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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.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
  • LOUISE3518
    oh you did it again....................... my favorite walk.
    You seem to turn each walk into an adventure.
    Good idea to think about each of my walks........ THEY ARE TRULY AN ADVENTURE.
    Mud, Mud, I love Mud... Absolutely wild about Mud.
    ....... and so it goes.
    Keep that determination going.... you are not alone... you keep me going too!!!!!
    1993 days ago
  • THOMS1
    Another great walk! emoticon
    1993 days ago
    Another wonderful walk. Wondered if you really were walking on the quagmire that is the muddy path or if you walked on the grass alongside the path. Maybe just as wet there, but less mud.
    Look forward to the next adventure!
    1993 days ago
  • DR1939
    You can buy spats to pull on over your boots to keep the water out of your boots and off the bottom of your pants. I think we paid about 10USD for ours.
    1993 days ago
  • JACKIE542
    Thank you for another great blog. Nothing keeps you from your walks that is great! Loved the song. emoticon
    1993 days ago
    Thank you for writing these blogs, with pictures and all.
    I am really enjoying them; just not quite enough to undertake a walk like this myself !!! Not big on mud, and it's been pouring here.
    Maybe when it snows . . . . . .
    1993 days ago
    Anyone who walks about and hikes as you do could NEVER be mistaken for a hippopotamus!!

    Thank you for sharing the advanture today! You must be exhausted. Have you ever thought of taking a staff or walking stick with you? You could gauge the depth of mud wallows with it, and it could lend a bit of support as well...
    1993 days ago
    we still have the long tail tits here in germany, is strang you are remembering something you seen here and your blogs bring back the time i lived in london and used to walk in all the parks there.etc.small world. emoticon
    1993 days ago
    Another emoticon blog. I enjoy your Epping Forest jaunts and the fact that even though it was a difficult walk this time with all that "glorious" mud, you still pushed onward and seemed to enjoy your walk. Sorry about your pant legs getting all yucky. I have dealt with that myself and it isnt a pleasant experience at all. The pictures as always were amazing, especially the one of Queen Elizabeth's hunting lodge. Have they turned the spot into a museum or a tourist attraction or is it still a hunting lodge? Thank you for sharing another adventure with us.
    1993 days ago
    Okay, now I'll be singing Mud until i go to tonight's concert. Hope they'll put something else in my head!
    1993 days ago
    Note to self: Don't take a swig of water while reading these blogs. I ended up spewing it out on accident trying not to giggle imagining some of the things you've written. emoticon

    Have a wonderful weekend. Can't wait to see what you write for your next blog!
    1993 days ago
    Love the song, and I can picture all the mud and issues you had walking. Sounds like a great time!!
    1993 days ago
    Thank you for sharing your glorious and gloppy walk with us! emoticon
    1993 days ago
    What a wonderful walk Anne! Great pics hun.
    You must be one happy lady to have enjoyed the fresh air, love the link!
    1993 days ago
  • DNRAE1
    I clicked on the link and got a smile singing along to Mud, Mud, Glor-i-ous Mud! I can see where this walk reminded you of it! Lol Enjoy your day.
    1993 days ago
    cute song.

    Marvelous pictures and your usual emoticon blog. I do like the leaf-less trees with their knarled branches. Sorry your pants got muddy wet and that you got a 'mud bath' for one foot. I so enjoy 'walking' with you - you make it easy with your dialogue (which is quite humorous) and pictures. Thank you.
    1993 days ago
    WOW :O that was one heck of a walk :O I must give you a big emoticon emoticon
    1993 days ago
  • MARUKI52
    Sounds like you really had a tough time of it today but you won through. About the slipping and sliding, I haven't bought any of these but am contemplating doing so with the weather that we are forecast to have (and me being an oldie and all) but you might like to look at this website because they do grippers for all sorts of scenarios and you will find some for walkers and mud on there which might be of help to you.

    1993 days ago
  • LIS193
    What a wonderful walk, thank you for sharing your pictures! Hmm... waders?
    1993 days ago
  • DAWN14163
    Well done for pushing on! Glorious mud, hey?
    1993 days ago
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