Chiltern Way Day 6 Sonning Common to Goring
After a fantastic trip to Yorkshire with the choir, I came home ready to get walking again. To my delight I realised that there was the chance of doing more than one day this week. The idea of carrying my big rucksack, planning where to stay and finding places to eat again was really exciting. And then to discover that I could share one of the days with my special friend Carly was an additional delight. She was even prepared to put me up for the night.
David valiantly drove the two hour round trip to Goring and then back to where we were going to start, in Sonning. This is Carly's part of the world, and she was helpfully familiar with a lot of where we were walking. Didn't stop us getting lost today, though I hasten to add that that was not her fault!
When I was walking LEJOG I had a belt and braces approach to navigation, having the OS app on my phone, and the Garmin navigation app on my GPS. For some parts of the route I also had paper maps and a compass. On the Chiltern Way I've not felt the need for anything except my phone's OS, and for much of the time I've hardly needed that, as there is such good signposting. That was fortunate today, as for the first time the app stopped working. It was able show me the map and where I was, but not the route I'd plotted. It wasn't a game changing problem, but I was relieved it hadn't happened in the more remote parts of the border country this summer.
We set off with optimism despite my technical issues, with a pretty confident forecast of good weather. It felt so good to have my proper rucksack on again instead of the flimsier day bag.
There's been quite a bit of rain recently, and the combination of wet and horses using the bridle path led to something of a quagmire. Then there were stands of nettles laughing at us if we tried to take the edge of the path. It was challenging walking, so imagine Carly's delight when I realised that being deep in conversation had led me to miss a turning, thus obliging us to retrace half a mile.
The vistas of this walk have so far been similar from day to day. Lovely undulating fields, broken up with small copses and little villages. Attractive, but not dramatic. So it felt that it was fine to be more absorbed in each other's company as opposed to be watching the changing landscape. We spotted some good details though, the frantic rushing of the pheasant down the lane, looking as if they had missed their train, the evidence of an excellent party to which we had not been invited, and the fields of newly harvested maize near a biomass facility. We realised that we didn't really know about what that was and what it produced, there are so many things still to learn.
We would have researched more, but got distracted by the signs for a Royal Berks hospital fundraising walk which will run on Sunday. So much organisation had gone into this, with the signage and route planning. And later we discovered a number of little painted stones along the route. Maybe for encouragemt, maybe to be taken as souvenirs, they gave us delight as we spotted them.
If I'd been a Midsomer Murders fan I'd have also been able to identify locations from the series, it seems the woods are used regularly for filming, presumably for some unlikely forest based grisly end of the hapless Midsomer inhabitants.
A little further on through the woods behind Maple Durham, Carly told me to look out for a folly. I might not have spotted it without her heads up, it was hidden in the trees without fanfare. A tall brick edifice with a statue on the top, it appeared the epitome of a folly, in that there seemed little point to it. Maybe when it was built there were fewer trees in front of it, to afford views over the estate and the river. But now it seemed a little mysterious and sad.
We walked down into the tranquil twelfth century village of Mapledurham, past where Carly's children learnt to ride their bikes, and based ourself on a bench in the churchyard for lunch. We were surrounded by dramatic winged thorn roses, lit up from behind by the sun.
Carly warned me that there would be a hill ahead. She wasn't wrong. We took time to gasp and pretend that we were looking at the view, but the ascent was worth it to see the river valley unfolded.
The weather was generally kind to us, with a couple of squally showers punctuating the day. After the second one we thought it would be wise to have a short break and crack out the cakes that I had bought in Goring when we dropped off Carly's car. I can strongly recommend Pierreponts cafe, their cakes were things of great wonder, and in the case of Carly's Malteser rocky road, almost as big as her head.
Powered by sugar, we breezed our way past Whitchurch Hill, admiring the thrusting cyclamen, the friendly masked horse and the strange sculptural quality of the presumably diseased red skeleton of a tree.
The walk back to Goring and Carly's car was straightforward, as has much of today's path been. We passed a woman taking herself out for a constitutional across the park with a Zimmer, and silently applauded her determination to keep active, whilst discussing the various ailments that have erupted since entering our 60s. When we were 11, we'd have seen ourselves now as incredibly old. Now, we are more trying to keep it all moving whilst feeling not that different to our child like selves.
I have aches and pains in various extremities, most particularly in my right foot at the moment. When we got back to Carly's house we spent the evening on the holy trinity of activities, drinking Aperol, watching trashy telly and doing desperate stretches to hold the injuries at bay. Despite the 13 miles or so that we completed today, I think my foot will walk at least another day. Whether it's due to the stretching or the Aperol is not clear.
Distance travelled - 12.8 miles
Total ascent - 1018 feet
Calories burned - 1710