After practising our Olympic winning dismounts - much to the amusement of some bystanding sheep, we headed for a stone wall, on the other side of the stone wall excitingly was stage one of our destination.
Yes dear reader, we had finally and with no help whatsoever from Bec and her entirely misplaced confidence in her directional ability eventually achieved one of the places we were supposed to actually be.
We scrambled over barbed wire and the stone wall - there was a short pause whilst Bec removed her unfeasibly ginormous boot to extract half a thorn bush and then both of us filled with renewed hope and a dollop of ‘thank fuck’ we set off again.
Through a wood, passing some nice chaps on their bicycles - we were heading apparently, for a Scout camp, which we never found, although some considerable time later we did find a forlorn sign chucked behind a hedge that pointed to the now defunct Scout camp.....a nagging feeling that we were definitely still going in the wrong direction was alleviated by foraging lovely blackberries.
How can we be expected to get our directions right, when people go round moving entire Scout Camps?
On we trudged, the weather was beautiful and we were stomping through woods and down narrow tracks feeling very much like intrepid explorers. We were both quite adventurous when mere slips of things, these mildly exciting walks bring back those heady days of moving to live in countries on one’s own or starting businesses out of a cardboard box without a thruppence to scratch one’s arse with...
After what felt like bloody ages we come upon a road and feeling smug as we are now absolutely in the right place we congratulate each other soundly and have a celebratory oat cake.
Our next hurdle is the public right of way, which the instructions mention 'can be slightly overgrown.'
It was like a Jurassic forest. Stingy nettles and ferns towering above our heads, I swear somewhere in there was a diplodocus happily munching the primordial greenery.
Screwing my courage to the sticking point I mount the stile, when Bec says
'mnmnmh' I somewhat indistinctly reply having got myself entangled in a coat backpack stingy nettle bramble situation.
'It says here that this public right of way is closed.'
This seemingly innocuous comment penetrates my slightly confused mind,
'Oh no it’s ok - don't worry it says only until July 2020.' Bec tells me chirpily. ‘And its now September, so we should be ok.”
”We’ve had a pandemic.” I offered helpfully.
”Yes, but they would have kept on working during lockdown.” Replied Bec confidently.
This should have sounded a warning claxon in my mind.
Those of you who have been with us since the beginning, will know that we have history of ignoring 'footpath closed signs.' Last time we had to scale a 12 foot fallen tree - so we had a little laugh, and decided it couldn't possibly be worse, and duly set off.
After enjoying hacking our way through stinging nettles for ages we emerge, stumbling and covered in bits of twig onto the middle of a golf course, much to the consternation of 3 golfer types with ubiquitous stupid trousers.
'Hello Chaps!' Bec yodels cheerily - she knows how to talk to these people as EPH plays..
They just stare at us...
”Did you know Pip - that there is more land in UK set aside for Golf courses than housing?“ Bec states informatively.
Pip started muttering something about the patriarchy and my attention turned to my yummy mummy Patagonia yoga leggings which were not cutting the mustard through the equatorial stinging nettle forest and my legs were cut to shreds. I still have actual scabs on my legs two weeks later where the brambles tore at my lily white skin. As a delicate flower, my legs sting easily and for several nights after the walk, they throbbed incessantly throughout the night reminding me that women of a certain age should perhaps stick to Prosecco based celebrations rather than epic treks.
I didn't know about the housing and golf imbalance and proceeded to be a bit upset about it, immediately starting to plot to overthrow the patriarchy and chunter about male privilege etc etc etc. Bec ignored me for the entirety of this, to be fair, not very interesting rant, then distracted me by pointing at a hole in the ground and shouting,
Thus ensuring that we didn't actually see any badgers - all of whom were cowering underground wondering what the hell these two insane weirdos were doing in their bit of wood/jungle..
They only come out at night, so there was no way we were ever going to actually see a badger, unless it was dead at the side of the road. We did, however see a dead squirrel, a dead crow and a dead baby deer on this particular adventure. All of which tells us that nature can be cruel and that life is short and must be lived to the full. That’s the last piece of philosophical Instagram bullshit that will appear in this blog. Promise.
In fact, just before the dead deer, or maybe it was afterwards....at some point during our walk, we came across a farm which we were allowed to walk through. The jolly farmer was hosing down his large tractor (not a euphemism- he was actually hosing down his large tractor) and we were facing yet another hill to puff our way up when I spotted this sign
I want one of these signs for my front garden
And I want one for Beautiful Daughter and Giant Husbands farm gate
We finally reach the other end of the footpath and as we bitch noisily about idiots that don't remove harras fencing when work is finished and emerge blinking from the Stygian gloom of the badger infested wood we realise that some rude fucker has built a motorway slip road over our footpath...
We reached the ‘harras’ (who actually knew that the ugly metal fences builders put up to prevent people like us breaking into building sites were called harras fences? Pip. Obvs.) fence only after wading our way through a corn field. This wasn’t a normal corn field, but a corn on the cob field. So the stalks were at least ten foot tall (twice the height of Pip) and in an attempt to avoid yet more nettle stings, Pip decided we would walk through the towering corn like something out of that famous American film where they hide in a corn field the name of which completely escapes my mind. Whilst we were pretending to hide from the posse of angry cops slash aliens, Pip carefully selected a couple of ripe cobs for tea and popped them into her rucksack.
These motorway bank things are huge - much bigger than they look when you are on the correct bit of them, in a car...
The one facing us looked like base camp at Everest. It was so new that the grass hadn’t grown on it yet.
“Some bastard has moved the footpath!” I shouted with deep indignation.
”Yes.” Said Pip, checking the instructions for the zillionth time that day.
'Bollox' we trill in unison and collapse with laughter before taking a breath and clambering up the slope, scuttling across the slip road like two idiotic chickens and finally finding ourselves back on track.
I distinctly heard Pip say that she wished she had walking poles during the scramble to the top. ( I absolutely refute this....)
Bec takes a photo of the little sign the contractor has erected saying how wonderful they are as they haven't killed anyone during the improvements. Somewhere a little health and safety man is reading with disbelief the email that I have no doubt that my verbose best mate has since sent complaining about the removal of said footpath...he is to be pitied...especially if she ever finds him!
They hadn’t done a good job of the roadworks, because they hadn’t finished. They had some small snagging issues remaining; namely telling people that they’ve removed the sodding footbridge over the 3 lane roundabout so if you want to use the public footpath, you must be prepared to dodge speeding articulated lorries and family saloons with small children in the back saying ‘mummy, what are those strange women doing running like a pair of fannies across the motorway?’
By now we are on the outskirts of Loughborough, and are both getting a bit tired....we have a little rest - more oatcakes are consumed, and checking Google reckon we are only about 3 or 4 miles from the finish line! This produces a sort of hysterical insane laughter from me as we have according to my app already done 13.5 miles and I’m getting a little bit grumpy.
Following the directions given to us by a very nice little old lady - having by this time cursed the author of our chosen instructions for 60 generations and vowing to purchase an actual map with actual things on it, we realise that glory be we are only two miles from our destination.
We stop for a little bicker about another frigging bird - big white thing, looked like a stork to me - apparently not.....
It was clearly an egret.
And we are on the home straight - which obviously is uphill. By this time we are both feeling 'the burn' i.e. we want to kill everything including each other.
We pass the footpath that we should have taken in the first place 6 and a half sodding hours ago, I stare pointedly at it - not having the breath to speak, annoyingly Bec either doesn't notice or is ignoring me.
Never has Gertie looked so wonderful!
A celebratory hug later and we are ensconced in the wonderful comfort of my huge car driving home, feeling hungry, exhausted and quite sore.
I reverse onto the drive and we topple sideways out of the car stuck in the shape of the seats hobble into the house to be greeted by an exuberant Dude.
I hand the pain killers out and we plan the next walk!