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    CHICCHANTAL   29,102
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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:
40PUDDLEJUMPER 12/25/2012 3:53PM

    What a fantastic blog entry. I really enjoyed it

Thank you x

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LAWANDMUSIC 12/25/2012 2:38PM

    Wonderful read!

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KATRINAKRAUT 12/25/2012 12:53PM

    What a muddy adventure! That is a lot of slogging!

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WANDERINONE 12/25/2012 11:55AM

    Fantastic narration of your walk and the pictures told your story well too. BUT I would have had to lay down and take a nap halfway. That was a SUPER walk you did. Nice adventurous walk. Bet you enjoyed your meals after. Bet you worked up a good appetite and bet you ate healthy too. Good girl. Spark onward!

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BRASKIN 12/25/2012 9:11AM

  that's some walk! love the pics and the commentary.

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MUSOLF6 12/25/2012 5:44AM

    emoticon love the pics

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DUSTYPRAIRIE 12/25/2012 4:59AM

    Great stroy. Imagine the calories burned!

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BLUEJEAN99 12/25/2012 1:55AM

    emoticon emoticon merry christmas!

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JAMER123 12/25/2012 12:29AM

    WOW! You really are having some rain & flooding problems! Lovely pictures. And I enjoyed our walk together. Merry Christmas to you! emoticon

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SUNNYBEACHGIRL 12/24/2012 11:59PM

    Merry christmas

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PCASEY7 12/24/2012 11:41PM

    I'd love to know how many steps you put on a pedometer on one of your 4 1/2 hour hikes! Great adventure and happy you managed to stay upright particularly with that ankle of yours! Merry Christmas!

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ROCKYCPA 12/24/2012 10:42PM

    Great hike although a bit muddy and wet!

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ONLYTEMPORARY 12/24/2012 10:06PM


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ALIDOSHA 12/24/2012 5:33PM

    emoticon emoticon

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NILLAPEPSI 12/24/2012 5:12PM

    Great photos!! Lots & lots of mud. Ick!! Glad you avoided those horse buns. emoticon

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PATRICIAANN46 12/24/2012 5:12PM

  The one good thing about walking in mud is that it burns more calories.........I know that you always seem to look on the bright side, so I thought you would appreciate this.
Merry Christmas......... emoticon

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DIANNEMT 12/24/2012 4:55PM

    Wet, wet, wet!

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HEARTS116 12/24/2012 4:33PM

    emoticon emoticon

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NEWTINK 12/24/2012 4:24PM

    Looks like another great day of adventure for you !!!! emoticon

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SHOAPIE 12/24/2012 4:03PM


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PORTIAWILLIS 12/24/2012 3:44PM

    Your adventures amaze me. You are really determined to walk all of England.

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LIVELYGIRL2 12/24/2012 3:09PM

  muddy mess and aren't you glad for hose nice boots?

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MOMMY445 12/24/2012 1:27PM

    glad to hear that you had such a great walk! merry christmas to you and your family!

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JOANNHUNT 12/24/2012 1:13PM

    emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon

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WALLINMW 12/24/2012 1:08PM

  Spent 2 years in Middlesex, near Harrow. Thank you for sharing your memories.

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FIRECOM 12/24/2012 12:43PM

    You are such a good story teller. If you are not a published author, you should be. GREAT STUFF.

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OFGREENGABLES 12/24/2012 12:17PM


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LINDAKAY228 12/24/2012 12:01PM

    I know it had a lot of drawbacks, especially the mud, but it still looks like a nice walk although much better when not so muddy. Glad you were able to get out before the rain hits again. I did like the pics!

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GARDENCHRIS 12/24/2012 11:59AM

    lots of MUD YUCK! you always have such interesting things to share! emoticon

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CLAYARTIST 12/24/2012 11:01AM

  emoticon emoticon emoticon

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DIXIECAP79 12/24/2012 10:39AM


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CICELY360 12/24/2012 10:24AM

  Love your pictures

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HOLLYM48 12/24/2012 8:55AM

    Wow!!!!!! that was quite the hike. I hope you were able to get all the mud off your boots. Thanks for taking us on this wet and entertaining walk!

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RAINBOWCHOC 12/24/2012 8:55AM

    Ah the memories, I had to do "Geography field trips" on lots of that ground, and I sank in quite often too! The fisheries was always ok for underage drinking too! You have managed to transport me back somewhere between 40 and 45 years (just like a Christmas film) and brought a wistful smile to my face.
The services at the lower end of the M1 were the "place to go" late in the evening for a coffee when you were too much in love to go home! The A41 had had it's day, the mods and rockers used to meet in coffee bars (notably the Busy Bee) but our generation used the motorway and cars!
Thank you for my wave of nostalgia, I shall be enigmatic fot the rest of the day!

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NEWMOM20121 12/24/2012 8:50AM

    Love the pictures

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DJSHIP46 12/24/2012 8:17AM

    Great mudding! Merry Christmas Eve!

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WILSON1926 12/24/2012 8:03AM

    emoticon emoticon

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TDEMAIO2 12/24/2012 8:03AM

    emoticon you did GREAT with all that mud - emoticon pictures : )

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SANDYCRANE 12/24/2012 7:47AM

    I had a great time walking thru the country side. Its all starting to get very familiar. Thanks for sharing.


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TRYINGHARD54 12/24/2012 7:12AM

    thanks again.. great walk

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PENOWOK 12/24/2012 7:12AM

    You sure found mud on this one. I am so sorry about the flooding. I know that's no fun... And quite frightening! Thanks for more history, too! You are so good about sharing that sort of info. Your maps must be amazing!

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LEANMEAN2 12/24/2012 6:18AM

    I wish we could trade some of our drought (here in Kansas, USA) with your moisture.
Thanks, I enjoyed the travelog.

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GRAMPIAN 12/24/2012 5:46AM

  Those pub signs are like seeing, as I have, 'Book now for Christmas' in May!

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NASFKAB 12/24/2012 5:45AM

  thanks for sharing all the best

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LIFETIMER54 12/24/2012 4:52AM

  Beautiful pics, thanks for sharing.... emoticon

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NCSUE0514 12/24/2012 3:30AM

    I hope you had good boots - it looks like the ground was rather squishy!

Thanks for taking us along on your walk.

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AMOMENTSNOTICE 12/24/2012 2:19AM

    Nice walk! Thanks for taking us along.
: )

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BRENDA_G50 12/24/2012 2:12AM

    emoticon You totally wore me out!!! However, I DID enjoy the pictures as you took me along the way with you. emoticon

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NOTSPEEDY 12/23/2012 11:27PM

    You are a lot more adventureous than I am. Enjoying your adventures very much. Have a great day!!!

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LOUISE3518 12/23/2012 11:24PM

  CHANTAL.................... I FORGOT TOL SAY.... THANKS FOR ALL YOUR SUPER PICTURES !~!~~~~~~!!!!!!!
emoticon emoticon

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