Sunday, 6 March 2011

Greensand Ridge Walk

I've always liked long distance walks. The idea of setting off to complete the miles, day after day, until finally, the journey ends with a huge sense of achievement, just so appealed to me, and I had to do one.

It seemed to me to be like youth-hostelling, but even better. What fun to follow the route and the little signs, and plan the route (hardly difficult) with the help of the official handbook thing. And buy all the OS maps and decide how far to go each day and where to stay at night.

Sadly my parents didn't seem inclined to undertake the Pennine Way as one of their holidays, so I had to wait a good few more years before I did my first walk.

Living in Bedfordshire at the time, the start of the Greensand Ridge Walk was literally a stone's throw away from our house, by the Grand Union Canal in Leighton Buzzard. It opened in 1986 so when we did it a year or so later it was still pretty new. It's a leisurely stroll across pretty Bedfordshire (and Bucks and Cambs) countryside of about 40 miles. Perfect for a weekend. I think we chose a Bank Hol weekend so that we would have a day off to recover.

The first morning we both drove to the far end of the walk to leave one of the vehicles, and came back in the other. Sorting round and packing seemed to take for ever, and our early morning start to the walk turned out to be after lunch. We must have covered a good eight miles or so in the afternoon because we reached Woburn Abbey early evening and camped somewhere on the other side of the estate. It was beautiful wandering through Woburn, seeing the herds of deer and just walking over the endless grassy parkland.

The next day, the weather was not good. In fact it chucked it down, and I was deciding that maybe long-distance walks weren't all they were cracked up to be. As we struggled along, totally and utterly soaking wet, I caved in, and said I would try the pub down the road and ask for a room for the night. So much for Ruffy Tuffy Me.

It was, back then, years before all-day drinking and the pub was shut. Well shut. I wanted a nice warm dry room and a bath. I went around the back and banged on the door and shouted and hollered. To no avail. Obviously the pub people did not want drenched scruffy walkers looking for rooms on a Sunday afternoon. No soft comfy bed. No bath. No drying out. No pub meal in the evening. Just more rain to look forward to.

I trudged sadly back to Partner and we made our dismal wet weary way onward. There wasn't exactly a lot of choice.

Then, I spotted the perfect discrete camping spot. There was, naturally, a sign saying 'Private.' It was some sort of a bird or nature reserve I think. I threw caution to the winds - and rains - and jumped over the fence. It was such crappy weather that the chances of wardens, or anyone else coming around were pretty low. And the tent went up so inconspicuously amidst the bushes and trees. Excellent.

The next day dawned slightly drier and we set off for the last leg. Luckily not on our last legs. Picked up the car, and home we drove. My first walk ticked off. And in retrospect, I was glad the pub didn't want scruffy walkers. It would have diminished the sense of achievement if we'd wimped out and spent a night indoors.

Woburn Abbey

Chatting to cows near the end of the walk

Fashion details: Helly Hansen waterproof, Karrimor rucksack, King Gee shorts, and Hawkins Cairngorm walking boots.

Yes, I know I said one pic one post, but rules are made to be broken and I thought the three together added more value.

Links below to 1) Greensand Ridge and 2) a forum which details the sad closure of Hawkins.

Greensand Ridge Walk official site

Hawkins discussion

1 comment:

  1. how strange. K has business down in Hertfordshire soon, and I am going with him. Because an old, old friend of my Dad, lovely lady, lives nearby at Leighton Buzzard. So am taking the chance to meet up with her. Have never been there, so your post interested me on this point alone.

    I too, love long walks, though would always prefer, if I get wet, for a comfy pub to be open to visitors. But as you so rightly say, back in the day, pubs were quiet places and rarely open when you needed them to be.

    Although I did think you were going to write at the end, you had happened upon a Naturist Camping site.......thank you for sharing your memories.

    and sorry I didn't mean my comment to be all about me.
    J x


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