As a kid I used to attend an annual cadet camp in Devon as a cadet leader (the main influence on my present day outdoor interests). The aim of the week was to get the younger kids through part of their Duke of Edinburgh, so there were class room based map exercises, an accompanied hike and camp on Exmoor, a night military navigation exercise (the highlight – think flares, finding contacts on dunes and ex-army personnel ‘hunting’ you!) and the main DofE hike and camp (usually along the coast). During the main walk the cadet leaders, who already had their DofE awards, had to be kept busy, so we usually ended up on Dartmoor. I have fond memories of bogs, magnetic rocks upsetting the compasses and getting lost in the fog (I knew where we were but no one listened!) – all these memories came flooding back yesterday after spending a few happy hours in the local pub with my Dartmoor OS map (OL28) planning some routes for this weekend.
In April 2010, Alex and I (and my dog) undertook an epic adventure to walk the Offa’s Dyke National Trail in aid of MS Society. This is my account of Day 5, on 9th April 2010, walking Llangollen to Trefonen (16 miles)
Parts of Offa’s Dyke are going to be amazing – breath taking scenery, stimulating conversion with Alex (@winkysmileyface), chats with locals and fellow hikers, or just watching nature go about its business around us.
However, I am under no illusion that other parts are going to be truly horrid – strong winds, driving rain, exhaustion, aching limbs and monotonous views. At this point a hike becomes a “trudge” – every ache and pain is magnified tenfold in your mind – you just want it to end.
So how can you focus your mind whilst “trudging”?
The one thing that has been lacking in my training regime (well it isn’t really a regime, more a panicked collection of walks) is big hills. I love walking across the rolling farmland of Northamptonshire, but it is a far cry from the ups and downs of Offa’s Dyke.
So for the final training trip before our challenge begins, I am off on a camping and hiking trip to the Brecon Beacons. Unfortunately my fellow Offa’s Dyke team member Alex (@WinkySmileyFace on Twitter) is unable to join me due to work commitments, but instead I will be joined by Justin (@JustinFleming on Twitter).
Our weekend camping and walking in the Surrey Hills gave us the opportunity to make sure we have the right equipment for Offa’s Dyke (now just over a month away), and to see how physically prepared we are.
Equipment-wise we have done quite well – there are a few little tweaks, but in general we have everything we need. The one key learning point for me though is the importance of caring for your feet when hiking for multiple days in a row.
Because dogs aren’t allowed on buses, I usually have to make do with circular routes when I walk locally, so it was a nice change to be able to get a lift (from my very understanding girlfriend) to do an “A to B” walk following part of the Northamptonshire Round (thanks to @TowcesterNews for the recommendation). This leg takes in the view up the huge drive to Castle Ashby, Yardley Chase, Salcey Forest and the villages of Yardley Hastings, Horton, Piddington, and Hartwell. Although there was a lot of road work, the route was very enjoyable. Read more
The Grafton Way is a 12.5 mile walk between Cosgrove (actually looking at the Ordnance Survey website, it seems to continue down the canal to Wolverton) and Greens Norton, passing past Towcester. The Grafton Way is joined to the North Buckinghamshire Way, The Grand Union Canal Walk, and Ouse Valley Way to the South, and turns into The Knighton Way at Greens Norton. The route is named after the Dukes of Grafton, who were large landowners throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
After the excesses of Christmas and spending a lot of time in bed with various bouts of illness (what is it about evolving colds that won’t go away this winter!) the Offa’s Dyke team (well everyone except Alex) decided to break in the new year with a 13 mile walk around the Northamptonshire countryside South of Daventry.