02 July 2009

Day 26 - Classics, Treats and an Angry Bovine

Tewkesbury to Worcester - 15/06/09

The one downside to a tent as a form of temporary accommodation, is that in terms of sound proofing it is somewhat lacking. Normally this isn't too much of a problem as my ear plugs (probably one of the cheapest and yet most essential purchases of my entire journey thus far) do a sterling job of blocking out the sounds of the countryside (and the sound of my alarm, but that’s another matter entirely) and I'm usually so worn out from walking that I'm asleep in moments. Last night however was slightly different, a combination of a short day and a monumental racket from the wedding party being held mere yards from my fabric shelter meant that I didn't sleep a wink until the wee hours of the morning. I did however get to relive the school discos of my youth by being bombarded with classics such as 'The Time Warp', 'The Twist' and 'The Birdy Song' all at brain meltingly loud volume. Peaceful it was not, but on the plus side I had another nice short day today and even better I have a nice swanky hotel in which to relax this evening.

The reason for the short day and opulent accommodation are one and the same, tomorrow is my 24th birthday and to celebrate my folks have come down to visit and treat me to a night in plush surroundings. Hurrah! This meant that I had the rather odd situation (well for me anyway) of having a fixed finish time for today’s hike. Usually I just set off at some point once I've packed away my lodgings and get to my destination whenever I get there. Today however as a pre-birthday treat I decided I'd have a nice short day and so arranged for a pick up at 2:30 regardless of where I might be (well presuming I'm not in the middle of a field somewhere).

Today I took my first steps along the Severn Way, a trail which as the name suggests follows the winding course of the river Severn. Always a bit apprehensive when starting on a new trail, as my experiences in Cornwall and Devon have left me a tad sceptical about the walkability (hurrah for made up words!) of footpaths in this part of the country. It turns out that I had nothing to fear. Besides a small issue with a broken step on the very first stile (which ended up requiring something of a vault to clear) and a couple of short sections of rampant undergrowth, the stroll along the river turned out to be a real pleasure. One small hiccup in this, which had nothing to do with the Severn Way itself, was caused by one intractable bull that thought it would be amusing to park itself in front of the only exit to a field. As I approached it began to snort, stamp and generally look rather unhappy which would generally be enough to have me seriously reconsidering my choice of route. Sadly in this instance there really was no other choice but to gingerly sneak my way past, whilst preparing myself to leap over the hedge if it took so much as a single step in my direction. Obviously, given that I'm writing this now I clearly survived unscathed, but it's not an experience I shall relish repeating.

After my encounter with the local wildlife, it was really little more than a matter of getting to the nearest lane and tromping along until my designated pickup time. Helpfully this coincided nicely with my arrival at a little village which makes remembering where to begin again tomorrow slightly easier. But that’s a problem for tomorrow, for now I'm going to make the most of my luxurious surroundings and go soak my walk weary legs in the jacuzzi. Hurrah!

Day 25 - Sloth, Stares and a Short Stroll

Cheltenham to Tewkesbury - 14/06/09

To make up for my unscheduled early departure yesterday, this morning I seized the (somewhat rare) opportunity to lay in until lunchtime. It's the first proper lie-in I've had for quite some time and certainly the first I've had on a walking day. I've been able to get away with the wanton bout of laziness however as my walk today from Cheltenham to the picturesque town of Tewkesbury was little more than an afternoons stroll. Nevertheless despite the low mileage I decided to play it safe and stick to the lanes for the day as the thoughts of yesterday's foliage filled footpaths were still fresh in my mind.

It's rather tricky to think of something to write about an afternoon trundling along the lanes, but one thing that I have noticed today is the stares of the drivers. If the motorists in this part of the world are anything to go by then walkers must be a rare species indeed. I realise that dressed as I am in my full hiking regalia I do sort of stand out from the crowd, but it doesn't make it any less unnerving when the occupants of every passing vehicle are treating you like some sort of mobile exhibit. I suppose it's another reason (if one was needed) for avoiding the roads where possible and it was with this thought in mind that I decided to take a shortcut across some fields on the outskirts of Tewkesbury. This decision then proceeded to bite me right in the ass when I hoofed across said field to find that there was no way out save the way that I came in. It was clear that once upon a time there had indeed been a stile but at some point it must have been damaged and the owner of this particular field had decided that the best way to repair it was with lashings of barbed wire. Helpful it was not.

I really can't wait to get up into the peak district where the sight of a backpack is more the norm than the exception. That's not to say that I'm not enjoying my time in Southern England (the Cotswold Way is just one of the highlights of the last few weeks), but I'm getting a little tired of of feeling quite so out of place all of the time.