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Finally after talking about it for years, and planning for the last few months, I started Walking the Thames Path – in honour of reaching my OAP status; I’m now officially a Pensioner!! Best part of that…free bus pass. Oh and my pension pay-outs, although I won’t be retiring anytime soon on that!! But it will be good to get some of my hard-earned money back from HMRC

As mentioned in a previous post, due to current Covid-19 lockdown restrictions I was unable to proceed with my original plans to walk the whole of the Thames Path over a period of 3 weeks. So instead I took Rishi’s advice and pivoted LOL. Not that I want to take advice from a CONservative government representative, but nonetheless, I had to re-plan my plans….so to that end I decided to walk the first 5 stages as day trips…

I will, going forward, write in detail and share images from each day’s walk but for now I thought I’d give you a progress report, showing where I started and ended and how far I walked each day. I did 5 stages and make super progress reaching my target of walking from Erith in Kent to Staines-Upon-Thames in Surrey.

I had the most superb weather on 4 days of 5 and had a wonderful time just walking and exploring. My distances are not accurate to the mile according to measured distances because I tend to go off-piste and explore a church or building I may spot along the way, I also head off the path to take photos of things I may see in the distance, and for the sake of my ‘boots on’ walking challenges, I start measuring my kms from the minute my feet hit the platform at the relevant station/s, as well as my walk from home to the station (1.25kms each way). I’d love to measure just how much walking I do in transit, but that would just get too complicated….suffice to say that the walk from the platform at St Pancras via the Victoria Line underground passage, would I’m sure, add another couple of kms.

The timings too are not at all related to anything you may find in a guide book or online, because firstly I’m a slow stroller (although my daughter would contest that!!), I stop frequently to take photos of things that may interest me or I wish to share, and I stop quite often to rest my feet for 10-15 minutes a time or even 30 minutes if the mood takes me and I don’t have a deadline to meet. Or it’s a sunny day and I feel like just lying in the sun.

Planning the day trips wasn’t necessarily the easiest way of doing this because I had to take account of train times so I could get home before midnight LOL and also calculate the cheapest way to do the walk….e.g. buy a return ticket from point A to B after morning peak time, and then work out to which station I had to buy a single ticket to fill the gap between point C and point B. This was not only for timings but budgets as well. Although I did originally budget to use the cheaper train routes, I decided by day 2 that speed of transport was more important than food, so I increased my travel budget and reduced my food budget, and took sandwiches plus nibbles and fruit and a flask of tea with me. There’s also the issue of battery life on my phone. It seems to reduce rather rapidly because of all the photos I take….and the highspeed train has charging points. Also I’m not a great ‘staring out the window’ traveller and prefer to actually ‘do something’ while I’m travelling. So I move photos to dropbox and edit those I want to share….

So, in all I did 5 stages starting at Erith on 17th and reached Staines on the 24th. I didn’t walk consecutive days but had a 2 day break in between to rest and take my grandson out, and a one day break to spend with the family to celebrate my birthday. We had awesome fun – went to The Old Bake House in Broadstairs for breakfast, then a ramble on the beach, and a game of mini-golf which was hilarious…my grandson went crazy with his stick, whacking the ball all over. This was followed by crepes and fruit juice. Delicious, and a fantastic day.

without further ado…

Stage 1 : Erith to Greenwich. 17.04.2021 – 27.08 kms – 6 hours 47 min – 41,812 steps – elevation: 46 meters

I had originally planned to walk as far as the Thames Barrier which is the official starting point of the long-distance Thames Path route, but it was a beautiful day and I was having such a good time that I decided to push on to Greenwich, and thereby shorten my next day’s walking. This section was new to me. Although I have in the past walked from the Thames Barrier to Greenwich, the path from Erith to the barrier was completely new ground. The original section from Erith to the barrier was not the most scenic and there are a lot of really ugly industrial buildings and a sewerage plant (yes it smelled), but the path was amazingly straightforward, albeit bloody boring concrete a lot of the way.

walking the thames path
Stage 1 – Erith to the Thames Barrier – Walking the Thames Path
walking the thames path
Stage 1 – Thames Barrier to Greenwich – Walking the Thames Path

Stage 2 : Greenwich to Battersea Park 18.04.2021 – 24.51 kms – 6 hours 20 min – 38,376 steps – elevation 102 meters

Again this day was longer than I originally planned, but I wanted to push through as far as possible and thereby get further along and also shorten a later day’s journey. I’ve walked this whole route dozens of times over the years, different sections at different times and absolutely love (almost) every inch of it. I did NOT like the diversions…..it’s so inconsiderate of developers to buy up property that runs alongside the river and build bloody apartments, thereby blocking people from walking along the riverside. This section also runs through the centre of London and has the most bridges, so I stopped a lot for photos. LOL Also in London’s past the riverside was very industrial as since the Thames is a marine hotbed, there are a lot of old buildings and wharves etc that hog the riverside. hmmm.

walking the thames path
Stage 2 – Greenwich to Battersea Park – Walking the Thames Path

Stage 3 : Battersea Park to Richmond 21.04.2021 – 27.02 kms – 6 hours 24 min – 40,316 steps – elevation 82 meters

This day nearly bloody killed me LOL. It was much further than I calculated, or perhaps it felt like it because I started off already tired, and had a deadline for my train back home. It was though, one of the best days, walking familiar paths and passing familiar places where I spent many a happy hour walking in the past, and I got to meet a friend from instagram for a brief hello in Richmond. And despite my plans, I missed my train at St Pancras by literally 1 minute…as I got to the ticket barriers, I heard the doors being locked – ho hum!! ‘Hold that train!’ LOL

walking the thames path
Stage 3 – Battersea Park to Richmond – Walking the Thames Path

Stage 4 : Richmond to Hampton Court 23.04.2021 – 18.14 kms – 4 hours 47 min – 28,390 steps – elevation 40 meters

This day I had planned in celebration of my birthday. We used to live in St Margarets near Richmond and as with the previous stage, I often walked along sections of the Thames Path at different times; and in every season, including in the snow from Twickenham Bridge to Kew… πŸ™‚ I also wanted to reach Hampton Court Palace on my birthday because it is my absolute favourite palace in the world and although I wouldn’t have time to actually visit, just walking past would make me happy. It was a belting hot day, so I had 2 ice-creams on the way…one in Richmond as I started and one in Hampton Court as I finished. Just because. My daughter had given me Β£5 to buy a tea and cake along the way, but I felt ice-creams were more appropriate…also I could eat and walk!

walking the thames path
Stage 4 – Richmond to Hampton Court – Walking the Thames Path

Stage 5 : Hampton Court to Staines-Upon-Thames 24.04.2021 – 25.16 kms – 6 hours 47 min – 40,560 steps – elevation 43 meters

Staines is infamous for being the ‘hometown’ of Ali G (Sacha Cohen Baron for those who don’t know, who was actually born in Hammersmith). Again this was a long day and because I only had 6 hours to walk this stretch, I really had to push myself. I was also quite tired by then and found the final stretch between Shepperton and Staines really difficult. I was tempted to quit at Shepperton , but I loathe quitting and felt like I would be letting myself down if I did and it would mean either an extra day later on, or longer sections going forward. This section was new territory for me and I decided to take the guide book along…just in case – I didn’t need it. The path is well marked all the way from Erith. The stretch from Richmond to Staines is quite rural and if you didn’t know there were towns nearby, you’d think you were right out in the countryside. I missed my deadline by 47 minutes, but still managed to get an earlier train from STP

walking the thames path
Stage 5 – Hampton Court to Staines-Upon-Thames – Walking the Thames Path

What an amazing journey so far. The history of the River Thames is quite extraordinary and I discovered that the Vikings actually sailed right up the river as far as Chertsey, possibly further. We tend to think of them as coastal raiders and certainly they raided London a fair bit, but to my surprise they went as far as Chertsey…to raid the abbey. It was wonderful to revisit places I’d been before but not seen for years. Discovering new places and sections of my beloved river was a real treat. So even though I was really disappointed to not be able to walk The Thames Path in one go, in retrospect this is as good a way to ‘walk the walk’ as any. Frankly, I was quite exhausted by the 5th stage, and grateful I didn’t have to walk again for a while….how long that while will be is anyone’s guess. I have a few work bookings coming up, a few babysitting commitments and of course time with my grandson is more important than anything else and I try to spend as much time with him as possible between bookings…also I have 3 big walks planned for August/September that will take me away for nearly 6 weeks and those need to be saved up for. I have diarised another few days into my calendar to possibly do another 2 or maybe 3 day trips and then I’ll complete the rest of the walk in April 2022. Mostly because the accommodation is thin on the ground and VERY expensive. In comparison to accommodation on the Camino, it’s actually quite extortionate, but I’m guessing they don’t have that many guests and walkers staying over, so to charge Β£120 per night is reasonable – but WELL out of my price range. I’ll save the overnight excursions for out of season.

I will endeavour to write up and share images from these 5 stages as soon as possible.

Meanwhile I’ve planned dates to continue walking sections of the Saxon Shore Way so I can get that under my belt, and of course my epic ‘walking the whole English Coast’ – I have a few dates diarised to fit some more days in for that as well this year. I hope to complete the Kent and Sussex coastline by end of 2021. I’ll still do small sections of other counties where and when I get the opportunity with work travel. Talking of which, I really must get to write up about the section of the South West Coast Path I recently walked….from Berry Head to Paignton and Paignton to Torquay. Super awesome walk and soooo beautiful. More on that later….

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Today I’m on my way….heading home.

Its really nice to be able to say ‘home’, even though it’s a room in a shared house, its a base and home – for now. Although it was quite suitable in the past to stay in a b&b or guesthouse between jobs, the security of having a base is so much better.

Part of the reason I enjoyed staying at b&bs etc was because I used to travel between jobs, but now my little πŸ’™ lives in Ramsgate and I have a powerful reason to want a base to return to so I can spend precious time with him.

So today has finally arrived after what has, once again, been a very stressful 2 weeks. I’ve had 3 very stressful assignments since the beginning of the year and my goddess I’m tired.

I was hoping to start working again next week, but as has been the case in the last year, the agency do not have much work available. So I’ve accepted a position in Devon that only starts on 31st. Although this will have a slightly negative impact on my income, it does mean I have a good break and space to breathe.

I’ve started the process for claiming my pension, albeit insufficient to even pay my rent, it will give me a wee boost to save for my walking trips. I’ve not worked in the country long enough to qualify for a decent amount, but as the blurb goes….every little bit helps.

So talking of trips, crikey – after much rejigging my dates for my planned πŸ€”πŸ€”πŸ€” Thames Path walk in April, and trying for the last 2 days to squeeze the dates etc, I finally got a decent looking schedule worked out, sat down last night to start changing the dates for the bookings I had already made, only to find that the prices are almost double in May. So that puts paid to that little escapade. Ugh. My head.

Back to square one as they say. I was so upset last night that I just shut my computer, used a few choice words at commercialism 🀬🀬🀬 and went to bed.

So over the next few days I’m going to go back to basics, cancel all the bookings I made for April since I can’t travel then anyway, do a new search. Thank goodness for booking.com where you can reserve a place, but have the option of cancelling within a reasonable time.

However, I am determined to do this trip….

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Right then, after years and years of thinking about it, I’m now in the actual planning stages of walking the Thames Path – from sea to source.

Edit: 09/03 – I realized I should have titled this post as ‘Walking the Thames Path’, not river…I don’t have the right shoes for walking the river πŸ˜‰

I mentioned in an earlier post that I was keen to walk it for my birthday; that comes up in April. So since the government have decreed (at this juncture), that from 12th April: UK domestic holidays away from home permitted….I’m off!! I’m also grateful to note that hairdressers will be opening too….I really need to chop my hair off, it’s working on my nerves, mostly because it has no style due to the fact that I HAVE been chopping it off for the last 15 months!! LOL

Anyway, back to the Thames Path. When I finally decided to do this walk, I bought the book and immediately started reading. Unfortunately the guide takes us from sea (almost) to source and not the other way around. So to that end (as mentioned in said earlier post), I have decided that I shall temporarily, purely to suit the occasion, reinvent myself as an adventurer who has stumbled across this great big river and want to find the source….a bit like Levison Wood except in reverse…and he of course explored the Nile….at 6,650kms, that’s a different kettle of fish (no pun intended). The Thames’ 346kms is just a Sunday stroll in comparison.

So, what is the River Thames!? According to Britannica: “River Thames, ancient Tamesis or Tamesa, also called (in Oxford, England) River Isis, chief river of southern England. Rising in the Cotswold Hills, its basin covers an area of approximately 5,500 square miles (14,250 square km). The traditional source at Thames Head, which is dry for much of the year, is marked by a stone in a field 356 feet (108.5 metres) above sea level and 3 miles (5 km) southwest of the town of Cirencester.

However, there is some dispute, and apparently, “some think a tributary, the River Churn, has a better claim to being the source; it rises near the village of Seven Springs (700 feet [213 metres] above sea level), just south of Cheltenham”.

Seven Springs features in the long-running argument over the true source of the River Thames. Two plaques at the site read “Hic tuus o Tamesine Pater septemgeminus fons” (Latin for “Here, O Father Thames, is your sevenfold spring”). Seven Springs is further from the mouth of the Thames than the medieval-preferred source at Thames Head near Kemble. In 2012 Coberley Parish Council posted a notice, on site, that “Seven Springs is certainly one of the sources of the River Thames and is held by many to be the ultimate source.” ref wikipedia

So, I guess I shall have to visit both…or shall I walk there? Hmmm. I think I’ll decide closer to the time depending on how footsore and weary I am after walking for 14 days – with a backpack. It’s an extra 33+kms which will add an extra 2 days to my journey, and the River Churn on google maps looks quite small, but after visiting google earth last night I determined that there are pathways pretty much along the whole length, barring a few farmers fields, some roads and a the odd house that appears to border the river….If I decide at the time to walk that extra 33kms (20.6 miles), then I’ll just go and deal with whatever confronts me when I get there – pretty much like I do on all my walks….just go! Of course that sometimes requires detours etc, but it’s the journey…

Meanwhile, I’m putting in loads of walking by following my Conqueror Challenges, and reading up on the route. There are loads of fantastic villages and towns along the route, some of which I have already visited and of course as mentioned in that article I have walked a large section of the Thames Path, the tidal section between Gravesend and Teddington Lock and further afield to Hampton Court.

I’ve kinda toyed with the idea of ‘maybe’ skipping out the tidal section since I’ve ‘been there, done that’, but it doesn’t feel right somehow…so I guess I shall just have to plan to walk the whole thing. I often read about people who do some walks, like the French Camino, in sections over the years, but I just know that’s no good for me…I likely won’t get back to finish off. There’s always something else to do. Mind you having said that, I did finally manage to complete The Pilgrim’s Way, but only because I made a spur of the moment decision to just do it….or else it would still be outstanding….which is was… outstanding that is 😁

So a little more about the River Thames:

The River Thames is England’s longest river at 346 kms (216.25 miles) – (albeit disputed coz of the tributary) the River Severn at 354km is the longest in the United Kingdom. So if they did add the River Churn’s 33kms (20.62miles), the Thames would indeed be the longest.

The River Thames flows from the source at Thames Head near the hamlet of Kemble in an easterly direction and after 366.4 kms (229 miles) it flows into the North Sea into the Thames Estuary near Southend-on-Sea. Now, kindly note that I am not about to walk from Southend-on-Sea as this adds on an extra 20km which would require ANOTHER 2 days….and I don’t have all the time in the world. I’ll simply add that section to when I walk the Essex coast (which as a matter of interest is 560 kms (350 miles).

The River Thames flows through 8 counties: Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Surrey, Essex, and Kent.

Besides all the smaller towns, the River Thames flows through or alongside: Lechlade (where you can find the famous Father Thames sculpture), Oxford, Reading, Henley-on-Thames (famous for the annual regatta), Maidenhead, Windsor (where the Queen sometimes lives) and Eton (famous for it’s posh totty school), Molesey (near Hampton Court). Including the smaller towns and villages…26 in all.

In Greater London the Thames passes Hampton Court Palace, Surbiton, Kingston Upon Thames, Teddington (where the tidal Thames ends at the lock), Richmond, Kew, Chiswick, Barnes, Hammersmith, Fulham, Putney, Wandsworth, Battersea (where my paternal grandfather was born) and Chelsea.

Continuing through central London: Pimlico, Lambeth, Vauxhall, it then passes the Palace of Westminster and the London Eye amongst many other landmarks of the City of Westminster, then between The City of London and Southwark till it reaches the world-famous Tower of London.

Into the lower reaches: the river passes through some of the most historic areas: Bermondsey, Wapping, Shadwell, Limehouse, Rotherhithe (from whence the Mayflower carrying pilgrims to the New World set sail), Millwall, Deptford, Royal Greenwich (where Henry VIII was born – the Palace of Placentia as were his daughters Mary & Elizabeth, while his son was born at Hampton Court Palace) and home of the Prime Meridian and Greenwich Mean Time, then Blackwall, Charlton and Silvertown and finally through the Thames Barrier – which is where the Guidebook starts the journey, and onto the the sea. The Thames Barrier is the largest moveable flood barrier in the world.

The River Thames is crossed by over 200 bridges, 27 tunnels, six public ferries, one cable car link, and one ford. There are 30 bridges from Tower Bridge to Teddington Lock – arguably the most famous of those being London Bridge (the first bridge to cross the Thames built by the Romans in 50 AD which was a wooden structure), and Tower Bridge (often misnamed as London Bridge).

There are around 180 islands altogether on the Thames, 45 of which are inhabited – some of the islands have animal, bird or food names; Monkey Island, Frog Island, Lower Horse Island, Buck Island, Swan Island, Heron Island, Raven’s Ait, Ham Island, Eel Pie Island (I briefly lived in a gypsy caravan on Eel Pie Island in Richmond in 2011), there’s even a Pharoah’s Island and Queen’s Eyot, and the famous Magna Carta Island.

The Thames has frozen over at least 23 times between 1309 and 1814, and on five occasions the ice was strong enough to hold a fair on the river, the first known ‘frost fair’ on the River Thames was in AD 695. There are a few famous paintings depicting the frost fairs on the Thames in London from the 17th century.

The River Thames is also known as the River Isis in Oxford.

Many species make the River Thames their home; birds, fish, eels, seals (Thames estuary)and even dolphins

A number of famous painters have depicted the Thames in their paintings: Turner, Monet, Canaletto and Whistler, amongst others.

The River Thames began its life in the Jurassic Period – between 170 and 140 million years ago, has changed it’s course over millenia and once flowed into the River Rhine in Germany. Courtesy of wikipedia: For most of the Early Pleistocene the Ancestral Thames was the main river with, at its maximum extent, a catchment area that extended into Wales alongside the Chiltern Hills, through southern East Anglia and finally into Doggerland (now the North Sea), where it joined the ancestral Rhine.

I’m still dithering about whether to start my journey at The Thames Barrier or from Gravesend. If I do start from Gravesend it will mean adding on an extra 2 days, whereas I could rather add on those 2 days at the end to follow the River Churn to Seven Springs. I’ve already walked from Southwark to Gravesend when following Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales route to Canterbury…..so, I need to make a decision and soon… my start date is 19th April!!

I’m really looking forward to discovering more about the places along the river from Hampton Court onwards to the source.

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I arrived home last night, after a 4.5 hour journey, from a week’s booking in Salisbury. As much as what I really enjoyed exploring the city, and learning more of the history and her green spaces, it was wonderful to be back home.

You cannot underestimate the sheer joy of coming ‘home’ to your own place. It may not be much, but it’s got my stuff in it, and I’m home.

My own duvet…magic

After I’d dropped my bags off, I grabbed my walking poles and immediately set off for a sunset walk to the harbour

Absolutely stunning
A Royal harbour
Can you see the moon?
The sun setting in front of me

and then along the lower promenade

The snow moon rising behind me

before climbing up to the clifftop and a walk to Pegwell Bay.

View of Pegwell Bay from the bottom of the cliffs
From halfway up the path to the top of the cliffs

It was quite dark already by the time I reached the hotel, so I stopped there for a few photos and then walked back along the clifftop.

View from Pegwell Bay hotel
A bit of fun with the moon and the hands and molecules sculpture
One lone boat still has its Christmas lights on

A magical walk with no pressure to get back within 2 hours, and 9.9 kms added to my 2021 Conqueror virtual challenge.

I’m going to start the Ring Road Iceland virtual challenge on Monday 1st March. I’m so looking forward to the postcards, should be amazing. My daughter and I had a fantastic 4 day trip to Iceland in 2014, so I’m really keen to see the information that comes with the postcards.

The Sun Voyager (Icelandic: Sólfar); a sculpture by Jón Gunnar Árnason

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I’m not sure if I mentioned this before πŸ€”πŸ€” but I’m walking the Thames Path for my birthday…its a milestone birthday in as much as according to the government I can officially retire!!!Β  πŸ€ͺπŸ€ͺπŸ€ͺ if only.

Initially I really wanted to walk from source to sea, but have not been able to find a good relevant guide book. The Cicerone books are excellent but they only had a sea to source guide, which has been irritating me.
So I’ve been pondering how I can turn this around so I can enjoy the walk instead of feeling like I’m doing it the wrong way around…

And I just had an idea πŸ’‘ ping the oldΒ  🧠 woke up….I shall pretend I’m an explorer πŸ˜πŸ•΅οΈβ€β™€οΈπŸ•΅οΈβ€β™€οΈπŸšΆπŸ»β€β™€οΈπŸšΆπŸ»β€β™€οΈ who has just stumbled upon this great river, and now I have to follow it to find the mysterious source hidden in the jungle….in reality it’s in a barren field and the stream is mostly dry,πŸ€¦πŸΌβ€β™€οΈπŸ€¦πŸΌβ€β™€οΈ but who’s checking πŸ€·β€β™€οΈπŸ€·β€β™€οΈ this is my adventure and if I say it’s a jungle, then it’s a jungle πŸ’πŸ’πŸ’πŸ†πŸ…πŸ¦πŸ˜πŸ¦’πŸŠπŸ€ͺπŸ€ͺ

Sometimes it helps to be on the verge of senility, you can make up all sorts of πŸ’©πŸ€£πŸ€£πŸ€£

Thames Path…I shall πŸ‘€πŸ‘‰ in April well that’s the plan anyway…the PM may scupper those plans once again, unless I go incognito.

Walking the Thames Path has been a dream of mine ever since we lived in London, and I’m actually quite excited that finally I can bring my dream to fruition πŸ˜ƒπŸ˜ƒ Hoorah

Gravesend
The O2
Bermondsey
City of London – Commemorating the 1666 Great Fire of London in 2016
Westminster
Chelsea
Richmond lock
The Great River Race 2016 Richmond
The Gloriana processing along The Thames during the Tudor Pull near Teddington
Teddington Lock (during my 3 Days in London days)

Over the years I’ve walked sections of the Thames Path from Gravesend to Hampton Court and I initially toyed with the idea of skipping this section, which will take me 3 days of solid walking at approximately 20/5 kms per day, BUT I know myself too well…I won’t feel as if I’ve ‘actually’ walked the whole Thames Path unless I walk the whole route.

So, according to the guide, the path starts at the Thames Barrier, so that’s where I shall start my adventure…

The Thames Barrier

Did you know that the River Thames, a tidal river, is considered to be part of the English Coast right up until Teddington Lock ….

All I need now is for everyone to 🀞🀞🀞 that we don’t go into another lockdown before 20th April…thank you πŸ˜‰

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I reached this stage on 19 January, so not too far behind the last stage…either I was walking a lot more, or the distance to this stage was shorter. Of course all I have to do is check the details on the postcard!! In real life, from 1st January to the 19th I’d walked 128km which is just over 80 miles. Not too bad.

And doesn’t that water look amazing. Reminds me of the sea along the Thanet coastline when the water gets cloudy from the chalk after a storm…

Defined as “a populated area less than a town”, Otematata is more of a holiday town nowadays when it’s small population of around 180 explodes to 5,000 during the summer season. With easy access to both Lake Benmore, downstream Lake Aviemore and nearby hiking trails (known as tramping in NZ), holiday makers swarm to the area for camping, water skiing, boating, fishing, swimming and cycling among other activities.

Stage 6
Stage 6

Otematata sprung up in 1958 as a base for construction workers of the Benmore and Aviemore Dams. Within a year the population grew to 450 and at its peak it was as high as 4,000 residents. Built by the Ministry of Works the town had all the necessary facilities and services such as schools, clubs, pub, cinema and mall. The 1,500 strong workforce of engineers, builders, electricians, concreters and truckies spent seven years building the dam. Once the dam was finished, as it often happens with these kind of projects, the town was slowly dismantled. The houses that were trucked into town were years later trucked out and moved to Twizel for the next project. Benmore Dam is the largest earth-filled dam in NZ and the largest of eight in the Waitaki hydro scheme. As the second largest hydro station in the country, Benmore generates sufficient electricity to cover nearly 300,000 NZ homes.

Leaving Otematata, I travelled north on a sealed pathway alongside the Waitaki River until I reached the massive Benmore Dam and stood atop it with a bird’s eye view of the lake to the north and the river to the south. When the lake is over capacity, the floodgates open to release the water down a spillway and to prevent erosion a lip was inserted at the end to deflect the water. The spillway can handle ten times the normal river flow thereby allowing it to cope with severe flooding.

I skirted around the shore on a narrow sealed road to Deep Stream Track on Lake Aviemore for a walk along a flooded canyon. The deep green water was quite inviting for a swim but I settled for a picnic under a shaded tree enjoying the tranquility of this location and the reflection of the hills on the water.

A little further I crossed the Aviemore Dam back onto the State Highway and was relieved to be travelling on an off-road path beside the main road all the way to Waitaki Dam. Aviemore Dam was built in 1968 and the construction was on uneven ground because the Waitangi Fault runs beneath it. Although at the time of construction the fault was considered inactive, in the 2000s the fault was upgraded to dormant and as such the dam was reinforced against earthquakes and potential landslides. Because of the fault the dam is a mixed structure being part solid rock topped with concrete on the north side and earth-fill where the fault line runs beneath on the south side.

The Waitaki Dam is steeped in NZ history. As the smallest in the Waitaki hydro scheme, it is also the oldest having been built in 1935. Being the first dam to be built on the South Island, it was also the last to use pick and shovel. These archaic tools were retained because politicians wanted to reduce the unemployment rate during the Depression Era.

The building of the Waitaki Dam inadvertently played a major role in the birth of the social welfare system. In 1928, the Waitaki Hydro Medical Association together with the Waitaki Hospital Board developed a scheme to deduct monthly fees from wages in order to provide medical and ambulance services to the workers. When two politicians, one a doctor and the other a reverend, took office in 1935, they based the social welfare scheme on the one developed by the dam project.

From here it was a 5mi (8km) journey into Kurow. I heard the Waitaki Valley, which begins in Omarama, is a young winery region with a flair for developing good pinot noir and pinot gris. I’ll be sure to sample some after a hearty meal. I’m thinking fish and chips at the nearest pub.

I could live with fish and chips!! And do my journey continues. Seriously though, reading these emails makes me really really want to walk this route for real….

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I’ve had some amazing walks the last few years since moving to the east coast. The scenery along the Thanet coastline is really beautiful, especially at sunrise on a clear day, and then sunset. You can catch a gorgeous sunrise from Broadstairs or Ramsgate, and if it’s a good day, an equally gorgeous sunset from Pegwell Bay or Margate. I’ve been known to rush over to Margate to catch the sunset or a quick walk to the cliffs above Pegwell Bay.

Sunrise in Broadstairs
Sunset over Pegwell Bay

I’ve always loved walking. As a young girl, in my 20s’ when I lived in Hillbrow Johannesburg, I used to spend the whole of Sundays just walking around the suburbs for hours on end. I used to walk to work every day, up the hill and down the other side….right up until I was 8 months pregnant, and then my boss wouldn’t allow me to walk anymore and insisted one of the staff take me home by car and collect me the next day.

I lost my walking after my daughter was born and my husband bought me a car. By then it wasn’t that safe to walk alone anyway and I got lazy.

When I arrived in the UK, my love of walking was reignited. I lived in Dublin, Rep. Of Ireland for 6 months and my sister, brother-in-law and I used to walk everywhere, especially on weekends when we’d head out to DΓΊn Laoghaire or Glendalough and the Wicklow mountains. In fact we travelled to so many places, I’ve quite forgotten all but the most memorable. I do remember though being able to walk home from Dublin to Monkstown late at night and never feel unsafe….and my love walking,  freedom really, was reborn.

I remember one weekend when we walked across country from Waterford city to PassageEast in the County of Waterford, took the ferry across the River Barrow to Ballyhack Lower in County Wexford, then walked to Arthurstown and onto Duncannon…and in reverse the next day. One of the many fun excursions from my 6 months there.

A walk across country in Rep. Of Ireland

On most of my overseas trips since, I’ve invariably planned a 10 day stayΒ  and walked….everywhere, and included a day trip to another destination. When I visited Venice I literally walked around all the accessible islands and usually started at 8am and walked till late at night exploring every nook and cranny. Actually, after Ireland, Venice was my very first trip to Europe and albeit terrified, I loved every minute.

I’ve since walked 80%+ of the streets in the City of London….much of my free time was spent exploring every court, lane and street, and I walked a fair amount of the City of Westminster too. When we still lived in Richmond, I often walked along the Thames riverbank, either downstream to Kew Gardens or upstream to Kingston and even Hampton Court. Even in the snow πŸ˜‰

When we moved to Broadstairs we used to walk along the beach to Ramsgate. I always thought it was quite far, but its actually only just over 3kms. Now that I frequently walk in excess of 20kms and occasionally as much as 35kms, it seems absurd that I thought 3kms was far 😁😁

During my last stay, I walked along the beach from Ramsgate to Stone Bay and back, and one morning I enjoyed a sunrise walk to Viking Bay…of course I stopped off at The Old Bake House and bought a take-away coffee and my favourite pastry; an almond croissant then sat on a bench on the promenade to enjoy my treat.

Its such a stunning section of the coast and offers much of interest to see. Stretch your legs and walk to Margate… fantastic route, especially along the beach.

No hardship walking in this environment

A few weeks ago I decided to walk to Sandwich (for the 3rd time) in order to increase my mileage for the Conqueror 2020 Challenge.Β  Somewhere along the way I hatched the insane idea of walking the whole of the English coastline….I know…bring on the strait jacket. I blame it on the moon 🀭🀭🀭 I’ve walked as far as Dover so far. Of course Covid-19 has held back my horizons, but I’m hoping to get out more frequently in 2021.

Crossing the White Cliffs of Dover

I love walking and one of the benefits of my job is that I get to travel all over England, often times to places I’d never heard of…and then I walk…

Old disused railway line in Lewes

But my walking got a real sense of seriousness when I started training for the Portuguese Camino in 2017, and started following the #walk1000miles challenge in 2016. That really got me going. I struggled at first to get into walking daily, bought my first pair of walking poles (still have them πŸ˜„), a decent pair of walking shoes (asics) and I’ve never looked back, now I find it difficult to not get out for a walk on a daily basis and get quite tetchy if my walking is interrupted ….πŸ˜‰

Stunning coastline between Deal and Walmer.

Show me a path and I’ll walk it….

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