Tag Archives: Map

Playing with numbers

The Fibonacci Sequence- useful maths for hiking

The Fibonacci Sequence is the series of numbers where the next number is found by adding up the two numbers before it. A simple sequence-

0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, 233, 377, 610, 987, 1597, 2584, 4181, 6765, 10946, et al…

Living in the UK, the default unit of distance for Three Points of the Compass is the mile, however many people prefer to work with kilometres. I agree that it is a much handier unit. But how to convert the one to the other? With an acceptance of a small (very small) margin of error, the Fibonacci Sequence is a pretty useful aid. Look at the numbers above.

There are eight kilometres in five miles (precisely- 8.04672 kilometres), and conversely, five miles in eight kilometres. It continues, fifty five miles equates to eighty nine miles (OK- 88.5139, but near enough).

If you want to convert a number that is not in the sequence, simply add together numbers in the sequence that total the required distance. i.e. if I have a distance of forty five miles to cover over a couple of days, this could be broken down into 21 + 21 + 3 from the Fibonacci Sequence. This gives me 34 + 34 + 5 = 73. Actually forty five miles equals 72.4205 kilometres exactly, so a pretty good fit. And remember, this also works in reverse. The answer is never more than half a percent out from true distance.

A handy bit of math, isn’t it?

 

 

The Geology of Britain by Peter Toghill

A library for geologists…

The Geology of Britain

an introduction

by Peter Toghill

“Visitors to Britain are always struck by the great variety of scenery in what is a relatively small geographical area. The ever-changing scenery and landscape pattern is a reflection of an underlying complex geological sequence and structure developed through hundreds of millions of years of Earth history”

from the Introduction to ‘The Geology of Britain

A page from the Geology of Britain explains, in simple terms, the central igneous complexes exhibited on Skye

A page from the Geology of Britain explains, in simple terms, the central igneous complexes exhibited on Skye

Three Points of the Compass visited Skye in 2012. The Red Hills beckon

Three Points of the Compass visited Skye in 2012. The Red Hills beckon

This classic work has an interlinking selection of photographs, diagrams and text. It is specifically written for the layman yet does not shy away from the complex and detailed. The large scale format works well for large scale explanation. If you want just one introductory guide to the geology of Britain as a whole, then this is it.

 

Book in featured image:

The Geology of Britain, an introduction. Peter Toghill. Swan Hil Press, 2016, first published 2000. ISBN 978 1 84037 404 9

The Norfolk Coast Path

The Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path- Part Two

 

The Norfolk Coast Path

Sandy isolation as I walk towards The Firs at Holme Dunes National Nature Reserve

Sandy isolation as I walk towards The Firs at Holme Dunes National Nature Reserve

Paths were invariably well maintained, it was often possible to find myself having strayed offf the official path on to one of the many other alternatives, but they all went in the same direction

Paths were invariably well maintained, I often found that I had strayed off the official path on to one of the many other alternatives, but they all went in the same direction

Starting on 1st April 2017, I walked the Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path. On day four, I finished off the Peddars Way and began the Norfolk Coast Path, the flavour of the walk changed immediately and dramatically. On my walk northward from the Suffolk/Norfolk border, I had encountered very few people on the trail, as soon as I hit the coast, this changed. Not that anyone was doing, or appeared to be doing, the national trail. It was just that I was now in the midst of holidaymakers, fishermen (and fisherwomen, or is it just fisherpeople?) and the residents and workers in the small and larger towns that were lined up, like pearls on a necklace, along the coast.

There a number of map and guide options for the Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path, I took the relevant 1:50 000 O.S. maps as I already had them. I also purchased the Cicerone guide and the official trail guide. Both are excellent but I only took the Bruce Robinson guide with me

There a number of map and guide options for the Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path. Knowing I would be going ‘off trail’ on occasion, I took the relevant 1:50 000 O.S. maps (sans covers) as I already had them. I also purchased the Cicerone guide and the official trail guide. Both are excellent but I only took the Bruce Robinson guide with me

My next few days comprised 20 miles from my last campsite on the Peddars Way, the lovely Bircham Windmill, to Deepdale, then 14,5 miles to Highsand Creek,  followed by 16 miles to my only stay at a hostel on the walk, the YHA hostel at Sherringham, leaving me a simple six miles to finish my trail at Cromer pier and then to the railway station. In all, I did 98.5 miles. This was certainly taken over the ton by my little wanderings and evening sorties from my tent. But, with map miles, it sits at 98.5 miles.

Because I knew that the nature watching was going to be so good on this trail, especially the Norfolk Coast Path, I wanted to include some optics in my kit list. Eschewing my heavy binoculars, I took a 109g 8x20 monocular. I was pleased I did as it was often used

Because I knew that the nature watching was going to be so good on this trail, especially the Norfolk Coast Path, I wanted to include some optics in my kit list. Eschewing my heavy binoculars, I took a 109g 8×20 monocular. I was pleased I did as it was often used

Someone had been playing silly buggers at Brancaster and had sawn off the finger posts. My own fault, I sauntered straight on and needlessly walked a mile and a half out to the point and back

Someone had been playing silly buggers at Brancaster and had sawn off the finger posts. My own fault, I never noticed and sauntered straight on, needlessly walking a mile and a half out to the point and back

I used to visit this part of the coast, almost as a pilgrimage, in the 1980s/90s when I was a keen birdwatcher. It is amongst the very finest of places to view birds- residents, migrants, raptors across the reedbeds, fantastic. But for me, it was the visits each late autumn/early  winter to see the thousands of geese, wintering away from the harsher conditions of Siberia that will live with me forever. Even hoofing along with a pack on my back and stopping infrequently, the Norfolk Coast Path was still a nature-watching marvel.

The early fine weather had encouraged many car borne visitors but few could be bothered to walk more than a mile or two from any carpark, as a result I had much of the coastal walking to myself  for hours on end.

Brent Geese, Shelduck and waders were constant companions

Brent Geese, Shelduck and waders were frequent companions. Seals were also often spotted

Smoke House in Cley

Smokehouse in Cley

Lobster and Crab pots are set all the way along this part of the coast

Lobster and Crab pots are set all the way along this part of the coast

Much of this part of the coast continues to change from the industry of old- fishing and smoking of fish, to the new, the tourist. However the flint built buildings are, mostly, well maintained, the natives friendly and opportunity to buy provisions vastly improved on anything I had experienced over the previous few days.

Fish and Chips with Mushy Peas enjoyed at Wells-next-the-Sea

Fish and Chips with Mushy Peas enjoyed at Wells-next-the-Sea

 

 

While I carried food for most meals over the Peddars Way part of this walk, I had known beforehand that opportunities to eat locally were going to be much improved on the second half of my walk.

Whereas I carried eight meals for the inland section, I only had two for the coastal section. All other were purchased locally. Though perhaps surprisingly, I only ate fish and chips the one time, When I reached busy Wells-next-the-Sea.

 

 

Superb breakfast at the Deepdale Cafe

Breakfast at the Deepdale Cafe included award winning Arthur Howell sausages and Fruit Pig Black Pudding

My two campsites on the coast were both perfectly adequate. Deepdale was a small field and I camped next to car campers, but I had no problem with that. There are plenty of opportunities to re-provision here but I only partook of a fine breakfast in the Deepdale Cafe.

 

£10 got me a huge field to myself and hot showers in the modern toilet block

£10 got me a field to myself at High Sand campsite and hot showers in the modern toilet block

A pint, good quality burger and writing up the days notes in the Red Lion, Stiffkey

A pint, good quality burger and writing up the day’s notes in the Red Lion, Stiffkey

Camping the following night at the High Sand camp site at Stiffkey saw my tent sitting alone in a huge field. The trail passed only a hundred metres away and I was content to treat myself to good food and ale at the Red Lion Inn in the local village.

 

 

This part of the coast was once the 'gateway to England' but silting up of creeks and changes in economics has reduced its importance. Blakeney is fairly typical of many towns along the coast, struggling to retain an identity. Small fishing boats take visitors out on seal watching trips when they are now out checking their lobster and crab pots

This part of the coast was once the ‘gateway to England’ but silting up of creeks and changes in economics has reduced its importance. Blakeney is fairly typical of many towns along the coast, struggling to retain an identity. Small fishing boats take visitors out on seal watching trips when their owners are not out checking their lobster and crab pots

The distinctive windmill at Cley next the Sea can be seen for miles across the marshes. The path goes right past it and I regretted, slightly, not pausing to sketch it

The distinctive windmill at Cley next the Sea can be seen for miles across the marshes. The path goes right past it and I regretted, slightly, not pausing to sketch it. The reeds here did offer up Bearded Tit though

There were a couple of miles of board walks in all

There were a couple of miles of board walks in all

 

Coastal walking was almost always on good paths, though I should think that many would be pretty claggy after rain. Reedbeds, sea defence walls above marshland, scrubby sand dunes, pine woodlands, saltmarsh, sand and shingle shoreline- my walking was through a number of special and specialised habitats, it was never boring for it changed so much.

Every few miles another coastal town would be encountered, I passed through these quite quickly as there was little to hold me.

 

Remains of an Allan Williams gun turret. 199 of these were made during World War II

Remains of an Allan Williams gun turret. 199 of these were made during World War II

This part of the coast was thought to be at risk of attack and invasion during World War II. Surviving coastal defence installations survive to this day

This part of the coast was thought to be at risk of attack and invasion during World War II. Coastal defence installations survive to this day

 

The coastline stretch from Cley next the Sea to Weybourne Hope is four miles of lonely splendour. The few dog walkers at the beginning were soon left behind. Sand gave way to shingle and I found myself racing the incoming tide, only having to move up on to the punishing stone for the final quarter of a mile

The coastline stretch from Cley next the Sea to Weybourne Hope is four miles of lonely splendour. The few dog walkers at the beginning were soon left behind. Sand gave way to shingle and I found myself racing the incoming tide, only having to move up on to the punishing stone for the final quarter of a mile

For such a busy stretch of coast, I often found myself alone. Few people will walk more  than two miles from their car and it is usually just the odd birdwatcher or sea angler that would be seen any further afield, again, there seemed to be few people walking purposely, and those I saw with small backpacks were either day walkers or slackpackers.

 

Beyond Weybourne Hope the path begins to climb as cliffs take over. This penultimate day saw me completing my biggest climb of the whole trail- the highest point was still only 346 feet (105 metres) above sea level. Norfolk really is a pretty flat county

Beyond Weybourne Hope the path slowly begins to climb as cliffs take over. This penultimate day saw me completing my biggest climb of the whole trail- though the highest point was still only 346 feet (105 metres) above sea level. Norfolk really is a pretty flat county

Beach huts below Sheringham Cliffs

Beach huts below Sheringham Cliffs

My final night was in Sheringham YHA. No private rooms were available so I shared a dorm with two other guys, we battled each other in the snoring stakes that night but I am pretty sure I won.

I like to put my trade toward the YHA where I can as I think they are still doing a grand job, mostly, in a difficult modern circumstance.  However I reckon I made a mistake eating an evening meal there. There was no ‘proper’ option on the menu at all, everything was snacks, so I settled for an ‘OK’ pizza. Breakfast was little better, the only egg option was scrambled, and I hesitate to guess how long it was since they had been scrambled! I queried at the counter, the server looked at me with bafflement- “I’m French” was her reply. OK, so no eggs forthcoming then.

My £12 overnight stay at Sheringham Youth Hostel was an adequate stop for my last night on the trail

My £12 overnight stay at Sheringham Youth Hostel was an adequate stop for my last night on the trail

Signposting and marking of trail was excellent on the Norfolk Coast Path

Signposting and marking of trail was excellent on the Norfolk Coast Path. You might think how difficult can it be to simply keep the sea on your left, but the trail often diverts inland where access rights have not been obtained, or where erosion has caused the path to disappear into the sea

The Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path ends at Cromer Pier. Much of this popular resort town is Edwardian in age and flavour

The National Trail ends at Cromer Pier. Much of this popular resort town is Edwardian in age and flavour. The Norflok Coast Path is now part of the ambitious plans for an English Coast Path, still in the making

Reminders of a seafaring community can be found everywhere

Reminders of a seafaring community can be found everywhere

I was so pleased to have completed both halves of the Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path. While the walk through the interior of the county had been interesting, with a few points of interest, the coastal element was much more to my liking. Busy seaside towns nestled up against lonely saltmarsh and dune systems stretched for miles across a wide landscape.

The call of the nesting Curlew and Lapwing that I had gone to sleep to in the agricultural heartland was also encountered on the coast, to be joined with the burbling of hundreds of Brent geese and the frantic shriek of the ‘Sentinel of the Marshes’, the Redshank.

Dunlin, Sandpipers, Oystercatcher and Turnstone shuffled along the edge of the surf, only flying ahead when I got too close. It really was lovely coastal walking and I resented it when lack of Rights of Way took me on pointless and annoying diversions inland. I doubt that I shall return to this part of the country for quite some time but hope that the fragile eco-systems can withstand what appears to be growing numbers of visitors.

WORDS IN THE SAND, HERE TODAY, GONE TOMORROW

 

Few of the older signs for the Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path remain

The Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path- Part One

The Peddars Way

“Peddars Way”- said to be derived from the Latin “pedester”, meaning “on foot”

Back in 2016, I completed The Ridgeway. I quite enjoyed this ancient trackway, walking from Avebury to Ivinghoe Beacon, and resolved then to complete the Greater Ridgeway which comprises a number of ancient (and not so ancient) paths that stretch some 360+ miles from the South Coast at Lyme Regis in Dorset to the north Norfolk coast at Holme-next-the-Sea. It is mostly made up of four long distance paths- the Wessex Ridgeway, The Ridgeway, the Icknield Way and the Peddars Way. The latter is half of the Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path, a National Trail that I completed last month.

The Peddars Way has a number of sculptures, by Tom Perkins, along its length. These form part of the Songlines art project. This attempts to link current day travellers with events and people of the past. I prefrred to keep myself in the dark as to when these would be encountered and come across them unexpectedly

The Peddars Way has a number of sculptures, by Tom Perkins, along its length. These form part of the Songlines art project. This attempts to link current day travellers with events and people of the past. I prefrred to keep myself in the dark as to when these would be encountered and come across them unexpectedly. This is the third, found near Swaffham

A fine walk for a fine spring

A fine walk for a fine spring

I had considered walking the trail with Mrs Three Points of the Compass last year but reading up on the route decided that, if not actually likely to be boring, that there probably wasn’t going to be much of interest for the two of us. Nonetheless, on 1st April 2017 I set off to walk the 92 miles. Hopeful of at least a night or two wild camping, just a little preliminary research revealed that I would find water sources difficult to locate. To make it far easier, I stayed at recognised camping sites where water would not be a problem. I took my single skin Nigor WikiUp 3 SUL, the inner nest being correctly deemed unnecessary. The remainder of my gear can be seen here.

Other than my tent, which will be changed later this year, this walk was a bit of a final ‘shake-down’, seeing if my current kit list is where I want it for my Three Points of the Compass walk that starts exactly a year after I set off on the Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path.

So typical of many National Trails, the Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path has an inauspicious start. Setting off from a car park opposite Blackwater Carr on Knettishall Heath

So typical of many National Trails, the Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path has an inauspicious start. Setting off from a car park opposite Blackwater Carr on Knettishall Heath

Sedgeford Magazine, now a private house, was built as a powder store or armoury in about 1640

Sedgeford Magazine, now a private house, was built as a powder store or armoury in about 1640. The trail passes right past it

Instead of being a boring route, I found much of interest. Both halves of the National Trail were a bit of a homecoming for me. I spent some time as a teenager, when I was an Army Cadet, traipsing through dripping foliage in the Military Training Areas of the Brecklands of north Suffolk and South Norfolk. The heavy, rubberised poncho I wore then proved to be excellent protection from the heavy rain all those years ago. The ponchos eventually gave way to lighter silicone coverings that were equally as effective  when strung as tarps for night halts. No rain was experienced on this last trip, unsurprising in one of the driest parts of the country.

The great majority of the 46 miles of the Peddars Way is in Norfolk but the path starts just a few hundred metres into neighbouring Suffolk. Here is Three Points of the Compass crossing the Little Ouse River which marks the county boundary

The great majority of the 46 miles of the Peddars Way is in Norfolk but the path starts just a few hundred metres into neighbouring Suffolk. Here, Three Points of the Compass crosses the Little Ouse River which marks the county boundary

A page from my trail journal

Part of a page from my trail journal

Catching a series of trains from home to Thetford, a £19 taxi ride took me to the start of my walk. It wasn’t long before I was in to acid grasslands, chalk grasslands, heathers and pine woodlands. The first couple of days also saw me passing more pig farms than I had ever seen before. Overhead, Buzzards were frequently seen but sadly no sight of the Stone Curlews for which I used to visit this area to see a couple of decades ago.

Easy and pleasant, if unremarkable walking with few 'ups and downs'

Easy and pleasant, if unremarkable, walking through mostly agricultural land with few ‘ups and downs’

I passed few people on the Peddars Way, frequently the only people I would see for hours would be farm workers in the fields

I passed few people on the Peddars Way, frequently the only people I would see for hours would be farm workers in the fields, or just the very occasional dog walker if near habitation

Little Cressingham combined water and wind mill as it once was

Little Cressingham combined water and wind mill as it once was

Where a walk of a mile or so would take me to something of interest, I would occasionally turn off the well marked path. The unique water and windmill at Little Cressingham is just the sort of little gem that adds so much to a walk such as this. I passed a number of windmills in Norfolk, few, if any, now filling their original purpose.

On just a few occasions I reined in my forward motion and paused for a few minutes to indulge in a brief sketch. Again, I am narrowing down my lightweight art kit that will accompany me on my Big Walk in 2018 and wanted to see how my small selection of materials is performing.

Just a brief diversion took me to the unique combined water and wind mill at Little Cressingham. Built in 1821, two stones at the base were turned by the waterwheel, while two further sets of stones were turned at the top by the sails. The sails were dispensed with in 1916 but the mill continued to work under oil or water power until 1952. The small white building to the left housed another waterwheel that pumped water up to Clermont Hall a mile distant.

Just a brief diversion took me to the unique combined water and wind mill at Little Cressingham. Built in 1821, two stones at the base were turned by the waterwheel, while two further sets of stones were turned at the top by the sails. The sails were dispensed with in 1916 but the mill continued to work under oil or water power until 1952. The small white building to the left housed another waterwheel that pumped water up to Clermont Hall a mile distant

The Dog and Partridge at Stonebridge

Landlady Karen welcomes the trail weary, dirty and sweaty walker in to The Dog and Partridge at Stonebridge

Ostrich Ale at the Green King Ostrich public house in Castle Acre

Re-hydrating with Ostrich Ale at the Green King Ostrich public house in Castle Acre

Other than halting to poke around ruined churches and the like, I happily stepped in to just a handful of pubs. Entering Stonebridge, I followed a road for no more than a couple of hundred metres, but walking past the door of the Dog and Partridge close to the end of a days walking was enough to tempt me in for a couple of excellent pints of Woodfordes Bure Gold. After all, it is almost a duty to put a little trade the way of the local businesses, isn’t it?

It was near Stonebridge that I was almost flattened by a group of off-road motorcyclists. Leaping to the side of the path to avoid being hit (and no, it wasn’t a By-way) I lived to walk another day.

 

“You’ve got to call it Swaaaaffam these days…”    Tony Garrod

Lunch stop at St. Andrew's Church, the south west tower fell in 1781 and lies in ruins, but the church is still in use

Lunch stop at St. Andrew’s Church, the south west tower fell in 1781 and lies in ruins, but the church is still in use

Tony Garrod of the Milestone Society was pleased to stop for a chat. Busy cutting back the vegetation around a freshly painted Mile Post dating from c1905, he belied his 82 years and told me of his 'patch' of Mile Posts on the Swaffham-Fakenham road

Tony Garrod of the Milestone Society was pleased to stop for a chat. Busy cutting back the vegetation and planting Hollyhocks and Sunflowers around a freshly painted Mile Post dating from c1905, he belied his 82 years and told me of his ‘patch’ of Mile Posts on the Swaffham-Fakenham road

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leaving North Pickenham, the old Roman Road soon follows a lovely wide and grassy path known as Procession Lane. A name thought to derive from the ceremony of beating the bounds. I passed between the brick remnants, dating from 1875, of the former Swaffham - Thetford railway line

Leaving North Pickenham, the old Roman Road soon follows a lovely wide and grassy path known as Procession Lane. A name thought to derive from the ceremony of beating the bounds. I passed between the brick remnants, dating from 1875, of the former Swaffham – Thetford railway line

The path crosses right through, and close to, much of interest, even if there is often very little remaining to actually be seen on the ground now. I was thankful that I took my trail guide as I walked along the quiet and lonely Procession Lane. I would never have known that to my left was where B24 Liberators of the 492nd Bomb Group had set off for their 64 missions in just 3 months in 1944. It was here that the Thor ballistic missiles had been sited in 1959, setting off vehement anti-nuclear demos. Nothing remains of that to be seen. Little remained too, of the former Swaffham – Thetford railway that crossed both former airfield site and my path.

The gem of the Peddars Way is probably the remains of the Cluniac Priory at Castle Acre. I chose not to join the hordes of people, instead, walking the circumference

The gem of the Peddars Way is probably the remains of the Cluniac Priory at Castle Acre. I chose not to join the hordes of people there, instead, walking the circumference

Cooking up an Almond Jalfrezi from Tentmeals on my second night on the Peddars Way

Cooking up an Almond Jalfrezi from Tentmeals on my second night on the Peddars Way

Each of my camp sites was more than adequate. Day one saw me 8.5 miles to Puddledock Farm, day two took me 11 miles to Brick Kiln Farm and the final overnight halt on the Peddars Way was at the lovely Bircham Windmill after a 22.5 mile yomp.

The first time I have ever camped in the shadow of a windmill. Campers get free entry to look around Bircham Windmill, but sadly, I arrived after it had shut and left before it opened

The first time I have ever camped in the shadow of a windmill. Campers get free entry to look around Bircham Windmill, but sadly, I arrived after it had shut and left before it opened

Quiet leafy lanes. This was the least used of National Trails I have ever seen

Quiet leafy lanes. This was the least used of National Trails I have ever seen

Littleport Cottages, reached just prior to crossing the B1454 Sedgeford - Docking road, are typical of the little hamlets passed through or close by. No shops, no Post Office, this is the reason I took the majority of my meals with me- there are few opportunities to buy anything en route

Littleport Cottages, reached just prior to crossing the B1454 Sedgeford – Docking road, are typical of the little hamlets passed through or close by. No shops, no Post Office, this is the reason I took the majority of my meals with me- there are few opportunities to buy anything en-route

Every now and then on my three-ish days on the Peddars Way, there was a reminder of the thousands of people- soldiers, traders, pilgrims and the itinerant, that had used this route in the past. Fields are dotted with marl pits, there is the occasional tumuli from the Bronze Age, but I had to look hard for the traces of Roman Forts. I suppose the finest record of their passing is the trail itself.

Close to the Anmer-Houghton road, the Peddars Way passes a number of tumuli dating from around 1300 - 1500BC. This is one of Norfolk's most important Bronze Age sites and of national importance

Close to the Anmer-Houghton road, the Peddars Way passes a number of tumuli dating from around 1300 – 1500BC. This is one of Norfolk’s most important Bronze Age sites and of national importance

While there was a great deal of easy going trackway, I had to contend with quite few miles of road walking. This had already begun to cause me problems with my feet, but I will write about that issue another day.

Crossing the River Nar on the Peddars Way. The trail is well marked but I was still pleased to have both map and trail guide with me

Three Points of the Compass crossing the River Nar on the Peddars Way. The trail is well marked but I was still pleased to have both map and trail guide with me

Is the Peddars Way worth doing? Absolutely. However I would add that it is essential to also complete the Norfolk Coast Path in order to gain the contrast. My next post will cover that section of the trail.

Walking the Peddars Way

Another piece in the Greater Ridgeway jigsaw completed…

Concession Path. Permissive Path. Chrome Hill. Peak District. Chrome Hill

Sign of the Month- Concession Path

Concession Path below Chrome Hill in the Peak District. The only way of approaching this Derbyshire hill from the north west is via this waymarked route. Concessionary, or Permissive, Paths are paths whose use is allowed by the landowner. Not normally a Public Right of Way, their use may, nevertheless, be a historic route that has fallen from use or a right of way not included on the definitive map.

Some 1:25 000 and 1:50 000 Ordnance Survey maps show Concessionary paths. Alternatively, Natural England also provides considerable information online. Not all permissive paths are shown as their circumstances change with time. Most Concession Paths will close for part of a year to ensure that it does not become a path ‘used as of right’, due to unbroken usage by the public.

 

 

Sign for the GR131 as it crosses the Istmo de La Pared, Fuertenventura

Sign of the Month- Fuerteventura: GR131

Long distance path GR 131, part of the E7 European long distance path, crosses all seven of the Canary Islands. The section that traverses Fuerteventura is the longest and is known as the ‘Camino Natural de Corralejo a Punta de Jandia’-  A ‘Natural Trail’ stretching from North to South. In the South of the island it passes through what the locals call ‘El Jable’- The Sand.

Now mostly hidden from view beneath the shifting fossil sands of the dunes, this section of the path closely follows the route of the Old Way of the Prisoners; cobbled sections of limestone forming an almost forgotten road constructed by political prisoners between 1946-1948.

The GR long distance paths are a European network. In the Spanish Canary Islands, ‘GR’ stands for Gran Recorrido and, on those islands, paths are maintained by the Spanish Mountain Sports Federation (Federación Española de Deportes de Montaña y Escalada). Trails are normally marked by a white stripe above a red stripe, with additional marks for changes in direction or to indicate a wrong way has been taken.

 

London Countryway- Finishing off this trail in the Thames Estuary. Approaching the coal cranes beside the abandoned Tilbury Power Station

The London Countryway confronted

Back in August, I wrote about a particular trail I have been completing this year. This was my report on having completed around half of the London Countryway, a ‘forgotten’ trail that was bought to my attention by Hillplodder. As it turned out, I was nowhere near the half way point.

Throughout 2016, in between other walks, in particular a backpacking jaunt along the Ridgeway and some walking in Sicily and other places, many Sundays were spent travelling to and from various railway stations on the Countryway as I worked my way round in linear fashion.

Following the London Countryway between Marlow and High Wycombe. The gentle and pretty landscape progressively became more agricultural on the

Following the London Countryway between Marlow and High Wycombe. The gentle and pretty landscape as I left the Thames became progressively more agricultural on the northern sections

The climb up and out of the Thames basin took me up into the Chilterns, crossing the grain, as it were, saw me rollercoasting up and down their modest ridges. Views were few and largely unspectacular. The going was mostly pretty easy on both legs and lungs. I had enjoyed the first half of my London Countryway walk, below the River Thames, I found the second part to its north very different. The flavour of the trail altered dramatically, if steadily, the further I moved East

The sunken lanes in the Chilterns bewtween Marlow and High Wycombe were a delight and bought to mind the countless feet that must have passed this way over the millennia

The sunken lanes in the Chilterns were a delight and bought to mind the countless feet that must have passed this way over the millennia

As I spent too long away from the trail with work, family, holiday and other commitments, the year drew on and my travelling time to and from start and finish each day got longer as weekend rail delays and rail replacement services (ha!) were put in place and my daylight hours on trail grew shorter. I took to driving to stations for the start and then travelling back to the start point and car by rail in the dark. Eventually, having a few days holiday that needed taking, I did a bite of four consecutive days on the Countryway. As Mrs Three Points of the Compass was joining me for three of these, overnight accommodation was firmly stipulated. Much as I enjoyed the company for a change, and the good lady could actually see what I had been going on about all year, this particular section covered was between Kings Langley and Broxbourne. Which, apart from St. Albans itself, was probably the least interesting section of the whole trail.

The redundant red brick Anglican All Saints church at East Horndon glows red in the light of the setting sun. Now victim to new roads, bypasses, shrinking rural population and now serving an economically depressed area, it sees few visitors. The Grade II* 15th century church is now in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust. Its two storey transepts are possibly uniques. British Listed Buildings notes that "this remarkable church has had a chequered history of decay, theft and vandalism"

The redundant red brick Anglican Church of All Saints at East Horndon glows red in the light of the setting sun. Now victim to new roads, bypasses, shrinking rural population and now serving an economically depressed area, it sees few visitors. The Grade II* 15th century church is now in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust. Its two storey transepts are possibly unique. British Listed Buildings notes that “this remarkable church has had a chequered history of decay, theft and vandalism”

I slightly regretted leaving completion of this walk until so late in the year. The many fields crossed became shorn of crops, ploughed and bare. As rains set in still later, trail runners became caked in mud. There was still a beauty to the countryside but it came less easy to the eye. I found myself pausing more frequently at churches, a curfew tower and other interesting buildings just to sate my need for variety. Perhaps I should have loitered more in some of the lovely forests crossed, but once walking, I often tend to be ‘head down and go’.

As with the first half of the walk, south of the River Thames, I frequently found myself joining, if only for just a few miles, designated and named trails.  For most of the time though, the Countryway was following ancient Rights of Way. It was very noticeable how different land owners regarded such rights. Some paths were overgrown and unloved at best, blocked and impeded at worst. Yet within just half a mile, signage was clear, stiles were repaired, drivers of tractors gave a wave. Probably the worst treatment was on the Essex flatlands where it was very obvious that the round footpath discs had been crudely levered off from where they had been set, and put up where the landowner preferred people to walk.

Many scrappy horse paddocks in Essex were crossed on the London Countryway, however here, inlike other parts of the trail, land owners has scant regard for the needs of walkers. Signage was moved and countless electric fences erected with no easy way of crossing them. On many an occasion I was forced to throw a pack and oles across and crawl in the mud below a wire

Many scrappy horse paddocks in Essex were crossed on the London Countryway, however here, unlike on other parts of the trail, many land owners have scant regard for the needs of walkers. Signage was moved or even removed and countless electric fences erected with no easy way of crossing or circumventing them. On many an occasion I was forced to throw a pack and poles across and crawl in the mud below a wire. On this occasion I was able to squeeze between the strands.

The changing colours of the leaves on the trees and their eventual fall and coating of the ground in the shoulder season is always a joy. 2016 was frequently unseasonably warm and despite the leaves having fallen, temperatures were frequently warm enough for shirtsleeves. However I relished the occasional rain, hail and cold weather when it infrequently manifested itself. Leaves covering paths on forest trails occasionally made the going confusing. Another unforeseen disadvantage of my direction of passage at this time of year was the low winter sun being frequently in my eyes. This actually became wearisome at times though it is difficult to complain because it might just as easily have been constantly obscured with rain clouds disgorging themselves upon me.

A frozen Lea Navigation

An infrequent cold day. A frozen Lea Navigation

Red Kite (Mivus milvus) wheeled in the air above my head every day, especially through the Chilterns

The distinctive Red Kite (Milvus milvus) wheeled in the air above my head on many days, especially through the Chilterns

Another victim of the year drawing on was my reducing frequency of encounters with fauna and flora. Other than road kill on the few sections of roadwalking, it was the vivid splashes of pink and orange Spindle in the hedgerows and berry laden shrubs attracting down the winter thrushes, Redwing and Fieldfare, moving in from Scandinavia, that were most noticeable.

 

I spent an hour exploring the walls and banks of the Norman Motte and Bailey 'Berkhamsted Castle' , adjacent to the railway station, prior to beginning one of my days on the London Countryway

I spent an hour exploring the walls and banks of the Norman Motte and Bailey ‘Berkhamsted Castle’ , adjacent to the railway station, prior to beginning one of my days on the London Countryway

Just occasionally I would come to a site of note and would divert slightly to explore, or spend a little more time. I even found a few minutes to indulge in the odd sketch at one or two rest stops. It is important to take time out on occasion otherwise just what is the point of following any trail. Though I must confess that when I took time to wander round the Mausoleum built by Sir Francis Dashwood, founder of the infamous Hell Fire Club, I declined joining the hoards of punters being coerced into forking out what I thought an extortionate amount to briefly pop into the over-hyped Hellfire Caves.

The large unroofed Dashwood mausoleum is visible from miles away. The hexagonal structure, formed by a series of linked triumphal arches, houses the remains of house the memorials of Sir Francis Dashwood, Lord le Despencer, 2nd Bart. (1708-81) his family and friends. The rebuilt Church of St Lawrence, seen beyond, has a large gilded ball, fitted up inside for his drinking parties, on top of the tower.

The large unroofed Dashwood mausoleum is visible from miles away. The hexagonal Grade I structure, formed by a series of linked triumphal arches, houses the memorials of Sir Francis Dashwood, Lord le Despencer, 2nd Bart. (1708-81) his family and friends. The rebuilt Church of St Lawrence, seen beyond, has a large gilded ball, fitted up inside for his drinking parties, on top of the tower.

Local protests

Local protests

As I moved round my meandering semi-circle above London, the affluence of the countryside dissipated. Incidences of fly-tipping were encountered more frequently, yapping dogs appeared from below gates with no attention from homeowners, there were signs everywhere of industry and work having disappeared. Sadly, moving into parts of Essex that probably see few visitors, I began to see parts of the country that had been largely abandoned by officialdom, to its detriment. I looked for signs of recovery but could find few. Many locals were protesting against the most recent of indignities, a proposal to run another crossing of the Thames through their back-garden.

Every so often my timing was out. The day I arrived at Coalhouse Fort on the banks of the Thames, I was greeted by this sign

Every so often my timing was out. The day I arrived at Coalhouse Fort on the banks of the Thames, I was greeted thus…

Living as I do on the North Kent Marshes, I do find beauty in the wide open spaces, scarred by industry. It was a similar landscape that I walked into on the Essex marshes. Prior to then, there was also much of interest. The Lea Valley was an example of how a previously depressed area could be turned around. But the important Thames side forts had few visitors, the site of the docking of Empire Windrush was largely ignored beyond a belated small plaque at Thurrock and there was little celebration of Elizabeth I’s speech before the Spanish Armada, other than one of the strangest pieces of graffiti I have come across- on the seawall below the closed Tilbury Power Station.

"I know I have the body of a weak, feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too"

“I know I have the body of a weak, feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too”- Graffiti on the seawall at Tilbury, Essex

The London Countryway was far more than a walk of two halves, it was a walk of many parts. Some days were very short. When Mr and Mrs Three Points of the Compass were walking to the station from Broxbourne at the end of our brief jaunt, we decided to walk an extra four miles to the next station down the line, that was the total mileage for that day. Regardless of daily mileage, I took twenty-two days to complete the London Countyway. I could have quite easily completed it in quite a few days less. I wandered off to view churches and towers, I got lost in Epping Forest until I simply took a bearing and strode through the thickets. Quite a few miles were added on by station links. I had thought that the trail would total around 215 miles, by the end, I had covered 251 miles.

Ambresbury Banks are the remains of an Iron Age hill fort in the lovely Epping Forest, Essex

Ambresbury Banks are the remains of an Iron Age hill fort in the lovely Epping Forest, Essex

I mentioned before that I undertook this walk as a charitable exercise, raising a few quid toward those youngsters who undertake the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme. I was pleased to beat my modest target.  While I doubt I will repeat completing a walk for charity again, it is not really within my comfort zone asking for money, I am looking forward to 2017 when I will, at last, complete my last few miles on the North Downs Way and begin one of the other longer paths in the South East of England. As to further afield, we shall have to see.

The end of the London Countryway. Crossing the River Thames from Tilbury in Essex back to my start point in Gravesend, Kent

The end of the London Countryway. Three Points of the Compass crossing the River Thames from Tilbury in Essex back to the start point in Gravesend, Kent

To finish off this blog post, would I recommend the London Countryway? Absolutely. There are far better trails elsewhere in the UK and further afield. But as a long distance walk in the South East of England, it is an excellent choice. It has variety, surprises, good country walking and an acceptable percentage of town and road walking. In my opinion it certainly beats that better known National Trail, the London LOOP hands down. Though I am sure there will be many who would disagree with me. Possibly it was the fact that I met far fewer people on the walk that clinched it for me…

While not ignoring the vision and creativity of the paths originator, Keith Chesterton, the more recent research and ever helpful guidance provided by Des de Moor is terrific. As usual though, I found myself transferring directions to an O.S. map in advance, then reading both written directions and his commentary on the way home from each section, preferring to discover things for myself on the trail.

Onward, into 2017…

Yet another unexpected delight. A brief halt at the Water Gate, entrance to Tilbury Fort

Yet another unexpected delight. A brief halt at the Water Gate, entrance to Tilbury Fort