Walk2012 and the new badgemaker!

Our bank holiday weekend here was fantastic. It began with an exciting postal delivery – on Thursday – of a proper badgemaker. Mark has written beautifully about this here, although his post kindly skips over the sheer levels of BADGEMANIA which took over here on Thursday evening, as I inserted sheets of every known kind of paper from all corners of the house into my device and produced a terrifying quantity of badges.

BADGES!

As Mark states on his blog, YOU CAN WIN some of these fine handmade badges by helping us to promote the Crowdfunder page which we set up a while back to help raise dollarine$ for the costs associated with producing a guidebook to accompany the Walk2012 walk. The first 10 people to promote the Crowdfunder page on their blog or on Facebook will win 3 handmade badges, including the lovely Walk2012 designs by Mark. Designs will vary and may involve bits of map, views, as well as the logo… Claim your prize by emailing the link to mark.stanley@coraledge.co.uk. The first 10 people to email Mark will get the goodies!

Luckily Mark was eventually able to prise me away from the badgemaker on Friday so that we were able to go on a 45 mile stretch of the Walk2012 proposed route over the weekend. Consisting of roughly a quarter of the whole 180-mile Walk2012 route, our trek went across St. Swithun’s Way and a short stretch of the North Downs Way, through Hampshire and Surrey. Mark wanted to decide whether this route or a proposed alternative should feature in the final Walk2012 route, so we went to investigate together.

We began at Winchester where St.Swithun was born in around 800. St. Swithun was most famous for his post-humous miracle working and – according to Wikipedia – his best known miracle involved restoring a basket of eggs that had maliciously been broken. Up until doing this walk, I had only heard of St. Swithun in the Billy Bragg song which talks about “St. Swithun’s Day,” (July 15th.)

Here is Winchester Cathedral, where St. Swithun’s memorial shrine is kept. We didn’t go in; rather, I gawped at all the ancient Winchester BRICKWORK, and we sought our way out from the city centre toward the soft green slopes of the Itchen Valley.

The first stretch of the walk involved disentangling ourselves from the outlaying streets and housing estates of Winchester. We passed through ancient gates, past old bits of walls, and eventually down to some meadows, where we saw horses, the first ducklings of the year, and the blooming flora. Is it May already? I see that it is.

I had set myself several recording tasks for the walking weekend; one instruction was that if we should encounter cows, I should stop immediately to record their bovine noises. This is for The Project I am working on with Brenda. This means that many cows in the Itchen Valley had their first encounter with a microphone this weekend!

The Itchen Valley really is beautiful; the river Itchen sparkles and meanders through fields ablaze with buttercups and dandelions, and there are good-natured cows and horses and beautiful old churches all along the way. Many feature old, wooden turrets, or noteworthy stained glass windows, and most have connections to either St. Swithun or The Pilgrim’s Way.

Stained glass sheep!

Beech leaves in the afternoon light.

The highlight of the Itchen Valley for me was when we detoured around the river on our approach to Ovington. There is a network of pathways around here which run beside the water – which is beautifully fresh and clear – and there are creatures to see, and glittering waters to admire.

Can you spot the wee fishy?

Mark admiring the views from one of the many pretty wooden bridges near Itchen Stoke.

Wooden Church tower on the way out of Ovington.

From Ovington, we headed straight to Bishops Sutton, where we found just about the friendliest pub in England – The Ship Inn. Tucking into ham, chips, eggs and ales, we got chatting to the locals who had been celebrating the Royal Wedding, and we met Steve who has run 121 marathons in his time, and who kindly offered to let us camp in his garden should our Plan A (to wildcamp in the meadow beside the river Itchen) fail. We also got the phone number of the farmer who owns our coveted meadow spot, so we telephoned him to request permission before heading out to the fields and putting our tent up at dusk.

Having been awoken by shouty Jackdaws and some insistent Owl-hooting, (very exciting for me, as I had my Naiant X-X microphones set up inside our tent to capture exactly that coveted sound) we were up at first light, and on the trail – intending to reach Farnham.

This day’s walking was far less river-focussed and included trekking through much more agricultural land. We passed through fields of rape, wheat and beans, and met many fine fellow creatures in our travels.

Lovebirds at Bishops Sutton.

Lamb, near Ropley.

Hairy Horse, between Ropley and Four Marks.

Between Four Marks and Chawton we also had the excitement of hearing a steam engine from the Watercress Line belting its way proudly across the fields! At Chawton, our 6am start, plus the poor night’s sleep we had endured, plus the soporific effects of the pints we consumed at lunch, plus the heat of the midday sun all conspired against us and – naughty walking slackers – we crashed out under a tree before setting off to Alton, and subsequently failed to reach Farnham!

On the way to Bentley…

We got just past Bentley, after which point we set up a fine, secretive camp in the fringe of trees at the edge of a busy A-road. The traffic dimmed to silence quite early on, and our hidden location beneath the shelter of trees gave us the comfort and security required for a very restorative sleep.

The final day of our walk went from Bentley to Guildford, and began with further cow-recording activities around Dippenhall.

We then found these amazing bluebell woods.

After Farnham, our walk wended mostly along the North Downs Way, which features very different terrain to that encountered along St. Swithun’s Way. Where St. Swithun’s is all dainty, conservative english country villages, quiet meadows, working farmland, and pretty churches, the North Downs Way involves more woodland, nature reserves, and rough pastures. It also affords spectacular views.

We got to Guildford at around 7pm on Sunday, our feet in ribbons, and our hearts very glad. I am having dreadful problems with footwear and long-distance walking; do any of you have good tips for keeping your feet going over huge distances? I have had sore feet when walking before, but not like during this weekend.

Wounded feet horrorshow aside, it was a wonderful walk, and I think we pretty much decided that this is how one stretch of Walk2012 will go. Only 451 days to go until the start of Walk2012!

…of course there would have been no amazing weekend of walking, and there would be no Walk2012 if it wasn’t for this handsome man, who is by far my favourite person to go out walking with.

I hope you all had wonderful Bank Holiday Weekend adventures, fabulous company, and ways of enjoying the splendid sunshine. Next up, KNITSONIK!

6 Responses to Walk2012 and the new badgemaker!

  1. Liz A. says:

    Sounds like you had an amazing weekend! I can tell you’re having fun with the digital SLR too.

  2. Kate says:

    You, Mark, and that pentax take fantastic pics – that camera really captures the soft golden quality of the Spring light. Sounds and looks like you had a fantastic weekend – owlz! lambz! cowz! I have never been to Winchester or Chawton, but am always intrigued by the rolling landscape around there because of the Jane Austen associations. Perhaps I could join you on this bit of walk 2012. I am also exceedingly excited by your badgemaker. My only advice on the foot front is to wear two pairs of socks – one thin and one thick – but I imagine you have already tried this?

  3. Nancy says:

    Wonderful pictures! Sounds like a great walk and weekend. I am going to some of your links now.

    Have a good May!

  4. colleen says:

    Have just found this lovely post. and gorgeous pictures. Especially like the lime green fields and pylons.

    Can offer no advice on the feet, unfortunately!

  5. Lara says:

    OMG! I am in love with the lambz. Looks like fabulous walk and I’m so looking forward to walk 2012! xxx

  6. Brenda Mumford says:

    I absolutely love the photograph of the bluebell woods . Is it possible to buy a print for framing? We want to put it over our bedhead. The size we are looking for is roughly 50 x 70cm or even larger if possible.The web site dosn’t give any other means of communication so Ihope this reaches the author of the image.

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