161: no sense of direction

Yesterday I was suffering from a lack of motivation caused, I suspect, by the knowledge that to get to any good trails from my house would involve a ludicrous amount of sticky clay on my boots. I do not like mud, and living where I do at the edge of the London Clay Bed (that’s geology, that is) there is a lot of about, especially after the amount of rain last week. However, the training plan called for an 8k so I needed to do something.

(Why are we training? See here and please throw some pennies our way!)

With the promise of bara brith and a sausage roll London sister agreed to make the trek over to Essex and with the help of Peter Aylmer’s Walking in Essex we headed off to Hatfield Forest for a 10k ramble. It’s a handy little pocket sized book with 25 different walks as well as a good guide to the Essex Way. Thanks to a walk round Lea Valley Park one summer afternoon, Tan refers to Essex as a ‘flyblown wasteland’ which is a little unfair, as currently it’s more of a swamp.

We parked in the official car park near the cafe and lake, and the start of the walk was back in Takeley Street. I flummoxed Tan by being completely unable to relate where we were to the map in front of us. That was the point that she made me hand over the book and promise never to attempt a solo walk which wasn’t clearly waymarked. This is probably a good idea.

Anyway, thanks to Tan we found the start of the walk on the Flitch Way, a ‘linear nature reserve’ along a former railway line from Braintree to Bishop’s Stortford. After half a mile or so we turned off into fields along the Pincey Brook valley, stopping for a picnic on a handy tree trunk. The walk intersected in places with the Harcamlow Way and then looped back into Hatfield Forest, where we realised just how close we were to Stansted Airport’s runways.

Hatfield Forest was full of dog walkers and miniature swamps, as well as cowslips and primroses, and although we didn’t find the promised Iron Age remains at Portingbury Hills we didn’t get lost despite diversions off the route round Colin’s Coppice. Back at the lake we had a look at the Shell House, designed by a 15 year old who may never have seen a chicken or an eagle, and admired the ducks before sitting down for bara brith and hot drinks – coffee for Tan and hot chocolate for me – just as the weather started to turn. And turn it did – the rainstorm hit as we were on the M11 and visibility was almost nil as we were coming back into North Weald.

It was easier to find some motivation this morning so I was up and out by 7am, with a non-muddy route planned which took me up to North Weald Redoubt, Ongar Park Hall farm and Dial House, and across to Toot Hill where I got distracted by a road I hadn’t been down before (to Clatterford End) before remembering that I was going swimming at half past eight which meant racing home to sluice off and change into my bathers. I spotted my first hare of the year as well as three muntjacs and a whole lot of rabbits along the route.

And now I need a nap, but the ironing is looking at me…

Other things making me happy this week

  • Homemade bara brith
  • New Kate Shugak installation appearing on my Kindle
  • Being bounced at by the Bella-dog this morning
  • Hyacinths on the windowsill
  • The cherry tree at the end of the road in full blossom and smelling like marzipan
  • Sunday afternoon with time for a nap….

See you next week!

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading:

Kate Shugak investigations 8-18 – Dana Stabenow

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