Leaving a car park seems to be the toughest part of our walks. Last weekend was no exception. Pip announced on the Saturday morning that we would be walking eleven miles, starting from the monastery nearby. Who knew that monks lived in rural Leicestershire, but apparently they do.
We were as prepared as ever. Pip had printed off the instructions for our walk so as to avoid the low battery anxiety we had experienced on previous walks. I thought this was a marvellous piece of foresight and began to feel as though we were in control of the whole walking thing, verging on trekking.
”Can we stop off at the petrol station so I can pick up a copy of The Times?” asked Pip as we loaded Gertie up with our rucksacks and my poles.
”Yes.” I replied absent mindedly.
We pulled into the Morrisons petrol station and I suggested we pick up some food as we had packed precisely nothing to eat during the eleven mile walk we were about to embark upon.
”Good idea.” said Pip.
”Humous?” She enquired.
”Oh, yes please! And some oat cakes.“. Slight pause. “Do they do oat cakes in Morrisons?”
”Not sure.” Replied Pip.
Happily, they do do oat cakes in Morrisons so we filled our rucksacks with them, a tub of humous, some protein bars, almonds and those raw fruit bar things.
Loaded with our booty, we easily found the monastery car park and then proceeded to spend forty five minute trying to get out of it. We did get out of it eventually, only to go round in a big circle and find ourselves back where we started.
”We could just go back to the car and pretend we’ve walked eleven miles.” Offered Pip hopefully.
”No way!” I exclaimed. “We said we were going to do this and our reader will be expecting to hear all about it next week.” These were words I almost came to regret.
It was indeed a more than usually interesting initial part of the walk. Normally it’s the car parks that flummox us....
Bec is notoriously shite at directions, and I understand from EPH that she can easily get lost in a small cupboard.
'I’ve noticed,' started Bec in a slightly complainingy tone of voice, 'that I'm never allowed to be in charge of directions.'
This as we happily slide out of Gertie and head off in the direction that the walk instructions tell us to....
So despite both of our understanding that Bec is directionally challenged she confidently chooses our initial direction. Which should have been South. Which was the antithisis of South. In fact we went North.
I then spent 45 minutes trying to demonstrate by diligent use of the directions that we were in fact going the wrong way.
Bec has an incredible ability to ignore things that she would rather not hear, that I have a huge respect for and slight envy of.....although its not helpful on occasions like these - eventually after a couple of even more wrong turns in a small wood (which we shouldn’t have been in - at the top of a hill we shouldn't have been on) Bec admits defeat and we trudge off to find a road.....
'Where are we going?' bleats Bec plaintively.
'We are retracing our steps so we can find the actual fucking footpath we were supposed to be on in the first place!' I respond in obviously patient tones....
It was an early autumn morning with bright blue skies, a warmth in the air with the soft light of a September sun gently nourishing us as we walked down a country road dodging the speeding cars heading straight for us.
”Christ! That was close!“ I cried over the noise of a knob head boy racer in a ridiculously pimped up BMW. “How far is the path from here?”
Pip patiently put her reading glasses on to check the instructions.
”About five minutes.” Came the reply.
”Oooh look! Apples.” I said, demonstrating my ability to immediately forget bad news and focus on something shiny. There was indeed an apple tree at the side of the road, laden with beautifully ripe apples which had a reddy green sheen to them. We lightly skipped across the road, first checking for BMW drivers and picked an apple each. I felt like a heroine out of Thomas Hardy novel. Eat your heart out Bathsheeba, forget your hillside sheep and flashy sword play, I’ve got bloody apples picked ripe from a tree in twenty first century plague ridden England.
We found a footpath and simply decided that it would just have to do. It also offered sufficient cover to allow us our obligatory wee before striding out any further into rural Leicestershire.
After much debate we found ourselves walking up hill. Now, I had been planning a walk with hills in Scotland and so this pleased me enormously. We need to practice doing hills as apparently there are a few in the foothills of the Himalayas and I was beginning to wonder whether Pip was manipulating events so that our walks were always on the flat plains surrounding her home town.
As we ascended, I noticed a bird. Being the wife of Ever Patient Husband who considers himself to be next in line to the David Attenborough throne, I have been instructed in the ways of bird spotting.
”What’s that?” I said out loud as Pip puffed her way up the hill behind me. She has very bravely and sensibly given up the fags so her lungs were paying her back by burning as she daintily picked her way up the hill.
”It’s a chaffinch.” Came the confident reply.
”That’s not a bloody chaffinch.” I said, perhaps rather too aggressively.
”I’ll phone EPH and he’ll tell me what it is.”
As the one regular reader of this blog will know, EPH has had a certain degree of scepticism about our walks, mainly around the fact that we always get lost and neither of us can read a map or instructions. So, when I called him to enquire as to the identity of the mystery bird, this is what he said,
”Are you still in the UK?”
Rude! Just plain rude! Although, we did have to admit that it was unclear as to what county we were in at that point in time.
EPH kindly sent me three images of potentials; a white throat, something else that I’ve forgotten and a South American vulture thing. I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions.
We got to the top of the hill and found an oak tree and a pile of stones. The perfect spot for our cobbled together at the last minute picnic.
”I think that’s Yorkshire over there.” Piped up Pip.
”That’s nice.” I said, tucking into my oat cakes and humous.
”Oh, look and there’s the M1.” She said, not to be deterred. (For our overseas reader, the M1 is the main motorway in Britain and runs from London all the way to Yorkshire where it turns into the A1 and finally reaches Edinburgh.)
”Crikey, so it is.”
”According to the instructions, we’re in the right place as it says we should be able to see the M1 on our left.”
By the time we had bickered our way to the top of this hill, I had completely given up ever actually finding the correct route and was beginning to experience minor levels of anxiety that we would be so late back to the Monastery that we would be locked in and forced to spend the night in the 'Ladies Lodge' A strange looking place where if they havent as yet filmed a horror film they certainly should.
The M1 was indeed on our left but about 3 miles further away than it should be because Kimo frigging Sabe had led us at a 45 degree angle in the wrong sodding direction...
I did a quick check of which was my right and my left and she was indeed correct. The M1 was on our left. This was a minor miracle. We’d somehow managed to get back onto the right path. (We hadn't, this is an example of Becs wonderful ability to remain utterly relaxed and happily convinced that everything is perfectly ok despite evidence to the contrary)
”Do you know the next walk we do Pip?”
”I think we should buy an actual map. A proper map that we can read.”
”Hmmm. Good idea.”
Satiated, we wandered off down the hill and found ourselves at a farm. It became abundantly clear that we had to cross the farmer’s fields in order to continue our epic walk. We had a choice;
a small field filled with randy rams with big horns (no pun intended) OR a larger field filled with young, rather curious bullocks.
The curious bullocks...
We stared at the bullocks for a while, having a little chat about the chances of making it across the field without being trampled to death by causing a stampede. We felt the odds were against us and so opted to walk further down the hill where we came upon a set of low sheep pen gates, jauntily fixed together with string.
Since Pip and I are well and truly mistresses of launching ourselves over the larger five bar gate, we both felt this would be an easy win, compared to randy rams and curious bullocks.
Pip went first.
I’m not really sure what happened, but what I did witness was all five foot two of her being catapulted from the top of the tiny gates into the air and then landing in a small heap of boots, rucksack and pack a mac several metres away in a narrow field.
I will tell you exactly what happened - Bec commenced the wondrous feat that is Bec getting over an obstacle before I had cleared the wobbly fence thing and trebuchet like it catapulted me into the air, flinging me forwards. As I watched the ground hurtling towards me, the main thing going through my mind was,
'Fuck this is going to hurt!'
I was right it did.
I staggered upright and felt a certain pride that I could still walk.
Needless to say I hung onto my pelvic floor for dear life and fell about laughing hysterically.
With renewed confidence and vigour, we womanfully walked on through many other fields, hurling ourselves over fences, gates and undergrowth to remain steadfastly on ’the path’. It had now become an obsession. The fact that we’d got back onto ‘the path’ and that we would remain on ‘the path’ was soon the entire focus of our walk. Literally nothing was going to get in our way.
I then got stuck. My huge Tweenie esk walking boot got trapped in the square gap in some pig wire and I found myself with one leg over the fence and the other completely stuck. Panic began to set in as I had visions of fire fighters being called to release my now broken and twisted foot from the tangled wreckage of the pig wire, my leg being amputated and me having to be given an honourable discharge from the trekking community.
”Hold my hand!” I cried to Pip as she looked up at my pathetic face from the right side of the fence.
”Ok.” She said, slightly bewildered.
I have no idea why I wanted her to hold my hand. It just seemed like the right thing to be saying at that point in time.
After twenty seconds of holding Pip’s hand, I said.
”Stop holding my hand.” An equally bizarre command, that she eagerly complied with.
My feverish imagination soothed, I then took my free leg back over the fence to help it loosen the trapped foot and in one swift and graceful movement I released the foot, lunged it over the fence and brought the other smoothly over after it, landing in a classic finish on the ground just like a gold medal winning gymnast. I could tell Pip was impressed by the way she was now gamefully holding onto her pelvic floor and laughing hysterically.
So relieved were we both that Bec wasn't going to have to be cut out of the fence by firemen (although.....) that we pranced across the field like idiots practicing our interpretations of the aforementioned gymnast 'finish' There is photographic evidence of this - but there are somethings a friendship would just never survive....
Pip helpfully checked how many miles we’d walked and how long it had taken us so far.
We’d only done four miles and been walking slash faffing about for just over two hours. It was going to be an epic walk......