When my feet are off the road
Wrong side of the tracks
Winter is not always the best time to go on a trek. Foul weather blues have been in abundance and once it was like dusk all day long. The temperature was hovering just above freezing with rain and wind, meaning a very cold walk. It was a good test of my new waterproof trousers, which did their job well.
A month later the forecast was sunny, in double figures, so I set out to Amersham from London's Marylebone Station. Extra daylight (it was early February) meant I would not be stuck with only an hour or so before darkness hit. Living way out in another corner of London can mean around 3+ hours each way and that's just not worth the effort in deep winter. This time the connectons were pretty good and I was at Amersham in record time, just under 2 hours.
Normally I have a basic satellite view on my smartphone (also used as camera here), but had forgotten to upload it. However, I had looked at the shot enough times that I knew approximately where to head for and was soon on a trail.
I did notice a route online (the official one) and decided to give it a miss and walk along the other side of the railroad tracks instead. There seems to be a misconception that official footpaths are okay but in my experience I've found that to be the opposite. Usually the signage is a mess, if there are any left after the vandals have torn them up or twisted them around. So the other side of the railway meant no signs and probably no people either.
There were some unmarked and unmapped footpaths but no one was about, which is the way I like it and carried on along the route for a while. What I had not done was to zoom up in Terrain on Google maps to check elevations. So when this fair sized hill appears, things began to change.
One big problem with trails is mud and all other kinds of stuff like: litter, tree roots and attempts to "sanitize" them. Normally I wear Merrell Moab GTX shoes, however these are made for the desert (the Moab is one) and are quite useless in very muddy conditions. So a pair of cheap throwaway Karrimor boots were bought for this winter, until I can find some good combat boots for serious trekking. I like off trail and do it as much as possible.
As I write this, I'm trying to remember how many hills I either went over or traversed the sides of. One part of a hill I had to go back because I was presented with about a 20 foot vertical drop. Fortunately it was one of those "instant" ones and not a killer which happens after gentle to steep rounds down on very, slippery, wet grass. Once was enough on that kind of slope.
It was many years ago in France. I knew it was steep and was traversing the upper part, when what looked like level grass was a sudden dip. Wet and slimy. I had a Brown Best military pack with quick release straps. The straps were off and I grabbed something (can't remember what) which held me as the pack went down an 80-85 degree drop for over 60 feet. Took a while going down to it, fortunately nothing was damaged. Since then I have been extremely leery of wet slopes.
The distance between Amersham and Little Missenden is only about 3 map miles. The hills and backtrack, plus me just wandering about in a sort of general direction, just for fun, saw around 5 miles covered. I stopped and sat on a large fallen branch for lunch, about an hour in, then continued the walk. The weather was sunny with clouds and about 12-13 C.
After about an hour and a half, I found a sort of trail. The route was kind of seen, but so few people walked it that hardly any dirt or mud was present, more a depression in the ground. Ahead, up to the right, was a gate and I stopped. In next field was a herd of horses. A white one, stood back a bit above the rest, looked in my direction and started toward the gate. This was the Alpha male, keeping watch as they normally do. The last thing I wanted to contend with was some hard ass stallion. It turned out okay though, he made his noise and all the others ran up the hill a few hundred yards awayso I went in and crossed the large field (keeping an eye on him just in case). It's not mating season (May) so he probably had no interest in stomping me to death. Bulls can be interesting in June though or in a field by themselves, especially the Spanish ones (which can stop on a dime, jump 15 feet in the air and have some very nasty horns).
Once across the huge pasture, another one presented itself and had only about 4 horses in. My legs were, by this time, letting me know about the hills and their dislike of rising earth. A short while later some buildings were seen and I entered the distant part of Little Missenden. At one stage I had a chat with some people who have a farm for animals used in movies and TV programs. Then a little look around and I crossed the A413 to the main village.
Little Missenden is just thatlittle. Last year when we had a real summer (finally after 30 years), I had been through Great Missenden which is a different kettle of fish. I had a short look see then noticed the South Bucks Way sign. This is the one which is official and I was in Old Amersham within the hour. I had been out for about 3 hours. It was a nice afternoon out and I reckon I covered about 8-9 miles total.
Feb 12, 2019