield, north London for about 14 years. I’ve often wondered, while stranded at Euston station because the West Coast Mainline has been closed, or stuck in infernal traffic jams on the M1 and M6, whether I could walk it. Not that I plan to do that every week (nor perhaps more than once) but could I do it, if push came to shove. I was planning to try it in 2020, but the various COVID-related restrictions (not to mention a massively disruptive acquisition of my employer) put paid to that. Now it’s 2021, it’s time to give it a go.
My training has consisted of walking in the vicinty of my home, not far from the pictureque Lake Vyrnwy, and amongst the southern peaks of the Berwyn mountains, during the end-2020 and early-2021 COVID-19 lockdowns. I walked my first marathon up to, around, and back from the Lake between Christmas 2020 and New Year 2021, and have continued to put the miles in since then.
Fast forward to June 2021 I’m now finally putting my money where my mouth is, starting the walk from the picturesque Travelodge Enfield in the early morning of Saturday 26th June. The plan is that I get home by the end of Sunday 4th July, having taken one day off in the middle, walking the 200 miles across 8 days.
This blog will document my progress. As well as containing details about the route, challenges I face and overcome, and any interesting incidents, I expect it to include food. That’s really the reason for all of the walking. Rucking 25 miles a day for over a week, with 20lbs on my back and a bodyweight of 190lbs to shift means I can eat around 5,000 calories a day without any concerns about putting on weight. Awesome.