Between Challenges

Posted on: 09 Aug 2016

Hello Reabuzz Superstars Smile
Apologies for the length of this, but there are loads of pictures as well Laughing - grab a cuppa and sit comfortably! Last time I was just about to head off to Scotland to visit my eldest (Rhys) for the weekend, anticipating a decent amount of walking despite the idea being to rest for a week post 50k.  The plan to rest went straight out of the window on the first night. After dinner we drove down to the beach at nearby Stevenston for a look around and after a bit were rewarded by a fantastic sunset. I was really surprised that Ailsa Craig was also visible  (around 20 miles from where we were).
We decided to go for a walk down the beach but after a short while, Rhys confessed that he really wanted to walk through a site behind the dunes - the remains of an old gunpowder manufacturing site established by Alfred Nobel (the creator of dynamite and founder of the Nobel Prize) in 1871. At the time, the 100 acre site was the largest explosives factory in the world. Although Nobel's offices were in Glasgow, the manufacturing site was here on the Ardeer Peninsula, where the sand dunes, enhanced by blast walls, provided natural safety features for the plant and workers. At its peak, it employed 13,000 local workers! In 1926 Nobel Explosives Co. became one of the founder members of ICI before eventually being taken over by a Japanese company in the 1990's. In September 2007 around 8pm, a massive explosion and subsequent fire closed the site permanently. Two 14 year old and a 10 year old were suspected of causing the blast which sent flames 200 feet skywards, could be seen 10 miles away and was heard over 20 miles away! Many of the derelict buildings remain further inland, but another company has recently set up shop on part of the site (presumably manufacturing similar things) close to the old buildings and we weren't going to tangle with anyone who has a razor wire perimeter fence and regular patrols of jeeps with spotlights!! There wasn't too much left to see in the part we walked through apart from a few blast walls, an old railway line and loading dock, but it was an interesting and tranquil walk with lots of different wildflowers, rabbits all over the place and the sound of curlews calling nearby and it was heartening to see nature reclaiming an industrial landscape once more. It was incredible how long the light lasted after sunset - this picture by the River Irvine was taken at 10.40pm!!! 
We eventually got back to the car at half past midnight, having walked for the best part of four hours. I'd only managed 90 minutes sleep the night before and even after we got back to Rhys' we stayed up chatting until 2.30am. I figured it was good training for staying awake for 24 hours Laughing
The next day I was whisked off Largs, where we caught the ferry to Great Cumbrae Island just off the coast. We walked into the only town there (5 miles or so), enjoying the sights of gannets feeding close to shore, ravens on the shoreline, orchids growing by the roadside and the general tranquility. Despite not having ridden a bike for the better part of 10 years, I was persuaded that hiring a bike and cycling around the perimeter of the island would be a good plan. Apart from having a painful behind at times, the 10 miles of cycling was actually great. Despite the mostly gloomy weather, there were wonderful views of Arran and Bute and at least it stayed dry Smile
I was very pleasantly surprised afterwards that it had no effect on the legs at all Smile By the time we got back to town it was 7pm so we took the easy option and caught one of the two buses that run constantly between the town and the ferry dock. We were late having dinner and after sitting out and watching the bats that inhabited the neighbours roof space come out to play, Rhys declared himself worn out and said I was leading him astray by staying up late Wink No staying power this younger generation! 
My last day there was much more serene - a cruise up Loch Long on the world's only remaining sea-going paddle steamer, the PS Waverley. The rain poured down but it mattered not a jot. The scenery would have been far more impressive had it been clear but it was wonderful to travel on that old ship and see the amazing triple expansion engines at work. I finally landed back at Heathrow around 10pm, absolutely shattered but the weekend was hugely enjoyable and I really want to see a lot more and walk a lot more in that part of the world! 
The week after that, it was back to training again - very dull compared to Scotland! The daily 3 to 5 milers continued, then on the Friday we planned a route along the Basingstoke Canal. It was relief to get back to training on flat ground for awhile at least - hopefully it will give my hips a chance to settle a bit before the Thames Path Challenge 100k, which is now less than 5 weeks away - eek! We drove to Frimley Lodge Park and parked up and where I kept imagining Nick running around the Parkrun there. From there we walked to Ash Vale station, then caught a train back to Brookwood in order to get to Winchfield. Then the long walk back to Frimley Park Lodge. As we passed through Fleet it made me smile thinking of Hobs' superb PB busting race there earlier this year Smile  It was mostly cloudy with occasional showers but it was a great temperature for walking if a little too humid. Fortunately the tree cover beside the canal meant we didn't get wet at all. 28 species of Britain's dragonflies have been recorded on this stretch of the canal - sad to say that we only saw a couple of dragonflies all told! There was so little wildlife about that the most interesting part of the walk was walking over the aqueduct where the canal crosses the A331, although passing Farnborough airport came a close second. 
30.06km done in a moving time of 5:19:39. Much of the 91 minutes stopped time was either waiting for or sitting on trains! 
Last Friday, in a quest to keep up the theme of walking in new and different places, I spent all of Thursday night mapping out a 30km route on a free app I've downloaded called Viewranger. It works pretty well and is certainly decent for free, but I'm still going to buy the app with the complete set of OS maps that Hobs recommended, as when you really get lost, nothing else will do. I thought the freebie was pretty safe for a walk in Colne Valley Regional Park though Smile It only took 30 minutes to drive to Denham to the site of the visitor centre and was most impressed that all day parking only cost £2.50. From there we followed the a Grand Union Canal all the way up to Croxley Green before returning down some of the same route but with a few additional large lakes walked around. We were really impressed by how peaceful it was for the most part and saw as many damselflies, dragonflies and butterflies in the first hour as in the past month, so there was a fair bit of stopping and admiring! 
Many of the mallards had new broods as well (a bit late!) as well as seeing baby grebes closer than I ever have before. The sight of a kingfisher flying past really made my day Smile 
Early on in the walk near Denham Deep Lock we were fascinated to cross another aqueduct - this time carrying the canal over the River Colne - clever stuff!
The canal was absolutely stunning for many miles - clean  and clear with luxuriant green waterweeds waving gently in the current. 
Through fascinating locks like Coppermill Lock, named after the nearby mill that used to provide beaten copper for the bottoms of Royal Navy Ships. Not long after that we had the unpleasant experience of passing Maple Lodge sewage works! It was a hot can imagine! A little further on we passed through Springwell lock where we were greeted by a very bizarre sight - an almost threadbare gorilla hanging from the highest beam of a derelict factory!
The factory was associated with the adjacent chalk pit. No one knows how the gorilla got there, only that it's occupied its current position since about 2001! The disused pit behind the derelict factory was used to film an episode of Dr Who! Shortly after we passed an amusing site in a waterside garden.
As we approached Rickmansworth, the character of the water rapidly began to change, becoming far less clear and with noticeably less wildlife around. The sight of a newly built waterside Tesco with 'moorings for customers only' raised a smile. A long stretch of the canal around here is devoted to permanent moorings and at each mooring, the barge owners seem to have cut their way into the canal side woodland and made a private outdoor space, quite often furnished with all manner of odd sculptures, a few scary signs and other strange things! It must be a pretty hard life on the water - how do they get their water supplies? The nearest access to fresh water we saw was miles away! Between Rickmansworth and Croxley Green, I'm happy to say that once more, the canal again became clearer and had more wildlife. At our turn around point we sat for awhile and ate our sandwiches while watching boats pass through a lock - nothing like watching other people working Wink
On our return journey we walked around several of the large lakes which used to be sand and gravel pits, but which now are home to a nature reserves, boating, angling and waterskiing clubs. We took a slight detour by one of the lakes having seen a signpost for a cafe - to find a white Magnum was the quest. Unfortunately, the said cafe didn't have any, but we were utterly bemused by seeing huge crowds of people and children sat eating  picnics and eating outdoors at the cafe while the pong on the breeze from the nearby sewage works nearly dropped me to my knees. Maybe you just get used to it if you live there long enough! We got back to the car in plenty of time (they lock the gates at 7pm) - 30.08km done in a moving time of 5:27:35 - a little slower than the week before but not by much so happy with that Laughing
Now all we have to decide is where to walk this week and do you think we should we be walking a longer distances? Just under 5 weeks to go and I really have no idea how far to push the distance in training - what do our ultra runners before a big one?  Ive just had to order a new pair of walking boots as I suddenly noticed how thin the soles are on my current ones, which might explain why my feet feel a little bruised (the canal towpaths are often pretty nubbly round here!) - since I can't feel my feet well at all, I know they must have taken a bashing to feel anything! I've ordered the same make and model again and hopefully they'll be like slippers just like my current pair were from the first time of wearing! 
Sorry it's been a long ramble! Just one last thing, Sir Bolty and I are both raising funds for NASS by doing our challenges, which entitled us to enter the Mountain Warehouse Charity Challenge. This  is a chance to win £10,000 for NASS and we'd be so grateful if you could spare a moment to vote for each of us at the following links (voting for both entries is perfectly fineLaughing) - 
Also I really don't like asking, but if anyone would like to sponsor Mr K and I for the 100k, the link to our fundraising page is at Every single pound helps us get closer to our fundraiaing target and is deeply appreciated.
Happy training everyone Smile

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