Tuesday, 25 August 2020

To the woods, men!


Well, after 4 months lock-down, the gardening jobs and those around the house and on the car were petering out.

Unable to go on the planned Peninne Way this year was disappointing but as the good weather persisted, not being able to go anywhere had been frustrating.

When travel restrictions finally started easing, plans were discussed for a mini break. Not far, just local. Unwilling to mingle withe the infected hoi palloi on public transport and more in need of stress relieving exercise than stress inducing traffic, a cycling and walkimg trip seemed the ideal solution.

Along the canal side to quirky Norcott Farm to camp among the Victorian apple trees for two nights.

It would provide the necessary stress relief and allow me to try out my tarp, bivvy bag (I've only had them three years) and Komoot on my phone.

An early start then...

Hastily packed, the journey lurched into motion early morning afternoon. Then stopped. And started, stopped, started, and... no no, were fine now. I'd adjusted my brakes and checked the bike over the night before. This morning the brakes rubbed until I finally returned them to their previous position.

On the stretch up to Watford to pick up the canal we bravely cycled past the Krispy Kream factory before at last relaxing into a steady mildly uphill pace past idyllic looking locks and over picture box bridges. The Komoot app seemed to be working fine, allowing me to annotate our picturesque journey with many photos.

At Bourne End we lunched at the Three Horseshoes by a swing bridge on very good fish and chips and a vegan burger.

There was a short diversion at the Port Of Berkhamsted to visit the sun drenched castle and then the game began.

Do you know how many Norcotts there are?

Too many. Originally there was one large 'Norcott Manor' before it was divide into Norcott Hall Farm and Norcott Court. The court subsequently being divided in two with the building of a large new house. Each with its own drive. In what order do you think we interrogated them? Yes, the wrong order.

From 'HammerHouseOfHorror' website

We finally arrived outside a rather impressive Victorian Grade II building, the site of a much older farm house, where we were directed by a deadpan Bruno toward the old orchard. We we the only ones there and all we could hear were birds. And the A41. And A4251. But apart from that, very peaceful. We played with an other app on my phone which deciphered which birds we could hear.

Gone-off noodles for dinner (Surplus from the Coast to Coast in 2010!) expertly prepared by our resident chef in a cute little Chinese mess kit on his new toy, which roared like a caged beast.

The nearest pub, the Cow Roast Inn we found soundly shuttered. Devastated but undaunted we followed the main road East, pausing only to pick up some eggs for breakfast at a petrol station, into Northchurch where there were such extravagances as Tescos ('λ es o' as it was displayed), a chippy and finally the George and Dragon. 

The aroma from the chippy was most inviting. We made a mental note to drop in on the way back.

Complying with covid guidelines the pub had a one way system, a track and trace 'sign in' sheet and copious hand sanitiser. And more importantly four hand-pumps to choose from, from which we had the pleasure to sample some excellent Wainwright, Directors and Green King IPA. Fully satisfied, we returned to find the chippy closed. 

To bed then.

Full moon.

This was the first time I'd slept under a tarp, a Chinese copy of a Trailstar. It was a warm night and although we welcomed the slight breeze under the fly, the extra exposure left us worrying about all those strange nocturnal snuffling, barking and squeaking noises. At least we didn't wake to a face full of slugs!

Very atmospheric.

Next day...

Despite the noises, we had a good night's sleep and woke to a bright morning.

At this point I found that the card in my phone had been corrupted and all the previous day's recorded Komoot route and the embedded photos had gone. 

All my other incidental photos had disappeared, and now the SD card was unavailable the camera didn't function.

Today we planned to explore some of the Ashridge estate, to the North of Norcott.

We'd be mostly in the woods, where on a hot day is no bad thing.

We till had the odd view though.

What be this then?

After visiting the Bridgewater Monument for lunch and a break,...

...we made our way to Aldbury for refreshments at the Valiant Trooper. They had just opened after the lockdown and as they mostly had regulars, they were relying on 'good sense' to keep customers safe. David got my phone working by formatting the card. Blast n drat. Well, at least it works now.

Taking stock at Aldbury

From Aldbury we wandered over towards Aldbury Nowers in search of more views.

Lords and Ladies. Don't eat!


On the way over to Aldbury Nowers, looking West

We had some success, however the top itself was covered in trees.

After some false starts scrambling through some fenced off bits,

Woody nightshade?

And lots of plants I didn't recognise,


...we realised we had passed the high point on the path...

St. John's Wort




...so we dropped down to the canal and made our way back.

Along the way we met a photographer trying to capture a kingfisher and saw a common blue butterfly.

We earlier met a volunteer warden who became quite animated at the thought of spotting one.

Back at Norcott, we found we had a neighbour.

Image courtesy of the OS, o' course

'Wet food' for dinner. Two pouches again left over from the Coast to coast. 

Although full, we'd promised ourselves a fish and chip supper, and so back to Northchurch.

While we were there, it would be rude not to visit the pub again...

Stumbling back we were accosted by a bat. Further investigations when the nocturnal screeching started up again led us to suspect a bat was a source of one of the mysterious noises we heard the previous night.

Home again, home again, jiggety jig...

Left over fish supplemented our breakfast in a little light rain. Time to go home.

The journey home was just as pleasant as the journey out, despite the occasional rain.

Small tortoiseshell?

A late liquid lunch at the Paper Mill, Apsley, and home.

A very enjoyable trip.

Friday, 23 August 2019

Snowdonia Odyssey - Day seven & then home

So, I'll just nip off early then....

Up early, dress and go. There must be a bus stop near the camp site...

But no. No bus stop. After half and hour I stuck out my thumb.

Another five minutes later I got a lift with a friendly Scot who had just nipped out to get breakfast for his son, who was still sleeping at our campsite.

As I explained my mission he offered to hang around until I'd retrieved my stick. What a nice chap.