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Hiking Bow Brickhill, south of Milton Keynes [January’s outdoor day]

Over the last two years, my outdoor time has been very hit and miss – I have only had a few irregular, albeit lovely, weekend outdoor trips, and even the more routine local dog walks has been severely reduced (much to the disgust of my dog). Ultimately I have been getting the balance between being on a computer and being outdoors all wrong.

So this year I set myself two outdoor related resolutions. The first one is to go for a walk each day (ideally with the dog) – distance or location are unimportant, it can be a late night dog walk around the village or a 15 mile hike up a mountain. All that matters is that I get off the computer and go outdoors! The second resolution is to plan an outdoor day (or weekend) each month.

This month I thought I would ease myself in gently and take the dog on a hike around the local countryside – by chance I discovered that Rich (@FlintyRich), who lives relatively local to me, was at a loose end, so we arranged to meet up at The Grand Union Three Locks in Stock Hammond (south of Milton Keynes) the following morning.

The route I had planned was a slightly shortened version of a similar one I had done back in March 2012 – the decision to start (and therefore end) at the pub was solely based on a tweet: “Gutted. Pub with real ales, good food and log fires, and only £1 in my pocket!”, such school boy errors need to be rectified! After a flying visit to Tescos (for food provisions) and to The Outdoors Shop (for boot laces), I arrived at the meeting point to discover an ample free car park. I was early (and Rich was running late), so I got the stove out to make a coffee.

Once Rich has arrived, we left the pub and headed north along the Grand Union Canal tow path. Over my earlier coffee I had decided to record a mini podcast series during the walk talking about how I use Social Hiking whilst on a walk to share my adventure – I will post them to this blog shortly! The canal was full from all the recent rain we have had, but had not flooded – unfortunately the same cannot be said for the River Ouzel which we had to cross as we turned east. Although we could get over the full river via a footbridge, we then had to navigate across a flooded field to continue our walk – thankfully the water was just below boot level.

The next leg of the walk was not particularly interesting – a footpath linking the canal with Bow Brickhill (and surrounding woodland) which involved crossing two busy roads (one of which is a dual carriageway). Thankfully we made it into the woodland, where we took a break for lunch (and another coffee). The bridleways of Bow Brickhill seem well used by mountain bikers and were quite boggy in places, but we only saw a handful as we made our way up the hill to Bow Brickhill church – the tower of which seems particularly large and out of proportion to the rest of the church.

One of the ways I had managed to entice Rich to Bow Brickhill was that the hill is a peak on Social Hiking (it is a County / Unitary top – 171m) which he has yet to bag. We were not quite sure where the official ‘top’ was (it all looked quite flat), but we eventually found a trig point marked on the map which turned out to be hidden behind some trees right where we were standing! From the trig point, we started heading South, across the golf course, and joined the Greensand Ridge Walk. The track through Buttermilk Wood was extremely muddy and churned up – I was at this point very grateful I had bothered to clean and recondition my Brasher Supalite II boots!

After re-crossing the quieter A5 (thankfully not a dual carriage way at this point), we left the Greensand Ridge Walk and cut across some more muddy fields towards Great Brickhill (my route from 2012 continued into Stockgrove Country Park before re-joining the canal, but dusk was creeping in). As darkness fell, we headed from the village following a track that after a mile and half rejoined the canal, where we retraced our steps back to the pub. After a pint of ‘Brass Monkeys’, I bade farewell to Rich and headed home.

The dog, who seemed to enjoy her first long walk in ages, was exhausted and immediately collapse in her bed and fell asleep. I was a bit sore and dosed off on the sofa. The following day we are still both stiff and tired, but (and I assume this is what the dog thinks) both content after an enjoyable day outdoors with great company. Bring on February’s outdoor day! (hopefully with Kate – @DiveSciDiva)

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