Apologies for not blogging for over a month - as usual, life has a habit of getting in the way! It's also been getting in the way of long walks
I spent the night before last writing a long ramble about a few spanners that have landed in the works over the last few weeks. In the end I decided to bin that draft because the spanners are now mostly back in the box. Apologies also as by the time I'd finished writing this, it was another flipping great essay anyway, but I'm sure you're all used to that by now anyway
My last blog was a couple of weeks after R's minor op (and I'm very happy to say he's fully recovered now) after our first short post op training walk, just 12.5km, but it was better than nothing. We only managed to fit in two walks of any length between then and Christmas and even they weren't as long as I was hoping for. That's the major problem with walking any distance, it means taking a whole day out of a week to do it. Hopefully the New Year will see us getting back to a weekly long walk again, meanwhile here's a summary of those walks -
25/11 - 13.8km on part of the Colne Valley Trail, largely flat, in 2:24 walking time. Parking at our usual spot in Denham wasn't a goer as the car park (with a meaningful steel barrier) would have been closed before we expected to get back. So we parked at Denham station instead and found our way via footpaths and some pretty marshy woodland to the Grand Union Canal from there. There wasn't much wildlife about on the canal but one sighting really did make me sit up. We were looking over one of the small wooden bridges when a sizeable but sadly dying rudd was being taken underneath the bridge by the current. Under the rudd was probably the largest brown trout I've seen, easily 18 inches long and in stunning spotty condition. It was a pleasant mild sunny day, but as we started late and as R didn't fancy trying to cut across country back to the station again in the dark, it was a case of walking out for an allotted time before heading back again - not my favourite kind of walk. At the finish, he also said he hadn't enjoyed it as much as usual as I'd been walking at my comfortable pace which despite my much shorter legs, is rather quicker than his.
4/12 - 16.1km North Holmwood and Leith Hill, 395m of ascent in 3:12 walking time. Not even remotely speedy, buts it's a while since I've done any hill training We repeated this walk last Tuesday so a description will follow shortly as the weather and sights were pretty much identical on both occasions but here are a few pictures to give you the idea -
Frosty moss and leaves
Leith Hill Tower
The view to the south from Leith Hill
The view towards London with a camera phone on zoom (25 miles away - you can just about make out The Shard)
Despite the lack of long walks, I did do lots of local walking on a daily basis, but irritatingly I seem to be getting stuck at around a 10min/km (16 minute) mile pace. All the local walking is on muddy leaf strewn trails so hopefully it's just a bit of caution holding me back. I threw in a 5k road route last week and managed to complete it at an average 14.4 min mile pace, but it's still not what I'm aiming for - must try harder and must try Rob's speed walking technique, although with a spine as stiff as this I've a feeling I might not wiggle too well 😂😂😂
I go into denial about Christmas until our eldest's birthday on December 11th is over. You can imagine the chaos of trying to get everything done, including present shopping (thank heavens for the internet as I really don't like shopping at all!). At last, a couple of days before Christmas, the last present arrived in the post, the present wrapping got done, the decorations were put up and the baking finally got done and the old skelly celebrated with a massive flare up. I guess that shouldn't have been a great surprise given the stress of the previous weeks. Christmas was lovely, just a quiet family affair that was greatly appreciated by us all. Father Christmas was extremely kind to me this year and among the many wonderful pressies I had were a new Raidlight 8l Olmo backpack, two pairs of Injinji toe socks (my new favourites as they stop my toes rubbing together) and young Ben surprised me with something to hang my few medals from
My fab new race pack - now I need to find the events to do it justice
Ben's surprise present!
Usually on Boxing Day we'd be off out for a long walk, but this year, young Ben was working so we postponed the walk to the following day. As R and I had really enjoyed the Leith Hill walk at the beginning of the month, we decided to share it with the lads. Funnily enough, on my Facebook memories I see that we'd all walked up Leith Hill on Boxing Day in 2014, but on that occasion, we walked up the steep side! When I told the lads that they wouldn't even know they were approaching the summit until they were in top of it, they were pretty sceptical 😂 If you look at the elevation profile though, there are three steep hills in the first few km and after that, it's a fairly steady gradient so arriving at the summit really does come as a bit of a surprise.
Just like the first time we walked it a few weeks previously, it was a beautiful cold sunny day (although hazier) with frost in every patch of shade. Unlike at the beginning of the month though, there wasn't a breath of wind so it actually felt warmer. This is a route we'll revisit in spring, summer and autumn as it's so quiet (apart from Leith Hill itself), there's virtually no road work and it's just wonderful countryside. It's not tremendously rich in wildlife in winter (just a single buzzard seen), but hopefully as the weather warms up there'll be far more to see. Because the lads were with us, the pace had to be adjusted accordingly. Rhys, the eldest, loves walking but wasn't feeling too smart on the day. Ben is training to be an entomologist so although he's used to being out all day, he'll walk for ten yards then spend half an hour on hands and knees looking for beetles and openly admits he really doesn't like walking just for the sake of it. He still swears I described the walk as a gentle amble not a ten mile hike, bless him 😂😂 As it was such a lovely day, this time we stayed at the top of the hill to eat our sandwiches and have a nice mug of tea from the little servery that's built into the base of the Gothic tower atop the hill while enjoying the splendid views. Sadly it was even more hazy than on our last visit, but it's still a splendid vantage point.
I should mention that Leith Hill is the highest point in southeast England. The tower was built on top of the hill in 1765 by Mr Richard Hull as a small furnished residence as well as 'a place from where people could enjoy the glory of the English countryside' and to also bring the height of the hill above 1000 feet. At the time of building, Richard Hull lived at nearby seventeenth century Leith Hill Place (one time home of members of the Wedgwood family, Ralph Vaughan Williams and frequently visited by Charles Darwin). When he died in 1772, he was buried under the tower and the tower was stripped of its furnishings, windows and doors and fell into ruin, eventually being sealed up with concrete and rubble in 1800. In 1864, Mr Evelyn of nearby Wotton House built a side tower housing a stairwell of 74 steps to gain access to the top of the tower, then in 1923 the tower was given to the National Trust. In 1984 it was completely renovated, the rooms reinstated and a tiny servery established in the base of the tower. The servery opens every day of the year except Christmas Day and must have served literally millions of hot drinks and sandwiches to visitors since then. The top of the tower is 1029 ft (329m) above sea level and on a clear day it's claimed that you can see 13 counties from up there as well as get a splendid view beyond the South Downs to the English Channel some 25 miles away, as well as the London Eye, Wembley Arch and the Shard etc which are 25 miles in the other direction. Hopefully one day we'll manage to be up there when the air is crystal clear.
Here are some pictures from Tuesday's walk. Photo credits go to young Ben -
Loved this signpost being reclaimed by nature
Tilling Springs, the source of the Tillingbourne River which runs along the southern side of the North Downs
The motley crew on top of Leith Hill
Ben definitely has an eye for the scenic!
The view towards Gatwick, sadly with its own pollution haze
An hour of loitering on the hill and I was a stiff as a crutch getting going again, my legs were a bit numb and my feet weren't behaving too well. As we started the descent down a rough track covered in pine roots and deeply gullied by the last heavy rain, I tripped and fell pretty heavily. Considering it was a sandy track littered with rocks, I did well to avoid every single rock
Most of the impact was on my right shoulder, knee and left hand and elbow. I'd also hit my head on the path, jarring my neck and as usual, it triggered an almost instant headache
. Suddenly I had my three chaps converging on me all looking horrified - my cue to get up, brush myself off, give a broad grin and carry on walking saying I was fine, I really really don't like any fuss being made. That's how I've been for as long as I can remember. As often happens with me, the impact of the fall would be realised a few hours later. The rest of the walk was uneventful thank goodness and we got back to the car park just as it was getting dark. After an uncomfortable hour long journey home, I started to realise that my right shoulder, which probably took the biggest impact, wasn't terribly happy. Never mind, hot bath, lots of Voltarol gel and it would probably be as good as new in the morning. Morning came and I couldn't raise my arm from the shoulder more than a few inches forwards or sideways and at recognised the pain pattern instantly - I've upset the rotator cuff
It's the shoulder that's been surgically tightened as well so I'm just hoping that it's just a bit of minor tearing. Hopefully with lots of Voltarol gel and a bit of R&R it'll stop continually aching a week or so. I can still use my arm as long as I only move from the elbow and I've had years of practice of doing things left handed so functionally, it's just a bit of a nuisance. A few bruises here and there but all in all, I think I got away very lightly with that one
So, how does my 2016 stack up mileage wise? In terms of long walks recorded on Runmeter, a total of 50 long walks covering 1120.4km (696.2 miles), elevation climbed 9,355m (30,692 ft), average walk length 22.4km. Very happy indeed with that as my progress over the last three years has improved in leaps and bounds
Daily short walks weren't formally recorded so the best I can do is estimate from Fitbit steps. Totalling up my Fitbit steps and subtracting the figures from the long walks, short walks comes out 4736km (2,942 miles) and 35,691m (117,098 feet) of ascent! As the dratted thing rarely measures anything I do around the house, hopefully it's reasonably accurate. Absolutely over the moon with that and it's also just given me a whole new respect for both my feet and my walking boots