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    CHICCHANTAL   29,187
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Mud, mud, glorious mud

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Saturday, December 08, 2012

Actually, I'm not a fan of mud. Let me explain.

Today I am up early.

I decide to go to a different bit of Epping Forest, the bit between Loughton and Chingford, for today's walk. There are loads of paths marked on and there's clearly going to be a lot of scope for getting lost.

Half way to the station I realise I have put on my new trainers instead of my hiking boots. Not good. Get off bus, go back home, change into hiking boots.

It would have been useful, at this point, to have realised that I had forgotten to put my purse in my backpack too. I do not realise. Until in fact I am halfway to Essex.

I curse a bit, review contents of backpack: hot tea, cold water with Rose's lime cordial on it, as necessary to me as petrol to a car, cheese sandwich. Really, I shouldn't need money, except if I get seriously lost and end up miles from a bus route or something and have to find a taxi instead. This is unlikely, but prompts a review of my plans. I decide to choose a third way: the walk from Leytonstone to Chingford. This also covers a long narrow strip of Epping Forest, beside the river Ching (no kidding, that's its name) which is surrounded by houses and is clearly a remnant of forest.

I look at the map, the path is pretty clear, there's Leytonstone tube station at one end and Chingford bus station at the other end.

Seems like a plan to me. What could possibly go wr. . . Would the person who sniggered like to leave the room NOW, please?

So, I get to Leytonstone, nice and early. The days being so short - as I type it's 3.15pm and the sun is going down - I'm already walking by 8.45am. Find the start of the forest quite easily, it's actually mainly a field at this point.

It's a gorgeous, stunningly beautiful day. Everything is green and orange and blue. The golds have all gone. There's a pond, with birds on it, and people walking dogs, and the sun has just come up.

Admire birds, marvel at view, don't hang around for long because it's very very very cold. Cast about a bit for the path, look at map, realise that tbh there is one main path and so long as I keep going as straight as I can, and steer away from houses (which are visible on either side of me for much of this walk) I will be headed in the right direction. See a jay fly across in front of me. Interestingly I see loads of birds on this walk, I think the closeness of all the houses means they get fed. Magpies, blackbirds, chaffinches, robins, great tits, blue tits and excitingly some tiny birds flying that must be long tailed tits (I only see them in silhouette). The last time I saw these I was living in Germany, 30 years ago.

Start walking. There's a lot of standing water, and the path's a bit muddy. Never mind. I can see from the map that this path crosses a good half dozen roads, which is useful for letting me know how far I've come. I get to the first road and there's a large number of people in a car park, plainly an organised group of 'proper' hiker with jazzy red jackets and all the gear. I'm not organised (you guessed?) and I'm definitely not a proper hiker, but I really hope they don't catch up with me as I hate having people I don't know underfoot when hiking.

Cross the road and it shortly becomes clear that while getting lost is not going to be a problem, getting muddy is going to be one helluva problem.

While my new boots are waterproof some of the mud is very very deep indeed, and in fact there are little streams in places. It looks as though all the wet weather we have had recently has made seasonal or underground streams come to the surface. There are places where you can stand and watch rivulets of water running from bootprint to bootprint.

For me, there are various things going on.

First, my jogging pants are too long for me. Down the gym, this is not a problem. In a quagmire, the bottom foot or so of them quickly gets wet and muddy and the water soaks up and they flop against my calves. Yuck.

Second, I can't see how deep these muddy bits are. If they are more than about eight inches deep, I will get wet ankles. Nothing nastier than a wet ankle.

Third, the path is flattish but not flat and very very slippery. At one point I skid and do a frantic windmill impersonation with my arms and only just manage not to flip over.

I absolutely, utterly and completely do not want a mudbath. I might end up in a zoo, mistaken for a hippo.

Keep walking. Get to a raised roundabout with busy A-road and follow signs to Chingford, lose the footpath for a short time and walk 10 minutes along road, then pick up footpath and find myself in a very very very wet and muddy bit of forest, not easy to decide which is the right path. Keep going and come to right path after all. Quite a few people are about now - any number of runners. Heaven knows how they keep their footing in all this mud. Have I mentioned the mud?

Get to a place where I literally can't work out how to cross it. A stream is running across the path and there's mud as far as the eye can see. Slosh and stagger across.

At this point, water goes over the top of my left boot. The mud is so wet, I am not leaving footprints. It just closes up behind me.

Get to a dryer spot, and the forest opens out and looks pretty. Cross another road and come to a little park with - joy of joys - a bench. Sit down as am ravenous and did not get much breakfast. Get out tea and cheese sarnie. Look at time - it must be gone 11.

Nope. It's 10.07. I've only been walking an hour and a half and I'm already tired because of all the slithering about. Contemplate my navel briefly. I don't really want to abandon the walk now. I intended to put in three or four hours, so 90 minutes is not nearly enough. Get up, start walking again.

Come to another pond, this is actually marked on the map as a boating lake.

It's full of seagulls and Canada geese, which I feed a bit of my sarnie on (must remember that when I track my food). Glance round and realise the large party of proper walkers is coming up behind me. My own fault for stopping to have tea. Give them 5 minutes to get ahead of me and discover they are not only proper walkers, they are on a guided walk with regular stops for lectures. Walk past them.

Reach a nice foresty bit with the river Ching in the middle, very pretty and the water is flowing very fast. We haven't actually had much rain in London over the past week, so either this water is from elsewhere, or it's actually been wetter.


Come out on road, peruse map, walk up road and turn across it, walk across field. There is actually standing water at grass roots level. Also I start to notice a new phenomenon. I don't know whether they are natural or manmade but there are regular ridges. Between the rides is mud.

Cast about again, trying to find correct path or A path going in the right direction. Choose one and it turns out to be the right one.

It's seriously muddy again. Persevere, since the map tells me I'm only a mile or two from Chingford, but I am really really tired. This is nothing like an ordinary walk. I'm having to concentrate all the time on keeping my footing, I'm sliding about everywhere, walking much slower than usual and on top of all this, having to crisscross the path endlessly to find my way round the muddy bits. At one point there is a clearly defined stream flowing right over the path.

Oh, and it's getting cloudy.

Then quite without warning I come to a the start of a red gravel path, like the ones I'm used to in Epping Forest. It ends so abruptly it's obvious they ran out of steam or gravel or money just there. Anyway, I'm glad to see it, and pick up my pace to my usual 3mph. I'm guessing all the paths in Epping Forest would be quagmires had they not been gravelled, it's just that I've been lucky up till now.

Arrive at another road, get out map and decide, correctly as it turns out, that I've taken a slightly wrong path. Turn along the road and within 10 minutes am at Queen Elizabeth's Hunting Lodge. This is Liz I, not Liz II. It was unfortunately 'improved' by the Victorians, but there it is.

Ten minutes later, am at Chingford bus station. Look at the time and it's now 12.20. So I've put in three hours and forty minutes. I'm shattered. That was a tough gig, that walk.

I'd do it again anytime.

Any time we've had a four-week drought.

The title of the blog is from this song.

Member Comments About This Blog Post:
BARBARASDIET 12/9/2012 3:26PM

    Don't enjoy walking in it!!

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BLACK741 12/9/2012 3:20PM

    Love your walks enjoy them more than my own thanks for sharing.

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LANAHAUTH21 12/9/2012 2:50PM

  I liked reading your Blog. I felt like I was with you. Going to wash my
shoes off. Have a great day.

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JANETTEB553 12/9/2012 2:38PM

    What do you mean "getting muddy is going to be one helluva problem. " you managed it no problem.... emoticon

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PORTIAWILLIS 12/9/2012 2:09PM

    Wonderful walk. I have not got to the point that I would walk alone like that. My sense of direction is awful so I have to be on well marked paths or will never be seen again.

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MONTREAL12 12/9/2012 1:57PM

  Thank-you ever so much for the narrative as well as the pictures! Appreciate it; glad I came across your story. Keep them coming! You obviously have talent for communicating! emoticon emoticon

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JESSICABOOTY 12/9/2012 1:54PM

    Great trip and walking around the mud does put you in touch with Nature. Too bad Nature isn't around to clean off your boots.

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ALIHIKES 12/9/2012 1:48PM

    LOVED the blog! Enjoyed the adventures in the mud -- mud DOES make hiking much harder and works those core muscles to keep you balanced! Cute song too, I had never heard it before. What great photos! emoticon

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KNYAGENYA 12/9/2012 1:44PM


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SHOAPIE 12/9/2012 1:35PM


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MARYHENNIG 12/9/2012 1:30PM

  Thank you for the lovely walk. I really enjoyed it!

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AMANDACOETZER 12/9/2012 12:47PM

    Beautiful pictures!

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INGMARIE 12/9/2012 12:28PM

    awesome. thanks for sharing your hike and photos.
hope your boots have dried by now. emoticon

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JEWITCH 12/9/2012 12:28PM

    Great blog and beautiful pictures. Sorry I was on of those that snickered a bit (couldn't help it.) Thanks for sharing.

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PATRICIAANN46 12/9/2012 12:23PM

  Only YOU can turn a muddy walk into a humorous adventure. I am always glad to get to the part of your blog where you are getting on the bus/train to head for home. Have you thought GPS as part of your gear????

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JUNETTA2002 12/9/2012 11:43AM

    cute Enjoyed the pictures once again .

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STUFFNEARTABOR 12/9/2012 11:24AM

    Lovely blog - thanks for sharing.

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NIKKIJ55 12/9/2012 11:18AM

    I love hiking. Thanks for sharing the journey

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HEALTHIERKEN 12/9/2012 11:13AM

    What an adventure! Thanks for the great story and the beautiful pics. What's a little mud now and again when you can experience all those other, positive, aspects of your hike????

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LYNCHD05 12/9/2012 11:07AM

    I think it is amazing that you go on these walks where you can get lost and you do it alone. You are very brave and look at the miles you are clocking! Impressive. Once Gain thanks for sharing.

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CICELY360 12/9/2012 11:06AM

  feel like I'm walking with you

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NOTSOFLUFFYDAD 12/9/2012 11:05AM

    I look forward to your blogs every day, thank you for sharing!

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MIMIDOT 12/9/2012 10:49AM

    Thanks for taking us on another nice journey. Next time, lets try to keep our feet dry. lol Enjoy the journey,and the pictures were great. Thanks again!!!!

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JMC155 12/9/2012 10:44AM

    Once again I've enjoyed our hike. Hopefully by this spring, my feet will let me walk for hours on end. Thank you for your blog.

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CMERLE1 12/9/2012 10:43AM

    As an avid walker, I felt your pain with all of the mud that you had to go through. I love your blogs and the pictures and always look forward to the next one.

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    Things are pretty much the same on both sides of the big pond, except of course for the spelling of several words.

Make Today a great day!

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BAROSS 12/9/2012 9:57AM

    emoticon I loved the pictures, was like i was walking with you

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HOLLYM48 12/9/2012 9:57AM

    That was quite the hike. I don't care for mud or wet or cold so I don't do a lot of outdoors walking at this time of year. Good for you that you kept on going!~
Great blog, kept me entertained and great photo's to go with it. emoticon

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GARDENCHRIS 12/9/2012 9:53AM

    hate walking through mud! but look at all the core exercise you got from balancing! A plus!

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APPLEPIEAPPLE 12/9/2012 9:53AM

    emoticon Sometimes taking a different path caan be rewarding.

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SISSYB3 12/9/2012 9:49AM

    Good for keep on going! Bravo! And thanks so much for the beautiful (and muddy!) photos. emoticon Renee

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JOANNHUNT 12/9/2012 9:42AM

    emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon

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JANETRIS 12/9/2012 9:41AM

    Great Hike! How nice that you have A forest close by that offers endless hiking opportunities even on muddy days too! Love the hippo song LOL! Glad you didn't let the mud stop you and you persevered....way to go!

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PAULOBRY 12/9/2012 9:36AM

    What a beautiful blog. I had a hunch you might be a Brit by the names of the forests in the title. I find myself to be jealous of the ability to take the tube to a village and then hike to another. What an amazing part of the world to live in.

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  Wait, guided tours? There are GUIDES?!! You could've been using guides all along! But then, we wouldn't have had nearly as much fun. Thank you!

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MOMMY445 12/9/2012 9:28AM

    what a wonderful blog! thanks for sharing! have a great day!

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OFGREENGABLES 12/9/2012 9:26AM

    thanks for Sharing!

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FATBASTICH 12/9/2012 9:13AM

    Iove your blogs.

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NEPTUNE1939 12/9/2012 8:53AM

    My feet got cold just thinking about your walk. Time for a toddy for the body, Earl emoticon

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RUNNING-TURTLE 12/9/2012 8:50AM


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GINA180847 12/9/2012 8:49AM

    What a lovely blog!

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MOWINELADY 12/9/2012 8:48AM

    Looks like you had an adventure but still reached your goal. A lot of people would have quit after the first bit of mud and water. Congrats on finishing your goal of your walk. emoticon

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TPETRIE 12/9/2012 8:42AM

  I love your journeys. I feel that I am right there with you, joining in on the scenery and the wonderful company. Thanks.

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CLAYARTIST 12/9/2012 8:36AM

  emoticon emoticon emoticon

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BESSHAILE 12/9/2012 8:27AM

    Love to walk along with you in my mind. You just HAVE to love Epping forest.

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DJSHIP46 12/9/2012 8:17AM

    Cute song.

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TORTISE110 12/9/2012 8:15AM

    I loved your hike! We were in the Cotswalds in October, my first visit to England, and your journey takes me back there to where...I did not know, and now I do. I am loving your country!

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TRYINGHARD54 12/9/2012 8:15AM

    as always ,another great walk... even with the mud....

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TEACHING1ST 12/9/2012 8:13AM

    Chantal, I always feel like I've been your traveling companion for each trip! What a delight it is to read whatever you write and to 'be there' via your gorgeous pictures and humorous commentary! Carry on!


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HEYMOE012 12/9/2012 8:12AM

  I love reading the blogs about Epping forest because they bring back thoughts of a happier time and place for me. In 2008, six months after Mom died, I decided to go, alone, to England to see the Aunts and Uncles I never got to meet. One of them lived in Chingford. I have been to Leytonstone. And every journey you make brings me back to the love and acceptance I felt from those people. Thank you so much for sharing your adventures. You have made the world a better place.

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