Training walk #2 - 14 miles from Michelmersh

The Bear and Ragged Staff - start point for the walk
Following Donna's "surprise" booking of the 2015 "Crosses walk" (read about that here!) the idea of walking 53 miles in 24 hours is now firmly set in our minds and the realisation of the task ahead has started to hit home; we find ourselves suddenly talking about how we're going to prepare, pack and train for the event, what kit we'll need and what the best avg speed or rest strategy is going to be - but that's for another post.

The plan, from the outset, is to try and get in 1 or 2 decent walks every month in the 7 months leading up to the event in July 2015, building from 10miles through to around 30miles - this is the way that I have trained for cycling events and ensures a good base mileage without going too far and damaging yourself ahead of the event.

Our first training walk, coincidentally in the North Yorkshire Moors, was just over 10 miles and although we'd scheduled in a walk for the end of December we were both keen to get in another walk this side of Christmas and with the grandparents kindly offering to babysit for the day (and cook dinner on our return!) we settled on Saturday 6th Dec and a walk of around 14 miles.


Up until now I've pretty much exclusively used TrailZilla to plan my walking routes and then uploaded the GPX route to my Garmin GPS Map 62s or ViewRanger app on my phone - depending on how far we're walking and where (I wouldn't want to have to rely on my phone on the top of a mountain somewhere!).  I've used ViewRanger (and Social Hiking as sub service) mainly to record the route from the App on my phone while walking - useful as the downloadable (for a price) OS map tiles in both 1:50k and 1:25k are great for that little bit more detail and quicker access than the GPS unit - the other plus point is that both the stats on the walk and the visual presentation of the route is much better suited to the blog and for historical viewing than the rather clunky Garmin presentation.

While TrailZilla has been ok I've never really warmed to it and there are some quirky features that have bugged me since day 1 so for this walk I decided to use the ViewRanger site to plot the route and having settled on a rough area that I new very well it was really just the fine detail of the route that I needed to define.

Two things hit me immediately when starting to plot the route;

  1. the purchased tiles (at both OS map scales) are available on the main site for route planning - bonus!
  2. the ability to "lock to path" works on OS map (and any other map) footpaths, bridal-ways etc.  This is a really useful feature as you can click the main points or intersections and let the software plot the exact path for you - much like you are able to do with "on road" routes for cycling GPS mapping software
So a circular route was planned - starting from the Bear and Ragged Staff pub in small village of Michelmersh (on the A3057 between Romsey and Stockbridge) and taking in 14 miles of mainly bridal-way and footpath, using sections of the Test Way, Monarch's Way and Clarendon Way.

Walk stats
Distance - 14.13 miles
Average speed - 2.5mph
Total time - 5hrs 39mins
Altitude gain - 1343ft
  • GPX file from the route (recorded via Viewranger) can be downloaded by clicking here
  • PDF route card of the walk can be downloaded by clicking here

Packing for the walk was a little more involved than you'd expect for a "simple" stroll in the countryside as, throughout these training walks and leading up to the event itself, we're trying to hone our kit to ensure that we have exactly what we need; too much = bags that are too heavy and too little may save weight but = being unprepared for conditions.
We also want to make sure that we're taking the most efficient pieces of kit that we have - cooking kit is a prime example.  We have a number of stoves between us from JetBoils through to "base camp" style cookers so testing out which ones work best for us while walking and are most efficient at getting the job done is important.  This also goes for food as getting the right type, brand and mix will ensure that we stay fuelled throughout the walk.

So aside from a 25ltr rucksack each (larger bags may be needed on the actual walk but we'll work up to that!) and the usual map, compass etc we also took my Trangia stove (27-8 UL, HA for those interested!) a 500ml fuel bottle (half full), warm layer (Montane Prism and Patagonia Nano Puff), food in the form of pre-cooked pasta and sauce that just needed warming, water (2.5ltrs in total) and some food for Monty - if we'd planned 14 miles he'd being running at least 20 so would need something to keep him going as much as we would!

Donna and Monty - ready for the off
10am on Saturday the 6th Dec saw us parking up in the lay-by opposite the Bear and Ragged Staff pub shivering slightly as the night had been sub zero for the first time (properly anyway) in months and with me happy that I'd remembered my decent walking socks but cursing at forgetting my Paramo jacket as I'd have to wear my very warm Montane Prism jacket while walking - oh well!

From the off the first mile or so is on road and up hill before heading off across the frosted field systems and dropping down, across the A3057, and on to the Test Way which we'd follow to the small road crossing at Horsebridge.


This hill is steeper than it looks, Monty must have run up and down at least twice!
The Test Way path
The section from Horsebridge, through Kings Somborne, and back onto the Clarendon Way is quite confusing as the path dips in and out of houses and gardens and feels a bit odd at points as you're walking straight through people's back gardens, but once out of Kings Somborne it becomes a bit easier as you're back onto a more substantial path that you follow past the racing stables of "Hoplands" before climbing up the NE flank of Beacon Hill towards Parnholt Woods and Farley Mount.






Looking back across Kings Somborne
Looking up towards Beacon hill and Farley Mount
Rather than heading on to Farley Mount we turned SW to follow the wooded edge of Farley Down and then turned to bear NW heading in to Parnholt Wood where we found a place to have lunch and for Donna to try out the fuel burning Trangia Stove.

The Trangia stove is a great device and has been around for years (first sold in 1925 actually!) and my version is pretty much the same as the device my Dad used when we went camping with scouts many years ago...  The 27-8 UL HA version that I have comprises of;

  • "Ultralight Hardanodized"
  • Stove with ultralight aluminium windshield
  • 2 saucepans, 1.0 litre & 1 frypan, 18 cm in ultralight hardanodized aluminium
  • aluminium kettle, 0.6 litre
  • Fuel burner
  • Weight 825 g

All of this packs down into itself, including the burner but not the fuel bottle, and is roughly the same size as a small billy can.  Lighting it is easy, but you need a few attempts to get the hang of it, and you can modulate the burn with the "simmer ring" but again some practice is a good idea before using out in the wild.
The nice thing about this variant is that it comes with a kettle that will boil enough water for 2 decent sized mugs of tea - this is, for me, worth the 100g weight "penalty" over the non-kettle version as it allows you to cook a decent meal using both pans and the frying pan if nescessary and still have a clean kettle to boil water in - unlike the jetboil which is, admittedly, faster but leaves you restriced to 1 pot


Lunch in Parnholt woods - Monty lost interest very quickly!

Following a good half hour stop for lunch we headed back off through Parnholt woods on the well graded double track that lead you downhill and, ultimately, to the small back road that runs between Braishfield and Kings Somborne.



Leaving Parnholt Woods - the frost was still evident in shaded areas
Monty, displaying full gun dog skills, managed to find a dead pigeon and as a "reward" for his keen sense of smell I let him carry this for a while as he trotted alongside us.

 



After a short road section we crossed into a field and followed the route of the footpath (this is marked on the map but is not evident when walking across the field it had recently been sown with crop when we walked it) through a small coppice and past Eldon House and then on to Manor Farm, passing Stubb's Copse and, as you'll see from the map, a slight deviation from the footpath to skirt the edge of a field as there was a pheasant shoot happening and I had no desire to be pelted with shot or to have Monty pinch one of the downed birds!

On passing through the middle of Manor Farm its road most of the way back to the car save for a short 300m or so stretch of track that runs through the middle of Michelmersh and links the small church with the road back to the Bear and Ragged Staff pub.

All in all the walk was 14.1 miles, took us 5hr 40min in total (including lunch) and we averaged 2.5 miles an hour if we can maintain that for 53 miles we'll be laughing!

The next walk is planned for the 27th of Dec (2014) and will hopefully be in the region of 17-20 miles allowing us to push a bit further and to try out some different bits of kit - possibly using the tarp or bivvy bags to see how we get on and how efficient we can be at rest/food stops.

One (very warm) man and his dog - looking back towards the Clarendon way and King Somborne

Walking route recorded on my GS5 with Viewranger;
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