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    CHICCHANTAL   28,171
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Cabbage soup

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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Today I decided to branch out and got out the as yet unused map of northwest London that I bought in the summer. It covers an area not known for beauty, including Watford and Harrow. I tick off part of the London LOOP (London Outer Orbital Path) and head to Carpender's Park station with a flask of coffee, a bottle of water and a hopeful expression.

Plus boots, natch.

Half an hour's walk sees me pick up the LOOP (this sounds like a knitting pattern). Walk up a nice path through a field, along a bit and come out by a golf course.

They have got the sprinkler on. The ground is sodden already. Why put the sprinkler on? Better class of water?

I don't play golf, do you take me for the idle rich? I do know it's dangerous to cross a golf course unheralded though. There's a signpost instructing me to follow the white poles but I can't see any. After some thought, start to edge along the outside of the field and after 100 metres come to a white pole. Keep going.

The weather's fab today, it poured yesterday and it's due to pour tomorrow but today's just what I ordered. I wasn't really in the mood for a walk, but given the dodginess of the weather I thought I'd better make the most. There are some good views and the sun is coming out.

Walk along a farm track, turn left into a wood as suggested by the map. It's . . . ahem . . . muddy. But not too muddy.

The map shows the path getting a bit loopy here - the quickest way from A to B is actually along the road but the path meanders about all over. There's a stream and I'm not sure which side of it I should be on. So I wade across the mud over the top of it (it goes through a pipe) three times while I decide.

Marked on the map are both Grim's Ditch and Grims Dyke, and at about this point I cross the ditch somewhere, but without an expert to point it out to me it's hard to recognise it. Anyway, you can read more about it if you want here.

Grims Dyke is now a hotel and was the home of William Gilbert (as in Gilbert and Sullivan).

I loved the name of this pub.

It's apparently a corruption of 'Casa Alta' but I like it because I used to read detective stories by Martha Grimes, named after different pubs and one of them had the same name as this pub. I've never seen one with that name before.

Eventually emerge on the road and walk along for 100 metres. I'm keen to see the viewpoint marked on the map and it's very nice though not as spectacular as some.

There's a car park and a group of teenagers wearing 'community payback' fluorescent vests which means they've been bad lads and lasses and have community service orders. They are litter picking, and there's plenty of litter to pick. Litter is a feature almost the whole way along this way, I see more today than in all the other walking I've done since June put together. Pity.

Cross the road and go back into the woods at a signpost.

This bit, Harrow Weald Common, is very nice. Keep walking, am inspected by a large golden retriever who looks more interested in walking with me than with his owner. Emerge on to the road, cross the road and follow a path down the side of Bentley Priory. This was where the RAF was based in WW2. The main building (which I didn't see, except for a glimpse) is 18th century. There's now a nature reserve in the grounds, which is an SSSI (site of special scientific interest) which often means some species of very rare plant or animal has been found there. If that's the case, they aren't saying what.

Walk along a meandering concrete path, admiring the amount of standing water there is. (We've got huge flooding problems in the UK at the moment. If I'd been coming back from Cornwall today, I wouldn't have made it. The railway line is blocked by landslides and flooding.) I've stopped being surprised at seeing water running across paths.

Get to the end of the nature reserve and I'm in the middle of a housing estate, clearly built in the 1930s/40s, full of huge 'mansions' with manicured gardens, and signs up everywhere saying do not do this, do not do that, neighbourhood watch area and so on.

Get to the end of the road, and it's actually a gated estate but they can't block off a public footpath. They do however ensure that builders use the tradesmen's entrance!

Bit naff that, if you ask me.

Walk down the side of Stanmore Common. Do you want to know what a common is? It's not straightforward but my understanding is that it is land that local people were allowed to graze their livestock on before the Norman conquest. More here:

Keep going between a hospital and a farm, and come out on a nice gravelly farm track. I'm walking slowly downhill and as I walk, a trickle of water in the track becomes a freshet.

To my left is a ditch that is full of fast-flowing water, but this freshet continues along the track. Walk on a bit past a manure heap and up a track through a gate. It's a good thing you can't smell what I could smell. Phowee!

The 20 metres of track that follow are going down in my personal annals as the worst bit of path I have encountered this year so far.

It's AWFUL. The earth is clay, so it's slippery and sticky. It's a steep slope so every step I take, I'm slipping backwards. I am sinking a good eight inches with every step. It's sloppy with water and sloshing over the tops of my boots. I labour up the slope at a snail's pace.

At the top, fresh hell.

There's a nice grassy hill and a signpost points up it into the middle of nowhere. No visible path, and because I'm looking up a hill, I can't see the lie of the land because the lie of the land is mostly the other side of curve of the hill.

Start walking along a tractor rut. In the distance is what I think is the M25 which shows you what I know because in fact it's the M1. I should have known this. My map says 'Watling Street' in gothic type. Watling Street is the road built by the Romans to move up and down England quickly. This bit of the M1 is more or less built on it.

Still no sign of a path. So there I am in the middle of a grassy field, at the top of a hill, hemmed in by the UK's biggest motorway on one side and a completely impassable quagmire (the one I've just walked up) on the other side. I can't possible walk back the way I came because I just wouldn't be able to keep my footing.

Why DID I come out for a walk today? I could be on a nice clean dry elliptical wossname at the gym, right now.

Walk a bit further, get out map, try to decide where the path is likely to have gone. It has to get under or over the M1. If I am looking at the bit I think I am on, the path must be to my left. Walk to my left. After ten minutes, realise I can see cars buzzing along a side road in the distance.

Oh frabjous day! Shortly after this I get to the path marker, and go under a large concrete bridge.

It's 1.30. Decide I've had enough walking for today. Since it's Sunday, and country buses are likely to be a bit thin on the ground, I head for Elstree and Borehamwood station.

By a coincidence, London Loop goes the same way, round by a lake with boats put away for the winter, and a pub with frankly incredible signage out front:

Words fail me.

I go across a road, then into a nice field full of cabbage. I know it's cabbage by the smell. The colour is quite pretty against the red of the earth which is clay.

The field is clay and muddy.

Very muddy. But well signposted!

Afterwards I estimate it takes me 15 minutes to walk about 300 metres across this field. Skis would have been useful. Or a hovercraft. I keep thinking I'm over the worst and then it gets worse. Clay being sticky, it attaches itself to your boots. You become as one with the earth. It's like stuffing your mouth with marshmallows and then trying to chew.

Beyond the cabbages is a field of horses. They are nice horses; they ignore me.

I get to the final gate. This is it.

Yes, really.

At least I get to rinse my boots.

After this it's just a case of trudging the last mile or two to the station. Avoiding horse buns:

and flooding:

Four and a half hours all told, so I think about nine or ten miles.

Member Comments About This Blog Post:
CATNCAG 8/16/2013 12:37PM

    Wow, what an adventure! It's a good thing u were wearing your boots! emoticon emoticon emoticon

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NASFKAB 2/11/2013 5:51AM

  great pictures

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LISA_FRAME 1/10/2013 9:07PM


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EFFRAYECHILDE 1/7/2013 11:43AM


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BLUEKITTYJAN 1/6/2013 6:30AM

    Clicking your camera all the way. What an outing! emoticon

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SERASARA 1/2/2013 8:34PM

  emoticon emoticon emoticon

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223DAISY 1/2/2013 2:46PM

    Beautiful photo's emoticon

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MARALEYNI 12/29/2012 12:20PM

    This is rich! What a wonderful walk, I feel like I am right there beside you emoticon

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WHITEANGEL4 12/29/2012 3:07AM

    Thank you again for inviting us on your lovely hike

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WHITEANGEL4 12/29/2012 3:07AM

    Thank you again for inviting us on your lovely hike

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LYNNWILK2 12/28/2012 6:11PM

    I love following you on your journeys ... no matter the mess you may find yourself in, you make it all sounds so exciting. Wish there were walking paths like that here... there probably are, but they aren't made public.

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JESSIG5 12/28/2012 5:52PM

    Great walk and love the pics. The scenery sometimes looks a little like where I was born in the state of Georgia. I'm in Florida now. I read those Martha Grimes books also; they are some of my favorites.

Merry Christmas and keep walking.

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CHERYLSBUTT 12/28/2012 2:30PM

    Merry Christmas my dear
THank you for the walking tours!
They remain with me and I appreciate the visuals!!

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MOMKAT4310 12/28/2012 10:56AM

    I like your commentary and supporting photos. I admire your walking tenacity and your access to hiking paths. Great walking.

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SUSIEMT 12/27/2012 9:45PM

    You are quite the hiker! I would love to go with you some time!

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PMFISH 12/27/2012 6:53PM

    Always enjoy your walks and the pictures. Thanks for sharing.

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J2740LOU 12/27/2012 4:55PM

    Thank you for sharing your very interesting blog! I really enjoyed "sharing" your hike. emoticon

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NAOLEE 12/27/2012 2:59PM

    emoticon emoticon

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KARA151 12/27/2012 2:25PM

    Great adventure, I wish I could've seen some of those old mansions.

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MAXIET 12/27/2012 1:38PM

    Enjoyed reading your blog! We have 15cm of snow, so nice to see green, even if it was muddy.

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LAFFWITHLINDA 12/27/2012 12:19PM

    You have a very nice way with words. I really enjoyed reading your blog post.

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BOBF15 12/27/2012 11:24AM

    Quite a bit of slogging around in mud, seems you should get a mud bonus for this.


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WALLINMW 12/27/2012 11:16AM

  Thanks for sharing this great post!

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RASIRE 12/27/2012 11:04AM


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NORASPAT 12/27/2012 10:54AM

    I used to walk the North Yorkshire moors in my youth and I never encountered anything like that. At which point did you regret being there,
I loved your blog and determination, well done. Pat in Maine. USA. emoticon emoticon emoticon

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SKMINNY 12/27/2012 10:04AM

    Wow u are brave to go out in that! We used to go out to the desert and deliberately get stuck with the truck.. and spend hours digging it out of the mud hole. It was fun but not something to do anymore!

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SONGBIRDPAULA 12/27/2012 9:31AM

    emoticon emoticon Howdy! from the DFW area of Texas!

My oh my, what beautiful pictures. Loved this blog! It is presented in such a manner that I felt that I was there walking with you!

Have a blessed day and wonderful journey to the new you!

Paula emoticon

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TEDYBEAR2838 12/27/2012 8:55AM

    WOW, what a awesome day and beautiful pictures.

I'm glad you took the camera so you can show us the sites

Much better seeing them in person..

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PDSLIM 12/27/2012 8:47AM


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YR4ME2SHINE 12/27/2012 8:37AM

    You are a wonderful storyteller! I really enjoyed your adventure. Thanks for sharing.

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GANEC5104 12/27/2012 8:12AM

    story + pictures = wonderful
thank you


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KATHIC2 12/27/2012 8:08AM

  Thanks for the nice walk!

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JOYINKY 12/27/2012 7:52AM

    Wonderful! Thank you for sharing your walk; I love the pictures! I love walking and really admire your adventuresome spirit. That was indeed a challenging walk; even though I'm in KY the terrain seemed very familiar; we too have clay soil. In the spring my sweet dogs paws become mud mops! Walking with my dog is a favorite fitness activity!

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ADELCASALE 12/27/2012 7:00AM

    Good job and nice pics!

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THEIS58 12/27/2012 6:18AM

    Another adventure!

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STEVIEBEE569 12/27/2012 5:53AM

    Great pictures

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KAREN608 12/27/2012 1:39AM

    I think I know where the Iowa water went, to you! We have drought, you have mud mud and more mud. Interesting post as usual. Thanks.

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CM_GARDNER78 12/26/2012 11:57PM

    Awesome pictures!! Thanks for sharing!! :-)

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JULIA1154 12/26/2012 9:06PM

  I could hear the mud squelching underfoot as you made your way home! I enjoyed your walk but better thee than me :)

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TACY123 12/26/2012 4:48PM

    I also enjoyed the walk, so enjoyable to get away emoticon

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KATIWONT 12/26/2012 3:04PM

    Quite an adventure!! You sure did "stick to it"----both the walk AND the mud!!!

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MA_KING69 12/26/2012 1:52PM

    Great blog ..thank you

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ANDIG8 12/26/2012 11:16AM

    emoticon I LOVE it when you document your walks for us in pictures! Thank you!

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ROXIGIRL 12/26/2012 4:57AM

    Wow, I have been living in London for so many years and never heard about this! Thank you

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IAMAGEMLOVER 12/25/2012 10:06PM

    I enjoyed the walk. emoticon

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GOANNA2 12/25/2012 8:53PM

    I loved walking along with you. Amazing pictures, thanks
for sharing. emoticon

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JANETTEB553 12/25/2012 8:28PM

    phew just glad I wasn't there.... Hope you got the boots clean...

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LJOYCE55 12/25/2012 8:23PM

  Loved the restaurant picture - my local grocery store already had gummy hearts for sale (who wants to eat candy you KNOW is two months old?). I guess marketers are a different breed. Thank you for the pictures.

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PEGGYO 12/25/2012 8:10PM

    Love your stories of your walks and your pictures thanks for sharing

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AJB121299 12/25/2012 4:47PM


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