Ridgeway Fail.

Cocked up The Ridgeway. 

How so? 

Well only did 44% for a start. Not to worry, it’s been there for 5000 years (give or take…) so it will probably wait for me. 

I’ve got 3 days (c80km) left to do, and have headed home on my pre booked train. That said – having been annoyed with myself about this state of affairs last night, I’m actually starting to think it may be a good thing. 

The 2 days I did, 28km and 35km were not great, even aside from the flayed Cherry Tomatoe (correctly spelled for the meaning I’m after…) problem covered in a previous post

I can hardly blame the trail but low cloud on day one, and driving rain on day 2 made it a trudge where I was looking at the mud and counting my steps one by one, never a good sign. 

This trail has, as a result, and I hope temporarily been ranked at the bottom of the National Trails I’ve done so far. That’s not fair, I think. People talk so highly about it, but I just wasn’t feeling it. Hard yards? 

Perhaps wise to come back in better weather and enjoy it properly when there are say some crops / wild flowers / things to look at. 

The only thing of note I saw, and 100% worth being out in the rain for, was seeing about 50 deer 🦌 leaping over a farmers fence. I wasn’t quick enough to film but it was cool to watch them all leap a pretty tall boundary in a single hop. Apart from the little one at the back who took 2 goes, but made it.

My mistakes for this walk were, I think, made weeks ago, when I booked cheaper non refundable hotels a bus/train ride from the Trail to save cash. This worked up North but has been a drag this week, especially once I started to need to replan due to the blanched toe. There is a lack of “cheap” accommodation where I needed it, on this trail, certainly at this time of year, and booking ahead was a great idea, at the time. But in hindsight it was a bad idea to base myself a distance away from the trail. Should have left this one for camping weather in a few weeks or paid up for posh gastro pubs.

That commute was of course in contrast to last weeks Cleveland Way where I was never more than 500 metres from the trail. It’s just easier and so much better to get up, and get going. Versus get up, walk, wait, travel, wait, change bus, and finally get going. Doing it that way wasn’t an issue Up North on the Pennine Bridleway for example but that was effectively a series of day walks, often with a day off in between each one. This last couple of days felt disjointed and didn’t work for me. Maybe travel to trail time just doesn’t work on back to back walking days, only on single day walks. Seems obvious now. 

But the main problem with getting a bus is that, you need to be really accurate with walking pace and overall duration for risk of getting to the end and having an hour or more to hang about for the next bus. Worst case, as happened this week, you’ll be waiting with no seat, in the rain, in the cold, on your own, in the middle of the night, in the fog, with an owl. (Cheers for the link Kev, a timely reminder of classic comedy which cheered me up!). 

That long wait happened on both days I managed of this trail because I was slower than normal due to my toe troubles. Pain in the bum hanging about like that. As an aside, with time to kill, and nothing else to look at, whilst I stood in the rain I noticed so many people driving past using their mobiles – the sneaky glance down to a text / WhatsApp screen a dead giveaway. Just stop it. 

Another mistake was booking so many back to back long days (I consider 30km+ “long”, 40km+ “very long”, 20-25km “normal”) off the back of the Cleveland way.  Aerobic fitness is not an issue anymore, like it was at the start of these walks, which I would struggle through with bottles of Lucozade Sport (just water, and a pint at lunchtime if there is a pub about these days…) and at least 3 big bags of spogs. But my feet are still carrying north of 120kg for 9 hours walking, so after a few days of the same you get “festival feet”. By which I mean those bone deep aches similar to what you’ll have after 3 days wandering around say Donnington or Glastonbury. If you’re young (<30) you’ll have no idea what I’m on about, but everyone else will know what I mean by “my dogs are barking today”.

I reckon it would have been fine as that dull ache fades once up and moving, if in addition I wasn’t coping with a badly treated (by me!) blister as well.  According to The Internet I can do lots to prevent a recurrence. Indeed I now follow @blisterprev on Twitter. But lesson one is don’t peel and pick at it like a tool. So I’m not worried for the longer walks to come, especially given how rarely I get them, and with new wider boots to accommodate my ever flattening feet it’ll be fine. Lesson learnt though – whilst I’ve always walked a lot, I’m currently walking a lot more and need to care for my feet better than I have previously. 

The good news is that I love my new boots (Han Wag, size 12, wide fitting…). Now that they have some miles in them, and my toe is nearly a normal size they are very comfy. Turns out distance walkers often get larger feet over time. I’d class myself as an 11 previously so I’m taking this as proof that I am now officially a long(ish) distance walker, albeit one who cocked up his plan for The Ridgeway. 

Couple of days of catch up at home, and in theory 3 weeks till I start the big one, Coronavirus lockdown allowing on April 6. 

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