A much belated update, sad to say. I did write up this section but then lost it in a computer disaster. No, I hadn't backed it up.

Anyway... The crisp cold January weather would have made for good walking if it had kept up. But of course, the day I set out again it had thawed. Which meant mud. A fuck of a lot of mud.

It was a long stage with no very obvious route. I wanted to go from Turvey to Northampton but the logical diagonal route was a fast road with few footpaths going my way. I got a cheap day return and, with a quick change at Milton Keynes got to Northampton for the bus to Turvey. But only just in time. The train was late and I missed a bus to the town centre from Northampton train centre.  But I got the bus just as it was about to pull away.

It hurtled down the road through a landscape of large arable fields, stopping from time to time in large, compact villages. Most had signs up protesting plans to build new homes. At Turvey I got off and walked back the way I had just come. The village was as handsome as I remembered from October and this time I walked across the bridge and got views of the hall, passing a sign announcing I was going into Buckinghamshire, before turning off onto a bridleway. Buckinghamshire? I thought I was going to Northamptonshire? Or maybe Milton Keynes. Counties are a complex confusion nowadays. But it seemed I had gone into old Buckinghamshire, whatever it was now.

It was a good start. The track was well maintained, and kept my feet dry as I walked parallel to the River Greate Ouse, and admired the park land on the other side of it. A great barrier of trees rose up in front of me. Odd because there was nothing marked on the OS map. But the biggest were leylandii which grows fast.

Through this and onto another track. Still pretty good going. I passed a man and small boy, both carrying shotguns, who said good morning. Then I reached a group of woodlands, one called Threeshire woods, so I suppose positioned where Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire used to meet.

To make sure I didn't miss the delights of any county the footpath circled frustratingly around these woods, and just to make things perfect, the track became a bog. I squelched around three counties cursing until I finally got free and to the next road.

Over the road and I was confronted with a right of way across a huge winter wheat field. There was no sign of a footpath but I could just see a gap in the hedge, far across the field. So off I set. Almost immediately I realised that this was going to be appalling. The ground was sodden. The only reason that it wasn't mud was that nobody had been on it before me. The wet soil stuck to my boots so that within a minute I was dragging great clumps of mud around with me.

I tried following the tracks left by a tractor. It made no difference at all. The only thing that I could do was to kick violently every four or five steps in the hopes of sending at least a bit of the mud load from my boots flying into space.

At the end of that field was another. Exactly the same. And beyond that a third. It was exhausting, endless, awful. But at last I made it to the side of the field where the going was slightly better, and this ran along the side of another wood.

Just as I reached it someone came out with a dog. Followed by another figure. And another and another and another. Many had dogs and most had sticks. They walked the path in front of me and, even when I got to the gap they were coming through I could see more. They spread themselves out along the woodland edge, a couple of guys in classic country clothes were at the end and one of these shouted instructions as I reached him.

We exchanged a couple of words. They were beaters about to drive pheasants through the wood towards the waiting guns.

I left them to their job and carried on, meeting a couple of women walking with a dalmatian. One was dressed very strikingly in red. Red wellies, red jacket, pink trousers if I remember. They had stopped as I had to admire a buzzard and then when they saw the beaters turned around.

"I don't like to see them shooting birds." The red dressed one said.

And on. I was pressing hard because I knew that I would barely have enough time to get back to Northampton before the light went. So I trudged on to Yardley Hastings. A look at the map was depressing. I was back on the A428 that had brought me down in the bus that morning. Not very far along it though.

I had intended to carry on with footpaths. But mud and time considerations meant I went on now by a quiet road, crossing the huge ride of Castle Ashby before having to take to rights of way again. Now the terrain was much steeper little hills and I struggled up one where the path was nothing but a muddy smear, slipping and sliding as the light began to fade and my legs ached.

Eventually, I made it to Cogenhoe, and welcome streets again. Now I should be OK, I thought because I could go by road down to Billing and the River Nene Way.  A well way marked tow path sounded just the thing to take me into Northampton.

But finding it was a nightmare. I was rushing, no doubt, worried about the light, but still the signage was abysmal. Eventually I worked out the right way and headed along the river. Not on any tow path though, because there wasn't any. I passed through some park like land and came to a huge caravan park where a lonely van was circulating, doing some sort of maintenance.

But as I passed the second big group of static caravans the van drew up and a stolid man with a somewhat Brummie accent got out and asked what I was doing there. I told him I was on a footpath. He did not believe me. I could hardly see the map now in the gloom and did not want to waste time arguing with him. But I had passed a way mark sign a little further back so I took him there to show it to him.

"It must be new" he said idiotically. The sign was old and faded and had clearly been there years. He wasn't at all agressive, just ploddingly, doggedly certain. Every time I asked him which way I should go he pointed back the way I had come. "You see those green caravans..." he would slowly start to explain that I should walk in the opposite direction to the one that I needed to go in. Over and over again.

I probably should have just told him to fuck off and carried on walking. But at last he was convinced and off I set again. More mud, no decent path, more slipping and sliding in the semi dark. Then I realised I could get off this nightmare route and onto a long street that led right back into Northampton. And if it got dark it would not matter as there would be streetlights.

And so that is what I did. I hobbled down this long and boring road in some pain now, but I did not really care. At least I was out of the mud.

That was one tough day.


  1. Anonymous said...

    i used to live in turvey in red cottages until i was about 2 and a half weather it was happy or not i could not say but my parents split up when i turened 12yrs old and continued so til they divorced when i was 21  


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