Up and down our country (and yes, that includes Scotland) Challengers are stretching their legs. Social media tells of new shelters, boots, rucsacs and knocking back pints of methylated spirits to dull the pain. Most seem to be preparing alone; they prefer it that way. This is either because they have no mates or the oft-used blether of seeing more wildlife, appreciating the silence and rambling wherever their wont takes them, unencumbered by a companion.
However, on my solitary strolls (No, I don't have any mates either) around the local patch I've experienced enormous pleasure bumping into some fascinating characters.
I had passed a Foggy, Compo and Clegg combo on an afternoon thirteen miler, ambling along a fine stretch of footpath only to bump into them again a few hours later. It would have been curmudgeonly not to have a quick chat, seeing as we were the only people for miles around (I would add that this is not something that would have troubled the Curmudgeon-in-Chief, Lord Elpus) and I discovered them to be a wonderful bunch. They have been walking together for fifty years or so and by all accounts had been there and got the t-shirt.
Amongst various stories we shared, I found out that they had helped in the campaign for the Ridgeway to become a National Trail and were the first people to walk it, along with the campaign's chief organiser upon its designation in 1972.
We were strolling along a straight section of path that I had often thought looked a little direct, and the trio mentioned that it had once been a railway for the Binfield Brickworks. This area used to be full of brickworks; As a boy I had learned to canoe (or worse, learned to capsize the bloody thing) in the old Warfield Brickworks' clay pit lake. It's now a housing estate.
I have tried to find out more about the Binfield works, but have drawn a blank. From the map I can only surmise that it used to be where the sewage works is now, but that has been there since before I was born.
Surprised at my ignorance of things local, the boys then told me all about the Reading Chalk Mines. At this point I was convinced that these blighters were pulling my leg. Indeed, they continued, a shaft to the mine could be found in an excellent pie shop in Reading town centre!
Well stone me, mate, but after a very quick Google I discovered that indeed there was a Reading Chalk Mine and it still exists! The chalk was used in the production of the local bricks - a soft red rubbing brick. A few years ago a terrace of houses started to collapse as the mine workings beneath fell in. Lorry loads of concrete were poured into the mine to prevent further disasters. I have yet to find the Pie Shop referred to, but intend to track it down as the pies are purportedly delicious.
The pictures in this post are in chronological order and you'll notice that since my last post three weeks ago Spring has sprung and it just remains for the oaks to pull their roots up and get on with it. They are lazy blighters.
I spent a nervous half hour yesterday attacking my very pricey Carbon Superfeet insoles with a very sharp knife. It's a tricky job as you only have the boots' floppy insoles to use as a template and the Superfeet have a very definite vertical profile, so it's a question of a tiny slice at a time until they fit perfectly. They're much more comfortable now.
And speaking of huge expense, I recently took out a mortgage on a new pair of Smartwool socks. Dear God! When did they become so expensive?
|CRICKET PITCH AND THE PLOUGH & HARROW|
|THE PLOUGH & HARROW|
|ONE OF THE LOCALS|
For completeness I've attached the progress to date. It's all going rather swimmingly.
In a week's time I shall be amongst a gang of hooligans on the Annual PreWalkDaunder, this year being run by our Guest Fat Controller, that VeryVeryNiceMan Mr Williams. He's had his work cut out, as there are fourteen of the blighters on this year's walk! It's like herding cats.