The year started off well, or as well as it can be with the Covid stuff still happening). Towards the end of March, my mother took ill and, sadly, passed away in April.
With the funeral to arrange and all the other bits and pieces associated with a death (housing, probate etc. etc.) taking priority, the walking suffered with some weeks only the necessity of walking the dogs contributing any mileage. Some days I could even be bothered to log the miles !
It is now June and things have returned to some sense of normality so I’ve started to look at getting back on track.
The main objectives being …
#Walk1000 Miles – well on course to complete the thousand miles this year – currently on 731 miles.
Route 66 – Struggling to complete in my self imposed twelve month deadline. The actual challenge allows fro two years so I should manage that. I would need to average 7.6 miles per day (53 per week) to finish by December 31.
Rowbothans Round Rotherham 50 (RRR) – this takes place in October, about sixteen weeks’ time. Using my tried and tested training plan that is just about right.
Hallow 12 Parish Challenge – a quick look on tehLDWA website for ‘training’ events before the RRR, I found this event for 10th July. With a choice of distances, I picked eighteen miles as this was the closest to my long weekend walk for that week.
It is also time for some new shoes – Hokas again, probably.
I will need to shed a few pounds (or kilos) and stick to the plan.
I can do a walk to and/or from work on a Wednesday; make sure that I get up early enough to exercise the puppies (and me) every day and of course not skimp on the LSD walk at the weekend – usually on a Saturday, but I am flexible.
It was a warm, somewhat overcast afternoon as I left work for the short drive home.
Once back at base, I changed into, what I thought was, appropriate walking attire and set off for my favourite watering hole.
Being warm, I choose shorts and a short sleeve top. wary of my exposed bits, I slapped on some SPF50 before setting off.
I started off on the cycle path along Auckland Drive before heading cross country towards Coleshill Hall.
It was around this point that I realised the folly of my ways as I had to walk through waist height grass / nettles / thistles. A bit itchy to say the least.
After crossing Coleshill High Street, I made my way, past the church, through the cemetery and off towards Maxstoke Golf Course.
The sunny weather brought out the golfers as there were players on every hole I passed.
Leaving the Golf Course, I noticed that a new footpath sign had appeared across the road. The footpath used to go here but was diverted to a nearby track a few years ago. I wasn’t one hundred percent sure that the path had been reinstated so walked to the track to be on the safe side. Looking back from the track, I could see a faint line around the edge of the field so I’ll have to try the ‘new’ footpath next time.
Just before a farm house, I went left following the yellow-topped posts to Dumble Wood before wading throgh more tall crops to Shustoke.
I was along this section that I spotted two birds of prey of some type wheeling about overhead. I only had my iPhone as a camera so it’s hard to tell what species they are from the resultant photos.
The second one was screeching as I circle above me – most unusual, I have been told.
After seven and a half miles, I reached The Griffin and made my way inside. I ordered a big glass of orange juice and lemonade with lashings of ice to cool me down before I started on the real stuff.
My legs were covered in bumps and itched like hell. In future perhaps an antihistamine before hand might be wise ? At least the sun block worked.
The following day, the itching had mostly stopped but he legs were sore – It’s been a while since I’ve done a brisk, off-road walk but I’ll get used to it.
Surprisingly, I was up a little before five thanks to the dogs who wanted to go outside. I had set my alarm for 5:30 so it wasn’t too bad.
After letting the pooches out and getting a feel for the prevailing weather conditions, I dressed my long walk. I did a walk a couple of weeks ago basically going out through Coleshill, Nether Whitacre to Hurley then back through Kingsbury and along the canal.
This week I needed to get around twenty five miles in so decided to repeat the Hurley walk but in the other direction.
After breakfast and loading up my Raidlight 20 litre backpack, I was out of the door by half five.
The first part of today’s walk was out to Castle Vale taking the path running between Parkfields and the Collector Road. After three miles, I turned off Chester Road and followed a small waterway which is marked on the map as overflow channel (overflowing from the nearby River Tame). At the end of the ‘riverside’ walk I crossed a grassy expanse towards Castle Vale stadium passing a nattily painted brick substation. The building had a painting of a building which could be seen in the background.
After a further miles and a half, I cross the busy A38 on onto the Birmingham Fazeley canal. From here, there route took on a more rural aspect as I made my way through the villages of Minworth and Curdworth.
The stretch around Curdworth was a lot muddier and I had to work hard to stay upright whilst slipping and sliding along the towpath.
I continued along the canal, crossing under the A446 and descending a few locks towards Bodymoor Heath and The Dog and Doublet pub.
It was along this stretch of canal that I reached a milestone. Not a physical stone but my first FIVE HUNDRED MILES of the year.
In just under eleven weeks I have managed to walk half of my #walk1000 miles and on the virtual route 66 I’m well on my way to LA.
I am about a week later than last year but I’m on target to cover the 2,278 miles of Route 66 before the end of the year.
I dipped under the hump-backed bridge at Bodymoor Heath. This event is usually accompanied by the tooting of car horns are cars announce their presence to vehicles coming the other way but this morning, nothing. Maybe it was too early, it was still only around eight o’clock.
The next section comprised of a section of puddles regularly spaced along the tow path.
An assortment of boats were docked up on the opposite bank which were passed on my way down to the last lock of the Curdworth flight. It’s quite a spread out flight with ten locks over around two and a half miles.
At Curdwoth bottom lock, I could have turned right into Kingsbury Water Park, but I continued along the cut for another couple of miles, as far as Middleton Lakes.
At this point, I crossed over the canal, did a small loop on the other side before crossing back. I could then have retraced my steps but chose a parallel path through the RSPB’s Middleton Lakes re-emerging onto the towpath a little later.
I scouted around Canal Pool, where the wind was creating a few ‘waves’ and some very choppy water, and the quieter Broomey Croft Pool. before crossing under the M42 which splits the water park into two.
The water park, along with the adjacent Middleton Lakes were originally used for the extraction of gravel with the resultant pits becoming pools or lakes. The water park opened in 1975 and expanded as more pits were abandoned and now covers around six hundred acres.
After around two miles in the park, I crossed the River Tame and climbed up to the Kingsbury itself.
I was now on the Heart of England Way which I followed along a raised boardwalk leaving Kingsbury before crossing the road to Nuneaton and walking alongside a riffle range.
It was all very quiet with no shooters out. As I walked around the edge of the range, I could just about make out the targets in the distance and they were a fair distance as I passed a sign for 600. Looking on the web, later, I discovered that this is six hundred yards – a third of a mile. That’s a long way to hit a target !
From the rifle range, a squelchy uphill slog brought me to Camp Farm on the outskirts of Hurley.
Still following the Heart of England Way, I skirted around the village to a short section along a quiet road to the unfortunately named Foul End before taking a bridleway towards Halloughton Grange. The last part of the bridleway before it became a road was through a filed often home to a Highland Cow (coo). I was lucky that the beast was home and I managed to get a photo without getting too close.
A track lead from the end of a short road section to Whitacre Heath. Back on tarmac, I continued along Bakehouse Lane making a short diversion to look at some Alpaccas before passing a beautiful picture book cottage.
I walked along the quaintly named Dingle Lane to Whitacre from where I left the road for a short stroll across a field towards Hams Hall.
I followed Fishery Lane, firstly crossing the River Blythe shortly followed by the Tame. In fact the Blythe joins the Tame near this point.
I continued, on and off, alongside the Tame to Coleshill Parkway. I’ve walk along here many, many times but had never noticed this warning sign from the Birmingham, Tame and Rea District Drainage Board (now part of of Severn Trent).
From Coleshill Parkway, it was just three more miles through Water Orton and I was home.
Not a particularly fast walk but good to get out. The rain held off although I got rather wind-swept instead.
During the first lockdown, from March 2020, outdoor exercise was limited to once per day so to get more exercise, I dusted off an ancient treadmill and used that.
The old machine worked fine but it soon became evident that the belt slowed down at each footfall so that the readout couldn’t be trusted.
I bought a footpad sensor for my shoes and managed to calibrate it in a fashion.
To make the sessions more enjoyable, I was running an app on a laptop called Zwift which displays scenery through which one moves at a rate determined by how fast one is walking.
Now that we are in another lockdown (lockdown number three) and I’m using the treadmill again, I decided to splash out and get a newer, more up-to-dat model. I had a look around and went for the Sportstech F10 model.
The F10 is built in Germany and has great reviews for it’s build quality.
A great feature of this machine is that it is Bluetooth enabled and is able to send it’s speed to a paired device, in my case, the laptop running Zwift.
As can be appreciated, treadmill are much in demand during this period of closed gyms and when I ordered mine, I was told that I’d have to wait over a month for delivery.
Therefore, I was rather surprised last week, when I received an email confirming delivery for 2nd March. Minutes later, there was a ring of the front door from a man delivering my new toy.
The machine went together easily enough and apart from it being fitted with a European plug was soon up and running (or walking depending on the speed!)
I did a quick mile as a test and after having to tension the belt all seemed fine. I did seem to be walking faster to achieve 4mph but that is probably because my footpads were calibrated incorrectly. I’ll have to do a test recording both treadmill speed and footpad.
As I have done recently, I nipped into work for a few hours on Saturday morning. In the past I have gone in on public transport and them walked home. However, I needed to drop some stuff off and bring some stuff home so used the car and went for a walk from work, returning to pick up the motor afterwards.
In a previous life, I was a very keen geocacher. What? It’s a sort of high tech treasure hunt – There’s a video down below that should explain it.
So why am I telling you this ?
Well, many years ago, I hid a number of caches on the canals around Birmingham. All of these caches made a sort of trail which could be followed finding all the caches. The name of the series was “Brummie Cut” and, even if I say so myself, was quite popular.
The series formed a six mile loop along the Grand Union, Birmingham Fazeley and Digbeth branch canals. Six miles was just about the right distance for today so that’s what I decided to do.
I left work around ten and was soon on the towpath moving around the loop in an anti-clockwise direction.
The first thing that I noticed was that there canal was pretty much frozen. On the Grand Union section there were some great, long, icicles dangling from the bridges. The air temperature was a tad below zero but the ground was dry. Over the entire walk, I only encountered a few icy patches.
I was moving mainly downhill dropping down through the five Saltley locks. After a couple of miles I found myself at Salford Junction underneath Spaghetti Junction having passed a couple of snazzy pieces of art.
A left turn took me onto the Birmingham Fazeley canal head ing back into the city.
This time I was regaining the height lost earlier plus some with a total of eleven ‘up-hill’ locks. After passing through Aston I finally came to Aston Junction where the ways split with the right turn for the city centre and the left back towards Digbeth.
I walked through the edge of Aston university before the next flight of locks – Ashted Locks. For anyone keeping count, I did five locks down, eleven up so I should now be going down. At the foot of the first lock was the entrance to Ashted Tunnel. I could see someone coming the other way so waited for them to emerge before venturing in. This narrow canal required walking with a bit of a list to starboard but as it was only ninety four metres long, I was soon out the other end.
A few more locks and Curzon Street Tunnel before another left hander and I was on the home leg. After nipping below Great Barr Street I was back where I had started. Five minutes later I was back at work, climbing into the car ready to drive home.
On arrival at home, I took the dogs out for a couple of miles each to bring my daily total to just shy of ten miles.
We, the dogs and I, took a rest day on Monday walking absolutely zero miles.
Tuesday was a couple of dog walks totalling four miles. Nothing special but on my virtual Route 66 challenge I crossed over the Mississippi into Missouri.
Wednesday started the same way as the day before. After walking the dogs through a dusting of snow I spent the rest of the day working from home.
After work, I changing into walking gear and set off again. I headed along the cycle track running parallel to Auckland Drive turning off, after a mile or so, crossing the M6 and heading towards Coleshill.
Initially, I was walking around a muddy field as much of the earlier accumulation of snow had turned back to it’s natural state. After the field I walked along a narrow, slightly less muddy track which lead to the road to Coleshill Manor.
Once I had gained the road, I headed away from the manor towards Coleshill itself.
After a short walk along the busy A446, Coleshill bypass, I turned off to cross under the road and back off-road. I followed the River Cole a short way before crossing over it and across another muddy field towards Gilson. This small hamlet has been around since medieval times even boasting it’s own lord, back then, separate from it’s larger neighbour, Coleshill.
By the time I got home the daily total had crept up to a little over ten miles.
Thursday started with the usual four miles of dog walks.
Half way through the morning, my work was interrupted by a ring of the doorbell. Opening the front door, I was greeted by a big cardboard box and a man at the end of the drive. “Parcel for you!” he called giving me a thumbs up. “Cheers, I wasn’t expecting that just yet!”
It is true, I wasn’t expecting a big box, at least not for another couple of weeks. After my frustrations with the old treadmill, I splashed out on a newer model but it wasn’t due to be delivered until March 2nd – I’d even received an email that very morning telling me so!
I had some work to complete so resisted the urge to open it up and get it assembled – at least until mid-afternoon.
Assembly was fairly straightforward comprising around a dozen bolts.
Come the time to test it and I became aware of a major problem – the mains lead was fitted with a European plug. No great shakes as I soon found a 13A to euro plug adapter and I powered up the tread.
Just to try it out, I fired up Zwift for a quickie mile somewhere in France. The walk went well and I seemed to be walking quicker than the old model doing the same 4pmh. I’ll post a separate blog about the treadmill.
Friday saw a return to the two by two mile dog walks.
In what is becoming a bit of a trend, I had swapped my Friday afternoon at work for a Saturday morning. The benefit of this is that I can use, even quieter than usual, public transport to go to work then walk home afterwards giving me a change of scenery.
The forecast, until Saturday morning was for almost continuous rain showers so only having my 5.5l pack I would have to pack carefully.
Luckily, Saturday started very foggy but with a dry forecast so I didn’t need to pack too much. I even had room for some sandwiches !
Before catching the bus, I took the doggies out for a foggy two miles each before grabbing some breakfast. The wife would also be at work today so the dogs were being left home alone – what could possibly go wrong?
If this were a film, this is where the speeded up clock sequence would go to indicate that I went to work, did some stuff and then …
I got changed into walking trousers, long sleeved base and soft shell top. In the back of my pack I had my empty sandwich box (cheese if you need to know).
From work I was soon on the canal heading towards Birmingham City Centre via a couple of tunnels.
It was still foggy and chilly but with my gloves and wolly hat I was fine.
Approaching the city centre the fog was still hiding the top of the BT tower.
There was a slight diversion from under the tower up to St. Pauls church but I was able to regain the towpath on Newhall Street next to what used to be the Science Museum.
There was noticeably a lot more people about mainly couples or small families. I think that this is one of the few goods that have come out of the recent Coronavirus situation namely that more people are getting out to exercise.
I continued up towards The Sealife Centre then along the Birmingham Main Line through Winson Green towards Smethwick. Just before Smethwick, the canal splits. Originally, the canal rose via three locks before descending a couple of miles later. In 1827, Thomas Telford’s NEW Birmingham main line was opened to allow lock free travel between Smethwick Junction and Bromford Junction. The low-res map on my watch indicated that I had to go left along the new section.
I needed to go along the canal as far as Kenrick Way but the nearer I got to my exit the more I realised that I should have taken the old branch. No problem but I did have a short steep climb to negotiate. Once on Kendrick Way, I passed the staircase that I should have ascended from the Old Main Line. I have been this was before but moving in the opposite direction as part of the Sandwell Six Towns walk.
From the end of Kendrick Way, I dropped down to a footpath running parallel to the Midland Metro for a short distance before having to turn off.
I was soon on the busy Birmingham Road just a stone’s throw from the West Bromwich Albion ground. I played safe and crossed the rood via the footbridge before following the public footpath signs along a drive towards the golf and cricket clubs. There was a guy stood next to his car on the drive and after the briefest of chats he assured me that I was on the right path.
I followed the drive and signs, walking past the club house, before turning right (I had to turn the M5 was in front of me).
Heeding the warning signs, I continued around the golf course, across a slightly muddy field and into a rather muddier copse.
I continued keeping the motorway on my right until I popped out of the trees next to Swan Pool, part of Sandwell Valley Park.
This part of my trek was probably the busiest, there were people everywhere. I made my way around the pool weaving in and out of family groups eventually crossing Park Lane (not the one on the Monopoly board) and into a slightly quiet part of the park, at least until I got to the next pool.
There was a slipway here leading down into Forge Mill Pool which was covered in geese. Obviously they had taken the hint the Swan Pool was not for them and had all congregated here.
I continued alongside the River Tame passing fewer people but two horses before arriving at Newton Road. Beyond this it was a lot quieter as I climbed gradually uphill to join the aptly named Tame Valley Canal. Another right turn and I was now heading towards Salford Junction better known as Spaghetti Junction some five miles distant.
Yet again there were a lot more people along here than I usually encounter but not too many that I couldn’t get into a good rhythm.
The canal is level as far as Perry Bar Locks where it drops through seven locks. From this vantage point I got a good view of the new stadium being build for the Commonwealth Games at what was The Alexander Stadium. It’s going to be massive.
I continued along the canal dropping down four more locks near Witton then another couple before swapping sides just before disappearing under the M6 / A38 / A38M.
Underneath Spaghetti, I left the Tame Valley Canal swapping it for the Birmingham Fazeley.
Three miles later, I waved farewell to the excellent canal system (technically I didn’t actually wave) to walk along a busy stretch of the Chester Road before ascending up the hill to the quiet roads of Castle Bromwich.
I soon left these quiet streets to skirt around the houses on a footpath between Parkfields and the M6 down below.
I arrived home shortly afterward having covered 22.7 miles in a gnat’s under five and a half hours averaging 14:30 per mile.
Luckily, even though they had been left alone all day, the dogs had behaved with no messes on my return. Bonus !
TOTALS for 2021
#WALK 1000 REMAINING
ROUTE 66 REMAINING
The walk went well, I stayed dry and even saw some sunshine. The vest / pack performed well and my legs only hurt a tiny bit (they were a bit achey and sore later).
Feeding the figures into the Route 66 tracker, I see that I am about to cross over the Mississippi River, leaving Illinois and entering my second state – Missouri with less that two thousand mile to do.
With a definite target at the end of May, the training now has a purpose.
The LDWA has started a Facebook page for entrants only so I’ve joined that. It looks as though a lot of people, Covid permitting, are planning on walking a previous hundred route or picking all or part of a long distance path. I’m still planning on ten sections of roughly ten miles from home so that I can treat home as checkpoints and pick up food, drink and kit as required.
Playing about with Strava, I discovered the Heat-map function. This show’s all the places that you have been. My local area map looks like this …
As expected, lots of squiggles around Birmingham but also some noticeable others. To the right of Birmingham we can see Coventry encircled by the A Coventry Way walk.
Top right we find The Charnwood Marathon.
Other routes stretch out like tentacles mainly following canals with one up to Stafford. When my other half was working in Wolverhampton, I took the train out to Stratford and walked back along the cut to meet her from work.
Whilst playing with the heat-map I noticed a few omissions so I checked back and found a number of gaps in my activities list. When I moved over from Endomondo to Strava I requested a download of all my activities. Using this download, I was able to upload the missing walks to Strava.
Not an easy process as you can only upload twenty five activities at a time and because Strava assumes that everyone is either a runner or cyclist, marks all uploads as runs. At the moment, it’s too much hassle to go and edit every activity so many of my earlier walks (pre 2014) are shown as runs instead of walks.
There are also a few duplicates especially in 2019 and again I haven’t the time, or inclination, to go and remove them. Maybe one day – it’s one of those jobs like keyboarding photos that could do with being done but…
I have used my walking vest a couple of time without any problems apart from having to carefully select what is to go in the 5.5 litre pack.
I bought a couple of 250ml soft flasks to replace to rigid bottle that came with the vest.
The drinking straws are handy and I suppose that they a little lighter than the standard bottles.
I have also splashed out on a couple of pairs of shorts – longish shorts in a bid to get used to walking with bare legs. It’s been pretty chilly this week and I haven’t plucked up enough courage to venture out in them yet.
Oh yes, and I had to buy another #walk1000 miles badge after misplacing the one I bought earlier.