18th April – Falkirk to Lennoxtown

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The Forth & Clyde canal goes on… and on…

Today has been hard – and it should have been easy.  Physically it should probably have been the easiest terrain of the whole trip: I doubt that I have climbed as much as 50m.  The problem was psychological.  This was the third day walking along the canal.  Nothing really happens.  The scenery is largely farmland, there are very few locks and no canal traffic.  In summary, it is boring, especially if you are on your own.

Anyway, I left at 7.45 and got onto the canal at 8.30.  Six hours and around 16 miles later I reached Kirkintilloch and left the canal behind.  I almost forgot to mention that I switched from the Union Canal to the Forth and Clyde Canal at the Falkirk Wheel, used to lift barges between the two waterways.  As with the Kelpies, this is a must-visit attraction.  Unfortunately nothing was moving on the canal so I did not see it working.

20190418 Falkirk Wheel 1
The Falkirk Wheel

The Forth and Clyde Canal does not seem to get much use.  Nothing was happening at the marina near Kilsyth, despite the fine weather.

20190418 Marina near Kilsyth
Marina near Kilsyth
20190418 Heron
Depressed heron

The section across Dullarur Bog was almost my nemesis.  Admittedly it is interesting from an industrial engineering point of view: the embankment had to be built up 16m and allowed to settle before construction of the canal could take place.  Nevertheless after 6k of nearly arrow-straight walking it had lost its appeal. Even the heron walking down the path with me seemed to be suffering from depression.

At long last I arrived at Kirkintilloch, and said goodbye to the canals until after Fort William.

20190418 The end of the canal path
The end of the canal path

It was almost out of the frying-pan into the fire, as the next 5k was on a straight abandoned railway.

20190418 The Strathblane Railway Walkway
The Strathblane Railway Walkway

I hurried on to Milton of Campsie’s Old Station where I stopped at a very fine bench.  I was minding my own business when I was asked to film and direct an advert for an upcoming event in the village.  I think they might have got the wrong Neil Jordan!

Given all that had happened – or not – during the day, it was with some relief that I arrived at Lennoxtown at 3.45.

I have covered over 60 miles in the last 3 days, around 45 miles of which has been beside the canals.  The tarmac surface is hard on the legs, and I am heartily thankful that after tomorrow I will get back onto more normal terrain.

4th April – Youlgreave to Hathersage

20190404 Chatsworth house
Today’s highlight – Chatsworth

Today has been one of ups and downs.  The weather forecast for the afternoon was very poor, so naturally I could not get breakfast before 8.30 and the shop in the village was closed for repairs.

20190404 River Lathkill
The River Lathkill

I left Youlgreave at 9.10 and immediately dropped down into Lathkill Dale, crossing the river via a packhorse bridge.  I then climbed over the ridge to walk down into the valley of the River Wye at Haddon Hall.  This was the home of William Peverel, the illegitimate son of William the Conquerer.

20190404 Haddon Hall
Haddon Hall, veiled in mist

The route circled around the grounds of Haddon Hall, passing some very impressive cows, before climbing over another ridge and descending into the Derwent Valley near Chatsworth.

20190404 Cows with big horns
Cows with big horns, where I like to see them – in the next field!

The views of Chatsworth were magnificent and I enjoyed the walk through the Deer Park and the extensive grounds.

20190404 Chatsworth house from the deerpark
Chatsworth viewed from the deerpark

Leaving Chatsworth the weather started to deteriorate so I stopped to don wet weather gear.  Suitably clad I continued to Baslow where I had a coffee and bought some lunch.

At Baslow I reviewed my options.  The guidebook route was up over the gritstone edges of Baslow, Curbar and Froggatt. I know these well from climbing trips and a recent visit. Given the poor forecast it seemed wiser to take a low level route and so I choose the Derwent Heritage Way, part of which I knew from a recent MAC trip. This would also be faster.

At 2.00 I stopped near Froggatt village for lunch and it started to rain in earnest. As I watched Froggatt Edge disappear into the gloom I was pleased with my decision.

Walking beside the River Derwent was enjoyable despite the rain, and I think that I saw two mergansers near Curbar.  Leaving the Derwent I climbed up to Hathersage arriving around 3.30.  As there are plenty of gear shops I was able to replace my lost hat on the way to my accommodation.

20190404 Red deer at Chatsworth
Red deer at Chatsworth

I am overjoyed to be back in Derbyshire and especially in the Peak Park.  The paths are well-signed and tend to exist on the ground, which is more than can be said for those in Shropshire and Staffordshire.

Tomorrow my friend Carl is joining me for a couple of days, which will be great.  I am also taking a semi-rest day and only have around 10k to walk.  In the past week I have covered around 190k, about 20% of the total to Dunnet Head. Over the next few days the distances are less but there will be more hills.  Thankfully the weather looks better for tomorrow.

25th July – Pandy to Hay-on-Wye

20180725 Ascent to the Hatterall Ridge
Ascent to the Hatterrall Ridge

Wednesday

Today was one of the red letter days of the trip so far.

20180725 Pandy from the Hatterall Ridge
Pandy from the Hatterrall Ridge

We left Pandy at 7.55 and immediately climbed 350m up onto the Hatterrall Ridge.  Once there we were blessed with amazing views as we gently climbed up to the highest point at 706m.

20180725 Trig point on Hatterall Hill
Trig point on Hatterrall Hill

The day was not without incident, as we met some soldiers on a navigation exercise, who were being assisted by medics on all terrain vehicles.  No lifts were offered despite serious hints!!  The parachutists on Hay Bluff also added some excitement to the walk, as did the ravens which accompanied us for much of the route.

From Hay Bluff the trail drops steeply to Hay mainly crossing farmland.

 

20180725 Wyn on the descent from Hay Bluff
Wyn on the descent from Hay Bluff

We arrived at Hay at 5.45 for a well-earned pint.  The Seven Stars was obviously once a pub but is now solely a guest house.

Tomorrow we will go over the Hergest Ridge to Kington.  The guidebook considers this possibly the best part of the entire Offa’s Dyke Trail.

29th June – Porthleven to Combe

Mobile connectivity isn’t great where Neil is in Cornwall so this is Katy blogging for him, based on the email he sent yesterday which didn’t arrive until this morning, and a later phonecall with more details.

Friday

I left Porthleven today at 7.15 but only got to Combe about 5k from Portreath.  I still hope to get to Perranporth tomorrow.

I hadn’t seen many birds so far on the walk but this morning every bird for miles seemed to get together over my tent at 4am and woke me up!

Today I was heading for the north Cornwall coast.  I had intended to use a combination of roads and footpaths, but to my dismay I found many footpaths had disappeared, been planted over with crops, or were otherwise unusable.  So I ended up doing a lot of road walking.

It was excessively hot today and I had intended to buy lunch and fill up with water in Godolphin Cross or Leedstown.  But there were no shops and the only pub had closed down.  I didn’t have enough to eat with me, and ran out of water, so it was hard to keep going.  Finally, on what seemed to be a traveller site, I managed to get water from a kind immigrant who gave me some from his caravan.  This was just as well as even with this extra water, I had pretty much run out when I got to Combe.

At Combe I decided to call it a day.  There is a good basic campsite, with a toilet block and running water – I have drunk several litres of this, and then dinner has been a lovely dehydrated meal…  I’m tired and hopefully will sleep well and be able to get away early tomorrow.