I have a number of friends across the world where I don’t have a physical address I can send a card. I therefore decided to create an e-card that I could send, and dug out a photo I had taken earlier in the year when there was snow on the ground. I chose this image for a number of reasons. Firstly its got snow on it, but also you can see that it is still snowing. While white Christmas’ in the UK are rare, snow and Christmas always go together on cards. The second reason I chose this photo is for the image of the footprints and the play that I can make on the more famous footprints in the sand message story that is told in churches. (I’ll let you look it up if you don’t know it). For me its a nice way of having the Christian message of Christmas on the e-card.
Thanks to a chat with some new friends and a bit of good fotune I got to do something new for the first time, and what will be the last time. Every now and again the ranch would allow people to do a barrel racing lesson although they are stopping that option (hence it being the last time). This isn’t at any significant speed for most of the lesson as it is spent walking or trotting around the barrels. As with most things it’s a lot more complicated than it looks as it combines, changes in balance, direction, looking ahead in advance and reigning hands all while ensuring the horse is going in the direction you want, which isn’t actually towards the barrel, but just off of it so you can kick on at the exit point. Thankfully we had an excellent teacher and everyone came in completing the pattern at a time of around 30 seconds (much longer than she would take though!)
I decided to do a different walk to the one I had planned and decided to extend out a favourite route of mine and try some new paths that went off of it and incorporate some older paths that I hadn’t walked for quite some time. One of the country pubs that I went past had discovered what some might consider the best being of recycling going, using the old pallet to let those passing know what guest beers, ciders and stouts they were serving. Sadly this was very early on my walk, but I may be tempted to pop back another day when its on the way home instead.
As I’ve mentioned a few times it’s been an unusually warm summer this year and I saw this unexpected fellow on my walk around the local duck pond (yes its still there but reducing to a puddle day by day). Strictly speaking it’s not a snake but a slowworm which is neither a snake nor a worm but a legless lizard. They are totally harmless. I’ve seen 3 or 4 over time as they only tend to come out when it’s very warm. I helped it back towards the bushes and out of the road as drivers were not going to notice it and that would be a bad ending to a very rare trip out for it!
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.
Having finished the South Downs Way last week I would need a new path to walk. I’m lucky that living where are do there are a number of national trails that I could follow. I’ve discovered a number of them while planning the walks I have done and look forward to following parts of them, if not all over the remainder of the year and beyond. I’ve picked a route that links two trails and as the name suggests, it links the South Down and the North Downs. Lots of it follows an old train line so is flatter than what I’ve been walking, and is also more shaded. Unfortunately as it’s not a well known, some of the tracks off it will be more challenging and I’ve already discovered that my legs seem to be a magnet for stinging nettles. However I’ll be seeing new areas of the south for a few weeks while I contemplate my next step (quite literally!)
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.
The absence of rain continues and we are now getting close to having gone 2 months without any rain. As a result the pond on my lunctime walks has started to dry out. There’s still a long way to go for it to be totally empty and I’ve no idea how deep it is. However with the water level dropping at the speed it has been it has revealed what has become a bit of a beach opportunity. I’ve not seen anyone use it as such yet and suspect that the birds will regard it as their rather than for human use, and it would be a bit stony too for sunbthing as you can see from the photo.
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.