First four days and a map: Walking Diary: London to Birmingham (pt.1)
DAY FIVE. Wolverton to Nether Heyford (28.2km/17.5mi) – March, 2016.
The day didn’t start well – I missed my train and so had to buy a new ticket (much more expensive). I couldn’t just turn around and go home – I already have train tickets for the next two days which I don’t want to lose too.
So I start my walk in Wolverton at 8am, keeping in mind that for the next 3 – 4 hours I won’t be able to find a place to buy any hot food or to use a loo – pubs open only around 11 – 12 o’clock in the morning. I had a very early breakfast so I was looking forward for my lunch. I stopped at “The Boat Inn” opposite the Canal Museum in Stoke Bruerne village.
Just a short walk further from Bruerne village the Grand Union canal goes into a tunnel up until Blisworth village. That’s about 2 miles walk on a country road which is always a bit dangerous experience. It was such a pleasure to be back on a towpath though – on the both sides of the canal I can see steep slopes with brooks coming down, birds are chirping around and a sun is shining. I can feel my energy level is filling up.
After a little while I come to the canal junction with the Northhampton Arm on a right, but I continue to follow the main Grand Union canal line. From this point up until Nether Heyford (about 8km/5mi) the views are pretty much the same all the way and so quite boring. I guess I’m just tired and can’t appreciate what I see around anymore.
I took a bus D3 (single ticket cost £2.70, cash only) from Nether Heyford to Northhampton, where then I jumped on a train to London. On my way back home I was looking at the pictures I took today – there were a deer, lama farm, many beautiful bridges and lovely workshops. After all, that’s one of most beautiful routes I walked along the Grand Union canal so far.
DAY SIX. Nether Heyford to Stockton (32km.19.9mi) – March, 2016
My friend keeps me company again today. We started our walk quite late – only 10am, however, we have managed to walk all the route before dusk and we were sitting at the bus stop in Stockton village at 6pm (there is a bus to Rugby train station every hour on Saturdays).
If I have to name today’s walk it would definitely get the Sheep Route title. There were so many sheep farms along the canal! We also saw some horses, ponies, pigs and chickens on a way, and we passed by a lot of people walking with their dogs.
A new thing today I haven’t seen on previous walks were boat shops – some people were selling their handmade goods or flowers and others just tried to sell their clutter (you can call it vintage, if you will) or old books.
The day is going to an end and my ankle starts swelling again. I still have one more walk to do tomorrow…
DAY SEVEN. Stockton to Hatton Station (23.4km/14.5mi) – March, 2016
It’s Sunday. And that means everything will be complicated transport wise. I didn’t even bother to get up early and take a first train to Rugby as I know I would have to wait there 2 hours for a bus to Stockton. So I took a second train and waited for 1 hour – best option I could get on a Sunday morning.
Even though I’m starting my walk only at midday I can easily add extra 8km/5mi and finish my day at Lapworth station instead of Hatton station before dusk. But only if I walk at my normal pace. Unfortunately, soon after I started today’s walk the pain in my ankle came back and I realised it’s going to be a long and slow day. At least it’s a beautiful sunny day (I even managed to get some tan on my face and arms!).
I finished my walk at Hatton station at 6pm. I had a train ticket for 8pm but it got darker and my ankle pain got stronger so I didn’t risk to walk those extra miles to the Lapworth station. So I waited. In a summer time trains stop at the Hatton station every hour. But now it’s March and so there are only a few trains a day that stops here – a few in the morning and a couple in the evening, with a first one in the evening only at 8pm. The sun has gone down and so the temperature has dropped immensely. It was dark and freezing cold on a railway platform with metal benches.
Two hours later I’m finally on a warm train but still shivering for another 30 minutes. Lesson learned – no more walks on Sundays!
DAY EIGHT. Hatton station to Birmingham (30.6km/19mi) – March, 2016
The last section of the route London to Birmingham along the Grand Union canal! It has been only 5 days since my last walk so I’m a bit worried about my ankle. It isn’t in a pain or swollen anymore, but now it has this weird feeling and squeaky sound when I walk – like walking in wet shoes. My friend had the same thing going on in his wrist a few months ago so I knew it wasn’t a big deal, I just needed to rest my ankle. And so I will… After this last walk!
Quite a long distance was waiting ahead and I knew I won’t be able to walk as fast as I normally do, so I wanted to start as early as I could (even if that means to sleep only 4 hours). 7:40am I get off at the Hatton station. And guess what? It’s freezing cold! I’m dreaming about my warm walking boots right now. They sitting at home because I can’t wear any sort of boots as they make my ankle swell. So I wear a simple sport shoes today and my feet feel ice cold. Luckily, the sun came out pretty soon and it got quite warm.
First few walking hours went very quickly (maybe I was still half asleep?) and the views were beautiful. But then it started… I walked more than 200km/125mi along the canal and I barely saw any litter. Now, when I’m almost in Birmingham – only 2.5 hours left to walk – I can’t believe how many rubbish I see in the canal! And as I get closer to the city I see more and more dog poop on a towpath. Such a dirty and smelly last bit of my personal walking challenge.
After all, I’m happy I’ve chosen canal walk as my first long walk – I didn’t need a map as there was hard to get lost anyways; terrain was pretty much the same the whole route so I could easily calculate how long it takes to walk one section, and so I could buy a train ticket in advance for the specific time; I knew that there are a few pubs in every section along the canal if I wanted to stop for a lunch or to get warm; and there were people passing by on a towpath or living in narrow boats if I needed a help.
I’m glad I was able to buy my train tickets in advance and save a ton of money. Those who live in the UK know how expensive train tickets can be. If you book a ticket a few weeks in advance you can find a nice deal of £6 or £8 for a single ticket, where the same ticket can cost about £30 a few days before the traveling and about £50 on a traveling day. And then – don’t miss the train you’ve booked! Like I did on a day five…
Two things I’m not going to do in my future walks: first, I’m not going to walk three days in a row as that lowers my appreciation of the things I see around and walking itself, if I’m tired or in some sort of a pain; second, I’m not going to walk on Sundays, unless a route starts and ends in a big town with trains running frequently even on Sundays.
Finally, if you live by the canal – appreciate that. Walking along the canal can be really relaxing and pleasant activity. Well, unless you live near Birmingham…