If you have been following this blog you’ll know that this weekend was to be a final walk to put the finishing touches to the Walk2012 route. Did we succeed? Hahahahaha read on…
I popped in to see my brother and his gloriously pregnant wife on Friday evening with a view to catching up over a couple of pints and giving Felix some space – Felix has been battling with a huge workload, looming deadlines and there’s an outside chance that my attempts at sensitivity, sympathy and support were a bit crap. All in all it felt better if I let her to get on with things rather than hang around making “helpful” suggestions!
The couple of pints turned into an altogether more lively affair and we ended up providing the clown show in an otherwise talented karaoke night. On the plus side we did get more of the audience dancing than any other act that night. The down side was that I woke up on Saturday feeling decidedly sleep deprived and dehydrated, not exactly the ideal preparation for a weekend of walking! Luckily I don’t believe in hangovers and so it was a couple of hours later that we were packed and on a train to Wareham followed by a bus to Corfe Castle in Dorset.
Felix was grumbling from the moment I woke her up (mmm, beery good morning breath- what a treat!) and she didn’t like the trains, the people on the trains (we were blessed with drunks v teenagers) or the idea of spending a whole weekend walking, but otherwise she was great company! It is a law that when one of us is a bit grumpy the other one compensates and so I did a little dance for her at the bus stop and fed her ice cream at Corfe Castle and her day brightened a little. Once we cleared the crowds around the castle she perked up a bit more and conceded that it was a good idea to get away from her work for a bit.
We walked along the Purbeck Way through woodland and over fields past a camp site, some peculiar looking sheep and on towards Stoborough where there’s a farm selling free range eggs – Felix positively beamed at the thought of eggs for breakfast. A bit further down the road and we picked up the River Frome. From here there’s a lovely walk past the sailing club and it’s boats with musical rigging into Wareham. The route skirts around Wareham and near the hospital we picked up the Wareham Forest Way, but we took a diversion into the town to grab some really welcome fish and chips which we ate en route.
Leaving Wareham we headed northwest towards Wareham Forest and stopped at a campsite right by the path called Birchwood. Being half term it is peak holiday season and so the campsite was rather pricey in my view but they generously gave us a discount as we had come on foot and our tent was, well tiny. The people who work at the site were great and showed us a woodland path to a pub 20 mins away called The Silent Woman, which is a Hall & Woodhouse pub with Badger beer.
As it happens The Silent Woman is staffed entirely by avid Man Utd fans and that evening was the European Championship final. We arrived with about 10 minutes to go and from what we can gather there was general dismay that some of the punters in the bar were cheering Barcelona and had been ribbing the staff. In some bizarre act of cheering themselves up the staff put 80’s “legends” Black Lace on the stereo and a couple of people started enacting the moves to Superman (don’t pretend you don’t remember!!) It’s hard to believe, but the music took a turn for the worse later when St Winnifred’s school choir sang “Grandma we love you”.
Walking back was entertaining – no torches, no streetlights, and no moon through the cloudy night sky. It took a while but eventually our eyes adjusted to the dark and we made it back through the woods without straying from the path and getting eaten by vampire rabbits. We did encounter a few of these strange beasts, which shone like LEDs in the dark:
The next morning Felix was in much better spirits – the showers were hot and clean and our boiled egg sandwiches were things of joy!
We set of through Wareham Forest to Woolsbury hill fort – and iron age site with a cracking view. We rejoined the Wareham Forest Way and its flower lined paths. There is a lot of honeysuckle, wild rose and of course the spectacular rhododenrums in bloom right now and the bees couldn’t believe their luck.
We came across a pile of dried leaves, pine needles and then realised it was alive with ants! I don’t think this photo really does justice to the ants’ industry – they were everywhere, and within a few seconds were on my camera trying to figure out how to present it to their queen. An ambitious platoon had set about my boots too!
It is a beautiful time of year to be out walking and our prize spot was a little mole that we surprised on the path. It trundled towards us with it’s oversized front paws powering it along the hard mud. Eventually it sussed that it was being watched and pulled over to the side of the path and hid under some leaves. We also came across a couple of orchids – alas not the bee orchid I remember in my youth, but a common spotted orchid.
If you are wondering how my insoles are doing – they made very little difference They may have offered a bit more cushioning but my big toe/ball joint was still very painful. I am thinking it may be my boots and am coming to terms with the idea of buying a new pair. I took an anti-inflammatory pill at breakfast to try and keep any swelling down. This might have been a bad idea, because it was at this point in the walk that I started feeling rather ill. Of course it could have been the eggs or a bug, but Felix was fine.
Anyway, I started feeling hot shivery and nauseous and about half an hour later my breafast made an inevitable, sudden and violent reappearance. What to do?
Not much choice to be frank – we were near East Morden – which at that point felt like another planet, and might as well be as far as free’n’easy public transport! Anyway I was feeling quite a lot better so we carried on walking. There were a few quiet roads to pass along and an overgrown path by a farm with three determined, loud, and loose black labradors that gave Felix and I a good shouting at …several times in fact, in defiance of the half hearted attempt at control from the farmer.
I am going to blame bad farmer karma rather than bad map reading for what happened shortly afterwards. We had gone through some kind of deer exclusion zone where young trees were growing…
…and across a couple of barley fields…
…and into a rapeseed oil field on our way to Sturminster Marshall. The map clearly showed a path heading northwest under some powerlines across a field and sure enough there was *another* badly maintained path through the field. It was possible to see the track but the rapeseed plants had grown in a tangle over it. Hey ho, the map never lies, across we go. Felix loved it!
Of course there was no exit at the far end, and this wasn’t the path at all. A closer look at the map showed my error – I was the wrong side of a boundary, a field too soon. Doh! Bad farmer karma aside I felt bad about the crops but we managed to get out without causing any more damage and found ourselves in Sturminster Marshall with a choice of Dorset cream teas or a pub.
It is a rare day when I leave a pub without touching a beer, but given my condition I felt J2O was probably the wise choice. The Red Lion is another Badger pub (you might guess from the photo) but it couldn’t have been more different to the atmosphere in The Silent Woman. This was welcoming and the jokes were for everyone, not just the staff. The punters were fun too and the older folk were teasing the youngsters, who took it all in good humour. Felix reckons it has the best ice cream she’s ever tasted.
Just beyond Sturminster Marshall we came across White Mill sitting by the river Stour, yet another National Trust property. It was mentioned in the Domesday Book and is part of the Kingston Lacy estate. Felix loves a mill, especially one with cogs and such so she was all over this place and no doubt there will be a fine photo collection on her blog shortly. Here’s a sneak preview:
The Stour Valley Way is very pretty and a beautiful way to walk into Wimborne. We heard marsh warblers and their birdsong megamix, black headed gulls buzzed the water looking for food, and swans did their bit to make the idyllic English pastoral scene.
Back in the Red Lion we had been told that the following day was going to be a washout, I was feeling pretty feeble, and Wimborne offered us a bus ride to the train home. I’m sorry to say that we took it.
So what does this mean? Well it means a bit more of the Walk2012 route has been inked-in, and it means there’s one more walk left! I know the route from Wimborne to Ringwood, so I am planning a great circular route from Ringwood to Foxlease, up to my exit path in the New Forest (Fritham would be great), and back down to Ringwood.
Hopefully this will be 2 weeks from now. Can’t wait!