Posts Tagged ‘walk’

When I first moved here, my neighbours had opened permissive paths and bridleways across their land as part of the Countryside Stewardship Scheme. We could do a circular walk across their land, over hills and past ponds right from the front door without driving anywhere first. Since then, their old age and the austerity of the last few years have meant that the Council-run scheme ended and the paths fell into disrepair and were closed.

On the positive side, the closure of our most walked local route has meant I’ve been trying to discover new ways across the land nearby. Being a bit more adventurous and going in new directions is always a good thing.

We found a lovely walk the other day through the wood on the brow of the hill that I can see from my kitchen window. I haven’t found a way through the trees to a spot from which I can see the cottage yet, so lots more scope for exploration here.


labrador retriever

path through woods with dog


winter sunshine through trees

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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.


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.


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.




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.



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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The winds got stronger and stronger last night until, at about quarter to three, I had to go and sleep on the sofa in the living room downstairs, as I had convinced myself that the chimney was going to come crashing down on my head while I slept in my bed. In the great storm of October 1987, the chimney of the house opposite us in London was blown straight through their roof into the house; miraculously hurting no-one, so worrying about this was not completely stupid, if a bit night-brained.Perhaps because of my lack of a good sleep and or because I must admit that, for some time now, I haven’t been in the greatest of moods, I woke up to a beautiful, if still blustery, day feeling massively negative. So to try to fight my lethargy, I took myself out for a bracing walk. I meant to go up to Lydeard Hill but the road was closed, so I carried on down to Cothelstone Manor, where I’ve never actually walked before, although I’ve stopped and taken pictures. I didn’t have my big camera with me today, so these are just phone photos but I think you’ll get the jist of what a lovely place it is.

As if to make up for yesterday’s ghastliness, the sun shone and everything looked brilliant and clean and, um, bracing. The wind was still howling. But I walked for a while, although footpaths were a bit hard to follow, electric fencing in their way here and there, which always makes me cross. I could still get round though, and made my way up the elegant drive and round to the tiny church.

Cothelstone must have been quite a thriving community when it was originally built in the 12th century to have warranted such a church – although it is tiny. It’s certainly more than a family chapel. There are a quite a large number of buildings here, some in total disrepair, some well maintained. The estate was hugely renovated in the nineteenth century, having been through many changes of fortune. Having a place like this must be such a burden – it’s certainly not for everyone. There are a number of parts that are obviously inhabited: cottages, the main house, and a secondary, quite large, house and lots and lots of outbuildings. All built out of the local red sandstone, softened by age to a wonderful, delicate pink.

Unfortunately, the church was locked but it was clearly not in any way abandoned; the porch being full of the usual watering cans, flower rotas and lists of charities. There was a also a small war memorial to those who fell in World War I. One family had lost six members and there were two names from at least four other families. This is always terrible but really does not bear thinking about the effect in a place as minute as this.

As I walked over the meadow back from a small boating lake to the road, the churchyard looked like the archetypal place that you think of when calling to mind a quiet country resting place and it was sad to think that those men had not made it back to lie here.

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When I was waiting to move to Spring Cottage, I remember being very excited about the fact that there was a footpath virtually on my doorstep. Then, when I arrived, I found it was impossible to gain access to the path at the point shown on the map, as the bank was too steep and it was blocked by all kinds of old ironwork and other rubbish. Deliberately so. My neighbours told me that it was simply too dangerous – and I had to agree with them, having once done a running jump up the bank and found myself in a nettley heap.

public footpath

I found other ways across my neighbours’ land to the path. They said they didn’t mind. Then, a few months ago, I noticed that the council had been along to clear the bank and build some steps, which I wrote about here. This made me very happy because this footpath is actually useful for me, in the way that footpaths must have originally been meant to be.

Leading directly from my lane to the stables where I go riding, it’s the quickest and safest way to get there without driving, although I admit that I’m rarely on time enough for a ride to allow for the 15-minute walk over there, and often end up driving anyway. On the other hand when I have time – it’s certainly worth the walk. The scenery’s pretty lovely.

country scenery

The other day, I thought I’d walk over there, and found the entrance to the path completely blocked by a huge fallen tree branch, weeds and other stuff that had fallen onto the steps. A path that’s not used falls quickly into disrepair and I must make a point of doing so more often. Anyway,  now I’ve decided that the upkeep of this path’s entrance is up to me and I will be going there regularly to make sure that access remains open. After all, no-one else is going to bother and I seem to be one of the few who stand to gain.

And sometimes, I meet these boys:

young steers in a field

And we have a little stand-off about who is more scared of the other…

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We have wonderful local footpaths here. There are more public places to walk not very far away and people don’t seem to explore much off the beaten track, so you never encounter anyone else, ever. There are no pylons to spoil the views, only occasional telegraph poles. There are no modern buildings apart from the odd barn; the countryside studded with a few farms, cottages and outbuildings. The nearest village is two and a half miles away, as we are in what is amounts to only a hamlet with not even a sign on the road to mark its existence.

countryside and farm

Two years ago, when I was looking forward to moving in to Spring Cottage, I was delighted that there were public footpaths virtually on my doorstep. Trying out the local walks, I was disappointed to find the nearest footpath, a little way up the road, inaccessible with a steep bank and obvious attempts to block its entrance with old ironwork and lumber. You could still reach the path from other points nearby but none was as convenient. John and Sue, whose land the path is on, told me it was simply too dangerous to leave the access to the path open at that point because of the steepness of the bank. Something I can vouch for, having nearly come a cropper on the road as I foolishly tried to scale the bank on my first walk.

So I was delighted, a few weeks ago, to find a new entrance to the path etched into the bank by Council who look after such things, in collaboration with the landowners. What is even more amazing, is that this should happen in these days of cutbacks and under-funding. I can only imagine that the money for this project had been set aside prior to the present period of austerity, so that the work could still take place.

public footpath

When I set off up through the gate, I noticed these two old, carved planks of wood, which must have been part of the junk, with which the entrance was blocked. The workmen had reverently left them there by the side of the new gate. The text on them seems very relevant to where they were found.

bits of old carved wood

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Incredibly windy today with clouds scudding across the sky and the wind whistling down the chimney. Rapidly alternating gloom and sunny breaks meant that I had to pick my moment to be outside but I was able to gather the wherewithall with which to plant up the hyacinths with no trouble. Alternatively, it could be some kind of very vile witches’ brew.

Of course, as with all things that take place in the garden, it took much longer than it should have done because I got distracted and spent an hour or so clearing moss and dead leaves from under the slats of a funny little bench, which Lady-Vendor had built into the bank at the back of the house. It’s a really stupid construction from that point of view but, on a sunny and breezy summer’s day, it’s a nice sheltered place to sit. And it’s often windy up here in the hills.

built in bench

Sad part of the day was that despite our attempts to protect them, I had to fish a dead frog out of the pond today. However, there was only one (compared to last year’s five) and we now have a little ball floating on the pond, so that, should it freeze again, we can take the ball out so that oxygen can get in and other gases escape. That’s if the ball doesn’t blow away – I keep finding it half-way across the garden.

Despite the cold, there are already some things flowering: hellebores just starting to come out and something I don’t recognise. No snowdrops yet, although shoots are starting to poke through here and there.

It was also perfect weather to gather wood for kindling. I hate buying kindling and tend to collect wood when I’m walking locally. Today, I didn’t even need to go for a walk as the winds had brought down quite a lot of branches in the garden and the lane but I went for a walk anyway.

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If I don’t leave London this weekend, I’m going to end up getting a dog. It’s either Somerset or Battersea Dogs Home for me. I’m driving myself completely mad with thoughts of this little scamp that I’m going to adopt. I’ve lost all reason. I work full-time and have two cats. Why on earth do I want to lumber myself with yet another animal that I have the schlepp down the motorway twice a month, take walkies late at night and clean up after when it eats the post? But look how nice they are…

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