Saturday, January 15, 2011

New Year's Rambles

We hadn't really done much walking -- in the English way that walking is a sport/serious hobby -- since the walking weekend we went on last February. In fact, we just talked about whether that group thinks we were scared away. Not at all; we just got busy with lots of houseguests and lots of travel, and then it was time to get on our bikes, which we rode at every opportunity. Travel, houseguests, and cold surfaced again in November and December, and when we tried to eek out one last ride in early December, some black ice took JT out, leaving him intact but with a very sore shoulder for weeks. And leaving us more inclined to go back to two feet instead of two wheels until any trace of ice is well gone.

So, the day after New Year's Day, we dusted off the walking boots, picked up friends A&E, and headed south for some walking in Essex. We started in a village called Rickling Green, and headed for the village of Rickling. Which was pretty much a church, a few houses, and a farm.
Public right of way means farmers have to provide a path for people. Note path.

We encountered rather a lot of mud along the way.
Rickling's church.
 A church service was letting out as we walked up. We got to chatting with some of the folks, who asked where we were heading. "Wicken Bonhunt," we said. "Oh, that's a lovely village. Shame that the pub is closed." Oh. So much for our destination. But, we carried on. Across the street from the allegedly closed pub, we met Pat the cat. Pat would have followed us back to Cambridge if he could have.

Instead, he just followed us into the pub, the Coach and Horses (not to be confused with the Coach and Horses in Newport), which was most definitely open. There we met Michael, who had just taken over the pub and reopened it a couple of weeks earlier. He had a roaring fire in the fireplace and didn't mind our muddy boots, so we were quite happy. After a little while, two regulars came in and we got filled in on the village gossip. Michael was hoping to start up serving food sometime this month; we wish him the best of luck because we sure did enjoy our visit there.

We carried on to an old chapel, St. Helen's Chapel, which, it says here, is first mentioned in a record from 1340. I (stupidly) didn't take a picture of the outside, but you can see from the inside that it's held up well for being 700 years old.

We carried on back to Rickling Green for a late Sunday lunch/early dinner at the Cricketers Arms (not to be confused with the Cricketers in Clavering, which is, incidentally, owned and operated by Jamie Oliver's parents). Some seriously terrible service and obviously rewarmed food meant we were quite happy to leave that pub, but it was still a fun day out.


Last weekend we headed west to Oxford and stayed 10 miles north in Woodstock. That meant we woke up Sunday practically at the doorstep of Blenheim Palace, which Queen Anne gave to the 1st Duke of Marlborough in 1704, and which was the birthplace of Winston Churchill.

The palace itself was closed but there are 2,000 acres of beautifully landscaped grounds to wander. We spent about two hours doing just that, through paved paths, farmland, woods, and finally back to the beautiful palace.



This weekend, we're having unseasonably warm weather -- about 45-50 degrees F. We decided to head out with one of the Cambridge Ramblers groups to the Gog Magog hills, just 20 minutes from our house by car. Whereas our usual group stops at pubs, this group stops for tea. And that is perfectly fine. We think we went about 7 or 8 miles, and we met some very nice people.

 We didn't have a rambling resolution or anything, but three walks in the first three weeks of the year does feel good. (Though don't tell that to my feet.)