Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Heavyweight support from Lightweight boxing legend Billy Schwer

Had some great news today!

Former British, Commonwealth and European lightweight and IBO World Light Welter-weight title Champion, fellow local lad, and thoroughly nice bloke, Billy Schwer, has offered to work with me with my training and... my diet for Big Dave's Little Stroll - End 2 End 2014! 

I had an extremely positive meeting with Billy and his lovely business partner Amanda this afternoon, coming up with loads of ideas as to how we can work together to make sure that I nail those 1,127.5 miles!
And with Billy, who is now excelling as an Internationally renowned motivational and inspirational speaker, getting involved with Big Dave's Little Stroll, it's safe to say that I'm absolutely buzzing

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Out for a brief stroll – 25th January 2014 – from Ashridge Estate in Hertfordshire to the Five Knolls, Dunstable Downs, Bedfordshire

Although I was feeling pretty unwell on this cold, foggy Saturday morning I had the urge to go out and get at least 10 miles of walking under my belt. Luckily for me, my wife Lorna was very supportive and bleary eyed at about 6am, with baby Niamh strapped safely in the back, set out in the car towards the Ashridge Estate in Hertfordshire.

Having been dropped off at the bottom of the avenue that leads up to the Bridgewater Monument and having waved off the wife and baby, I trudged up the gravel track and was surprised to learn that it was nearly half a mile long. At the monument I turned right down the woodland path into Buckinghamshire, past Pitstone Common and up Moneybury Hill.
It’s a funny thing you know...

I believe that if you live very near to somewhere, you tend to have a cursory general knowledge of it. You recognise the routes. You reminisce about summers of your childhood looking out for deer, having spontaneous picnics or attempting to fly kites. You know the name of the places in general terms.
But... if you grew up in Dunstable, or Luton, or any of the surrounding small towns or villages... that tends to be the limit of your knowledge... tourists with their guide books tell you things that you never knew or never bothered to find out... or at least that is true for me.

The Ashridge Estate is situated in the Chiltern Hills, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, which is located about two miles (3 km) north of Berkhamsted and twenty miles (32 km) northwest of London. Although largely situated in Hertfordshire, part of the estate’s land stretches into Buckinghamshire and it is close to the Bedfordshire border. It comprises of 20 square kilometres (5,000 acres) of beautiful and mature woodlands (known as Ashridge Forest), together with commons and chalk downland which supports a rich variety of wildlife. It also offers a good choice of way marked walks through outstanding country.

On this particular foggy January morning I strolled along the woodland path past Duncombe Farm and around Clipper Down, a gentle hill at 249m (817ft), until having crossed a large area of open field I reached the Ridgeway National Trail. A sharp right turn, past a herd of particularly noisy cows, and I was heading up Steps Hill. Ordinarily this stretch is not too strenuous, but the path was awash with mud and it felt like I was taking two to three times the amount of steps I would normally take, all the time tensing the old inner thigh muscles in an attempt to avoid my boots from splaying and being launched into an involuntary box splits!
A bit further along the Ridgeway trail crosses a road and heads up towards the summit of Ivinghoe Beacon. For those of you who aren’t from these ‘ere parts, Ivinghoe Beacon is a prominent hill and landmark in the Chiltern Hills, standing 233 m (757 ft) tall. It also acts as the convergence point of the Icknield Way to the east, and the Ridgeway long-distance path to the west.

As I was about to follow the Icknield Way Footpath Trail eastwards from the base of the beacon, I didn’t really need to go up it... but I was there and it isn’t too taxing so I thought it would be churlish not to. Once up there the wind was picking up some serious pace and due to the fog you actually couldn’t see very much at all; not even the Five Knolls of the Dunstable Downs which are usually easy to spot in most weathers. So having chugged a fair bit of water it was back down the beacon and left towards “the Icknield Way Trail – Walkers Path.” It was at this point I spotted by brother in law, Kevin, braving the elements, heading towards the Ivinghoe Beacon Car Park, three cocker spaniels circling his feet. I took the opportunity to pause for a chin wag before leaving him to corral the exuberant canines into the back of his car.

From the bottom of Ivinghoe Beacon, I followed the Icknield Way Trail across some fields and through some gloomy woodland, where it was clear that the deer had been stripping the bark off the lower parts of the trees with their antlers. Eventually I came to some wooden steps inserted into the mud bank leading up to a farm.  These were surprisingly steep and started to take the wind out of me. I had to pause about three times on the way up which led me to feel quite miserable... until two runners, who were clearly ultra-fit in their spandex space age running clobber, came running through the woodland behind me.
The lady, who was leading the way, made it about three quarters of the way up the steps at a canter before pausing to wait for the bloke. He had the good sense to stop running by about the second or third step and started to trudge up the ascent at a reasonably steady rate.

“You couldn’t carry me up could you?” he joked as he passed me. “I can hardly carry myself!” I wheezily replied.
Having conquered this minor obstacle, I downed a fair amount of water, and then took a fairly sharp left at the farm, downhill through what appeared to be a paddock of some kind, towards Dagnall with Ward’s Coombe to my left.
I emerged onto my first bit of road walking southeast across the roundabout in the centre of Dagnall, until I reached the school where the footpath began again, then onwards uphill next to Dagnall Wood before entering into Bedfordshire by striking out across the fairways of Whipsnade Park Golf Club (which I confess I did not know existed despite having lived in this area pretty much my whole life!).
My route followed the Icknield Way Walkers Trail around the fence line of Whipsnade Wild Animal Park, which unsurprisingly considering the weather, looked pretty desolate of human activity; but I did get a funny stare as I trundled by from what I can only guess was some sort of Asian Antelope.

The trail emerges at Whipsnade itself and it’s only a short ramble across a piece of common, crossing a surprisingly busy road, before you reach Whipsnade Tree Cathedral. I took the opportunity at this point to have a rest on one of the benches.
Whilst I was chilling out silently in this clearing I overheard four adults and a child walking through the Tree Cathedral. I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself as the adults took a turn at singing a couple of line each from the rap at the start of Fresh Prince of Bel Air to the thoroughly amused youngster whilst they happily rambled through the otherwise serene Cathedral of Trees.

Then I was up again and off in the general direction of Dell Farm, the school trip centre of many a Dunstablian youth, and along the footpath towards Bison Hill. The path at this point was not really a path at all... water as far as the eye could see, mixed with sloppy, glue-like mud that would sooner have your boot off than let you cross it. Having left my kayak at home, and having had frankly quite enough of the gymnastics of trying to avoid the puddles earlier, I just waded through like a man possessed. There was probably a cooked breakfast waiting for me at the in-laws house – that’s some pretty strong motivation right there!

The walk from Bison Hill towards the “Chilterns Gateway Visitor Centre” (which I still stubbornly refer to as “the hut” despite the fact that it no longer exists and was technically on a site a little further along) was equally slippy slidey (technical term).
I was actually quite relieved when I reached the new-ish trail path that now runs from the centre to the Five Knolls, as I was able to stop concentrating on my balance and start enjoying the views all around me. The fog had lifted and, although some serious rain was clearly on the way, the views were spectacular.
From the Five Knolls I looked back towards Ivinghoe Beacon prominently sticking out from the horizon and felt reasonably satisfied with this first training walk after a couple of months of being laid up.

I then ambled down the path from the top of the downs that leads to Dunstable, before chirpily strolling towards the in-laws house. When I arrived Lorna, Niamhy and Maxine were already at the window to greet me with water, sweet tea and a very tasty breakfast – a perfect Saturday morning.

According to MapmyHike the mornings training walk was about 14.5 miles and I was walking for about 4.5-5 hours in total. According to Mapometer drawing the route onto their map it is about 12.5 miles. Either way, I was quite happy with how it went after a short period of inactivity.
Onwards and upwards!

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Friday, 24 January 2014

Footpath hopping... a couple of snippets on the Inn Way... to the Peak District and the Derbyshire Portway (Footpaths 8 & 9)

“The Inn Way... to the Peak Disrict” is a long distance (84 miles/135 km), 6-day circular walk through the Peak District via 53 traditional country pubs. It’s not waymarked and coincides with several other established paths. Big Dave will only be walking along this route for a short distance before it joins up with the Derbyshire Portway.

According to J. Butler (another End 2 End walker), the path leading out of Edale towards Hollins Cross is beautiful, despite being a slow and steep climb.
Hollins Cross itself is part of the Great Ridge - a ridge separating the vales of Edale and Castleton in Derbyshire. It extends for approximately 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) from Mam Tor at the western end of the ridge to Lose Hill at the eastern end, the lowest point being Hollins Cross... which is why Big Dave will be getting on there!
A path runs along the length of the ridge, and is roughly paved to prevent erosion caused by the large number of visitors. The route will take him along the Great Ridge only so far as Mam Tora 517 m (1,696 ft) hill near Castleton in the High Peak of Derbyshire, where the view is purported to rank as one of the best in the Peak District (provided it’s not characteristically blowing everyone clean off the hill!).

It’s at the summit of Mam Tor, that the Inn Way... to the Peak District gets subsumed by the Derbyshire Portway, an ancient prehistoric trackway which can be traced from the north of Derbyshire to the edge of Nottingham at Stapleford. Big Dave will only follow it for a very short distance down from Mam Tor and then due south until it reaches the Limestone Way just southwest of the Titan Shaft and west of Peveril Castle.
Can you spare a few quid in support of the MS Society, Macmillan Cancer Support and Help for Heroes?

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Dunstable Gazette article

I've had a fantastic bit of publicity for the walk in the local paper, the Dunstable Gazette. Many thanks to reporter Anne O'Donoghue and the paper for taking an interest and helping to raise some support.

Some more thank you notices...

Firstly, thank you to Outdoor Fitness magazine who posted up a link to this blog on their Facebook page.
Many thanks also to UK Boxing Scene for showing their support on social media.
I'm also very grateful to Maximum Respect for the British Armed Forces for supporting Big Dave's Little Stroll 2014.
I am very appreciative of the support of the Luton Irish Forum on their social media page.
Another thank you goes out to Support the British Army who have posted a link to Big Dave's Little Stroll 2014 - much appreciated.

When you said "walkies"...


Can you spare a few quid in support of the MS Society, Macmillan Cancer Support and Help for Heroes?

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Wait... there’s more... some additional facts on... The Pennine Way (Footpath No. 7)

Part III: Hebden Bridge to Edale via the Peak District National Park
The last section of this gargantuan national trail begins at Hebden Bridge. No sooner will Big Dave have left Hebden Bridge that he will begin the steep ascent from the valley of the River Calder to the prominent monument on Stoodley Pike.
Once the monument is reached the trail descends to the Calderdale Way which passes high above the village of Mankinholes, before passing a series of reservoirs and crossing the A58 road and then forging onwards along Blackstone Edge.
Once he reaches a long footbridge by Windy Hill, he will have to cross the M62 motorway, then the A672 and the A640 (very scenic!). Having left the tarmac behind him the route follows a series of gritstone edges which coincide with the Yorkshire – Greater Manchester border until it reaches Standedge.
From Standedge, the route descends into the Wessenden Valley, and more importantly crosses the northern boundary into the Peak District National Park. From there it’s uphill across the Wessenden Head Moor, ever upwards until it reaches the summit of Black Hill on the border of Yorkshire.
One cup of partially boiled Yorkshire Tea later, it’s off downhill at a steady pace into Derbyshire along a side valley past Laddow Rocks towards the village of Crowden. Crowden will be the last habitation that Big Dave will see for at least 16 miles as he crosses the dam of the Torside Reservoir strikes out for Longdendale.
Once there, the trail ascends to the summit of Bleaklow, a high, largely peat covered gritstone moorland. Then it’s another downhill, from Hern Clough and along Devils Dike, until the path comes to, and crosses, the Snake Pass Road continuing to the plateau past Kinder Downfall, the tallest waterfall in the Peak District.
Following the western edge of the Kinder Scout plateau and down from Kinder Low, the trail comes to Jacob’s Ladder; a steep path that descends to the southern edge of Kinder.
From there the Pennine Way finally comes to an end with a swift pint of mild in the Nag’s Head in Edale... probably followed by a couple of slower doubles of Jameson – 268 miles of the Pennine Way behind him.

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Sunday, 19 January 2014

Some more bits and pieces on... the Pennine Way (Footpath No. 7) - Part II: The Yorkshire Dales National Park and on and ever on to Hebden Bridge.

This section of the way heads out from the Inn at Tan Hill, an incredibly isolated building on the northernmost boundary of the Yorkshire Dales National Park – the nearest town is some 11 miles away.
The trail then descends a stone valley called Stones Dale towards the village of Keld.  From Keld the route passes the waterfall, Kisdon Force, crossing the side of Kisdon Hill and along to upper Swaledale.
From there it is a steep ascent of Great Shunner Fell, where having conquered this mighty hill, Big Dave will no doubt collapse for a while. Once regaining consciousness and having had time to consume most of his rations for the day and take in the vista, he will begin the 5 mile descent down the opposite side of Great Shunner Fell to the hamlet of Hardraw.
The route then crosses Wensleydale (insert your Aardman inspired humour here... more cheese Gromit!) and then it climbs to a ridge that runs from Sleddale to Widdale past Dodd Fell Hill.  From there the trail follows a roman road and coincides with the Dales Way. Then it’s a stumble downhill from Cam Fell and past the eastern end of a narrow valley called Ling Gill. The walk then continues in a downward angle through Ribblesdale along an old packhorse road to the village of Horton.
At that point, it’s time to get all psyched up again before starting the strenuous climb to the summit of Pen-y-Ghent. After taking the opportunity to soak in the amazing view and take a few pictures for the charities, there is a very sharp descent from the nose of Pen-y-Ghent after which the trail crosses the shoulder of Fountains Fell to the glacial lake, Malham Tarn.
From the lake the way follows the limestone pavement at the top of Malham Cove (recognisable to many as having featured in one of the Harry Potter Deathly Hallows films) and descends some steps to the actual village of Malham. Hopefully having recharged with a pint of the black stuff there Big Dave can follow the field paths downhill through Airedale and out of the southern boundary of the Yorkshire Dales National Park towards Gargrave.
From Gargrave the route passes through noticeably gentler country as it runs for a distance along the towpath of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal before crossing Pinhaw Beacon towards Lothersdale. From that village the route strikes out across another expanse of moorland to Ponden Hall, before ascending to the ruins of Top Withens, which are said to have been the inspiration for Wuthering Heights.
It then passes the Walshaw Dean Reservoirs, crossing Colden Water using an ancient clapper bridge, descending into the Calder Valley to the town of Hebden Bridge, which is probably the largest settlement near to the Pennine Way.
Still to come... The Pennine Way - Part III: Hebden Bridge to Edale via the Peak District National Park.

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