Category Archives: travel blog

Grand Union Canal hike – Tring to Milton Keynes

Friday 12 June

George the albino peacock
George the albino peacock

After a not much better sleep that in my tent 🙁 but at least with clean clothes & body I tucked into a breakfast of Brixham kippers, marmalade, toast and followed by fruit. George the albino peacock  provided a fine display of plumage outside on the lawn.

Euan was waiting for me in reception, we had arranged to meet up as he lives locally and fancied another attempt at walking with me 🙂 Our previous attempt was thwarted by an amazing mountain storm at Praz de Lys in France. Today promised to be better weather but much tamer terrain than he is used to walking!

We joined the Grand Union Canal in the 30 feet deep cutting at Tring, built in 1797 it was a major engineering feat at 1.5miles long. We started our steady descent, at Lock 42 I even saw a b&b notice, for the first time, on a lock house, amazingly it has no wheeled vehicle access!  It was very enjoyable walking & chatting with someone as knowledgeable about social networks as Euan.

Lunch at The Globe Inn
Lunch at The Globe Inn

The weather although threatening rain held of until we reached Leighton Buzzard where no open cafe by the canal could be found. Euan scooted off to savour the delights of the Milton Keynes Apple store and I continued walking. Eventually i found The Globe Inn, an open canal side pub, serving food.

After a good few more miles (walking is really slow and painful compared to biking, especially on flat even surfaces) I eventually came to the outskirts of Milton Keynes and zig zagged through estates that are beginning to look very run down & slum like. I eventually found the X5 bus stop to get my free bus to Cambridge just as the heavens opened up.

I was pleased to be coming home for a while as my right foot blister was hurting plus my Saucony Excursion TR7 trainers are worn out plus the Osprey hornet 46 backpack shoulder straps are uncomfortable carrying 10kg. A visit to Open Air is called for.

Strava says I did 22.1 miles (to the MK bus stop) and burnt 3601 cals. Moves made it 26.3 miles (Inc walk back home) 54,087 steps and 2,316 cals whilst good old Fitbit said 57,650 steps 26.44 miles and 6,174 cals

The days pics are here

 

Grand Union Canal hike -Watford to Tring

Thursday 11th June

Camping
Camping

I woke up at 5.30 after nearly 7 hours in the tent, slept better than I had hoped but Fitbit told me a different story of being awake 3 times for 12 mins and restless 14 times for 35 mins 🙁  A perfect night for camping though.

I was on my way just after 6am weirdly I could see someone else was camping 100 yards away, visible from the Grand Union Canal towpath. My phone beeped, from the IFTTT recipe, at 08.12 to say I had already walked 11,126 steps. The earliest I have ever achieved that yet 🙂

A great thing about starting so early is that everyone you meet is so friendly, early risers are a really cheery bunch 🙂 I tried to get some breakfast at Hunton Bridge but the only place open was the newsagents, I plodded on and felt very smug walking under the M25 with it’s jams & noise, eventually at 8.30 I managed to find a cooked good breakfast at Sainsbury’s in Hemel Hempstead – interesting how pubs and cafes don’t seem to be open until Noon 🙁

You get a real feeling of going “Up North” as the locks steadily climb up the Chiltern Hills to the highest point at Tring. The canal is more like a river with water spilling over the top of the lock gates and in fact at Berkhamstead they call it a port.

Not camping
Not camping

At Tring i spied on the map Pendley Grange with it’s swimming pool and luxurious offering! Calling them up they had a room cheaper than the boring place in Watford! So I decided to splurge, never having slept in a tent on consecutive nights,  so I booked the room and got the dinner there too. All very grand except the bathroom was rather tired looking with the obligatory loose shower 🙁

According to Strava I walked 17.3 miles and burnt 2,809 cals , Fitbit made it 17.93 miles from 38,831 steps burning 5,268 cals.  Moves made it 33,019 steps 17.6 miles and 1,553 cals. So a pretty wide variation in the calorie counts. But still a very pleasant day’s walking in just about ideal conditions, although I picked up a small blister on the outside of my right heel 🙁

The pictures are here

 

Greenford to Watford on the Grand Union towpath.

Bulls Bridge Junction
Bulls Bridge Junction

Nephew Phillip kindly dropped me back outside The Black Horse in Greenford at 9.30am ready for the first full day of walking along The Grand Union canal. Last night he cleaned up his 24 or so entries in my address book 🙂 and maybe found out why his son Marcus embeds himself into my Google photo albums wherever I am in the world 🙂

It was a lovely day and as always canals offer fascinating glimpses into town life, past Sotheby’s modern storage depot on an industrial estate to the Mohammedi Park Masjid Complex but then I had to resort to peering over the vast fence that stretched for miles by using Google Earth, t to find out it’s an Heathrow car park! Maybe I will have to carry a drone in future 🙂

At Bulls Bridge you hit the main Grand Union canal and do an abrupt right turn, must have been hard for the horses towing the barges! How did they manage not to muddle up all the towing lines at junctions like this?

The canal is a great mixture of industrial complexes where I play the guessing game and modern flats which have been built on derelict sites. Interestingly how the canal role has changed! now its an asset so the flats face the canal whereas industrial places always have huge fences shielding them from the canal.

The canal then gets more rural and is totally fascinating that it is so rural and you are totally unaware of cars etc. and only the noise of trains.

The first lock
The first lock

At Rickmansworth I thought it would be good to start looking for a b&b, alas the owners of such places can’t be bothered to answer their phones 🙁 booking.com could only find expensive places miles away. It was a pleasant evening so I kept walking, in the knowledge I was carrying a tent. Just before Watford i met a freindly walker out breaking his new shoes in. He told me of a great wild camping place near the Watford Rugby pitches so I was happy. I dropped off the canal to try eating at The Harvestor PH – nightmare place so I walked over to the Rising Sun and had my fish & chips there, the adjacent Premier Inn wanted £125 for a room 🙁 I politely declined and rejoined the towpath. I met the same guy returning from his walk and he gave me precise directions. I found the spot. Watford Rugby Club were still practising but I snook into a corner pitched the tent and had a great nights sleep for £0

A very enjoyable day with perfect weather. The Strava is here and the days pics here

Grand Union Canal jaunt – Day 1

GRand Union Canal armFinally, halfway through the year, the apartment sale is finally totally complete and I’m able to start travelling again albeit currently restricted to shanks pony as having 1/3 of my prostate removed in the HoLEP operation 3 weeks ago makes it inadvisable to do long bumpy bike rides for a while. I decided to stick locally as well  until all the pain when I pee has gone away.

The Grand Union Canal walk from Central London seems a good idea as it isn’t to strenuous but long enough to take a week or so. I still haven’t decided whether to go to Birmingham or take the branch to Nottingham.

Today was a late start as I first went swimming at Jesus Green and then posting my old thermostat that I sold on ebay. So I finally arrived at Kings Cross at 2.30pm.

It was an interesting walk along Regent’s Canal to Little Venice and then along the Paddington Arm of the Grand Union to Alperton finishing today at the demolished Hovis bread factory. Very pleasant except for the constant stream of cyclists bombing along 🙂

My nephew Phillip is kindly putting up with me for tonight, although a first for me was navigating across three bus routes to reach his flat. I ended up getting the busmapper app as the fellow passengers were too friendly bombarding me with all the options. Weird at 67 my first attempt at being on the buses!

Tomorrow it looks like a huge loop and heading south for 5 or so miles to avoid the hills at Harrow.

According to Strava I did 13.6 miles in just under 4 hours. The pictures of the day are here