Hay-on-Wye to Ipswich 2016 -Week 1 blog by Jane Benyon
We arrived Wednesday night at our hosts, a farmer and his wife, old friends who lived on a beautiful farm along the river Wye 9 miles from Hay on Wye. Very sadly Gerard had to go into A & E that afternoon, having fallen and bumped his head and developed a serious head ache. We were well looked after by a kind neighbour who showed us round and plied us with tea and cake! Jane, the wife, sweetly came back to have supper with us, having driven 30 miles from the hospital and then returned to her husband and eventually getting home at 3 am, the hospital having decided to keep him in for a scan in the morning. It was so sad, as she was hoping to come and walk with us, but the good news is that he eventually returned home with an all clear.
At the start of the walk, we were sent on our way by the local conservative MP, Chris Davies, who wished us well and the usual photos were taken. Also to wave us off were two of the ZANE donors and another who joined us all day on the walk. The fact he was 81 years old and never faltered up and down the hills, was certainly an incentive to Tom and I not to flag either. It was certainly a tough first day as there were some very steep inclines and some difficult descents over very rough ground, however the views over the Black Mountains were spectacular and worth the effort. All the locals told us that there was a much easier route but without the views. However I rely on my hand held sat nav called Fred and Fred rules as far as I am concerned!
After a good lunch in a local pub our afternoon walk was slightly less arduous, although one farm we went through definitely had it in for walkers as there were obstacles in front of every style. We completed our walk in Staunton on Wye a rather unattractive village, mis-named as it was well away from the River Wye.
We are walking on our own today, so get away on time and made good progress through much gentler countryside. The Black Mountains now behind us and the farm land now mainly arable. Moses much happier as he is able to be off the lead and happily chase rabbits, who are quite safe as he has no perseverance when it comes to trying to catch them. The weather is warm with a gentle breeze and we are both feeling good. We pass a couple of walkers, walking the Wye Valley, who were impressed to hear we were on route to Ipswich and wished us well. We have lunch in a busy pub. I realise that many pubs survive at lunch time, on the custom of pensioners all having a jolly time, enjoying good mid-week Meal Deals. We walk through acres of apple orchards belonging to Wye Valley apples. All ready to harvest I scrump a beautiful yellow Apple which has pink flesh. I have never seen it before and it is delicious. Today we complete our 10.8 miles in good time in the small village of Burghill. Our host tonight is an ex military policeman, trained with the SAS, who is joining us tomorrow. That will be a challenge for Tom and I.
Not so good, as it has poured with rain all night and is still raining when we set off despite the fact that BBC weather says it should clear. It doesn't all day! Poor Tom woke up with a bout of gout in his knee, which is very painful until his medication kicks in. Fred, the sat nav, goes on the blink, totally my fault as I had bought some cheap AA batteries which do not work, Luckily, Lyndon, our host and fellow walker today, is a better map reader than me and we manage until Marcus gets new batteries for Fred. We are not impressed with the upkeep of the footpaths in Herefordshire. Many of the styles are very rotten and difficult to negotiate and the footpaths very overgrown. At one stage we were battling through a field of extremely wet head height sweet corn and came out the other side soaked to the skin. Our progress today is much slower, I think mainly due to the difficult walking conditions. This is an extremely rural area, dotted with tiny hamlets, winding roads with high hedges and of course no mobile coverage, which makes communication with Marcus difficult. Eventually we arrive at Ullingworth. On our way to our hosts for the night we get extremely lost on these narrow roads where post codes put into the car Sat Nav take us miles from our destination. Our hosts’ cottage is in a small hamlet on the edge of a hill with a view to die for.
Back to the church at Ullingworth, which is at least a mile from the village. When we set off we have difficulty finding the footpath which is through the garden of a charming lady called Sue who wants to give us breakfast which we have to decline having been given a full English by our overnight hosts. She warned us of the dire condition of the local footpaths and stiles, which was quickly confirmed in the next couple of miles as we battled our way through barbed wire and brambles. However after that things improved. It is a beautiful day and the countryside has changed to rolling pasture and easy walking. We are feeling good and Tom's knee is much better. Moses is in his element although I don't trust him with sheep so he spends some time on a lead. Also there are a lot of young cattle about with their usual curiosity where dogs are concerned. At one point, when I spy two fields of cattle, I break my rule and decide to not follow Fred and take a shortcut on the map. Bad mistake I get extremely lost and have to ask the help of a farmer on a quad bike to put me back on track. We arrive in Suckley rather later than planned. Our accommodation tonight is a very comfortable Manor House and our delightful hosts make us very welcome. We watch Queen Victoria and then before going to sleep I listen to the Sunday night mega addition of the Archers trial! Slightly spoilt by the fact that I went to sleep just before the judges announcement and woke up when the family were congratulating the result.( Sorry this won't make much sense to the non Archers fans)
This turns out to be a very difficult frustrating morning. We start off well enough from Suckley Primary School, although the going is not easy. We walk over a marked style into a forest, which runs along a steep ridge. According to Fred and our map we need to walk to the top of the ridge and then down the other side. We get to the top OK despite a bit of a scramble but there is no path going downhill and the undergrowth inaccessible. There are endless paths going along the top of the ridge or gently down only to climb again. The forest appeared to be about 4/5 miles long and we spent nearly an hour going backwards and forwards before eventually getting to the bottom some way from our allotted route. We get back on track by walking through a series of old apple orchards which I think must be cider apples as they are small and unripe. We are feeling a bit exhausted when we eventually hit a road and head towards Worcester. After a pretty uninteresting but expensive lunch in a huge Spa Hotel we walk into Worcester along the very busy and noisy A44 and have tea in the tranquility of the cloisters of Worcester Cathedral. Tomorrow is our day off. Hurrah!!
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