View from Monarch's Way

An Escape

During our walks along long distance paths in England, we’ve often merged with or crossed The Monarch’s Way and eventually, we decided to discover more about this path, which appeared in so many places.

I’m sure that at some time in my schooldays I studied the Civil War and the flight of Charles II from England, but I regret that I am woefully ignorant of the period. Following a little research (if ploughing through a rather tedious Georgette Heyer novel counts as research), I now know that after a heavy defeat at The Battle of Worcester 1651 and with a price on his head, Charles II spent six weeks hotly pursued by Oliver Cromwell’s Parliamentary forces as he tried to escape to France. His journey was circuitous as he first headed north, then doubled back down to the south coast and finally across the downs to Shoreham and The Monarch’s Way is a 615 mile footpath based on this escape.

 

Monarch's Way Worcester canal

We thought this walk would keep us busy for a while, so made a start earlier this month. We walked from Old Powick Bridge, just south of Worcester, in glorious April sunshine along the banks of the Rivers Teme and Severn into the hustle and bustle of the city and then headed northwards along the towpath of the Worcester and Birmingham Canal, which was busy with boats, fishermen, cyclists and dog walkers. We watched the fisherman, sat firmly on their stools with their copious paraphernalia spread within arms’ reach, as they picked bait from their varied selection and then used a catapult to send it flying to the other side of the canal where their line dipped into the water. I was hoping they might mistake their packed lunch for bait and catapult a sandwich across the water or pop a maggot in their mouth but it didn’t happen. Fishing remains a great mystery to me. Leaving that canal and skirting a rather unlovely industrial area we returned to the countryside and finally walked along the towpath of the sleepy Droitwich canal into Droitwich Spa.

Westwood House, Droitwich Spa from The Monarch's Way

The following day we headed out across the fields, past the impressive Westwood House, around numerous fishing lakes, had a chat with a man about ducks as we tried to find our way out of a nature reserve, followed the footpath from the road through a gate in the wall into a private garden where it ran for about ten metres and then emerged back onto the road (which was very strange), across a point-to-point course where they were putting up the rails for the forthcoming races, past a beautifully kept community orchard and into the village of Chaddesley Corbett. For once, our timing was perfect as we arrived bang on lunch time and the pub was open; normally we arrive too early, too late or the pub is shut. After a swift lunch (we were the only customers) we headed off through more green countryside, up and along a ridge with views across Worcestershire and to the West Midlands and finally into Hagley. An enjoyable start to The Monarch’s Way.

Next time we walk the path, we have a dilemma. The first two days were ideal for us – walking through villages and beautiful countryside, exploring a small city and both days there was a railway station conveniently close to the start and finish. The next few sections of the trail are less appealing as they include miles of urban pavement walking, a long stretch of rural road walking and an area with no regular public transport. We are walking for pleasure, not through a desire to retrace the royal escape route nor to tick off a completed long distance trail, so I think we will probably skip a chunk of the trail. It feels a little like cheating but I can’t see the point of walking where I don’t want to be when there are so many places that I do want to explore.

Would you grit your teeth and do the whole thing properly or would you ignore the official trail and walk your own shortened route?

Every Step Counts

footprints in frost

Last year, I wore one of those fitness trackers for a couple of months and became mildly obsessed with how many steps I took each day. Then the battery ran out and the tracker was put to one side and forgotten. But when I was counting the steps, I wondered about the value of some. After all, there’s a world of difference between pottering around the kitchen while baking on a Sunday afternoon and power walking up a hill.

What if some of those steps were worthless? A study from the University of Cambridge revealed that a brisk twenty minute walk every day reduces the risk of early death by 25% but is a casual saunter of any benefit? I thought about some of the steps I’ve walked in the past week in speed order:

The Supermarket Shuffle. A ponderous walk also requiring negotiations around static and slow moving obstacles.

The Sunday Saunter. A postprandial amble with time to stop and talk with friends and neighbours or watch paramotors.

morning sun on foggy day

The Mindful Walk. Looking around at the landscape, stopping to photograph the light shining through the branches on a foggy morning or feeling the crunch of ice beneath the feet.

The Thinking Walk. There seems to be an optimum speed at which my brain works best and I can mull over problems or make grand plans. Bill hates it when I return from a walk with the words “I’ve been thinking …”

The Dog Walk. Brisk walking interspersed with stops to attach or remove the lead, backward walking as I scan the horizon for my dog and bending down to nip under barriers.

The Nordic Walk. Fast walking, propelled by poles. Only undertaken in a group away from home as I feel too self-conscious to stride out with poles around the farm.

The Walking Netball Walk. Very fast walking in short spurts co-ordinated with catching and throwing a ball and avoiding collisions with other players.

While I might not be getting an intense aerobic workout from all these forms of walking, I enjoy them and they get me outside in all weathers (apart from supermarket shopping). If being outside and active makes me happy then it must be doing good so it doesn’t surprise me that Natural England have concluded that walking can result in improved self-esteem and mood states.

Phew! Those steps are all worthwhile. They just have different values.

Do you walk for pleasure? Are you a mindful walker embracing the world with every step or do you stride purposefully from A to B?

You might also like to read these articles about the joys of walking:

Daily Walks

Hygge – Celebrating the Cold, the Bleak and the Blissful

Waste Not Those Feet

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wish you were here

Postcards from this week …

above Amberley on South Downs Way

We caught an early train to London, wedged with our rucksacks in a moving mass of grey as commuters made their way to work and we sat smug in the knowledge that we were off to walk in the sunshine. Picking up the South Downs Way at Amberley, we headed up to the hills and away.

museum Singleton

By early afternoon we reached the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum where buildings have been rescued from decay and destruction by dismantling them and reconstructing them on this large site.

seeded leeks-

The museum wasn’t too busy and at times it felt as though we had stumbled upon an almost deserted village as we followed paths through gardens and in through the back doors of houses where fires smouldered in the hearth. It gave me more of a feeling of how people lived than I’ve ever experienced in a normal museum room set and I couldn’t help thinking that the introduction of glazed windows must have made an enormous difference to people.

South Downs Way Beauworth

Over the next two days, we saw villages and farms nestled into the valleys below us and crops at different stages of ripening formed a coloured patchwork that reached into the distance. We ate lunch in the shade of trees as we gazed up at the blue sky and finally walked into Winchester, at the end of the South Downs Way.

Slamseys raspberry gin

Home again, home again, jiggety jig. My favourite drink this summer is a  Raspberry Gn Slush.

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