Friday, 18 November 2011

St Mary's Church, Ivinghoe circular walk via Pitstone Windmill and the Grand Union Canal

In which I do a circular walk from Ivinghoe's Church, see a number of fungi which I fail to identify, and politely request that certain magazines get the ... Dickens... off my ... blinking... case.

Ordnance Survey number: Explorer 181
Distance: 5 miles approx

Time: 2 and a half hours (I was feeling lazy, ok?)

Rating: Moderate Walk - map reading and stile climbing required.
This is posting a bit late today, but I've been in a pickle because The Chap has been running a temperature for the past 24 hours, and I have been stuck playing Human Mattress because he refused to be put down.

St Mary The Virgin's Church, Ivinghoe was originally built at some point in the 13th Century, and at the time of writing is currently covered in some very modern scaffolding. There was originally some hope of the work being done by Christmas, but sadly it seems that it won't be finished until February.
Although I started the walk here, parking isn't amazing. There is some on a verge opposite the King's Head, but I'm not sure how legal or encouraged it is - might be better to park at the Pitstone Windmill area if you don't fancy risking it.

Turn your back on the church (how very Dawkins of you), and follow the High Street down the mild decline. Shortly after passing the library and post office, take the second left down Green Lane. This rapidly becomes unsuitable for cars and leads you through a gate and onto the footpath that takes you across the field past the Pitstone Windmill. Cross straight across this field and follow the path straight across the next one - you will pop out, via a metal kissing gate, onto Vicarage Road.

Turn right down Vicarage Road, and follow until you reach the roundabout shortly after passing Pitstone Memorial Hall. Go straight across the roundabout along Cheddington Road.

Just as you leave the village of Pitstone, and slightly before the National Speed Limit sign, cross the road and turn right through a metal kissing gate to head towards the Grand Union Canal.
Unidentified fungus #1
Usually October is the month for fungi, but I think all the warm weather we had might have put it off. Now it's getting colder, I was able to spot more types, although what most of the were I have no idea.

This is the sort of slightly woody path that I like best - the sort of place Freudians look at in fairy stories and nod and suck their teeth at. I just like it because it feels atmospheric.

Speaking of the atmosphere, there must be something in the air at the moment, because almost everyone I talk to appears to be doing some form of exercise or dieting or both. There's been a rash of exercise/weight loss status updates. There are two reasons for this, I think. 1) Christmas, that annual Excuse For Gluttony is coming, and 2) The Godmother is getting married the week on December 17th, leading to a frenzy of dress choosing and posing to be done.

There's something about weddings - particularly in the age of digital photography, where you know the first pictures will be plastered across Facebook within 24 hours, and then following in dribs and drabs for the rest of the week - that makes us all behave like we're going to walk the Red Carpet at the Oscars. I know I do it; the year before I had The Chap, I marked weight-loss by the three weddings I had to attend.

I remember The Godmother getting engaged distinctly, because her fellow proposed when The Chap was 5 days old. She texted everyone in excitement - it had been 10 years in coming - and I, in my heightened emotional state, burst into tears in the back of the car as the ChapDad was driving us to hospital for the 5 day check. "When are you getting married?" I asked her. "Will I have enough time to lose the baby weight?". When she announced that it would be in December, I laughed. Of course I'd have lost the weight by then! Easy.


Of course I haven't. I am also still plugging away at Fat is a Feminist Issue, but I once heard Jo Brand announce that she got halfway through it and then ate it, which is sort of how I feel about it too, except it's on my Kindle and that would be expensive. It's just a bit ... worthy. The Female Eunuch is funny and filthy, but this is just a lot of handwringing. According to Orbach, I am fat allegedly because I am choosing to be so because it is doing something for me psychologically - probably something to do with me wanting to avoid sexual attention. I'm not convinced. In fact, it makes me go 'ppfffft' and reach for a chocolate brownie.
In due course, you pop out of the wooded path and onto the Grand Union Canal. Cross the bridge and turn right. The light was amazing by the water, and the canal was incredibly still and peaceful. I was still fairly ranty, however, but the light did make me stop and go 'oo' before I continued on my muttering way.
Because surely, to say that one gets fat in order to avoid sexual attraction suggests that no-one fancies fat girls (lest we forget, they're 'more grateful' and so 'make more of an effort'. The number of times some arsehat has announced that to me in a pub. To my face. ). I can plainly see the evidence for this, having never been kissed, or had a boyfriend, or been proposed to or got married. No no. Nothing to see here, I've just sat at home at pondered my navel. Which certainly isn't pierced. Fat girls don't do that. We're too busy feeling melancholy.

house by my own rage, I go and buy some form of trashy magazine. I bought one this week, and we shall call it - to pluck a name from the air - Nearer. It purports to contain information on such diverse subjects as fashion, celebrity and real life (albeit the type of real life that exists around the more extreme fringes and almost always seems to contain one story of rape a week. Why, one wonders...?). I know I shouldn't buy these magazines; my sister-in-law refers to them as 'A roll-call of social care referrals', which I think is pretty accurate.

This particular publication is especially poisonous, in my opinion. Because this one is endlessly mentioning somebody's weight, and, most worryingly, slyly implying that when they were thinner, they were happier. So there they are, printing their lead story about two examples of  standard self-destructive tabloid fodder 'ballooning' from drinking too much. Here's a picture of one in a tiny blue dress at some awards bash, with the caption 'looked a lot slimmer attending a launch party in May'. On the next page, here's some reality-show wazzock who 'looked slim and healthy before', whereas in the next picture 'The star looked a lot bigger at a party last week'. The implication is that if they're fatter, it's an indication of their internal misery. I'm not denying comfort eating, what I'm disliking is the broad, brush-stroke implication that if you're thin, you're happy.

Unidentified fungus #2
Continuing along the canal, I spotted another set of mysterious mushrooms - although these looked a little more toadstooly to me. And speaking of poisonous little toadstools, if this whole fat thing was mentioned once on that page and then never mentioned again, I think I'd be more inclined to go 'hm' and leave it. But as I flicked through it, all it seemed to be talking about was who was having babies and who had got back into their tiny jeans within six weeks after giving birth. Clearly I am the demographic for this atrocious tosh, and it filled me with rage. Of course, there's the obligatory page where some celebrity yo-yo dieter pops up half naked 'celebrating her curves' (oh, curves, you pernicious word. We all know you're a euphemism for fat), but for the rest of it... I'm the sort of person who likes statistics, so I did some counting. 34 pages of this magazine dealt with 'features', 13 of which had some snidey little comment about someone looking fatter/thinner. Less than half, but it means that every couple of pages or so, some poisonous toadstool pops up to go "You're fat! You're fat! You're fat, and you must be miserable!". It wears you down. There's better things we have to worry about as women than the fact we are still toting, say, and extra stone of baby weight (such as the contradictory advice of Health Visitors, or the crippling price of childcare, for example), but that's all these magazines want to make you focus on, because they market themselves as a solution, a break, a matey little bit of time for yourself, while it simultaneously grinds you down. It's a vicious little circle that makes them a lot of money, I'm sure.
Potentially identified fungus

I finally passed a fungus that I think I recognise. I'm pretty sure that this is a field mushroom. Had it had more friends, I would have picked them and taken them home for a spot of mushrooms on toast, but seeing as this one was there all on its lonesome, I left it where it was.

Shortly after the possible field mushroom, I reached the point where you have to leave the canal path. At bridge 123, take the path up to the left onto the road.

Bridge 123

I was briefly concerned that this choice of path was deeply foolish, as it takes you across a single lane bridge with no footpath. That being said, it is quite easily done as long as you use your common sense with it and follow the traffic when the traffic light is green.

The traffic light is not green.

Continue along the right hand side of the road for a few hundred metres until you see a green footpath sign on the other side of the road. This leads you into Farm, and for a moment I thought I was going to have to turn around and go back the way I'd come, as there were large 'Disease Control' signs on the gate. I remember going for a walk with my father at the height of the 2001 Foot & Mouth Crisis, and having to phone to get my mum to pick us up from the middle of nowhere because we suddenly found that the paths we were supposed to go on had all been closed. However, as I approached the stile, I saw a large blue box on the other side, which upon further inspection, read:

All fine - feet dipped (easier said than done when you have a baby on your front and a knapsack on your back). Follow the path up the side of the field boundary until, just beyond the top right corner, you will find a gate and a bridge over a stream. I was really glad I was wearing boots here, because the mud was so churned up on the other side of the bridge that my trainers would have been ruined.Turn right and follow the field boundary again along the side of the Grove Farm pick-your-own patch. The strawberries were looking particularly sad.

The sun sets over the
pick-your-own ...
It as at this point I realised that I had misjudged the time of day, and the sun was going down. I hadn't really spotted that it is almost winter, and sunset does happen a lot earlier these days... At the corner of the field, follow the signposted path along the stream until you come to a wide pathway. Turn right, and walk alongside the chainlink fence next to the pick your own gooseberry bushes. A couple of hundred metres down here you will see a pathway sign off to the left. Cross the second stile and walk along a fenced corridor between two fields. When I was there, they had sheep in them, and I had to stop and ponder the following question:

Is it me, or does this sheep have a really small head
compared to the size of its body?
Is it the inverse Brian-from-Westlife of the sheep world?
His head is massive.  Just have a look.

When this path ends, turn right for a few hundred metres, and then left along a clearly signposted path before you wander into the farm.Walk down Maud Jane's Close, and when you reach Station Road, turn left and you will shortly find yourself back at the church where you began.

By which time, I am pleased to say, my internal monologue which had at certain points sounded reminiscent of an episode of The Thick of It, had quietened. I know the easiest thing for me would be to stop reading these magazines, but I know they're there. They look at me, with an expression of poorly disguised loathing, the way they look at all women. And I read them every now and again in the hope that I can find something to approve of, or if it's just going to be another guilty frisson of vicarious bullying as we all crow at how terrible some overpaid, undertalented miseryguts looks in a tacky dress. And that's the greatest problem of all, because you know that guilty frisson of vicarious bullying? I like it.


Things I learnt

  • The sun is going down a lot earlier. By the time I got home, it was dark and I felt like a dirty stop-out.
  • The warm weather means mushrooms and other fungal fellows are out later this year.
  • Certain types of magazines make me swear like a Billingsgate porter.


  1. My darling neighbour posts all of those *lovely* magazines through my letter box every week because he thinks I want to read them. They go straight from the door mat to the recycling before J and L read the 'real life' stories.

    Shhh about the dieting!! although actually, thank you because I was going to go and get a cup of tea and slice of stollen before I read this but now I am going to forgo them and just have a g+t instead. I have looked for dresses. The one I like is 'disgusting' according to my darling daughter. Ahh children!

  2. 'Real life' involves having your ex post you online as a 'rape enactment specialist', a piece about Jo Yates and an anorexic who shares clothes with her 7 year old (which is expressed in a weirdly approving way - the first quote they use from her is 'weaing the same clothes as [my child] gives me a sense of pride'). I know 'parents eat entire lemon half moon cake while tending sick baby' or 'daughter declares mother's dress choice disgusting' isn't really sensational, but at least that is a more common example of real life than 2 stories of violence against women and 1 story of seld-destruction...

    Also, loving the fact that G&T is the diet option. I'll go for that over hot water with lemon any day!

  3. So many typos in that comment. I was up til 3am, can you tell..?

  4. Regarding the corrolation between thin/happy - the time in my life where I was at my most thin, I was also at my most miserable. People don't believe me when I tell them that.

  5. Well, as my recovering anorexic neighbour tells me, the first thing she does if she hits a crisis is stop eating. But yeah, we all know that actually being fat doesn't mean you're miserable or thin makes you happy, but it's become a lazy journalistic shorthand. Instead of tackling someone's drinking problem, they instead claim 'bloated by booze', as if the drinking is fine - but oof, it makes you fat! How terrible!
    It's an old video now, and somewhat discredited by Unilever owning the Dove brand, but the Onslaught video still stands up...