Friday, 31 October 2014

NDW Day 4: Merstham to Oxted

Now for the boring bit of the trail.

I was kind of dreading this part of the hike that closely follows the M25, the enormous ribbon of motorway that encircles the city of London.  I guess having a trail with such easy access to the city means these small inconveniences are bound to happen.  

I couldn't have picked a better day for it- late October and I'm still putting on SPF.

However, the one wrench in my plan was that I didn't get an earlier start.  I was planning on knocking 20 lonely miles out, but I reached the halfway point a little after 1pm....meaning I would have walked the last miles in the dark.  I quit after a mere 9 miles of walking rather then deal with that.  The clocks were set back last weekend and I just haven't adjusted yet, but the sun is dead and gone by 5pm now.

The trail was a little boggy in places but it climbed and stayed on the ridge for most of the walk, and I did enjoy myself.  You couldn't as much see the motorway as much as you could hear the constant drone of it at the foot of the hill.  Visions I had of walking right next to the road ended up being false, and it was a pretty countryside walk, if not a little noisy.

And looky there!  You can see London, sprawled out in front of you from the top of your first hill.

 Rather foolishly, I did not bring my camera, so these are all from the phone as I thought I would just end up with a lot of pictures of semi trucks.   So, pictures aren't the best today.

I had the trail to myself, too.  I saw a handful of people on horseback at one point, and bumped into one other through hiker doing day trips from London.

It was just so pleasant out,  I thought I was being rather pokey, but I ended up doing a respectable 2.6 mph.  If I kept that up without stopping to rest the dogs, I would have made it to Otford just after sunset.  Instead, I turned off to Oxted and took the train back to London.   Despite the beautiful late-October weather, the trail had turned off Oxted downs and was in site of the M25 for a long stretch, and I just wasn't inspired to keep going.

Not the most amazing day of walking, but any day walking in the countryside beats anything else I could think of doing, so it was all around a winning sort of day.  Plus, those half-hour train rides are adding up to be a rather spectacular lace shawl.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

FO: Stellaria Shawl

I never tire of knitting intricate lace shawls.

It doesn't matter that I will never wear this thing, but it was just so lovely to make, I don't feel like I've wasted any time at all.

It's the Stellaria Shawl from Twist Collective, a beautiful crescent shaped shawl with lacy broad leafs.

I used a bit over 1 skein of Rowan Fine Lace in Revival- a delicate light purplely pink.  It's about 550 yards, and it's a delicate suri alpaca and merino blend.  It's so gossamer and light.  This isn't really for warmth, but for decorating your decolletage.  It was kind of a pain in the ass to knit with- it was grabby, so if I wasn't paying attention, it would knot up upon itself and make a huge bird's nest that would take some deep breaths before I attempted to untangle.

Blocking was a bit of a chore- There's not enough pins in the world to pin out that many points- I think I did a decent job and got it fairly symmetrical.

The first half of this was really easy- it's all short rows back and forth and back and forth.  I had cast on during the train ride up to Glasgow and worked on it here and there during the West Highland Way hike.  By time time I was on the bus back to Glasgow, I had finished the short rows and was ready to move on to the lace, but that was exactly when the flu struck, and I spent the train ride back to London a shivering achy mess and couldn't stand the site of it.

A few weeks later, I picked it back up and finished the lace bit, and finished up in record time.  Sometimes, I just need a break.

The best part?  I found the yarn on sale at Liberty for  £4

It will be gifted, but I enjoyed flouncing around with it for a few minutes while planning my next lace creation.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

NDW Day 3: Box Hill to Mersham

Another beautiful autumn day for a walk...back up my old friend/nemesis, Box Hill.  

I left the Westhumble Station and picked the trail back up at the Box Hill car park, which had about 200 school kids getting ready to trek it up the hill, teachers in tow.  I practically ran up the Hill just to get ahead of the squacking mass of giggles and screeches, my feet barely touching the stepping stones.  

Box Hill was just as steep as the last time I climbed it, but starting at the Stepping Stones side proved a little easier since they just had a giant staircase the entire way up.

And the views, ah the views!  What a perfectly brilliant day to be out!


Once I got past Box Hill, the crowds thinned and I once again had the trail to myself for most of the day, aside from an occasional dog walker.

The walk was rather nice- it went past a ghost of a Lime Works and quarry, then up a steep beswitchbacked trailed up Colley Hill, then it stayed up high and went through a few National Trust meadows the rest of the day.

The only downside being that the M25, the main ring road that circles London, was roaring down at the bottom of the hill.

I stopped for lunch under a tree with amazing views stretching all the way to the South Downs, and put a few rows in on a pair of socks I've been chipping away at on my train rides out to the trail:

Scroll -------------->

And hey, I'm only 66 miles away from Dover!  That's probably how the crow flies, but it's not too far off the walking distance.  The North Downs is unique in the fact that it has a loop at the end- you can go North to Canterbury (as any good pilgrim should) or South and walk along the chalk cliffs to Dover, or just do the whole loop if it pleases you.  It's like a choose your own adventure book.

I did stumble upon the Millennium Stones, a set of standing "stones" in a field for the ages to wonder about.  Although...the fact that the artists' mission statement is on the internet means that it probably won't be a future place of pagan worship.

I stopped to pick berries and to give an old longears a good scratch:

....then ended my hike in the town of Merstham, a busy town of intersecting roads right on the M25.  It suddenly became a point of stress that I had to cross several busy roads to get to the train station, and I seemed to be the only stinking hippie coming off the trail this town had seen in a while.  It was warm enough on this day to really get my fragrance up after two hill climbs, and the tube ride back into London was lovely as everyone gave me plenty of elbow room/armpit wafting room.

So, the next stretch of trail I've been dreading: it near 20 miles (but not terribly hilly) from Mertsham to Otford.  It's not the distance, it is the fact that the M25 does not leave your site the entire time.  I want to have the personal satisfaction of having walked the entire trail, but I don't want to really spend 20 miles shadowing one of the busiest roads in England.

What to do?


After that?

Charge up the Ipod.  Put on the game face, get it over with.

I'll get to it one of these days.    

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

NDW Day 2: Guildford to Westhumble

My quest to walk across England continues....

I returned to Guildford early one morning and took off down the River Wye and rejoined the North Downs, dodging Orb weaver spiders the whole way.

The trail was a bit wilder once out of Guildford, and I soon climbed up to St Martha's church.  I had been here before- we had taken a jaunt up here on one of countryside walks last spring.

The trail was devoid of people- aside from the bit by Newland's Corner, where there is a huge car park.  This ended up being a really nice bit of trail that I would be happy to go back and re-hike, with views across the hazy valley to the South Downs.

Oh!  And has anyone ever seen this before?

It is two trees, CONNECTED!  That bottom branch is growing from both trees!  They were both quite large trees.  I've just never seen anything like this.

There were lots of beautiful old woodlands to walk through: West Hanger, Shere Woodlands, Netly Park.  I saw a golden Hazel Dormouse scurry by, and some science types were out studying the flora.  What a lovely bit of lonely trail!

The National Trust keeps up a good bit of what I walked through, and they maintained the chalk grassland, and I was soon blissfully hoofing it forward across the tops of the Downs.

Scroll -------------------->

There were also quite a lot of pillboxes tucked into the hillsides...a defense against the perceived threat of the French.

Soon, Denby's came into view, with views of Box Hill.  I didn't stop for wine, but headed straight for the train station, where I had some lovely stuff from France sitting at home.

Tucked into the picked-over grapes, a roe deer fawn, patiently waiting for its mother:

Well, that was perfectly pleasant!  I would go back and hike that bit again- it was peaceful and the views were lovely.  Altogether, it was a rather lengthy 15 miles, so it was no small walk, but I was pretty knackered in the end.