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View over the gravel pits.

I blame Royston Fulford. There was (is) he assured me, a pleasant walk along the Grantham Canal, turning off through the village of Bassingfield and crossing the Skylarks Wildlife Reserve to Blotts. Excellent I thought, a leisurely two and a half hour circular Sunday stroll before lunch.

"Well that's the worst of it" I thought as we climbed over the crash barriers to dash across the A52 Radcliffe Rd., having previously hesitated before doing the same to cross the Lings Bar dual carriage way. Rahel had particularly liked that. "Now the good bit" as we entered the "wheel chair accessible" Skylarks Wildlife Reserve. For the next hour we slipped and slid along the most miserable quagmire of a path, clinging to the wire fence, pulling groin muscles and twisting knees, (ok I exaggerate just one knee and one groin injury, both of them mine) between water logged gravel pits with less visible wild life than the grass verge on the A1.

After 3 and a half hours we staggered home to roast beef and potatoes in a by then, cold oven.

"It was " said Rahel bitterly, "just like being on holiday".

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Grantham Canal
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After the privations of last week's walk through the Skylarks Wildlife Reserve I thought we'd try something more urban and trace the childhood route through the Forest recreation ground and the Arboretum.

View under Addisson Rd. Bridge

Putting aside the biting west wind, particularly along the ridge at Forest Road, the rain, hail and snow, it was all in all an interesting and educational stroll of about 41/2 miles

Not that we could entirely put aside the biting wind because as we soon learned, there used to be a row of windmills along that Forest Road ridge overlooking the racecourse below, and the reason for the choice of location was clear. Most instructional. Experiential education at it's best!

Slightly off route, due to the gap of sixty odd years and a flaky memory, we went by way of Balmoral Road and Arboretum Street and so were able to see  in the Nottingham High School grounds the monument to those Boys who, being made sufficiently of the right stuff, were never to make it to full manhood, choosing rather to sacrifice their lives for King and Country thus ennobling the traditions they received at the school. Well I never did!

I did not  know, or least did not remember, that the bell in the tower at the Arboretum was stolen from a Chinese temple at Canton during the opium wars rather then having been taken, along with the canon, from Russia.

Nottingham City Council has saved itself further embarrassment regarding the bell by giving the original to a Leicestershire regiment and having it replaced with a copy. I can't help feeling that it might be sensible to give it back to the Chinese before they decide to come and get it.

I did remember however that two of the said canon were captured at Sevastopol in the Crimean war. (Well to be accurate I remembered Sebastopol as is carved ont o the monument, but it seems we're not supposed to call it that any more and Sebastopol now throws up a spelling error everywhere.)

I did not know that the Arboretum was the first ever Nottingham park, part of a job lot to compensate the burgesses and free holders of Nottingham for the loss of recreational amenity due to the 1845 Enclosures Act. I suppose that the hoi poloi had neither time nor amenity for recreation so were not in need of compensation. Surprised that after 61 years I still knew the layout of the park quite well, I discovered that this is down to a preservation order (regarding the park, not my memory) which hopefully will continue to prevent the kind of desecration being perpetrated at Woodthorpe Grange, although it might be best not to count on it. Even the aviary is still there and I was telling Rahel of the great talking macaw that fascinated us so as children when we came across the tribute to "Cocky", not a macaw at all but a Cockatoo, who died at the age of 114 in 1968. Bizarrely the shrine to Cocky is housed in cage at the wrong end of the aviary (is it not?)

Statue of Feargus O'Conner

I had no memories at all of the tunnel under Addison Road nor of the statue of the Chartist leader Feargus O'Connor. Thought from the inscription that Feargus was just a local MP but directed by my good friend Sue Jackson I have done a little reading, particularly of Wikipedia. I discovered what a fierce and popular advocate of working class rights the man was. Over 40,000 turned up for his funeral. He fought hard to establish a National Land Company and to pass the People's Charter raising over 6 million signatures for a petition. The establishment having previously jailed Feargus for 18 months declared the petition invalid, the National Land Company illegal and voted down the Peoples Charter.

The gatehouse tea room iwas a joy. Beautiful, cosy and warm. I was dubious about going in at first as I didn't want to leave Max out in the cold but as Rahel was more frozen than me and was more victim to the public toilets being locked, we went in for a warm and a cup of tea. As we sat by the shuttered windows Rahel noticed the dog bowls under the high chairs. On checking I was told that dogs were most welcome. Went to fetch Max and only then saw the sign by the doorway saying that dogs are welcome. Duh!

The return route up Waverley street  meant that we found a monument, described as "nearby" when opposite the Girls High School which earlier seemed to have gone missing. This, another tribute to British Imperialism in the form of a Boer War monument. More careless than those from the Nottingham High School, these lads "lost" their lives while nobly performing their duty.

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I was greatly disappointed to  learn that the bluebells springing up around my garden are not the fragrant sweet smelling  English variety but rather they are examples  of the interloper Spanish bluebell. "Old woman's fart" as it is called in Ethiopia. Well no, that would mean the Ethiopians were speaking English, which they aren't, weren't. Although many of them could, of course, what Ethiopians  actually say is "yaro get fess", which means, I am told, "old womans fart", but you know that because I mentioned it earlier, That is of course those Ethiopians that speak in Amharic. There are more than 80 languages in Ethiopia and they are all different. Obviously! If they all said things the same way there wouldn't be 80 languages, or more, depending on how many languages there are...  No matter, I'm not sure why I introduced the Amharic thing when the long and short of it is, that this morning,I decided to brave the winter weather, high winds, heavy rain and snow, as forecast all weekend and walk the local bluebell woods that we knew as children.

I haven't found much in the way of bluebells there for several years but it seems there has been a substantial recovery of the species (this is Bluebell Woods I'm talking about, not Ethiopia, I've never seen bluebells in Ethiopia, but my wife, the Ethiopian, the source of my linguistic erudition has, the spanish variety that is). There are now quite impressive  stands in several areas around the woods. Striking though they look in these so much less profusional ( profusional? Is that word? I think probably not, the spell checker doesn't like it, not that that is such a good guide, the spell checker doesn't like antidisestablishmentarianism either, and that's a word. I could tell you...but no, let me go on, I know I know I do ) times ("these less profusional times" that is, just in case you're loosing the thread, impressive though they may look in a contemporary setting,  the crop still has nothing like the density and scale of those great swathes of blue carpet that I remember from my  childhood. I doubt that the woods could could sustain the ravages of a single family with a large car boot now, whereas when we (we, my siblings and I, not we, you and me, I mean, no offence  but you weren't there. Well I don't think you were there. Not that I really know, its just a supposition on my part, I suppose you might have been there but I wouldn't know would I? I mean I don't actually know who you are.  And that is why, of course, when I say "we" I mean someone other than.... well other than you. Unless you are my sister. Or my brother! but not anyone else you see.  In those days, when we borrowed  granddad's Hillman Minx  (we in this case meaning, we the family, although actually  probably more correctly, we, my Dad) and drove to bluebell woods, there were cars parked, laden to the gunnels  with bluebells, Morris minors with open boots, back seats and roof racks piled high with armful after armful of bluebells. The 50s and 60s aren't famous I think for environmental awareness, but we (we being my Mum and Dad this time) were appalled at the way everyone other than us, pulled the bluebells out, stalk and all, while we (Mary and me, this time) carefully broke off each bluebell collected. We (this is getting tedious, use your own judgement on what we means from here on in) , we knew then that the scale of bluebell pulling would, in a very few years, destroy the miracle that the new  affluence of car ownership enabled so many to witness in a single bank holiday weekend. And of course, it did.

Having rediscovered the joy of the native sweet smelling, rather demure bluebell, demure as a singleton, quite brash really when mob handed, I shall now have to follow Drake in waging war upon the Spaniard. I shall be planting out the native bulbs in the garden this autumn and wreaking havoc among the old woman's farts.

(You may notice from the pictures that I spent much of the morning in blazing sunshine. The nearest thing to foul weather was the occasional passing cloud filtering the sunlight. I might need to write to Tomasz Schafernaker about that. I think he needs to get out more. All these pictures of driving rain, hail and snow today can only be ... fake news)

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"It was a late start but I didn't fret. Both Rahel and the Boy were happy to come. The walk started right outside the door and we' had already covered about a a third of it on an evening stroll the day before, yes, thats it, I thought, might even have  said, just a stroll, barely a walk, certainly not a hike.

The family was a bit short on gear but the forecast was fine until 6 and as this was a 2-3 hour gentle perambulation I wasn't worried. Starting at 11.30 we'd be back home by 2.30 latest and wondering what to do with the rest of the day.

My plan was to start straight across Grewelthorpe Moor and then swing south to Langworth Ridge taking a circular diversion back to Sandy Hill. The track we were on was wide, hard and stoney. When we turned off toward Langworth ridge the terrain was immediately water shed, soft peat and heather with shallow channels. Within 3 or 4 minutes the lad had soaking wet feet and it was clearly going to be an unnecessary struggle. Oh well, we would be back nearer the 2 hour mark than the 3, but better that than sore wet tired feet on the first walk out.

Back on the track we made good progress, there was a strong wind but the sky was blue and the sun shining. I was experimenting with the OS map on my phone. These OS maps are stunning. Clear, accurate and detailed, so much easier to read than the paper map. Turn  "Location" on on the mobile and your position is pinpointed on the map. Amazing stuff but does it take some of the fun, some of the challenge, out of hill walking? Well yes I suppose it does but for a walk like this, which was designed to win friends and influence people, it could be very useful in ensuring that there were no mistakes. The disadvantage is that you only see a small section of the map at a time, so you don't get that overview of where you've been and where your heading. But I'd got the paper version too and a compass, so what could go wrong?

Unfortunately at this stage of the walk I was looking at the phone version, not the paper map. I could see High Langwith Cross and the junction at Sandy Hill for which I knew we were heading... except we were weren't, or rather we were, but we shouldn't have been, or then again we should have been but only if we had taken the Langwith Ridge diversion and then we should have been passing it heading just north of east, not south of west. I know this now, some 20 hours later but then I didn't have an inkling.

We walked on, took the very obvious  track North toward White Lodge Crags and headed for the Roundhall Reservoir. No alarm bell rang. Sitting here writing this, I do remember that when I studied the map on Sunday morning I rejected the route around the reservoir as it was just too far for a first walk, although it would take in part of the Nidderdale Way, which I did find enticing, but no, too far for all of us, I thought.

We were taking our time, the graphics project was coming on in leaps and bounds, everyone was enjoying themselves and the CF card was filling up fast. We hadn't really got the makings for a packed lunch in the morning  but we were only going to be out for 2 or 3 hours so it didn't matter. We had one bottle of water between us, I'd got a couple of egg rolls, because ever since the old pancreatitis the motor wont run for more than a couple of hours without refuelling. T'others weren't bothered but I'd packed a cheese roll for J and a salad one for Rahel, just in case and stuck four or five mini energy bars in my top pocket. I'd also put some sugar fizz strings in a pocket somewhere for me, as sugar and goo get me out of hole pretty quickly when the pancreas is letting me down, but at the time I needed them, the memory of the stash evaporated.

Cutting a long story short, some 5 hours later we were climbing the hill out of Leighton toward Druid's Temple, all pretty knackered. Questions were starting to be raised about just how long this walk was, and when it might end. There was a tea shop at High Knowle but although both Rahel and I wanted to stop for half an hour, recuperate, hydrate and even possibly refuel, we were over ruled by the boy who glanced at the map and declared that we were just going to get on with it and get back to Warren Barn. Well perhaps he was right, how much farther could it be? I checked the map. I was puzzled that I could be so far out in my time estimate, I'd allowed for quite a large margin, two to three hours but here we were and five hours had elapsed already,  still the mood was generally positive and I was good for maybe another hour.

Approaching Ilton

Up through Ilton and then a choice, should we head west and then finish the walk by going west across Grewelthorpe Moor to the junction  with our outbound track or head south across a scrap of marsh, a couple of field systems and then finish on the roads. A lot of um'ing and ah'ing but we were all three pretty tired, didn't want to have to retrace any of our steps and thought the sensible course was to stick with the road route.

A very minor error which took us to Galloper rather than Grouse Butts but what did that matter it was just a scrap of marsh land. OMG. This was the worst terrain I'd faced since, since, since, I'm not sure.73, 74, trying to find a route down from Ben Nevis, or was it going waist deep in peak bogs on Bleak Low, or White Head Moss?. Deep heather (I think, it wasn't in flower) tussocks, close packed and soft under foot. You had to raise your foot, eight to twelve inches with every step. The track was invisible although the digital map said we were bang on the button. I ran out of steam and fell. Where I landed was soft warm and comfortable, I didn't want to get up. The family started panicking although I did my best to reassure then from my prone position. Once up J took the dog and the pathfinder role. As we approached the top of the hill we could see post way markers stretching into the distance. How the hell could such a small area be so big and so bleak? J fell 5 times. Only Rahel kept her feet throughout. We were on the level now and the sun was still shining. A stiff breeze sprang up but we were surely close to home, six, six and a half hours, how could I have estimated so badly? Still we laughed about the terrain and the falls. The boundary fence was in view now and then surely the walking should be easy.

>Then the sky went dark and the rain began. We laughed, the forecast had predicted rain from 6, uncannily accurate. I put on a waterproof jacket, getting cold and wet when this tired could be a serious error. Rahel didn't. J was was already wearing a lightweight shower-proof. Then the heavens opened. Torrential rain and hail, the sky was black, The digital map became unusable.  The road wasn't where we expected it to be but the compass showed it going south and that was good enough for me. The coats made no difference, we were all soaked to the skin. The rain ran down our legs and filled our boots waterproof or not. Rahel was cantering along with the dog some 3, 4 hundred yards ahead while me and J squelched along behind, speculating on what we might do if this turned out to be the wrong road.

It was seven and a half hours before we finally staggered up the track back to Warren Barn, I could barely put one foot forward in front of the other. J hit the shower, I collapsed on the sofa, it was a good 30 minutes before had the energy to take my hat off. Rahel cooked the tea, damn my wife  has both strength and strength of character when it's needed.

I knew by now of course I'd made a pretty serious error at some stage, but finding out just where it went wrong could wait, so fighting the cramp in both legs and down the right side of my back I headed for bed.

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