A 17 mile hike through the farmland and woodland of Northamptonshire (and Buckinghamshire)

Guard dog

The hike was hastily planned the night before – I fired up ViewRanger on my tablet, picked a local area I have not walked in much, quickly created a rough route and synced the route to my phone – in theory a 14.5 mile hike in and around Yardley Chase in Northamptonshire (and Buckinghamshire) leaving me plenty of time to get home for a bit of work (with the F1 in the background!)

The morning was a little more leisurely than planned – but eventually, after a bacon sandwich, the dog and I were packed into the car heading towards to Ravenstone, just East of Salcey Forest. The weather forecast was for strong winds and showers, however, other than a brief light shower, the rain held off and, whilst gusty, the wind was certainly bearable especially as it was surprisingly sunny (I was thankful I remembered my sun glasses!).

The first half of the walk followed The Milton Keynes Boundary Walk – from Ravenstone to Weston Underwood and then heading towards Bozeat. Being an official trail the route was well sign posted. Although a lot of the route was on quiet tracks, this was made up by some wonderful wood sections (through Kilwick Wood and Old Pastures) and high (for this neck of the woods) views across Buckinghamshire (and possibly Bedfordshire!!)

It is quite unusual to see fellow outdoor enthusiasts out in the countryside, other than a few dog walkers within sight of their villages. As I left Weston Underwood (after passing ‘The Knobs’, a fascinating feature on the main road out of the village) and headed up the bridleway track I was passed by a group of mountain bikers – a rare site in this part of the world.

The Knobs

For a short while, the track was left behind as the trail winded it’s way through Kilwick Wood – I prefer these private managed woods (usually managed for shooting) than the more heavily managed Forestry Commission ones – they just seem wilder and more interesting. The path soon rejoined another quiet track leading to Olney Park Farm and a variety of turkeys, clearly unaware of the fate that lies ahead of them!

Kilwick Wood

After another easy to follow path through some fields, the route entered another wood – Old Pastures. Judging by the signs, the majority of the wood is used as a firing range, but I found a peaceful spot at the junction of several paths for lunch. Guarded by the dog, I settled down against a huge Horse Chestnut tree as I boiled up some soup and put on a brew.

Guard dog

At Horn Wood it was time to leave the Milton Keynes Boundary Walk to head back towards Yardley Chase. Just off the path, well away from any roads or other buildings, was a derelict barn with a remains of some kind of walled garden. I find these old ruined buildings fascinating – what were they used for? Why were they left to go to ruin? Who still visits it? (there was a well worn path through the undergrowth into it!)

At Yardley Hastings, I took another lunch break – basking in the sun on a bench on the village green. I was tempted to pop into the friendly looking pub, but unfortunately I only had enough money on me for a single pint, and I was saving that for the end of the walk! The path from Yardley Hastings into Yardley Chase, which I have walked before, is a rather dull road, but eventually I entered the estate proper (making friends with some huge pigs on the way). The estate is some kind of nature reserve – with information signs about some of the wildlife and plant life. Yardley Chase is also used for cadet training – the last time I passed through, I was accompanied by the sound of machine gun fire!

Pig Friends

As the path turned to the South back towards Ravenstone, my feet began to tire. Checking ViewRanger, I noticed that my rough and ready route was a little too inaccurate as I was already approaching 17 miles. Reaching the car I felt completely justified to pop into Cowpers Oak in Weston Underwood for a pint of A380.

It was an enjoyable hike around some quiet and tranquil countryside – I was also mighty impressed with my Defy+ phone: I was running ViewRanger recording a track, BuddyBeacon pinging every 5 minutes and the Audible app running continuously, as well as taking photos and sending / receiving tweets. By the end the battery had only just gone yellow (less than 30%) (with a PowerMonkey Extreme top up at lunch time).

Android GPS Trackers Group Test – The Plan

A few years ago, before Offa’s Dyke – Alex and I were walking part of the Nantlle Ridge in Snowdonia. Alex was recording the route using Sports Tracker (I think), and I was using ViewRanger – what was surprising was the fairly large difference in calculated distance and height gain / loss.

This morning, I was reminded of this as I was mulling over a discrepancy in distance between Social Hiking and a GPS unit, and GPS tracker apps in general (as you do). For my 1000 mile challenge, I have been using ViewRanger to record my progress – ViewRanger is a fantastic app, but feels like overkill when you are not using the maps or Buddybeacon (to share the walk live on Social Hiking). With 170 miles still left to go, I wondered whether it would be a good opportunity to have a look at other options available for recording tracks.

Continue reading “Android GPS Trackers Group Test – The Plan”