Posts Tagged ‘walking’

If I want to impress visitors with just how special our little country can be, then Kilve, only 20 minutes away from the cottage, is always a good place to start. My kind-of-niece Z is staying, so I decide it’s about time we made another visit.

It’s a gentle walk to the beach from the A39 where we park in the free village car park opposite the pub. There’s another car park much nearer but it’s pay and display and it’s a shame to miss the walk which gives us a good snoop at the bungalows, Victorian houses and farmhouses that line the road.

Nora in Kilve graveyard

We briefly visit the lovely old church and graveyard overlooking a farmyard where a JCB is doing something that looks quite dangerous for the collie dancing by its side. “What’s a JCB?” Asks Z, who’s Canadian. “A digger,” I explain. “Why do we call them diggers?” asks my girl graduate… Hm.

Graves at Kilve

Door handle at Kilve church

Opposite the pay and display car park by the old retort, there’s a cricket match going on – that quintessential of all English pastimes. Kilve are playing Castle Cary and there’s blackboard inviting visitors to stop in and watch. We don’t – cricket is beyond me – I don’t mind watching it and love listening to it on the radio, but am incapable of explaining anything about it to anyone else. At any rate, the girls don’t look that keen.

Kilve v Castle Cary

So we set off on our walk along the path leading to the cliffs. Luckily the tide’s out so we go down and have a great scramble on one of the most remarkable beaches in the country.

Kilve from the cliffs

cliff top at Kilve

Kilve beach looking towards Minehead

Kilve is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). I have written about it here and here so I won’t repeat myself. Suffice to say it is a place well worth a visit, even if you’re not interested in fossils. I’m not particularly, but am so happy when we stumble across some pretty big ammonites. I’ve never seen such good specimens before.

Nora and the ammonite

The girl and Z make a good duo of red-haired mountain goats climbing up the cliff and we shout to each other across a little natural amphitheatre in the rock strata, our voices sounding strangely close by.

girls and rock strata

girls walking on Kilve beach

Nora chases her tennis ball through tide pools full of seaweed, sea urchins and barnacles. She loses it and I replace it with a second one which I am wisely carrying. Then she loses that as well.

Dog in a rock pool

Earlier she proved herself trepidatious where water is concerned; unwilling to plunge into the pool formed by the stream that flows alongside the road into the sea. Not even the ball can encourage her to do more than dip in her toes.

Pool made by the stream

The light is theatrical: bright in one direction and gloomy in the other, emphasising the rock strata. We are lucky to completely avoid a huge storm that builds up in the uncharacteristic heat of the day.

Kilve beach looking into the sun

Then we go home and eat freshly-baked scones in the garden with clotted cream and strawberry jam. Pretty perfect, I’d say.

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We came across this amazing tree in Richmond Park today. Obviously hit by a bolt of lightning that had done its best to burn it down and which had pitched one of its branches about 30 feet, it was still alive and just coming into leaf. Only a reprieve until the next windstorm takes it down perhaps but nature really is amazing.

blasted tree still going Blasted tree 2

hole

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Towpath trot

On Easter Monday, between squally showers, Nora and I joined some friends for a walk along the Grand Union Canal in West London. Beginning in the surprising Georgian streets around The Butts in Brentford, we walked past the spot I had discovered a few weeks ago at Boston Manor for about four miles along the towpath to Hanwell, joining up the two ends of the walk with a quick bus ride back to the car.

On a bright bank holiday, the towpath was busy with runners, cyclists and walkers, and the canal and locks were full of waterborne traffic. Nothing like the odd atmosphere when we were last there.

The walk was inspired by Margaret Sharp’s Travelcard Walks and is well worth a look if you’re in West London.

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Victorian lock at Hanwell, Greater London, UK.

There’s a marvellous flight of five or six locks at Hanwell. Such an engineering achievement!

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The water’s stillness is remarkable. Even when it is disturbed, it quickly returns to its mirrorlike calm. Yet the canal divide and merges with the River Brent in a couple of spots and there’s quite a current flowing downstream.

Bridge over canal with boats on the water.

There are bridges of all kinds over the canal. Footbridges like this Hanoverian iron one and others that carry underground and mainline trains, as well as major roads feeding into London, such as the A4 and M4.

Bluebell glade.

The bluebells weren’t fully out but were starting to put in their glorious annual appearance in woody glades here and there.

Cormorant drying its wings on a roof.

Birds are everywhere along the canal filling the air with their calls. Here, an urban cormorant dries its wings on the apex of a wharf roof.

painted barges lining the Grand Union Canal

People live on the many well-kept barges that line the Grand Union Canal. There are also a fair number of  travelling narrowboats going through the locks.

Labrador on a canalside ramp

The canalside has ramps built into it. This was so that when a horse towing a barge fell into the water, as they inevitably occasionally did, it could clamber out again. Falling into the water was called ‘taking a look’. I was keen that Nora shouldn’t do more than actually look, so where it was busy she was kept on her lead.

The Fox pub sign on the canalside at the Hanwell end of the walk.

I rather wished that we had been able to go for a drink at this pub with it’s jaunty sign, but we’d started the walk with fish and chips at a pub in Brentford, so by the time we reached here we felt it was time to return home for tea.

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Nora and I went for a little walk along the Thames Path from Chiswick to Barnes today. It could have been somewhere quite rural at first but it got more urban as we went along. So we just turned around and went back again. London’s full of these quiet little spots. You just have to go a little off the beaten track and explore.

Chiswick Bridge Mortlake tree stump grown around fence black labrador on country path Barnes Bridge Train going under graffitied bridge jogger on urban path

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As a child I visited Boston Manor Park frequently with my father but nothing apart from the children’s playground had stuck in my memory. I often catch sight of the Jacobean manor house when driving along the M4 motorway’s elevated section; the bit that links Heathrow airport with London. If you’re travelling towards London, the house is visible on the left-hand side at around the same time as the shiny GlaxoSmithKline monolith appears ahead of you on the right.

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Curious to see what it’s like, I decide to take Nora for a walk there. Expecting more or less an ordinary park, I am first rather disappointed and then surprised. Disappointed because the grounds appear very small, with only a small lawned area and a large pond immediately behind the compact house and stable block. I almost regret having paid for an hour and half’s parking. But we are surprised and rewarded by the discovery of a ‘nature trail’ leading down under the motorway into a mysterious other world that co-exists with the impatient roar of the traffic over our heads.

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The trail is really only a hint of a dirt path that descends out of a flowerbed into a boggy, overgrown mass of ivy and untended greenery. It’s quite off-putting. However, we persevere, with me cursing a lack of waterproof footwear, until we see what I suspect is the Grand Union Canal but turns out later to be a canalised bit of the River Brent, complete with barge and lock (I’m not showing you the side of the lock with the graffitied penises all over it).

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Despite the filthy water, a swan swims up to greet us and we are surrounded by the echoing calls of hidden waterfowl. Nora finds the inevitable pile of human poo and what looks like the skin of a fish and evades my attempts take it away from her. The smell makes me gag and I worry that she will get ill from eating it.

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A cyclist passes on the other bank where there is a well-maintained path but our side seems utterly desolate until a brown-haired man in his thirties wearing a striped tee-shirt wanders by looking aimless. I wonder if he’s a part of this place where nothing looks official or managed. There’s a ramshackle, padlocked, chicken wire gate that leads to more wasteland littered with old bits of tractor and more rubbish. It seems odd to fence in such abandonment. I wonder if the barge people have claimed it for their own since no-one else seems to care.

Beneath the motorway itself stretches an underworldly tarmac paradise, spacious and deserted. It feels strangely liberating to be somewhere so hidden from the mainstream of city life. It occurs to me that I should feel frightened but I don’t. However, I also don’t investigate further under the motorway. Not on my own with a rather unpredictable young dog.

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Looking at a map later, it appears that we might have found more open parkland had we gone on further towards the Glaxo building but, drawn in by the atmosphere of dereliction and isolation amid the busy-ness overhead and in the light industrial areas round about, this seems enough for one day.

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We resurface and return to the car, feeling mildly astonished to have been so close to tennis courts resounding to the noise of a game and council employees working in the children’s play area.

It turns out that I don’t even actually remember the playground.

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Today Nora and I went on a walk with some Twitter friends. How very modern, don’t you know. We’d already met at a tweet-up in Birmingham a couple of years ago and then, last summer, we realised that we were getting black labrador puppies at around the same time.

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Having someone to share your concerns with during those early weeks when your puppy is a widdling mystery that seems to have ruined your perfectly nice life, is a real support and I was keen to meet Lucca in person and spend some time with his humans.

Dogscrop

Like any individuals, the dogs turned out to be both different and similar. Nora (above left) is from a working background, while Lucca is a traditional ‘show’-type labrador. Even allowing for one being a bitch and the other a dog, Nora has a lighter build with a more delicate facial structure and a thinner tail, as you’d expect from the gundog strain. Both are typical boisterous, often clumsy, selectively deaf, giant puppies who had a great time play-fighting, sharing sticks and finding some inevitable water along the way. Both are totally gorgeous.

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stick

water

The walk, around the Devil’s Punchbowl in Surrey, was about halfway along the A3 between our respective homes. There was enough tree cover that we weren’t out in the sun the whole time (which would also be good for rainy days) and the gradients were just about right for chatting humans and juvenile dogs on an unusually clear and warm March day.

gibbet hill

hyde park cornerThe area is owned by the National Trust, which means that historic landmarks like this milestone that was found by the contractors when the old route of the A3 was being dug up, are well-explained. Seeing traditional woodland activities, like coppicing and charcoal burning, make it only a slight stretch to imagine yourself travelling along here between Portsmouth and London in a stagecoach a couple of hundred years ago. The views reach as far as London forty miles away and, with a café and a large car park as a base, I’d highly recommend this as a spare afternoon’s activity with or without canine companions.

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charcoal3

I don’t know about Lucca but Nora got home dusty and exhausted, and has barely moved since, other than to wolf down her supper.

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Drying out

Yesterday I noticed that it wasn’t windy or rainy for once. What a relief it is to see things drying out, even a little! The leak that began after Christmas seems to have stopped (my fingers are tightly crossed). Despite two professionals from the building trades coming to look at it, neither noticed nor pointed out that one of the tiles on the porch had slipped down a little – both were perhaps focused closely on their own line of work and source of income.

But the other week, I was staring up at the porch wondering how it could have sprung a leak so suddenly, when I noticed that the tiles in the top row under the flashing weren’t quite aligned, so I got up on a kitchen chair with Nora bounding around my feet with excitement, and tapped the tile back into position. Since then things have improved. I won’t say more than that as it hasn’t rained particularly heavily since then and it may be premature. But I’m hopeful that this will have fixed it. It makes sense: the porch was used as a support for one of the scaffolding poles during the chimney repairs last year and this may have loosened things.

Beach finds

either side

flooding on landward side at Stolford

This morning the clouds were gathering again as we walked up on the coast at Stolford. We walked along the sea defence, the Bristol Channel on one side and flood water on the other. A couple of fishermen crouched behind a bright red windbreak on the top, patiently tending their rods and lines, obviously made of stern stuff.

To get out of the wind’s buffeting, we headed down onto the beach and strolled along the shingle, noting an outflow pipe pouring into the sea. The concrete construction bears the initials S.D.B. – Somerset Drainage Board perhaps?

Drainage outflow

churned up seawater

Sandy brown waves churned back and forth as the tide went out. The waterline showed it had been right up to the top of the defence but hadn’t overtopped it. Very little manmade detritus had made it onto the beach today, which was good, but I really needed my “leave it!” command when I was photographing this washed-up sheep’s carcass and Nora bounded up intent on examining it. I wonder how it came to be in the sea, poor thing.

dead sheep carcass

And here’s a fairly unremarkable fossil, which I’m always pleased to find, although I leave them behind where they belong.

fossil

Postscript: if anyone is having trouble seeing the pictures, or enlargements of them, please let me know and I’ll see if I can report it. One reader reports not being able to open them. Thanks.

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