It is a while since I've done a long walk, and I'd forgotten how much I enjoy exploring England by foot. It is the only way to really get to see all the hidden away special places that are so easily missed.
A few years ago I was invited on a walk by a friend who was meeting up with her old university friends. We were to walk the Coleridge way in the Quantock Hills and the walk was partly a reunion, so turned out to be a bit of a party. I assumed this was a one-off, but the following year when the walk moved to
North Devon, the partying continued. So now I try to join them every year - it gives a whole new meaning to the phrase 'a walking party'!
This year we walked the northern end of The Ridgeway, about the last 25 miles of it, starting just outside of West Wickham and joining the path by Princes Risborough. The only unfortunate side to this day was the constant rain, but luckily most of the walk is wooded so prevented us from getting totally soaked through. It also gave a good excuse for the 'party' of walkers to stop and take regular breaks, with quick nips of tequila to keep their spirits up!
Navigation also became a bit of a game, with Simone, one of the walkers, trying out her new toy - a GPS, against Tim, our organiser, with map. I was totally against the whole idea of the GPS, being a lover of maps, but when at one point we appeared to be lost in a very large wood, the GPS saved the day, and possibly a few miles walked in the wrong direction, by pointing us in the correct direction.
The other important part of great walks is of course great food along the way. Lunch on the first day was at the Red Lion in Great Hampden, a cosy traditional little pub, with very friendly owners who even took pity on the soggy looking dogs and let them sneak inside to dry out for a
while. Great sandwiches were served, with rare roast beef or tasty Cheddar and pickle. But it has to be said that the bread and butter pudding was possibly the worst I have ever tasted - layers of 'pappy' white bread with either lard or margarine used to glue it together, with the odd sultana showing it's face. This was served with a jug of custard to pour over the top. This was not bread and butter pudding - what a disappointment.
Saturday night in Wendover was also interesting - another Red Lion, but this one is an old coaching Inn in the centre of town, and buzzing on a Saturday night (there is possibly nowhere else to go?). Food as you would expect - disappointing.
Sunday turned out to be sunny which was a great relief to all - the thought of being damp for another eight hours of walking was not a good prospect.
The Ridgeway lived up to be everything I had hope for, with changing scenery, quaint churches, stunning country houses (including a view of Chequers), and the perfect amount of small hills to climb.
Our final lunch at The Greyhound in Wiggington was also pretty good, and gave us energy for the final push to Ivinghoe Beacon, with the most amazing views for miles.