So today’s tennis took a more expensive turn today when I broke a string. Like can often be the way for players of my level, it went playing a drive but one that was slightly mistimed and caught a large chunk of the frame. I’m not majorly surprised and to be honest was expecting one would have gone sooner given they hadn’t been used for so long. Thankfully I always carry a spare so was able to use that instead, though as the racket has two sets of strings I could have carried on for a bit with that racket as one set was still fine, though I suspect they wouldn’t have lasted too long. I now need to go through the process of finding a decent re-stringer with strings I will like, given that in the last 5 years I suspect racket string technology has moved on.
The lunchtime tennis is still going ok, weather permitting, and a small strain picked up after not playing for so long seems to have repaired itself. We’ve had to make a change to our play though as the courts are now fully booked all of Wednesday by the tennis club (which I don’t mind). So we’ve switched to Fridays. Today was a little challenging as there were only the two of us (holidays, illness and meetings affecting others) and it was very windy. Singles in the wind can often lead to a lot of running around and this was true to form today. By the end I knew I’d had about 45 mins of play. Still it was good to get out and do some heavier excecise than doubles would normally provide.
Its a Saturday and I’m off on another long walk incorporating the Downslink path as part of the 1000 miles in the year challenge. I’m on track and fast approaching 700 miles. What also became apparent on the walk is that the other thing that is fast approaching is autumn, or fall for my American readers. I’ve seen many great big oak trees on my walks through the English countryside and for the first time I’ve noticed that the acorns are getting ready to fall. It seems odd to be talking of a change in the seasons when the weather is still doing ok (more or less) and the long hot summer we’ve had, but it’s nearly September and for me that always is the start of autumn. For me the next sign will be horse chestnuts on the ground. To be fair the seasons have been a bit mixed up this year with the extra cold winter and the extra warm summer, so they are probably a little earlier than usual. However it’s a timely reminder that I will probably be needing to dig out the warmer walking gear before too long.
I’m still doing the long walks when I can and to the weather was OK so I set of on another one, this time covering more of the Downs Link path previously mentioned. I’m doing the loops again with the free parking so I get to see more of the countryside, and with the Downs Link that is important as that part of the walk is often shaded. On one of the smaller footpaths I was on (which later came to an unexpected dead end leaving me to track back), there was a sudden movement ahead and two stags with wonderful antlers went sprinting across the field in front of me. They weren’t hanging around for me and the photo above was the best I could get, but they were elegant to see and the first deer I’ve seen in all the walking I’ve done this year.
Today I have reached two milestones on the walking project. Delayed by a week due to a bad reaction to an insect bite on my foot, I completed the South Downs Way. This was not the last bit that I walked as I was parked along the route, but it is the official start/end point in Winchester. I have also made a point of covering all the the alternative routes that have been put in place to allow cyclists and horse riders to also go from one end to the other, so can genuinely say that I have completed it all. It has also marked me passing the 600 mile mark on the 1000 miles in a year challenge which I’m doing boots on. I’m not done with the South Downs Way as there are some routes I’d like to revisit, possibly with friends, and in different weather (for example not in snow!) and some I’d like to see if I can amend to make a nice walk with less road walking. The circular routes I’ve been walking (one of the reasons why I’m up to 600 miles on a route that is only 100 miles were replicated by the weather with it being similar to the conditions I started walking the trail on. The heatwave has broken for a while and I was caught in a couple of short showers and on the ridges it was extremely windy, however it couldn’t spoil the day for me. The only negative was that for the first time in 600 miles I had to turn back on a footpath due to landowners finding a way to block it. Thankfully I found a pleasant alternative route around that anti-social move.
I am now nearing the end of my plan to walk the South Downs Way. I have one more circular walk left to complete that will take me into Winchester which is the other end of the route to Eastbourne. Along the way I have seen wonderful scenery, come across the delightful and unexpected. Todays walk did not disappoint and there were a number of photos I could have chosen including the single track through the middle of barley fields, a dead tree set against a field of wheat and some young ducklings in a small village duck pond (so yes I could have gone for the cute factor). Instead I chose something from the unexpected and unusual in that the walk took me alongside the track for a tank driving experience venue. To be fair it did look quite fun though I suspect being inside a tank on such a warm day would be a bit like being in an oven. The noise will also stay with me as well as these were not quiet machines.
Out on one of my longer walks covering the South Downs Way and a load of the surrounding local countryside I headed down what was clearly a lesser used path. Grasses and other plants were shoulder high in many places. However such routes are teeming with wildlife. There were butterflies galore chasing each other but also a number of these yellow and black dragonflies. They are known as Golden-ringed dragonflies, for obvious reasons and the only dragonfly in the UK to have this pattern. They are also a decent size, coming in close to 10cm. They looked quite intimidating but thankfully aren’t a danger to humans. Other insects which are it’s pray my not find them quite as attractive!