Commando’s compression shorts were in a heap at the top of the stairs when I got up this morning. I picked them up to throw them in the washing machine as he’d obviously dropped them when he was taking laundry to the machine last night. Good job I did. Half way down the stairs I noticed there was a light on in the gym and I could just hear the muffled sounds of breakfast TV. Mini Commando was up and, more to the point, I was half way down the stairs wearing nothing but an I Love My Matiz t-shirt (not a particularly long one either), I don’t think he’d have appreciated the sight of my bare bum over his cornflakes somehow! So I stopped and put on the only thing to hand, the compression shorts. Amazingly they fit! I hope I haven’t stretched them.
Disaster averted. I’d forgotten today was the first day of Mini Commando’s work experience as a plumbers mate which was why he was up so early. He seemed quite cheerful which is odd because he’s normally a real grumpy guts first thing in the morning. He even made me a coffee. Maybe he’s looking forward to doing something more interesting than sitting in a classroom talking about doing things. This job is all part of the government’s master plan to cut the numbers of out of work young people, getting them to do unpaid work for local firms. I’m not sure it’s going to get him a job but at least it’s getting him some much needed experience and, from the government’s point of view, it makes the unemployment figures look a bit better for a few weeks.
The butterflies were just starting up in anticipation of my driving lesson, I was putting my socks on and thinking about bay parking, when a text came through. Sally had just left the house to come to me and noticed a nail sticking out of one of her tyres. Lesson cancelled as she had to go straight down to the garage to get a new tyre fitted. I wasn’t sure whether to be pleased or upset. I get really nervous before each lesson, wishing I didn’t have to do it, but when I’m out there I sort of enjoy it in a semi masochistic way. The last few lessons have been quite good and I’ve come home feeling I’ve made real progress. In fact, last week, there was a moment when I actually felt as if I might be able to drive on my own one of these days. If Mattie Matiz didn’t need a new ignition I might have been tempted to go out for a drive with Commando.
So, suddenly I had a great deal more time on my hands than expected. The sun was shining, well, in between the black clouds anyway, and the weather forecast was dry so it seemed an opportune time for a quick walk. I spent a little while looking at maps on WalkJogRun for likely places to explore. Actually it felt quite good not to have to worry about distance and plotting a walk around making x number of miles, freedom to roam at will! There are quite a few little footpaths I’ve seen on my travels and wondered about so I thought I’d take the time to explore one, seeing as I didn’t have any agenda and it didn’t really matter if I got lost or things didn’t work out quite how I expected and I had to change my plan.
Millers Pond was my off road starting point so I set off down Spring road feeling quite carefree and cheerful. This was not Moonwalk training, this was just wandering around exploring and it felt good! There was not a single thought in my head about speed, distance or time, just me putting one foot in front of the other and enjoying the unexpected feel of sunshine on my face, cold sunshine of course but welcome nonetheless. Instead of my trainers, I wore my Skechers boots, nice and comfortable, unlike Wellies which are useless for walking any distance, but a little more waterproof than trainers. I did take my water bottle and put the WalkJogRun on, just to track my walk for future reference and help if I got lost and I had the new tunes on my iPod which was lovely after all the doom and gloom over it yesterday afternoon when everything got wiped after I synced.
Last time I saw the pond it was frozen, with snow on the ice in the middle. It’s thawed since then and a wood pigeon was sitting on the rail of one of the viewing platforms. There was another one in the bushes close by, possibly its mate. People give pigeons a bad press because of the ferral ones on the streets scavenging for scraps and making a mess everywhere. Wood pigeons are a whole different breed though. The ferral pigeon comes from domestic pigeons that have reverted to the wild, their origins are sea cliffs and mountains, hence all the nesting on the ledges of tall buildings. Wood pigeons nest in trees and, as their name implies, live in woods, usually near water. I stopped for a moment to watch the pigeon watching me until it decided it didn’t like me being so close and flew off, then I set off along the path.
There were a few people about walking dogs and, like me, just walking, bought out by the blue sky I suppose. So, instead of marching along, I strolled looking around at the trees and the sky. When I came to the open grassy bit I noticed a kind of concrete bunker I’d not spotted before. It must have been there all along but I’d probably been too busy worrying about speed. As distance and speed were unimportant today I decided to go off the path and have a closer look, thinking it might be something interesting, maybe a war time shelter (obviously I’ve spent far too many hours wandering around the woods in Normandy where there are bunkers round every bend). Turned out it was just a pair of drains, so not very interesting at all but still it was nice to just wander over to have a look.
Not long after this I came to the end of the paved path. There were some rather large
puddles on the grass which didn’t bode well but the fact that a woman was walking that way made me carry on, she looked like she knew where she was going. I’d seen her earlier, before my little off path adventure, and she was just wearing normal walking boots. Turned out the woman didn’t know any more than I did. The path was fine at first, mainly leaf mould but under this there were patches of mud I had to skirt around by pressing myself up tight to the bushes. When the woman came back towards me, obviously fed up with the muddy conditions, I knew I was coming up to a little lane so I pressed on hoping it would be better on the other side where the ground was a little higher.
Before long I came to a wooden bridge over the ditch beside the lane. My boots were still relatively clean at this point. Once I crossed the lane I was back in woods, although there were houses just visible between the trees. The sun was streaming between the branches and the path wasn’t too muddy, mainly gravel at this point. There were a few places where I had to step carefully to avoid the mud but nothing too bad. After a while the path widened out and got much drier just as I’d hoped. To my right the ground sloped quite sharply downwards and I thought I could see the glint of water between the trees.
When I came to a fork in the path I stopped and checked the Walk jog run to see which way to go. There is a massive advantage to having satellite maps at the touch of a button. Then I came to another road. I knew exactly were I was, at the top of Bunny Hill and I was so glad to see the woodland path continued on the other side of the road. Bunny Hill is a steep hill down followed by another steep hill going back up. I don’t even like going up and down in a car because it’s a bit like a roller coaster ride and I usually leave my stomach somewhere about half way down. My calves wouldn’t have thanked me if I’d had to walk up and down that for sure.
The path looked pretty dry at first although it still dipped down sharply to my right. After a while
I came to a side path running down to a little stream. I didn’t take it but shortly afterwards my own path turned sharply down towards the water. There was an elderly man in the undergrowth cutting wood and he stopped to say hello to me. I wonder what he wanted the wood for, his fire perhaps? Now I was pretty close to the stream and the going was getting wetter and wetter. It was becoming harder to get round the puddles and my boots were a bit on the muddy side. I came to a little wooden bridge crossing the stream. Although I didn’t want to cross because the path just came out between some houses, I did go to the middle and have a closer look at the stream. It was wider than I’d expected, probably because of all the rain we’ve had.
Going back to the original path, which now ran right beside the stream, I carried on. There were more bridges leading up to the houses now, it seemed like every few yards there was a bridge but I figured, if the path became impassable, I could always turn back and find a bridge back to the road. I stopped for a moment to examine a fallen tree sporting the most wonderful growth of fungus, took photos, then carried on. After a while the trees receded to my left and there were quite
wide areas of grass. When I came to a very large mud puddle I decided to walk across the grass to avoid it. This almost led to me ending up on my arse. The grass looked firm enough but it was deceptively boggy underneath. I found myself slipping and sliding all over the show, very close to actually losing my balance. After that I left the grass well alone and squelched through the mud as best I could, trying to keep to the driest bits.
Suddenly there were no more trees to my left, just houses and I could see a playground ahead. On the other side of the playground there was a proper paved path with benches alongside. Looking at the map I could see it came out on a street a little way from where I wanted to be that led in completely the wrong direction. On closer inspection there was a feint track leading off the other way though and it seemed to go between the trees so I thought I’d give it a try and see where it took me. When I reached the trees the path was clearer and what’s more it was dry and gravelly.
By a stroke of luck the new path led way past where I thought it would end and even went for a while alongside the main road before it came to an abrupt halt at a wooden fence beside a clump of Honesty pods that must have escaped from a nearby garden. So it was back to the road with my muddy boots about a mile from the village. As ever, the road included
hills, starting with a nice up hill stretch with not a tree in sight. I was feeling sorry to have left the woods behind but as I reached the crest of the hill a very apt advertising hoarding for Cancer Research reminded me why I started all this walking in the first place, even if today wasn’t an official Moonwalk training walk.
After that it was down the hill past the allotments at the aptly named Muddy Bottom. I stopped for a moment to peer
through the fence at all the little plots, wondering what they were growing and dreaming of all the things I would grow if there were any allotments a bit closer to my house. One even had chickens, I could hardly believe my eyes. My Dad used to keep birds when I was little, we had an aviary at the bottom of the garden where the veg plot and shed are now. When I was small I often used to go inside and feed the birds, no ornithophobia for me. I even had some orange canaries called Red Factors of my own and a pair of Zebra Finches called Salt and Pepper. Dad was the Chairman of the Hampshire Caged Birds Society and we used to go to bird shows. We never had chickens though. Imagine all those fresh eggs!
At the top of the hill and almost back in the village, there were houses with little gardens beside the road. One pretty little cottage had snowdrops growing in the garden and a porch with stained glass windows. Further on there were some dried out Hydrangea heads, like old lace where the petals had begun to skeletonise. I really must get some this year, they add so much interest to the garden, even in winter. In no time at all I was walking past my own little church and down into the precinct to pick up a newspaper for Commando and a chocolate milk shake, even if I hadn’t really earned it, before finally going down the Big Hill and home. The total distance was four and three quarter miles and it took me about two hours, although I’d didn’t stop the WalkJogRun for any of my numerous stops or my stroll round the shops. Not the most impressive for speed or distance I know but certainly one of the most cheerful for a long while.