Distance: 5 miles approx
Time: 90 minutes (which, considering the last time I tried to do this it took me 75 mins to do half the distance, shows the lack of faffing around in this walk).
Rating: Easy-Moderate Walk
Both The Chap and I were a bit headcoldy, so it seemed a wise move to get us out into the sunshine (while it's still visible!) and get some fresh air into us.
Once you have done this, turn right up a gently rising field, again following a field boundary until you pop out onto the road. It is not a difficult stretch of road-work - there's an easy bit of verge you an leap on when cars go by, and you're not on the road for very long, anyway. Shortly up ahead there is a path leading away from the road and up a slope - take this until you reach a cross-roads. At the cross roads turn right along a dirt path, giving you views of gently rolling countryside and sheep. It's the countryside that rolls gently, not the sheep, you understand. Sheep generally do what sheep do, which is stare with the dull-eyed vacancy akin to youths sodcasting on buses.
In the distance, popping up over the trees is the odd green cup on top of the Bridgewater Monument.
Meanwhile, in the 1800s...
"Duke of Bridgewater! How do you want to be remembered?"
"Well, let me think, Carruthers... I built a lot of canals. Don't you think that would help people remember me? There's the name and the canals, they sort of go together..."
"Steering committee isn't too keen on the canal angle. Not with all these rumours of Stephenson's kettle on tracks. We need to think big!"
"Bigger than canals?"
"I think we need something punchier, sir. Something for people to really rally around."
"What do you suggest, Carruthers?"
"I think we should stick a massive green cup on top of a pole, sir!"
"Capital idea! You read my mind!"
As I passed by the sheep, I saw some men walking in the distance, one of whom was in a very jaunty red jumper. I quietly approved that others were taking advantage of the nice day. Carrying on up the path, I lost sight of them and all of a sudden I saw the red-jumpered fellow again, but closer this time. They seemed to be walking round in circles - were they lost? Had they not made offerings to Keith, God of Those With Poor Map-Reading Skills And A Dubious Sense of Direction? Would they like to look at my map? Then, a horrifying thought came to me - maybe these were the murderers my mother had warned me about! That's what they were doing! Walking about, waiting. Waiting to come and get me! Oh, what an impetuous boob I had been!
Then I rounded a corner...
|Ritual significance, possibly religious...?|
Or, they could just be golfers.
From here it was a simple case of following the path until reaching the road. You are led along a wooded path down the side of the golf course for the most part. It was one of the last few sunny days we are likely to get this year (although for the past month people have seemed to suck their teeth and say "Well, the weather's going to change at the end of the week..."), so it was nice to be out in it before winter finally appears.
It's a funny old thing, being a parent. You start off with all these rules in your head that you've acquired from somewhere, only to jettison them when you discover the practicalities of the things you'd say you'd never do. I still think it's probably best to avoid Godfrey's Cordial, similar laudanum based soothers or gin (for the baby), but on the less extreme end of baby-calming, I had said I would never use a dummy. I think we had one in use from the end of about the first week when we discovered it worked.
Similarly, television. We lived without a TV for around 3 years in the days before digital streaming onto computers, and now we technically don't have a TV - we watch pretty much everything through the laptop. We like to wag our fingers at the influence of television at a fair few social ills in our house. My child? Pfft! No television until they're at least 3! And then strictly rationed! Like the gin bottle, it was officially marked not for babies.
Until, of course, I discovered the wonderfully soothing effect that In The Night Garden can have on a small, teething child who has been making that UUuuuuhhhh. UuuuuuHHHH. UUuuUUUUuuuHHHH. noise of General Discomfort for, ooo, three hours. UUUuuuuhhh. UuuuhhhHHH. Chewy toys, cucumber, teething gel, going for a walk - none of it worked. UUuuuuUUUHHHH. UUuuuuhhhh. In desperation, I went for the nuclear option; the Ninky Nonk.
Say what you like about In The Night Garden - it works. It is famous for having a slightly soporific affect on children, but I am also interested in the soporific effect it has on grownups - ten minutes of Derek Jacobi talking soothingly and counting Pontypines and I was a lot calmer, as was the baby.
|This is not the way to the Garden in the night.|
Flushed with success as I reached The Greyhound, I decided I had the time, inclination and agreeable baby to keep going, so I decided to complete the circuit following instructions as for The Aldbury Circuit Part I (To be honest, I did do a slight variation where instead of taking the first left after the first benh, I carried straight ahead which cuts out all the uppy-downy business and just pops you straight out onto the road. It should be pretty obvious if you look at a map. I think.).
Passing the duckpond again, The Chap woke up and peered about, but he seemed quite jolly and happy to continue, so I was able to carry on up the hill without having to turn back.
One of the joys of In The Night Garden is the plethora of elaborate interpretations that parents seem to glean from it. Our children just seem to be amused by Upsy Daisy dancing - one friend, however, asserts that the whole of the programme is the fevered fantasy life of Iggle Piggle creating a cast of characters to make him feel less alone as he floats, hopeless and abandoned, upon the winedark sea. For the rest of us, it just seems to pose questions. Is Makka Pakka's OCD under control? No-one needs to wash that many faces and stones in a day. Why has no-one noticed that the driver of the Ninky Nonk appears to be drunk? Who is driving the Ninky Nonk? Why do the Tombliboos hang their trousers on the line without washing them? Are the Pontypines drawing state benefits? Upsy Daisy can inflate her skirt so she shows us her pants ("No better that she ought to be!" cries my husband) before doing a dance. Is this the sort of female role model I should be presenting my son with?!
In short, I enjoy it very much. And as long as I am sitting there with The Chap and chipping in with Derek Jacobi and waving at the Haa Hoos, I don't think it can do that much harm - if I left him on his own watching it while I went away and did the washing up, I wouldn't be so happy with the situation. And anyway, if I did that I wouldn't get to count the Pontypines.
I finished the walk down Trooper Road and back to the car via the stocks and whipping post. I still have a few ideas as to who we could pop in there should Aldbury wish to rejuvenate this historic site...
Things I Learnt
- When it comes to parenting, never say never. Except, perhaps, when it comes to Godfrey's Cordial.
- Aldbury is a lot closer to Ashridge than I think it is.
- Makka pakka akka wakka mikka makka and, indeed, moo.