Friday, 30 September 2011

The Aldbury Circuit. Part I

In which I fail to walk all the way round the village of Aldbury, deal with a pretty unpleasant nappy and consider the compromises of parenthood.

Ordnance Survey Number: Explorer 181
Distance: 2.5 miles approx
Time:75 minutes (Includes feeding and changing time)

Rating: Easy-Moderate. Steep ascending/descending and map reading skills required, but as my skills are very poor indeed and I managed it, I would rate it as probably pretty idiot-proof.

I intended to do a walk that went all the way around the village of Aldbury, but events conspired against me and it was only a short one this week - I'll have to do The Aldbury Circuit Part II at some point.

The village of Aldbury is incredibly chocolate box-ey. It doesn't do Cotswold stone, but in all other aspects it ticks the boxes. Duck pond, cottages, cute pubs covered in flowers from window boxes, rolling countryside, it's got it all. It's also got a set of stocks and whipping post next to the duck pond, which doesn't quite fit with the 'tranquil idyll' theme, but does at least show what the villagers used to do for a good time before the train line to London was put in nearby.

Turn your back on The Greyhound Pub and bear left past the duck pond, and turn left at the junction. In a few metres you are signposted up a bridleway which will shortly lead you to a moderate climb up the side of a Chiltern through some atmospheric woodland.

The route down can be quite steep
in places, so apply common sense.
You will shortly come to a crossroads - take the right hand path following a fence for a little while. The path splits into  high and low routes - it doesn't matter which you choose, as both end up in the same place. I chose the high road (in the hope that I'd be in Scotland afore ye, although my route might not be the most direct) because it seemed better trodden. As I passed through the woodland, I disturbed a couple of fawns that bounced away - the deery sort you understand; when I find Mr Tumnus I'll let you know. The high road also takes you past a convenient bench for feeding babies upon - I didn't at this stage, but it's always nice to know it's there if you need it.

Follow this route until you come to a cross roads- carry straight ahead between two high banks until you pop out on Toms Hill Road. Cross the road and continue down the path (signposted Bridleway 14), and follow the path until you appear at the edge of the village. It was somewhere along here that it became patently clear that the chap was really hungry. Those little signs only a mother would notice, such as chewing lavishly on fingers, and sticking them so far down his throat there was occasional gagging. Subtle little hints.

I'm of the 'feed when the baby asks, not by the clock' school, so I was pretty keen on finding somewhere to feed him - a convenient treestump, or something off the path would have done. Having done all this descending, it's time to ascend again, so you take a sharp turn to the left and start going up the side of the hill again. Don't blame me - I didn't mark out the footpaths.

The convenient bench
The view from
the convenient bench.
On turning the corner, I was delighted to spot another bench, so disengaged the chap and set about making up the milk. I'd made up a fresh bottle of water to cool in the knapsack (val-de-rie), but it was far, far too hot, so I ended up making up the milk and then waving it round with one hand while trying to distract and hold on to a very wriggly chap with the other. After much faffing and flailing, the best option seemed to dilute it (against manufaturer's instructions) with some cooler water from my bottle to get it drinkable and stop what was now a pretty consistent and grating grizzle.

Milk cooled with 30ml of water, I set about trying to feed the chap, who then continued to be awkward about getting a latch (probably because the milk was still a little too warm for him). I also realised at this very moment that there was quite a - ahem - serious nappy to be dealt with.

Any port in a storm.
Preparation: Fail. Must try harder. Upon examination of the contents of the knapsack, I discovered that while I had nappies and baby wipes, I was lacking a change mat and nappy sacks. Rubbish! You can tell I was never a scout. What I did have, however, was one of those shopping bags that folds down into the shape of a strawberry, which proved to be a useful impromptu change-mat-cum-nappy-sack.

It is, of course, the very moment you're elbow-deep in nappy changing that the only dog walker you meet the whole walk decides to trip gaily past with two enormous German Shepherd-style dogs.

"Don't worry!" He cheerfully cried. "They're quite friendly!"
"I'm not sure this nappy is." I replied.

Nappy dealt with, the chap then got a latch on his bottle and had enough to satisfy him before I popped him back in the sling and he promptly fell asleep. I continued up the hill, bearing right until you pop up on a hairpin bend further up Toms Hill Road. Head a little down the tarmaced bridleway before veering off to the right back down the hill. When you come to the crossroads, keep heading down the hill by bearing right - you will soon escape the woodland for a nice, clear path passing some farm buildings. Continue to follow this path across Newground Road.

My original plan for the walk was to continue to power straight on towards Station Road and then take a right along that, but frankly, I had had enough. I had hoped that the walk would be done by lunchtime, but it was already 1.15 and I was only halfway round my planned route. To top it all off, there was a slightly dodgy looking bloke wandering in the next field and I couldn't be bothered to find out if he was really dodgy in veritas or just someone who looked weird. I gave up and turned right through a metal kissing gate and followed the path along the field boundary until I popped out in Stony Croft in the village, where the bins were currently being collected. Following the road straight, you pass the Valiant Trooper pub and arrive back at the duck pond.

In theory, this should have been a pleasant little walk. The sun was shining, I was out walking, the views were picturesque, the chap had shut up for five minutes and wasn't whinging: in the end it just felt like a bit of a stressful faff. I could have done without the feeding/changing frenzy in the middle, really - it sapped my strength and enthusiasm for the whole enterprise. I was little disappointed, to be honest; I rather felt that the baby had 'beaten' me.

I often get hung up on the concept of 'coping' and what 'coping' looks like. I sometimes feel that if I am not floating round Buckinghamshire on a lily pad with immaculate hair and back to my pre-baby weight, baking a tray of biscuits with one hand and hoovering the carpet with the other, while my child gurgles contentedly and I have a permanent rictus of delight from the joy of the whole experience, then I am not doing it right. I don't know quite where I've got this idea from. I was trying to explain it to my husband the other night, and it feels a little bit that although I've never been bothered by the magazines that say wear this/do this/look like this, suddenly since having a baby I've become vulnerable to all that. Having a child is like having an enormous, raw wound that everyone feels they have a right to come up to and inspect and tell you exactly how youre doing it wrong and what you should be doing to make it heal. Gah! A pox on it all, I say. Send them to the Aldbury Stocks; the rotten veg is on me.

Things I Learnt
  • Do check your bag before you leave. Just because last time you wandered up a hill it had all the requisite stuff in it doesn't mean it's all still in there.
  • Having an 'escape route' in case you get fed up is a good thing.
  • The moment you have to do something really awkward is just the moment someone walking a dog will turn up to witness it.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Free food!

Well, almost.

One of the benefits of slinging your baby for a walk when he's being an awkward little toad in need of distraction, is that you can wander around the countryside and acquire blackberries and (with a mild act of scrumping) two large apples. These can then be taken home and rendered into one large crumble. Hurrah!
Om nom nom

Friday, 23 September 2011

The Paper Mill (Apsley) to The Fishery Inn (Hemel Hempstead) and back

In which a friend and I walk along the Grand Union Canal and discuss being chatted up, which in turn leads me to think about MILFs and Yummy Mummies.

Ordnance Survey Number: Explorer 182
Distance: 3.5 miles approx
Time: 75 minutes ish

 I met up with a friend from University whose son is 5 months older than my chap. We'd started out with the grand plan to walk from Apsley to Berkhamsted, but instead reevaluated our plans as she had to be back in her house by one o'clock to meet the man from Virgin who was coming to mend their internet after her husband tried to 'improve the connection'.

The Paper Mill pub (Fullers)
Our walk began at The Paper Mill pub, which is very prettily situated next to the Grand Union Canal and a swirly whirly white metal bridge that takes you from one side of the canal to the other.
Paper mills are apparently The Thing that Apsley is famous for - the pub is next to the site of one of John Dickinson's mills, bought in 1809 after patenting a new type of paper-making. Should paper really excite you, you can even enjoy the local Frogmore Mill as part of the Papertrail project. Go knock yourself out.

From the pub car park, cross the swirly bridge (153B) and turn left, passing on the opposite side of the canal to the pub. While we were on the subject of pubs, my friend had gone out with some people from work last Friday, and had been accosted by some roustabout in a velvet blazer who had greeted her with the opening gambit of 'I saw you come in... you're a lot more fun that you look'. She, of course, had taken it to mean that her outfit had been somewhat dour and that she must 'update her look' forthwith. I rather feel he was a forward little minx and no better than he ought to be.

There is a good, wide tow-path next to this stretch of the canal, and you can comfortably fit two walkers next to each other. It's also flat enough to take a pram, so non-baby-wearers can enjoy this walk too. As it's a tow-path, you are entirely map-reading free, leaving you at liberty to march onwards and put the world to rights.

This cad in the velvet blazer, you see - I think he's got a good line, there. It's all about social distancing; we can only be rude to people you know really well. So, just as an Australian butcher used the advertising slogan 'Eat Beef, You Bastards' as a way to immediately cut the social distance because the rudeness implies everyone is his mate, so 'You're a lot more fun than you look' is an effective line. On one side, it breaks the ice by being an insulting comment, and on the other it subconciously encourages his target to prove that she is, indeed, good fun. I suspect he has a lot of success with this line, the cheeky little whippersnapper. On the plus side, this argument also convinced my friend that she did not need to go out and buy and entire new wardrobe, so that was also an advantage.
View from the bridge - no trolls in evidence.
In due course you may walk though the delicious smell of coffee emanating from the factory on the bank, and then will need to cross the 153A white brick humpty backty bridge (upon which someone has sprayed the warning Beware Of Trolls -we were, mercifully, quite unscathed). This bridge is small but has quite a vicious gradient to it, so avoid this walk if it's icy.

You now continue along the left hand side of the tow path - we did so while having the sort of frank conversation that women who have known each other for more than a decade and have recently had babies can enjoy - the sort of chat that encouraged a middle aged men who passed by to look back with a slightly shocked expression.

Anyway, this ne'erdowell and his velvet blazer got me thinking as to the percieved attractiveness of mothers, and led me on to ponder the labels of the MILF and the Yummy Mummy.

I first alighted upon the idea of the MILF (Mum I'd Like to, ahem, get-to-know-really-rather-better) from the film American Pie . It may have been an acronym that was around before, but that's where I first met it. Culturally, some of our very worst swearwords and insults are to do with having sexual relations with someone's mother. Yet in those swearwords, it's never actually considered how the mother is involved in the act. I always understood 'Mother-um-dabbler' to mean a violation of somebodies mother, which I think is one of those activities that is universally considered to be Not Cricket. To sit in a pub and to go "Hurr hurr, wouldn't mind a go on your wife." is, in some circles, socially acceptable, whereas to turn to your mate and chortle "Hurr hurr, wouldn't mind a go on your mum." is more liable to lead you to the nearest Accident & Emergency. Is it just a generation gap? Is MILFing only a concept that has a little frisson because you're after someone who is old enough to be your mum? The whole concept seems a little offensive to me because of the passivity of the position in which it renders the woman - she is inactive, to be looked at, to be 'enjoyed', but the concept of the MILF does not present a real woman with real thoughts and passions. She seems to be little more than a blow-up doll... Very few women of my acquaintance would be happy to hear themselves be described as a MILF.
The canal also takes you along the side of the Moor of Boxmoor - there are a number of walks on this, some of which I may have to investigate at a later date. Such pretty views are unlikely to distract me from a full-on autorant, as anyone who has found me in a pub and foolishly mentioned subjects such as wedding dresses, pubic hair or the state of the nation's antenatal classes (to name but a few topics..) will have discovered.

So, MILF is perceived as pretty derogatory. Yummy Mummy, however - apparantly that's something we should all be aspiring to. It's a label you can cheerfully get stuck onto changing bags, tshirtscookbooks, even - bizarrely -  nail varnishes; I could go on, but I'd become so depressed with my googlings I had to step away from the computer. The first person I heard referred to as a Yummy Mummy was Jools Oliver, wife of TV chef Jamie. For some reason, I've remembered that, because I was probably in my early twenties and mildly taken aback by it. It's a continuation of the 'women as consumable' line - sweetie, cupcake, honey, honey-bun, pumpkin, sugar, cutie-pie, dumpling, peach, Cheesy Wotsit. All of them - well, apart from the Cheesy Wotsit, which I'm pleased to announce I have never been called - depict the woman as some sort of foodstuff to be gobbled greedily - Yummy Mummy doesn't seem to be any better.

Unlike some sections of the Grand Union canal, the Apsley-Hemel section is not down in a cutting, so every now and again the hedge next to you breaks to present some pretty little views, such as this. The pastoral idyll is somewhat marred if you look a little to the left to see a large petrol station, but looking this way is really very pretty.

So what's the difference between a MILF and a Yummy Mummy? Urban Dictionary states that the difference between the MILF and the Yummy Mummy is age -  'yummy mummys [sic] are younger than 30, while MILFs are older than 30'. Ah, so it's women being judged not only on their sexual attractiveness (again), but also their age? Marvellous. I'd also add my own addendum to this definition - as far as I an see, a MILF appears to be sluttier, more sexually available than a Yummy Mummy, who is more likely to be found driving a Chelsea Tractor. The mere presence of the F in MILF clearly indicates the speaker's intentions, rather than the more subtle implication of 'eating' the Yummy Mummy. Semantically, however, the intent is the same.

So, in short, no, I don't want to be a Yummy Mummy. I don't want it on a Tshirt or change bag, not in my house, not on a mouse, I do not like it here or there, I do not like it any more than I like the concept of MILF.

All this ranting means that you should have, by now, reached bridge 149 and the Fishery Inn, and very nice it is too. Had my friend not had to be back for her audience with Mr Virgin I fear we may have fallen to the siren call of lunch there. If you just fancy a short walk, you can give up here and divert off the canal to the nearby Hemel Hempstead station and get the train back to Apsley, but for the full 3.5 mile walk you need to turn round and go back the way you came. It's pretty enough to merit a return walk, and you can continue to set the world to rights and startle middle aged men on your way.

Things I Learnt

  • Apsley is the birthplace of the industrialisation of paper making. Will file it away until the appropriate episode of QI...
  • As a culture, it seems that it's fine to find someone's wife attractive, but once she has given birth you appear to be veering towards, um, 'Specialist Tastes'. Need to give this more thought to see if it's an argument that stands up.
  • I sort of wish that Cheesy Wotsit really was a term of endearment. At the same time, I'm glad it's not.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Pitstone Windmill to The Akeman, Tring.

In which I stomp out a quantity of residual anger, work up an appetite for a pain au chocolat, and think about nothing at all.

Ordnance Survey Number: Explorer 181
Distance: Somewhere between 3 & 4 miles. I think.
Time: 75 minutes ish

Rating: Easy  

I sort of did this walk by accident, as it was done as much on a whim as you can be when you have a baby to plan for. A number of factors led me to decide to walk and meet friends - firstly, it was a really lovely, sunny day (if a bit windy); secondly The Chap was being really awkward - tired, but refusing to sleep or feed, instead choosing to grizzle permanently; thirdly, I was very, very cross with my husband over something he had done that I'm not really going to go into here because it's Not Cricket to do so, but had led me to throw a sieve across the kitchen in  frustration the night before. Not at him; he wasn't in the room at the time, you understand. Full marks to John Lewis for crafting sieves that remain completely unscathed during marital disputes, however. And we're friends again now, so it's all water under the bridge.

Suffice to say, however - I was right.

The gently rising stony path
Looking better than a quarry
The Pitstone Windmill  is always a good starting place, and has a number of pretty views around it, so it made sense to start there again. Walking away from the windmill and across a field towards Vicarage Road in Pitstone, you pop out through a hedge for a brief turn left and then right down Church Road. When the road turns sharply left, you don't follow it but instead go straight on up a gently rising stony path. A hundred metres or so up this, you pop out into a really lovely chalk grassland meadow that is the attractive result of last century's chalk quarrying. Indeed, you can still see the sharp banks that result from the open-cast quarrying.

This meadow is very popular as a local dog-walking spot, and you are likely to receive a few friendly nods as you walk through it. The chalk grassland  is really very pretty and has all sorts of flowers on it throughout the year as well as affording some nice views of Pitstone Hill and surrounding countryside. Bear left (the path is quite well trodden)as you go through the main field, and you will find a small stony path that pops you out onto the Pitstone cycle paths. My cycling is rubbish, so cycle paths such as these do a lot to protect Buckinghamshire from my wobbling wheels.

Do you dare brave the stile for this view?
(Taken from the end of the path, looking down the
route I didn't take)

Turn left once on the cycle path, and you should be able to see a roundabout. Cross straight over this onto Northfield Road using the paths, and face your first decision. Do you wish to a) brave a stile, and enjoy a pleasantly wooded walk that protects you from the road for a bit, or b) avoid the stile and face walking up the road. I was feeling pretty lazy, to be honest, so I chose to walk up the road - it's not very far, although the road is quite well used as it's a main route to Tring station. The verge is just about wide enough for you to leap off the road should a car come up behind you (I chose to walk up the 'wrong' side of the road in the same direction of the cars, as the other side had more trees and was harder to get out of the way if a car was coming.).

Either way you choose, you will have to walk along part of Northfield Road, but a path along the verge does appear to protect you from traffic. It is not far along this that a green sign directs you to Public Restricted Byway 62 (where are the other 61, I wonder?)/Great Union Canal 1/2 mile/ Tring Town Centre 2 miles.

This is Marshcroft Lane, and for the next couple of miles you can switch your map reading brain off, because all you do is walk along here. It's good to just stomp away and pound out any rage you have - this is a place to work off all that 'helpful' baby advice about feeding/weaning/sleeping that you receive. While your brain is off, there are a number of things you can admire, among them:

Rolling countryside, of the sort the South of England does so well.

The London - Glasgow train line; terribly exciting if you're a certain type of person. I'm not that type.

The Grand Union canal

Those scabby-looking blackberries that either taste amazing
or render your face like that of a pig chewing a wasp.
Sloes. For gin.

You can also enjoy views of some really expensive houses - the sort of things that have balconies and gazebos. I didn't take pictures; they'd probably think I was weird, or a burglar.

In due course, you will pop out in Tring - turn left and follow Grove Road to its end, then turn right and follow Station Road until you reach Tring high street - a hop halfway up this will bring you to the crossroads. Turn left up Akeman Street and The Akeman is just beyond the Chinese Takeaway and Town Hall.
"Garcon! A little service here!"
Please allow me to recommend the mint tea (made with fresh mint leaves rather than a tired old bag) - I tend to decant a glug into The Chap's doidy cup for him to enjoy once it's been cooled. He's a bit of a mint fiend, it has transpired. It also means he has taken to brushing his teeth (all 4 of them, at current count) with quite some gusto. The Akeman is also very baby friendly and does some very naughty cakes. The food is also very good, if a bit pricey - nice for a treat

Tea and cake/patisserie done with, you can either be Virtuous and walk back to the Windmill, or do as I did and and take the number 61 bus (caught on the High Street opposite the Rose & Crown Hotel) back.

Things I Learnt

  • Do not blog in a rage. Had I written this right after I had the done the walk, I fear I would have written all sorts of unpleasant things. I waited a bit, however, and things are now more in perspective. But, I hasten to add once again, I was right.
  • Don't forget to put socks on your baby. You just end up holding their feet the whole time.
  • Spread-and-splay type carriers may be very comfortable, but offer little protection if your child does an epic wee which leaks down your front. The charmer.

Sling Meets!

Marvellous! Just been to the 3 Counties Sling Meet and met some lovely people. So  much better than other baby groups I've been to, which have seemed really cliquey and have often felt either ignored or plain awkward. Maybe I've just been going to the wrong types of baby group all this time....

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Pitstone Windmill To Down Farm (Circular Walk)

In which I enjoy views of the Ivinghoe Beacon, the Aylesbury Vale and some sheep, do some dodgy map-reading and think about the concept of Should.

Ordnance Survey Map: 181 (Chiltern Hills North)
Distance: Approx 5 miles
Time: A little under 2 hours

Rating: Moderate

Before you start walking - as well we all know once we have got halfway up a hill only to realise that these socks are really rubbing and maybe some plasters would have been good - you should prepare. Doubly so when you're choosing to lash a baby to your belly and march across some form of Down/Chiltern. So, at 9.30 with The Chap just planning to doze off for his morning nap, I decided what I needed was a knapsack. Oh yes; no backpacks or rucksacks here. It was going to be that sort of a walk today.

So, this was my plan - half a litre of water, 210ml baby milk, nappies, travel change mat, nappy sacks, baby wipes, charged mobile, house keys, umbrella (serious walkers will laugh at me here, but I'm sticking with the brolly; it served me well in the past, most memorably on a particularly ill-advised and wet jaunt up to Top Withens on the Yorkshire moors), camera, map.

The walk starts and ends at Pitstone Windmill, the oldest windmill in the British Isles, and being located in the incredible flatness of the Aylesbury Vale, I'm not surprised; the wind whips across here at quite a pace. If I had corn to grind I'd be whacking a windmill here, too.
What this picture doesn't show you is that round the back there's a rather jaunty cherry-red wheel that, when functioning, allowed millers to swing the whole of the top of the wooden structure around to face the wind. Out of this field you have to hop across the B488 onto the other side of the road and continue left until you reach a sign telling you that it's 1.3km/0.8miles up to the right to reach the Ridgeway national trail.

It was on this route towards the Ridgeway that I became aware that I was being gently poached, and, not to put too fine a point on it, overheating and sweating like a pig. It was at this point I hit a dilemma and started thinking:

Do I stop and take off the knapsack and the sling and the baby - who had just nodded off 5 minutes ago - to remove a layer of clothing (all right, I admit it, it was a fleece. Wandering up a hill with a baby on your front and a knapsack on your back is not a look I plan to rock at the next London Fashion Week), or do I continue up this hill in a state of sweaty discomfort? Whose needs do I put first - the need of the baby, who is sleeping, or my own need not to be roasting to death?

I'm afraid, gentle reader, I chose my own needs over that of the baby. Essentially, I thought about it and decided that, seeing as the baby had just gone to sleep, he would shortly go to sleep again. I, on the other hand, was just going to get hotter and hotter until dehydration, heat exhaustion or spontaneous combustion occured.
But this is, for me, a problem. Because I sort of feel - and I'm not entirely sure where I've got this idea from - that I should spend my entire time subsuming my every waking moment to his every whim, and to do anything else is a Terrible Thing. A mother, we are taught to expect, is Selfless in caring for her child. How dare I resent not being able to go to the opera any more! I should welcome the repetetive round of feeding and cleaning, and gleefully allow myself to roast to death in a fleece because it is all For The Good Of My Child. How dare I object?!

Carriers with sleep-hoods for the win, I say.
Well, pish. It was lovely without the fleece as I continued up the rise, the breeze blowing and a small, awake chap peering up at me from under his sleep hood.

His expression does not appear to suggest I am a terrible mother. However, if you want to see a baby looking really confused, you should remove them, sleeping, from your chest and lay them down on a leather knapsack in the middle of the field, only for them to peer up blearily at you. The last time I saw such an expression of disgust was when he tried to chew the cat.

As you head towards the Ridgeway, you do get some nice views of the Ivinghoe Beacon, and upon reaching the summit (ish) and joining the black signposted national trail, you can turn around and have a look at the flattened landscape that is the Aylesbury Vale. I'd put a windmill down there, if I was them.

I turned right, away from the Ivinghoe Beacon and continuing along the route which, if I went on long enough, would have had me pitching up in Avebury. Crossing a minor yellow road, I observed that someone had taken to the time and effort with a permanent marker to note that the tump coming up was  'Paul's Knob'. Whilst it certainly lacks the impressive stature of some kaarst landscapes which we walked through when we lived in China, if this wide knoll 202 feet above sea level is to scale, I'm awfully impressed.

Continuing along the Ridgeway a few hundred metres, I thought about a conversation I had with my mother the other day in which I rang my hands about not doing all the things I feel I should be doing. Part of me feels I should have practically moved into the Children's Centre and should be spending all my time at Baby Bounce and Rhyme and Baby Signing and Baby Yoga and ooo, I don't know, Baby Introduction To Renaissance Verse 1509 - 1659 or whatever they're running at the moment. But I just don't want to. I take The Chap out to interact with my NCT people once a week (or sometimes once a fortnight), and I take him to see one of my Uni friends who has a baby 5 months older with about the same frequency, and that's pretty much it. I don't want to spend all my time being dictated to by the Tiny Emperor; I want to be able to go out or wander round or cook dinner or do the ironing when I want to. Frankly, when you have a small person whose needs must be catered to, doing anything when you want to is some sort of achievement that should be celebrated by at least a cake, or possibly champagne.  But I sort of feel that This Is Wrong. This Is Selfish. How will he ever be socialised? How do I ever expect him to hold down a job or a functioning relationship in the future if I haven't gritted my teeth through the tambourines and shakers of Baby's First Symphony Orchestra every week? How's he ever going to find anything to put on his UCAS form?

Down Farm farmers doing some ploughing.
I was distracted from these musing by a well-signposted footpath diverting to the left away from The Ridgeway. Going through the gate and crossing the field, you get a view of the route you will take back along a line of trees.

 I like Autumn. I like watching farmers plough up fields, I like all the apples, I can get virtually evangelical about pumpkins and other assorted squash.

Half of the field I was crossing at the time had been ploughed and half of it not, and was absolutely full of chalk and flint.I have a friend with a degree in geology who gets very excited about such views, and will leap gleefully around until he finds an appropriate piece of chalk and then lecture you on how it is the fossilised remains of a track left by a long dead prehistoric worm. Maybe his mother spent all her maternity leave in Baby Prehistory Soft Play - I hear a new one may shortly be opening somewhere near Wendover.

The track joins the field boundary and follows it in a curve until you reach the corner of the field and pop out onto the same yellow road crossed earlier. Turning left up this road for maybe 500 metres (?) you finally come to a right hand road that also comprises the footpath that leads you right through the middle of Down Farm and then continues sharply up a wooded path.
 It was at this point that my great 'skill' at map reading came to the fore. Two paths diverged in a wood, and I took the one that appeared to follow the field boundary as directed by my map. I discovered, as the path became more and more overgrown and finally ended in a barbed-wire-topped gate, that I had gone the wrong. Clearly this evidences the fact that my mother never took me to Baby Orienteering and so by the time I reached the Duke of Edinburgh's Award stage, that ship had sailed. Evidently I would never be able to, say, enjoy a little light rambling across a Chiltern modelling the latest baby-knapsack-tracksuit bottoms-fleece fashions to an unsuspecting Three Counties public. Anyway, a bit of scrambling up a bank (naughty) got me back onto the correct path; you are led left through the trees and out to finally rejoin the Ridgeway national trail at the point where you originally joined it. From then on it is a mere skip down the way that you came up, admiring sheep as you descend. I have never seen a sane looking sheep. They all look like they just paid a clever marketing person to create a big fuss about BSE so no-one would notice that they are, in fact, not the full toolkit.

I realised as I reached the Windmill again and ended the walk that I had been very scathing about baby based activities; more scathing than really I feel. If that works for you, go for it, go every day! My argument is not with people who love a Children's Centre based activity, it's with my own head. I have yet to find Children's centre/baby based group activity that I enjoy, but I feel I should be going to them For The Benefit Of The Baby. But, at the end of the day, I don't like it, and forcing myself to do it makes me miserable. So I won't.  

Things I Learnt
  • I am not very good judging distances on an Ordance Survey map.
  • I need to let go of the things I think I should be doing and just do the things I like. The Chap does need to see babies so it's not a massive shock when he goes to nursery in 2012, but I don't need to hare around organising him a huge social whirl now. He is not Oscar Wilde.
  • Blueberry baby rice cakes are not an appropriate walking snack for a grown person. Some form of high-calorie munchie needs to come with me next time.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

The First Post

In which I need to plan a walk.

I have a shiny new baby carrier, the sort that isn't supposed to monkey about with hip development! The couple of occasions I have used it, it has appeared to be surprisingly effective, in that The Chap has just gone to sleep. Really, properly asleep, to the extent that I have been able to come into the house, remove him from his sling and put him down in his cot without him waking up. That never used to happen with the old Baby Bjorn-type we had.

Now all I need to do is fish out the Ordnance Survey map, which will indicate to me an embarrasment* of public rights of way, and then make a decision as to where my first walk will be...

*The correct collective noun for a group of public rights of way, just so you know.