My walk this year started a little later than everyone else and so early events can only be reported third hand however in the world of AHWC this is deemed a very good source of material. So here is what I gleaned without revealing any sources.
It would seem to be fair to say that the prospective clergy amongst us, Colin W was less than impressed with the accommodation infact he was all for turning round and going home ... something about the smell!! This I find hard to believe as a veteran of previous walks, he surely was immune to all earthly smells ...but it would seem not and being a hobbit he should be used to it.
He was persuaded to stay and although a little disconsolate seemed quite cheerful by the time that I got there. It must also be noted that I never heard any more complaint from any quarter about smell, so indeed the saying that one can be as happy as a pig in muck seems to be true indeed.
My walk started with a lift from Ledbury station by Dave F and in true ‘Old Bill’ style he says to me there is some good news and some bad news this means it’s all bad news. I am sharing a caravan with him, is he sure? He assures me that this particular accommodation rates as 5 star in this place. I am a little sceptical especially when he tells me there is a single bed and a double bed in this caravan and Dave is a big bloke. Still I am last in so have to take the rough with the smooth.
Upon my arrival all the others are ensconced in what turns out to be the living quarters, bedroom, lounge and cloakroom all in one, interesting and not much room – I only later discover that there are ‘Officers quarters that have been nabbed by Messer’s Venables, Turner, Brown and Stephenson. Still Mick assures me that these are the privileges of being in an autocracy; whatever that means and tough but events unfold to reveal that what looks like a good move might not be, more of that later. As they say the last shall be first and the rest you know.
David Dale and Dave Rogers have found themselves a bed for the night in what is described as upstairs. This is a little misleading…attic would be more appropriate…it seemed nice and cosy with potential for being claustrophobic and banging your head. Perhaps my friend had told me the truth after all and the caravan was indeed a result. Adrian and Lucky were in a tent in the garden and had as usual sorted themselves out with minimum of fuss or concern for others accommodation problems.
I ate the dinner that had been kindly saved for me and then went to the caravan to sort my gear out. I returned some 15 minutes later and the place was in darkness they had all gone to bed it was only 10o’clock! So I retired and commenced this journal.
My day started as it was going to for the next four; Dave was up and about making the whole caravan wobble in his attempts to get dressed without waking me, totally unsuccessfully I have to say and despite his best efforts I rolled over and caught another half hour. It must be reported at this stage that the earplugs bought for a previous trip have proved to be money well spent because I can say at no time was I disturbed through the night by the mating call of the beached walrus otherwise known as Dave F snoring. Events would unfold that would prove that I had no complaints compared to others!!
Breakfast was organised, cooked and marshalled by Dave in his usual laid back style, similar to Eisenhower when planning the D-day landings and woe betide anyone that came between him and his baked beans. We were of course fed royally and the communal effort at preparing lunch meant that we were all ready to leave at 9.30.
We set off to Malvern for the first of our walks. As usual who was going to map read was a burning issue with no one seemingly keen to take the responsibility on but everyone full of good advice. Thankfully two of the Johns stepped up, John A and ‘Lucky’ and off we went to Camp Britain a small light stroll or so we thought, but we had forgotten Mickey’s idea of a stroll. It seems that with the role of head honcho and officer’s quarters comes the role of route finder but not map reader, always guaranteed to make one popular with the guys. Quite quickly the new members amongst us got the idea that any idea of rank did not exist and significant banter began, firstly with who chose the first b****y walk as it was not a stroll. Good stuff for walk one. Arriving at the base of ‘Camp Britain’ there was a delightful tea stop and preparation for the final climb. Quickly it became clear that two of our number would not make the final assault and would wait at base camp. For those of us that did make the assault it would have to be graded in ministerial speak as ‘Kin Steep’ (for further explanation speak to Colin W) but what a fantastic view if a bit windy. So windy that Adrian almost lost his Mac over the edge and it would surely have been gone forever.
We regrouped at the bottom and then divided into two teams. The three Dave’s and I took the soft option and took the road route back to Dave F’s car. The others all went over the top. I am unable to report exactly what was said or passed between those that took this route but I am lead to believe that one of the new recruits to AHWC made a comment about the steepness of hills and how this was meant to be fun (Pete Brown) he obviously hadn’t been walking with Mickey before.
The four of us who headed back to the car by road did so just to help poor old David D out. It had become clear that during the night he felt the need to leave the attic and sleep outside having managed to wake everyone up with his snoring!! The result was that Dave being the considerate bloke that he is had decided to go and buy a tent and remove himself from the presence of others. At this point it must be mentioned that Adrian and ‘Lucky’ had indeed brought with them the most enormous tent one could imagine and there was only the two of them. Such was Dave D’s reputation that no offer of accommodation was made. So four go to Gloucester and buy a tent and whilst we are there some socks, new shoes, a great cup of coffee and some fantastic sights! We return to the bunkhouse and discover the journey back to have been challenging. Indeed it must have been so for Mickey described it ‘As good a walk as we have ever had’ that’s code for saying it was bloomin hard and a typical warm up day.
Dinner was Spaghetti and trifle a la Venables- lots of it and very tasty, with quite bizarrely and because he likes it garlic, olives and bread. After dinner entertainment was provided by quizmaster Dave R who kept all entertained until we retired to bed early. This day cannot go by without a mention of the wine it was decided that whoever had bought it had the taste buds of a two stroke engine…..it was so rough. To amend this situation we appointed a new sommelier (Dave F) so that we didn’t poison ourselves.
Rain, rain, a bit of dry, more rain and rain and the first divide. Dave F Dave D and I decide that this is madness as the weather is so poor and make plans to visit Gloucester Cathedral. This clearly is not what was expected by others but did we care? No. The expected route for those other hardy souls was a return to Camp Britain – easy route we were told. No thanks I‘ve just been there was my thought and anyway I have heard it all before a quick 4 to 5 mile stroll according to our route finder. O really I don’t think so.
We leave the others and prepare for an experience at Gloucester Cathedral. We do take great care when entering and exiting as Martin has regaled us with the wonderful story of a young boy peeing of the top of the spire, him. We make it in safely and enjoy the wonderful experience of the building. Our time is topped of by a guided tour of the crypt where a detailed explanation of how the church gathered it’s funds by burying the dead on/against/under the south wall in the sun the place to be apparently if you had money. Gloucester had a lot of money.
When we return to the bunkhouse we discover that the walkers have returned very damp indeed. The tumble dryer was working over time and a comment by Colin M seemed to sum it up for many that had been on the walk that day ‘You don’t even get as high as this in Easy Jet’.
Dinner was excellent curry 2 sorts a la Venables HOT and VERY HOT with Bombay potatoes. Pudding was fruit salad, enjoyed by all. The evening ended in cribbage for some those that knew how and more trivia questions for the rest by Quizmaster Dave R. There was much complaining of aches and pains this night tomorrow should be interesting.
Hexi-decimal day!! Rain to start off just as it had been yesterday but this time we had scrambled egg for breakfast made by John S in the officer’s quarters. It turns out that not only do they have better sleeping accommodation but also they have their own bathroom facilities and kitchen to! We all agree that John S has got the job of scrambling eggs for life and if he could only stop fiddling with his Blackberry all the time he might almost be perfect, unlike others I could mention. Which brings me neatly to the small matter of the fruit bowl.
The remainder of the fruit salad from the night before has been retrieved from the fridge and a portion is served for my good self the bowl is offered to all that are there but there are no takers so I in the spirit of neighbourliness take the bowl back to the fridge. Upon my return I discover that John A has helped himself to my bowl of fruit/breakfast. Of course I respond to this situation delicately, quietly, without fear or prejudice.
The walk today is ‘Broadmoor Common’ and we needed to be patient to walk it as the paths were not that clear to see, 7 miles of walking along paths that no man has trod on before we truly were seeking out new civilisations. There were flood streams down paths with brambles and stinging nettles that were bigger than we were, machetes were the order of the day not walking sticks. We persevered to lunch and managed to upset the local publican. How you may well ask, well we had the temerity to eat our own sandwiches having spent £28 on drink at his establishment who would have thought it what a cheek.
Pressing on after lunch there was a robust exchange of views between those leading, Dave F and those map reading. Dave found himself having to double back having missed the path and not being told until he was way passed. He was not amused but we all were. We returned to the cars quite tired and not really sure why but we had the excuse we needed and our car decided on some refreshment, cream teas were the order of the day which we all enjoyed immensely.
Dinner this evening was interesting, Onion raw with Pasta and some Tuna. We had been led to believe that it would be Tuna Bake; it didn’t really make the bake and came out a little under done. Mickey took some stick over his unusual culinary dish and it resulted in some being thrown away an event almost unheard of for an AHWC dinner. The mood at the dinner table was lightened by Colin W’s explanation of Hexi-decimal, some sort of binary calculation that was important for computer geeks. For us more normal mortals being able to count from 1 to 10 is enough! Colin did at least achieve one thing and that was time for the onions to settle down.
After dinner there was NO talking I fear that this was because none of us felt we could bear the onion breath that may well have been expelled instead we all read Dave F’s paper and not a murmur was heard. For the most part we just slipped away to bed apart from those playing cribbage, for the second night running.
The day started wet!! Today we drove a long way to start the walk; we did begin to wonder if it was a Coach holiday that we had signed up to and not a walking break. The journey did at least allow the chance for some gossip from other members of the party and we were informed of the nocturnal habits of the not so clean Martin T and his snoring which Peter B reckoned rivalled those of David D and kept him awake for all but an hour.
Today’s walk was to be 10 miles in theory and so we all braced ourselves as we were not sure whose was reckoning the distance out. I was reasonably happy to see that Lucky had taken charge of the map there was a chance that we wouldn’t get lost then.
Lunch today was in a graveyard with the gravedigger in attendance as we arrived. As we left he informed us that he would not choose to be buried here, as it was much to wet!
After lunch we were joined by our newest recruit a dog named Benji. The dog walked with us for most of the afternoon and we saw some remarkable dog handling skills that were displayed by various members of the AHWC. It reminded me of how we bring up our children there seemed to be many similarities in tone of voice, posture, and frustration when being ignored. Perhaps we should take note.
It was during this rather showery afternoon that I produced my trusty umbrella at regular intervals; inevitably I received much admiration from my fellow walkers for this modern piece of kit but was I bothered not a jot.
At the end of the day it was decided by all that we would stop at Morrisons for a cup of tea en route home well that seemed pretty clear to everyone except Mick who someone had foolishly left with a map. So past Morrisons we sail Mickey in front and go to Leominster, which is shut. Were we happy, of course… we took it all in good part… being a little tired and thirsty just wanting a cup of tea!
Upon our return to the bunkhouse Colin M is in trouble serious chaffing which seems to be dealt with by talcum and a wigwam sleeping bag, I feel its best not to ask or even imagine. The meal tonight was Chilli with kidney beans the joy of John S and Colin W with more onions deep joy. Pudding tonight was out of this world Bread and Butter Pudding it was stupendous and a high note to end our final day.
There was the inevitable discussion on our final night of plans for next year when Coast to Coast was discussed or maybe the Lake District. One thing is for sure having had these ideas discussed it won’t be any of those then.
Home, terrific a nice hot bath and a meal with a few less onions. It is for others to express their feelings about this years expedition but a success it was, wet it was, good humoured and fun it was and for whatever reason it was a unique shared time, when friends are made in the most unusual of circumstances.
As I come to the end of this journal I notice that one member of our group has passed without mention at all. This is no reflection upon his character but more a mark of respect that in that face of such provocation, one of our number might come away with us and remain so calm and reflective, I shall leave it to you the reader to see if you might work out the missing member from this diary of the walk of 2007.