Monday, 7 October 2013

London Loop Part 6: Banstead-Kingston a.k.a Where I Get Attacked by Midges near Horrid River

Well, technically this walk started in a remote corner of Zone 6 known as "Belmont."

So remote, in fact, that it does not even have a Sunday train service, and I had to catch no less than two separate trains, a tube and a bus to get to it, then walk for twenty minutes to reach the "official" start of the walk, which then spent half an hour meandering through a golf course trying not to get hit by flying balls and wondering whether I should be holding up a big sign to let everyone know that yes, I am allowed in here, it is a PUBLIC RIGHT OF WAY, before they all start chasing me off the green waving their golf sticks (bats?  Irons?  WHAT ARE THEY EVEN CALLED?) at me threateningly.

By the time I was half an hour in, I had to stop for a cup of tea and a nice bit of Victoria sponge.  After all, it was a lovely day and there was a serious amount of cake calling me from the park I was walking through.  I have absolutely no idea where this park was.  It's like the twilight zone walking the London Loop.  You're basically in some sort of wilderness somewhere in Surrey where Henry VIII used to have a palace (he seems to have had loads of palaces, scattered all over the place) and where there used to be a lot of deer hunting and Downton-esque country house parties, but now they are all gone and all that remains is a board with "Corporation of London" written on it and some vague instructions about how the Earl of Whatnot used to have a country house here and Henry VIII had a palace until it got burned down/fell down/got eaten by wild boar back in the days before they went extinct.  Oh, and did you know that back in the day all this was common land where anyone could come and graze their sheep, except that this tiny slither of common heathland is all there is left anywhere in London because someone came and built houses on the rest of it.

Anyway, lo and behold, at one point I must have been properly in the countryside ooh aarrr me hearties because look what I found.

It may look tiny, but trust me it was a whopper.  So big in fact, I probably would have been arrested for hauling home half the countryside in my backpack had I picked it and surely breaking the country code (which I last saw explained in minute detail in the Brownie Guide Handbook 1990, and which I am sure contained some sort of prohibition of picking mushrooms of any kind).  Also I thought it might have been urinated on by a dog at some point, sitting as it was on the side of a path, and clearly much safer to purchase foodstuffs in supermarket where they have surely been manufactured in some dog-free environment where the soil has been infused with milk and honey and it has rained only manna from heaven upon those mass produced stalks.

However, there are clearly some aspects of the countryside that meet with my approval (see below).

Walking: Up there with gymnastics and caving as the world's best sporting pursuits for those of small stature.  I was so proud of myself for being able to walk through this low tunnel using only my own natural advantages.

However, there was one peril upon this river which no amount of hanging about being short could have prepared me for.


It seems that the curse of having nice weather in October seems to be an apocalyptic profusion of insects buzzing about the place.  On Friday, for example, I had to suffer two hours of Year 9 with the classroom door open trying to get a horrible fly out, which annoyingly kept landing on my head, much to the mirth of those in the front row.  This was nothing compared to the River Hogsmill, a dire place indeed, particularly as dusk fell in Kingston (it was a long walk, and the days are getting shorter) and literally millions of horrible insects hung around the fetid waters in packs, waiting to pounce on unsuspecting passers by wearing vest tops in the unseasonably warm weather.  At times I felt like a beekeeper trying to steal the honey from the hive.  But with midges instead of bees.  And midges are worse, because presumably they don't die when they sting you, so unlike bees, they don't have to carefully weigh up the pros and cons of launching a suicide mission before they pounce.  And also, bees beget honey, which makes their actions largely forgivable, whereas midges beget annoying bites and provide nothing more than a reminder that the river below is probably largely composed of raw sewage.

Eventually, however, all was worthwhile, as there was this view

and more importantly a functioning train station with a Costa Coffee.

And so the summer ends.  Next time I go walking I will probably be complaining about the icicles hanging off my nose and the frostbite that has ravaged my extremities.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

London Loop Part 4: Hayes-Hamsey Green: A.K.A. Shock discovery that food does not always originate in supermarket

"BUT WHERE IS PART 3?"  I hear you wail.  "WHERE IS PART 3?"

The answer is I walked it last week, but I was so knackered from the experience, I failed to write it up.  Or maybe I was just procrastinating.  Either way, I hold my hand up and admit that I am rubbish.

This is a shame, because Part 3 was actually somewhat more exciting than Part 4.  The most exciting thing that happened on Part 4 was this.  I kid thee not.

Mushrooms grow in fields shocker.

Yes, it's true.  They don't all come ready-made in sealed plastic packets from Tesco.  It's a good job this photo was taken when it was because one second later, I bent down to stroke the one on the left to check it was a real mushroom and not some puzzling mirage in the middle of an otherwise fairly innocuous field, and I BROKE IT.   Wracked with guilt at my accidental destruction of a part of the disappearing British countryside, and terrified that at any moment an angry farmer with a gun might come chasing after me in his tractor, I ran away, briefly pausing to look back and wonder if perhaps I should pick the mushrooms and take them home to have for dinner with a nice bit of pasta.

Also, I reasoned, if they turned out to be toxic I might be ill and not have to go into work tomorrow.

Or they might be hallucinogenic, and the remainder of my evening could be spent being chased through imaginary fields by giant mushrooms rolling on bales of hay.  Which could be fun I suppose.

Somewhat disappointingly, after consulting my "Mushroom Book" (this is not a joke.  I actually have one) it turns out that according to celebrity chef and person-in-charge-of-Carluccio's-presumably Antonio Carluccio, these mushrooms are of a variety that are both "versatile" and "good to eat" and neither poisonous not hallucinogenic.   I COULD HAVE EATEN THEM AFTER ALL!  And I was feeling a bit peckish at the time.  I am now trying to get over the disappointment at not having eaten a real wild mushroom for probably the first and last time ever and of buying pitiful Tesco mushrooms to have with my pasta instead by thinking about all the dogs and/or farm animals that must surely have weed on them at some point.

The other notable highlights were as follows:

I walked on a path "trodden on by Saxons" (according to the guidebook)

I can't see any Saxons.  Nor does there appear to be much of a path, just a bit of slightly worn grass, but I am trying to imagine hordes of Saxons with their axes and Fred and Wilma Flintstone-esque outfits trudging up here to go to church every Sunday, or every time they were trying to take sanctuary after robbing a Saxon bank or burning someone's cakes.

I had a panoramic view of Central Croydon.

Who wouldn't want to visit this place rising out of the drizzle?

Now might be the time to point out something which I hadn't previously realised.  Croydon is MASSIVE.  It's like someone stole Reading and plonked it in the middle of South London.  And the Manchester Metrolink goes all the way there.  That's how important a civic centre Croydon is.  Yes, the very same Metrolink that once fell off a bridge and crashed into Coronation Street, wiping out several peripheral characters.  THAT one.

I saw some shining examples of the eternal symbol of South London: radio masts.  Or, as I once heard these referred to by an American tourist on the London Eye, "the Eiffel Tower."  Odd that when spotting the Eiffel Tower from another country, one never sees the sea which separates France from England.  Perhaps there has been a huge tectonic movement which has somehow passed unnoticed and the English Channel has dried up.  I'm sure I saw something like this happen on BBC2, although thinking about it, they might have been talking about millions of years ago.  Millions of years ago, when Jesus was around.  And Moses.  And seas used to part randomly and then move back and stuff.

Anyway, herein lie the highlights of my day out walking, which I must stress started in Hayes in Kent, not Hayes as in "Hayes and Harlington," in case anyone thinks I literally walked half the circumference of London in one day.  Only another five days of walking until I actually reach Hayes as in Hayes and Harlington, and have a slightly shorter journey home.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

London Loop Part 2: Old Bexley-Jubilee Park: A.K.A. a Long Trek Through Some Woods, fortified with an Earlybird Special

The great thing about the London Loop is that it is all so easy to get to.  At least, it is as long as there are no engineering works and you don't arrive at your destination to find the station deserted and your one remaining link with the outside world severed.  That is, after all, what happened last time I was in Bexley.

This time, however, due to the unusual luxury of being able to go on a weekday, the station was in full working order, and I was home within an hour and a half (oh the joys of South London being really, really far away).

One thing about walking on a weekday, though, is that everyone is at work, so the paths are deserted.  Brilliant if you don't want to spend all day dodging small children and dogs (although there were still quite a few of the latter), not so good if you want to engage in conversation with the locals, find out their thoughts on local bus services, etc.  Although the suburban periphery of South London is in fairness probably not as deep a well of hilarity as the more remote villages of the Thames Path seem to be.

There are of course also places that seem to come into their own on weekdays, where you really get a feel for the local area when the place is swarmed with the elderly, the unemployed and construction workers digging stuff up.  One of these places is my own beloved Wembley, where the other day I was asked for directions to the Jobcentre and then came to the aid of a stranded cleaner who had found herself trapped in my apartment building and was very distressed at the prospect of having to spend all day walking round the courtyard trying to find a way out.  We have all been in that situation.  The highlight of that particular excursion, however, was when dropping some items off at the charity shop, I witnessed a scramble to get served at the till which was so intense I thought a fight was going to break out.  Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Austerity Britain, where the population of Wembers is so hard-up it gets into scraps in St Luke's Hospice over an old pair of tracksuit bottoms.  The future really is bleak.

Anyway, I digress, for Bexley, I am happy to report, was not like that.  Bexley was actually pretty nice.  The first part of the walk took me across an old landfill site (glamour indeed!) to a really rather nice park which was populated by middle class mothers having picnics with their children, then a brief interlude of streets and houses with a Lidl (Austerity Britain spreads its tentacles into the Outer Suburban Hinterland) and a young mother having a conversation with her neighbour about how she had had to break into her own house the other day after locking herself out- "I was trying to get in through the cat flap, and all the neighbours were there taking pictures on their phones!  I'm all covered in bruises today!"

Good to see the concept of neighbourly concern is alive and well in South London.  Then again, perhaps they thought she was a burglar and were trying to gather evidence.  There were a lot of "Danger!  Neighbourhood watch!" signs around with pictures of meerkats on.  After all, a handy pack of meerkats is exactly what you would need if your house was being burgled.

I pressed on, and soon reached Sidcup, which has an old house in a park which has handily been turned into the sort of pub where elderly people go to have an Earlybird meal on a Friday afternoon which was, naturally, just the time I had arrived.  After enjoying that classic Mediterranean combination  "lasagne and chips" with a slice of a certain kind of garlic bread that comes in a ready-made, plastic-sealed frozen and pre-chopped baguette, I headed off for the latter part of the walk, which was basically a massive trek through some woods.  Loads and loads of endless bloody woods.
Sidcup House.  Haute cuisine for the elderly Earlybird connosieur

Now I like the woods.  The woods (no woods are ever referred to by name, all are simply known as "the woods") are where I spent much of my childhood, attempting to cross ankle-deep streams without getting wet and feeling as though I had just kayaked the length of the Amazon by doing so, introducing reluctant parents to the joys of crossing said streams and enjoying what was quite possibly the single most hilarious highlight of my entire childhood when they fell in (legendary moment Dad), but when it comes to simply walking through them, they can get a bit boring.  After all, there's not much of a view and walking through the woods simply isn't as interesting as running through them as a child, climbing things and finding buried treasure (unfortunately the buried treasure we usually found was porn magazines.  One of the most brilliant things about the internet is surely that one never has to worry about porn in the woods anymore, as clearly whoever looks at it now has a much more easily disguised source of titillation that never needs to visit the woods and never would, due to the fact that most woods still haven't been activated with free wi-fi).

Anyway, I somehow managed to find my way through the myriad of woodland tracks without getting lost and eventually found my way out of the woods and into what the London Loop guidebook describes as "Trainspotter's Paradise," meaning this.
 A railway bridge.  Over this
Some track

In reality there were three railway bridges, but I took a picture of this one as it was the least health and safety conscious, i.e. the only one without a thorough covering of barbed wire.  Compared with the other two this looked like something from The Railway Children.  I half expected to see a young Jenny Agutter running down the track with a red flag as a steam train chugged behind, cloaking us all in a great black blanket of soot.

Shortly after crossing the many bits of track, I arrived in Petts Wood where a teenage girl was standing outside the station looking terrified as her friend came to meet her.

"Are there ants here?" she enquired gingerly.  "Yes," her friend answered.  

"Are they the flying ones?  I'm scared!"

Aren't we all.  Surely the apacalypse itself will be heralded by a plague of flying ants.

When I got home, I discovered that I had been bitten all over my legs, despite wearing leggings.  Bloody woods.  Bloody flying ants.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Thames Path Part 2176 (feels like): Wallingford-Dorchester

My mother's suggestion to alleviate boredom the other day was "Why don't you go off walking on your own somewhere, like Julia Bradbury?"

I didn't mention that Julia probably has something of an entourage, as I don't think she's filming herself walking about in all those TV programmes, but as I had been fully intending to do some walking over the summer holidays, in lieu of an actual summer holiday (have you SEEN the prices of last minute package holidays these days?  And who wants to go all-inclusive anyway?  Doesn't that mean you're chained to the hotel and can't leave?) I decided it was time that I knocked off some more mileage on the Thames Path.  After all, I've only been walking it for like, two and a half years.

I headed off to Wallingford, which is ridiculously awkward to get to.  I therefore not only spent an inordinately huge amount of time sitting around at Reading Station waiting for the infrequent train that would take me into the wilds of Berkshire/Oxfordshire (I'm a bit hazy on where the borders actually lie), but the nearest I could get to was Cholsey, after which I was reliant on the local buses.

Note to self, never be reliant on local buses.  Especially not in the countryside where they only arrive about once every two days.

Alas, before I had even arrived at the starting blocks, let alone been released from them, I faced a grim decision; a 45 minute wait at a bus stop with no seat and a less-than-enticing street view, or a 56 minute (thanks Google maps) walk from Cholsey to Wallingford.  I could scarcely believe the audacity of the bus companies who for some reason did not appear to have timed their buses to arrive exactly five minutes after the arrival of a train bearing people who might potentially not want to stay in Cholsey (which is basically a street with a Co-Op) and might want to go somewhere marginally more interesting (Wallingford has a Waitrose).  Therefore my first glimpse of life on the Thames Path in months was this:
The Cholsey-Wallingford road

Roughly 56 minutes later, I did eventually get there and was finally able to set off.  Given that I had left my flat sufficiently early for it still to be regarded as the rush hour (I had to STAND UP on the train.  RUDE) the fact that it was now 2pm was disappointing.  Clearly I was not going to be able to cover the 74 miles (or something like that) of meandering river pathways between Oxford and wherever I was (just outside Oxford) in one day at this late hour.

I made it to Dorchester.  Just.  Number of Special Brew-swilling tramps seen: 0 (the joys of venturing outside the M25); Number of Local Yokels Befriended: 3 (VERY impressive.  Four if you count the elderly lady in the wheelchair that two of them were pushing); Number of Times Got Trapped in Caravan Park: 2 (why the sudden proliferation of caravan parks?  WHY?)

My favourite bit was the enjoyable encounters with the locals.  The first of these occurred on the second occasion of entrapment in caravan park, when a jolly middle aged man on a bicycle rode past yelling "It's a dead end!  I didn't know that either!" to warn me of the dangers ahead, and then enquired "Do you work in the Crazy Bear?"

The Crazy Bear sounds like a great place.

He then suggested that I visit a local village "where they film Morse and stuff."  I hoped the "stuff" was Midsomer Murders.  This place had "death by pitchfork in the back during midnight satanic ritual" written all over it.  Not literally though.  There was definitely no graffiti to be seen.

When I finally got to Dorchester (thanks again Google maps) the problem was getting out again.  After two fruitless circuits of the entire village looking for the bus stop for the fabled bus to Oxford, which I had been reliably informed by the bloke in the tea shop was nearby, I collapsed, beaten, onto the grass outside the graveyard that the bus stop was allegedly near.  The only bus stops were going back to Wallingford and not due for over an hour, and there was no one in sight to ask for directions.  Just at that moment, an older couple came out of the graveyard pushing an elderly woman in a wheelchair.  Civilisation!  Human beings!  I asked them if they knew of this fabled bus to Oxford.  They were clueless.

"Well, we live here, but we've never seen a bus, have we?" (already this was looking promising).

I told them that I was willing to go anywhere the bus would take me, preferably a location with a train station.  

"Really?" hollered the man, "well if you can do that then I think you're marvellous!"

I suddenly felt very intrepid, like Ray Mears with a live python slung over his shoulder trekking through the jungles of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

"Where are you trying to get to?" enquired the woman.

When I answered London, she looked as flabbergasted as Dick Whittington's mum when he tossed his stick over his shoulder, fastened a small pouch on the end containing all his worldly possessions and told her he was off to make his fortune where the streets were paved with gold.

"Surely you're not going to get there tonight?" she gasped.  It was 5.10pm.  I was still fairly hopeful that I hadn't missed the last train.

Fortunately, I managed to find a slightly more worldly local on the other side of the road five minutes later, and she told me of the correct location of the fabled bus stop which, contrary to the expectations of some, did in fact exist.  And took me all the way back to Reading, from whence I managed not to miss the last train, and arrived home while it was still light.  Here it is, my saving grace, some way out of the village, and I did accidentally try and flag down at least two transit vans and a coach full of schoolchildren while stood here waiting for the bus, but the main thing is I got home.

Monday, 24 June 2013

London Loop Part 1: Also Known as a Lengthy and Nettle-Strewn Wander Round the More Mundane Parts of South East London

Number of Special Brew-swilling tramps spotted: One (but accompanied by equally inebriated friend, so counts as two).
Number of people spotted on walk other than the above: One (cyclist who mysteriously disappeared into a bush, never to be seen again).

I was supposed to write this yesterday, but I got distracted by watching a documentary about geology called Revenge of the Continents or something.  It was brilliant.  Then today I almost didn't write this as I was stuffing my face with egg fried rice watching Terror in the Skies on 4OD (fasting diet starts tomorrow, I promise).  I mean, who doesn't love a documentary that opens with jerky mobile phone footage of a plane exploding on the runway amid a soothing and not at all hysterical soundtrack of real-life screaming interspersed with the highly-strung voice of our presenter and "aeronatutical engineer" warning of all the ten thousand billion things that can go wrong when flying about in a plane, taking off in a plane, landing in a plane, sitting on the runway in a plane and visiting the airport to pick up a relative emerging from a plane.  Not me certainly.

The moral of this story is that I should probably sell the TV if I ever want to be a writer.

Or maybe I could just write TV reviews.  GOD WHAT A BRILLIANT IDEA.  Forget walking, I'm off to start up a TV-reviewing blog all about documentaries that I watched on catch-up whilst eating my dinner.  Totes amazeballs, as they would say on BBC4.

Anyway, as this blog is called "Me and My Hiking Boots" (and yes I do realise that this is a grammatical error.  It's like, cool and ironic innit, like spelling "doughnut" as "donut" or putting "LOL" in a text message) I would hate for anyone to feel that they had been cheated out of a nice post about a good walk and into a piece about exploding bits of fuselage and faulty landing gear, so I shall make like Julia Bradbury in Canal Walks With Julia or whatever that thing on BBC4 is called, and tell you about my walk.

Yesterday I, guide book in hand (HA!  I am invincible world!  I will never get lost again!) set off on the first leg of the London Loop, which is like, bascially the M25 for walkers.  In the sense that it goes around the outside of London in a massive circle anyway, not the sense that it's a death trap full of crazed lunatics with a death wish in big scary cars which will any day now be the subject of a documentary on Channel 5 called Ring of Death: Terror on the Motorway.

When I have finished my TV reviewing blog I foresee that there will be a future for me in Channel 5 factual programming.  It's got to be better than Extreme Fishing with Robson Green.

Anyway, back to the Loop.  It started here.

I know.  The Inca Trail has nothing on this.

I was more than a little bit self-satisfied to note that the Loop is not as well signposted as other London Walks, such as the Capital Ring, and started a long process of self-congratulatory back-slapping with my sensibly-purchased guidebook (I am now officially a SERIOUS HIKER.  Next stop Ordnance Survey), which I was pleased to find described the walk in such detail that I barely even noticed any of it, as I could read all about it in the book.  Before long I found myself here.
Overlooking a rubbish tip in Essex, to be precise.  No sign of Joey Essex or Lauren Google or Mark Fat-Head or any of those other idiots anywhere, I'm happy to report (Joey Essex?  I mean, really?  You may as well call me Mrs Wembley *realises in horror that Mrs Wembley is the name of a character in a terrible 80s sitcom starring Dennis Waterman*).

Anyway, after this lovely scene I went looking for a toilet, as you do.  This is exactly the sort of scene that makes one want to have a toileting moment.
Yes, so I went looking for a toilet, so I did, and I shunned Morrisons, as I thought I might get a better class of a toilet in the nearby shopping centre.  So I asked a woman smoking a fag outside Wilkinsons or some other shop that might have been Woolworths except that it wasn't because Woolworths has closed down, if there was a toilet nearby and she said there was a "cubicle" around the corner.

I wasn't quite sure what I was going to find.  Unless, of course "cubicle" is another word for "top-notch public convenience" in the local dialect of the outer environs of South-East London.

It turned out that she was quite right, it was one of those things that looked a bit like someone had plonked Dr Who's Tardis right in the middle of the street and disguised it to look like one of those terrifying loos you get on the Virgin Trains Pendolino.  The ones with the massive doors that slide across and have to be closed and locked with a scary button that you never quite trust and always think is going to slide open right as you are doing the job itself, revealing you sat on the throne in all your glory in full view of the entire train and most of Manchester Piccadilly, Glasgow Central and London Euston stations.  Indeed, they'll probably be screening it live across the stations of the world, with people watching the action unfold on a big screen in Grand Central, New York and that huge station in Beijing where people get kidnapped for their organs.  It really is that public.

Let's just say I went in and out of that cubicle very quickly.

And onward with the journey.

Look!  A lovely pier.
Apparently people used to come on holiday here back in the day.  Donkey rides, carousels, those telescopes that you always used to stare out to sea through but could never see out of as you had to put about ten pounds in to see anything.  Ah, those were the days!  The glory days of the British Empire those!

And now look at it, a wind turbine and a bridge going to Essex.  Straight into the Sugar Hut I'll wager, for a rendevous with Mark Fat-Head and Lauren Google.  If only we could pin them all to the edges of that wind turbine in a bizarre and gruesome torture worthy of the early Christian martyrs.

Anyway, enough about Essex.  I wasn't going there.  I was going to somewhere called Crayford Marshes.  Here they are.
That in the background there is the yacht club.  It was like Howards Way.  Jack Rolfe was pacing up and down looking moody, Leo was racing around in a powerboat somewhere behind the wind turbine probably about to die-or at least make us think he had until the beginning of the next series-and Avril was running about with a pushchair, being harassed by her overbearing mother.  Then we all sailed off in the Barracuda with Tom and Jan Howard.  It was the best day ever.

Except that it wasn't, because as you can probably tell from the sky, it started raining.  Then when it finally cleared up I had to fight my way through this

There were a LOT of stinging nettles.  And I haven't been stung since I was a child.  I got a rep to protect.

And then I got lost, despite the guidebook, and had to rely on my phone's satnav to guide me back to safety.

Eventually I came across this interesting piece of architecture.
This is Bexley.  Or "Old Bexley" as the guidebook calls it.  The street light looks a bit incongruous.  Like people eating pizza in an episode of Maid Marian and her Merry Men and using flakes from their rancid sores as parmesan.  Anyway, this marked the end of Stage 1 of the London Loop, and there was a train station here although not, regrettably, any trains, as they had all gone off to their sidings for a rest, it being Sunday (like in Thomas the Tank Engine.... OK STOP THE TV REFERENCES!) and I had to catch the Rail Replacement Bus (funny how there was never a Randy the Rail Replacement Bus in Thomas the Tank Engine.  Probably because it was set in those halcyon Golden Days of the pre-Beeching 1950s, when the entire world was a perfect Utopia, people still said hello to you in the street, policemen rode bicycles, people left their doors unlocked and Diesel the Diesel Engine was still seen as the epitome of terrifying modernity.  Good old Thomas would never have left you standing on the pavement in a place called Stonebridge Park with 50,000 other people at 10pm, trying to get home.  Even Grumpy Old Gordon wouldn't have done that).

And I bet those trains had proper toilets too.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Grand Union Canal-Tramps, Special Brew and the Wonders of Industrial Britain

So, I have decided that it is time to start blogging about walking.

This is because I quite like walking, and also it is fairly uncontroversial unlike, say, blogging about being a sex worker.

Not that I am a sex worker of course.  Although you would probably want to read my blog more if I was.  After all, I am sure that my exploits would be totes better than those of Belle du Jour.  Probably.

Anyway, though I may have chosen some relatively inoffensive subject material, I will be more than making up for this lack of offence with some VERY offensive clothing.  Namely, these hiking boots.
And yes, that is a slice of good old English mud that you can see on the right.  "OUT, DAMNED SPOT!" as Macbeth would surely exclaim (see how I have quoted Shakespeare already?  I am such an intellectual). Except that the spot is still there, as I cannot currently be bothered to clean the floor.

Anyway, back to the boots.  They are glorious in their hideousness.  I of course usually prefer to trot about in heels, but a blog about my sorry attempts to walk in those would be tragic indeed, so here they are, in all their muddy glory, the shoes that I will mostly be wearing on the walking expeditions that shall henceforth be chronicled in this blog.

Today, dressed in my usual hiking gear of these boots, a pair of leggings which probably reveal a considerable portion of the outline of my knickers (my one concession to indecency sexiness whilst walking) and a rather astonishing bright orange hiking jacket from Jack Wolfskin Children's Section (no VAT!) which almost certainly made me look like a roadsweeper and/or construction worker given that no less than two people asked me if I worked nearby (the only people who "work" near me are footballers and construction workers, and I am certainly unlikely to be mistaken for the former) I decided to go for a spot of "rambling."

I hate the word "rambling."  I prefer to think of myself as a serious hiker, quite possibly armed with crampons and ice axes for the more challenging parts of the terrain of West London.  Several years ago, as a friend and I walked a section of the Thames Path in fearsome weather, my friend, who was at that point clothed in a hood the like of which had not been seen since the Crusaders donned their medieval chainmail, remarked that we were now "lady ramblers" and that we were almost certainly going to be mistaken for "lesbians."

I, being a liberal Guardian reader, insisted that there was nothing insulting about being mistaken for a lesbian, but I knew what she meant; we were hardly likely to attract the attention of any passing eligible bachelors (a shame, since blokes who climb mountains and stuff are usually all rugged and attractive.  Not so sure if the Thames Path quite cuts it as a "mountain," but we're getting there) dressed like medieval knights in Gore-tex.

Oh why am I not Cheryl Cole, who still managed to look glamorous climbing Mount Kilamanjaro.

Anyway, I set off in my hiking gear, not bothering to put any make up on as really what is the point when dressed like a teenage boy, and walked part of the Grand Union Canal walk.

Now, I didn't walk very far.  This was because I didn't set off until late, following a catalogue of disasters that included
1.) Ignoring my alarm
2.) Rain
3.) Hangover, and
4.) Difficulty locating dry cleaner's to deposit some dresses needed for next week (not for hiking, obvs).

Needless to say, by the time I finally got off the starting blocks, it was about 4pm, hence the choice of the Grand Union Canal Walk as it's so close to my house.

This is where it gets difficult as the grand highlights of my short walk were passing an electricity sub-station which was making a very loud and quite alarming humming noise which I was certain was going to give me cancer if I hung around there too long, sticking my head over a precipice and looking admiringly at some First Great Western trains in the Acton area as though I was a train spotter (I sort of am.  My hobbies are nothing if not wall-to-wall glamour) and a rather picturesque part of the canal that was almost entirely spolit by the addition of a large Sainsburys on the left bank of the canal and a couple of tramps sat outside with their dogs, drinking Special Brew.

So I will spare you any pictures of this walk (I was tempted to take one of the impressive electricity sub-station but as I said before I didn't want to hang around, because of the cancer) but rest assured it was a pleasant way to spend an afternoon, albeit one with a huge number of Special Brew-imbibing tramps scattered around.