I know what your thinking. New year? But it’s February. That’s true. I just haven’t been for a walk so far until now. I had mentally been telling myself that I needed to get walking again. I have been lounging around at home doing very little and slowly the numbers on the scales are creeping up. This will not do. On top of that I have been neglecting the blog, hardly posting more than a handful of times a year. I uaed ro excuse myself for not posting because my phone was terrible but I have a new one now, and a good one at that. This is supposed to be the turning point. New year, new phone, new posts.

The route out of town.

The route out of town.

So I woke up this morning to bright sunlight streaming into the bedroom. I instantly thought that today would be the day that I’d finally get back to walking. I was ready to go in half an hour.

New phone in tow I set about turning on the GPS tracking app. Last time I had used one of these was two phones ago and drained the battery in a few hours. This phone should do better. Being the size of a dinner plate it can afford a huge battery. One which so far has been lasting several days at a time. Will the power hungry GPS put pay to that? We’ll just have to find out.

I left hime by the path that skirts the edge od the woods. The path leads out to Steppingley is muddy on all but the driest of summer days. I was going to get muddy today anyway so why pussyfoot around the first path? The wind was quite strong and there was a bit of a chill in the air. Wet, muddy, cold. What a great day.

I was in a bit of an inquisitive mood and took a lot of paths that I wouldn’t ordinarily use. The first was on the way into Steppingley. Usually I’d take the road past the Drovers Arms but today I took the back way, taking the footpath past the church. As I walked up the path a girl came the other way walking a dog. She was talking to herself and crying almost uncontrollably. What do you do in this situation? Do you ask if everything is OK? If you do you have to sit and listen to a tale of woe that I really wasn’t that interested in. If you don’t are you just a bastard? I decided just to smile. She tried to smile back but it was clearly difficult for her. I’m sure the dog will keep her company.

Steppingley postbox

New post box design

Walking into Steppingley from this direction is new to me and I never realised what fantastic houses there are around here. Some are clearly very old indeed. I covet these places dearly. Moving on I passed the church and the pub. The village bus stop has now got a small library in it. I’m not sure why you would leave books in the minimal shelter of a bus stop but there you go. Just down the road the village postbox has been revamped. I don’t know if this is the new desing being rolled out across the country of if its just here but I like it.

My destination was the Rose and Crown in Ridgemont. And to get there was no more than an hours walk from Steppingley. I walked out of the village via a country lane with high hedgerows on either side. In the distance was a Red Kite circling overhead. I had hoped to catch up to it but, alas, it was gone.

Most of the route from Steppingley to Ridgemont was fairly uneventful. I said hello to some cyclists. I followed the usual footpaths. I crossed over the roaring M1 on a farm bridge. I paused for a moment, as I often do, just to marvel at the motorway. I find it amazing that we all get in these little tin boxes and ride up and down these thin strips of tarmac at a steady speed, smoothly all getting to our destination without crashing (mostly).

Segenhoe Church

Segehoe’s abandoned church

I also marvel at how quickly the roar becomes a murmur. A small background noise that van be drowned out by the wind in the trees. By the time I passed the abandoned church at Segenhoe I could barely hear it at all. I don’t know what it is about abandoned churches that I like so much. Perhaps it’s that you get to appreciate the beauty of the building without the fear of being accosted by a member of the clergy, trying to bring you into the fold. Anyway, I couldn’t stop. I wanted to make this a fairly quick walk as the weather report wasn’t great after three o’clock.

Rose & Crown - Ridgemont

The Rose & Crown in Ridgemont

The Rose and Crown in Ridgemont has been on my list for a long time. It’s so near and yet so far. I wasn’t expecting anything special but its another one tick off. When I arrived I noticed a cask marque sign (good start). I scraped my boots on the scraper by the front door (must be walkers friendly, even better) and walked in. The bar maid was friendly and helped me with WiFi. A pint of Directors went down too quickly as I talked to the girl behind the bar and before I knew it I was back on the road going home by another route.

Millbrook Warren

The path around Millbrook Warren

I crossed the M1 and the A507 simultaneously as a new footbridge crosses them both. This is the new route of the Greensand Ridge path, a route I want to do in its entirety one day. I followed the GRW as far as Boughton End and turned to take its original route back across the main road. This path soon took me to the edge of Millbrook Warren or as most people now call it Centre Parcs™ – Woburn Forest. I have mixed feelings about the holiday resort on my doorstep. On one hand the Warren is now fenced off, only accessible to paying customers. The rights of way have been striped and we, the public can not enter. On the other hand employment is up and the nearby towns are prospering from the tourist money. On top of that there are new footpaths replacing the old routes through the Warren and other existing paths have been improved considerably. These are obviously good things, but it doesn’t mean I have to like the heart being ripped out of what was once a peaceful place.

I took one of the new bridleways to the road and one of the improved footpaths via a new bridge over the railway into Ampthill. Us walkers have never had it so good, and neither have the train spotters who use the bridge to get a better spot for taking photo’s of trains. Two were sitting on the steps by the up line with a camera and a big telephoto lens. They were to engrossed in train chat to even pass the time of day.

On the other side of the line is an industrial estate. It’s dirty and unkept but we need somewhere to put the scrap metal merchants and the digger merchants. As I walked through I heard the sound of a train passing. I could tell it was a diesel freight loco. Good, I thought to myself, I’d imagine the trainspotters on the bridge will be pleased with that.

The final part of my walk took me back to my teenage years as I followed the route I used to walk home from school. It has changed quite a bit in the intervening years. A new housing estate, the petrol station has been towrn down and replaced, there is a football academy on the field I used to use as a shortcut and they seem to fit in new houses in the smallest of gaps. Progress I suppose.

 
Total distance: 11.93 mi, Max elevation: 410 ft, Min elevation: 190 ft, Total climbing: 4718 ft
Total descent: -4741 ft, Average speed: 3.07 mi/h, Total Time: 04:29:50,
Download .gpx ile of this route