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    CHICCHANTAL   27,414
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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:
FANCYFREE15 12/9/2012 8:09AM

    Oh, how I love to "join" you on your walks! emoticon

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JGRAY76 12/9/2012 8:09AM

    Thanks for a lovely walk.

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ONEKIDSMOM 12/9/2012 8:02AM

    Of course I HAD to follow the link and hear the song and now it is STUCK in my head! Replacing the Christmas music that HAD been there... and making me smile and giggle. Your mud looks far more pervasive than the artificially created stuff we do the mud runs in over here in the drought of August.

But what a great 3 hour workout! Thanks so much for sharing it with us, and as the others have said, looking forward to the next one!

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LIFETIMER54 12/9/2012 7:46AM

  Love your sense of humor, you had fun and even managed a great walk.... emoticon emoticon emoticon

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CFMOSS 12/9/2012 7:35AM

    have an old rail bed near us that i sometimes walk on - there are parts which are slithery mud baths. but oh walking on a beautiful day. nice.

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LAURANCE 12/9/2012 7:03AM

  Thank you for both the lovely pictures and the reference to Flanders and Swan!

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WILSONWR 12/9/2012 7:00AM

    great blog. Thanks!

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FERFEY02 12/9/2012 6:51AM

    Nice blog. I actually felt like I was there with you. Your detailEd text & pictures are very much appreciated.

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NEWCHINELO 12/9/2012 6:48AM


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JIBBIE49 12/9/2012 6:45AM

    Once again you're featured in the Spark Mail. emoticon

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NCSUE0514 12/9/2012 6:29AM

    It's been a LONG time since I've thought of mud as being glorious!!!

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WILSON1926 12/9/2012 6:28AM

    what beautiful countryside......mud and all

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ADELE66 12/9/2012 5:33AM

    All of my walks seem to be like that these days! My last one I was actually walking up a small "stream" for about a mile! It's the reason why I don't go anywhere without my walking poles now - they are a godsend for helping you stay upright in the slippery stuff!


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SANDYCRANE 12/9/2012 5:30AM

    I loved looking at all the pictures, it kind of reminds me of what it looks like at my place. We have a couple of swamps and fields with a lot of trees, but in a lot smaller area. Keep up with the great blogs and keep on hiking.


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KRISUA 12/9/2012 2:37AM

    Beautiful pictures, beautiful text!

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LAURIETAIT 12/9/2012 1:42AM

    Love the hippopotamus song. I'm adding it to my list of hippo favs. The other one is I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas.


If you're tired of mud. You could come here to hike. We have a no mud guarantee this time of year. Of course it is -25 degrees Celsius right now.

Thanks for another great blog.

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SENIMMO 12/9/2012 12:38AM

    Just think of all the extra calories you burned with the extra effort you had to put in slogging through the mud! Woohoo! That should make up for the mess! And the wet pantlegs should count for strength training, that much water probably equaled 2lb weights for each leg (1kg) emoticon

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LTMURPHY7 12/9/2012 12:20AM


great pictures of the bare trees. love the shapes
cute song

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SKJCHAPMAN 12/9/2012 12:04AM

    I didn't leave the room even though I snickered. Beautiful place. Great pics. emoticon

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TATTER3 12/8/2012 11:01PM

    You have more courage than me...Loved the walk and hope your trainers dry well. Keep Sparkin'!!!

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POPSY190 12/8/2012 10:22PM

    At least you left with both boots still on your feet. That's a victory, of sorts. Great blog - as usual. emoticon

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MSMOSTIMPROVED 12/8/2012 10:04PM

    the ducks have the right idea- chillin in the mud!!!

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COCK-ROBIN 12/8/2012 9:26PM

    So peaceful. A wonderful walk.

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ANNESYLVIA 12/8/2012 9:04PM

    I feel like I walked too...may put it on my tracker!

As always lovely pictures.

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SARAWALKS 12/8/2012 8:59PM


emoticon Flanders and Swann. I know most of them by heart...
emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon

Here's the original version if anyone's interested...

Comment edited on: 12/8/2012 9:02:35 PM

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DANAPRIME 12/8/2012 8:41PM


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RAINBOWMF 12/8/2012 8:19PM

    LOL great blog and great pictures, you can keep the mud.


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MARYJEANSL 12/8/2012 8:15PM

  Great pictures! I hope your hiking boots will recover from the mud bath. I am picturing those hip-high rubber boots that fishermen wear while fishing in the middle of streams...seems as though something like that might work for the places you walk.

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DOVESEYES 12/8/2012 8:11PM

    another great slice of your like that is so well written we all feel we were there too ...ummm...apart from the mud.
Love the piccies and the canadian geese and all the photos.
If I had to go back to change my shoes I probably would have sat down and said next week!!!

Good on you for going back.

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BOBBIENORTHERN1 12/8/2012 7:22PM

  How could you hold your balance in all that mud?

Your pictures are exciting and beautiful and you must really be in good shape and strong and healthy to walk all that way in all that mud LOL

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SLIMLEAF 12/8/2012 7:21PM

    I totally sympathise with you on the mud and water front. I was out running on Thursday night and the paths were just awash. Really had to wade at times and the mud was, as you found, Very Slippery. Fortunately, I didn't really fall over (my left hand got nicely muddy in saving me from quite sitting down suddenly!), but I definitely needed to wash myself in a stream before I dared go indoors.

Great blog as always.

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CATLADY52 12/8/2012 7:10PM

    At least you don't give up at the first sign of problems. emoticon I have a feeling that you will be wearing shorter pants next time you go for a walk emoticon

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4KWALK 12/8/2012 6:56PM

    I just wished we lived in the same country. I would really like to go on one of your adventures with you - mud or no mud. At least we could help each other up if the windmill trick didn't work. : )

Have a great day and thanks again. emoticon

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LYNNA1968 12/8/2012 6:52PM

    lol, oh hun, you have such interesting walks, great pix & stories. Remember people pay good money for the "facial" your feet got.

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    Good show !!

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NOMORENOMORE 12/8/2012 5:55PM

    LOVE IT!!!! Thank you so much for sharing your gift with us. emoticon

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GABY1948 12/8/2012 5:51PM

    The pictures are great...and I would have loved the walk but not in mud...I HATE mud...give me almost anything else.

You are and inspiration! Have a great Sunday!

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NITTINNANA 12/8/2012 5:49PM

    I'm afraid I would have either gone on a "civilized" walk in trainers, or gone home with the good intention of changing into hiking boots but never gone out again. But you did, and I admire you tremendously. And I thank you so much for letting us all tag along with you again. It's such fun!

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IAMAGEMLOVER 12/8/2012 5:24PM

    When I realized I forgot my boots and had to go home to change, I wouldn't have left home again. I admire your determination.

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NOTSPEEDY 12/8/2012 4:42PM

    You have my utmost admiration for hiking on such a muddy path. You said you picked up your pace to your usual 3pm - what does the pm stand for?

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DESERTJULZ 12/8/2012 4:36PM

    The mud wasn't so glorious; however, your photos of the countryside are quite GLORIOUS! The song is hilarious & cute. :D Thank you for taking us on another of your glorious escapades through the countryside.

Just so you know, walking in mud burns more calories than walking on dry ground, so don't be too distraught that your walk wasn't as many hours as originally planned. :D

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STONECOT 12/8/2012 4:35PM

    I started off wishing I'd been there too, now I'm not so sure! Glad you enjoyed it, and I hope you burned off those 1,000 cals.

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ANDYLIN90 12/8/2012 4:34PM

    I hate it when water, mud or anything else flows over the top of my boots! I loved the pictures, especially with the ducks in the water. Congratulations on your determination!

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    Love the way you write - so funny - hope the boots recover!!

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WISEDIETER 12/8/2012 4:09PM

    Great walk loved it

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EABL81 12/8/2012 4:00PM

    Lol! But just think of all of the extra calories you burned whilst slithering. Slithering absolutely needs to be added as a new exercise on the tracker.

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KARENLEIGH32 12/8/2012 3:33PM

    The snigger you heard was probably mine! As usual I loved your blog, always so entertaining! I don't care for mud either, but just think of the workout you got by walking in it today. emoticon

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KIPPER15 12/8/2012 2:42PM

    Walking in mud is one step forward, two steps back, so you really did about 7 miles! emoticon

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REGILIEH 12/8/2012 2:32PM

    I confess, I SNIGGERED!!! Loved it all, including the song. emoticon emoticon


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DALID414 12/8/2012 2:03PM

    I think you should log the walk for cardio AND strength training for the windmilling you did. emoticon

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