Country Rambles

This month's walk: Enchanting Waterside

Country Rambles is brought to you this month by our guest rambler, Rory Triffic

As most of you will know, Tony Fold is unable to bring you this month's walk because he was gored by a sheep, or fell down a mineshaft or something. Lucky bastard. So, the editor has decided that yours truly should be your guide for this month, though lord knows what I've done to deserve it. Probably because of what happened at last year's Christmas party. I don't know why she's singled me out, it's not like I was the only one who was sick in the punch. Pah!

All right then, this month's walk is, apparently, a leisurely, medium-length amble through picturesque meadowland, incorporating an enchanting waterside section and spectacular views. Could have fooled me. Anyhow, here goes.

1 Our starting point is the car park next to the fire station. I mean the former fire station, obviously - you know, that filthy concrete block with the broken windows, next to Discount Carpet World. Yep, apparently the people of this town are no longer considered flammable enough to warrant a fire station of their own, so if you're thinking of spontaneously combusting you'll need to travel all the way to Greater Mungford, where at least they have a fire station that is open every alternate Wednesday.

Anyway, the car park. Before you set off, take a moment to soak up the atmosphere - the rusty skip, the soggy scraps of cardboard and plywood, the broken glass and muddy discarded takeaway boxes. Lovely. And did you notice the smell? No, I've no idea what it is either but it's rank, isn't it?

By the way, ignore the two lads mucking about by the bins. I knew their dad - he was a wanker as well.

Architectural wonders

Stunning architectural wonders line the route

2 When you're quite sure you've had enough of the car park, take a left along the main road, then turn left again down a narrow track. This, you will note, is overgrown, full of potholes and strewn with rubble - and yet still it manages to be in better condition than many of the other roads around here.

Proceed along this track for about 200 yards, past the back of Tesco's, the recycling centre and the big hole in the ground where the library used to be. When you get to the burnt-out car you will see a rotten wooden stile. At one point you would have had to negotiate this rickety structure with caution, but when I was down there I kicked it all in, so now you can just stroll through into the adjacent field.

Fat cow

What's this fat cow looking at?

3 I say 'stroll' but maybe you should pick your way through more carefully. When I went it hadn't rained for weeks and yet the field was like a swamp. I reckon that a pipe had burst and I was wading through raw sewage. Try to stick to the higher ground and for God's sake don't wear your best shoes.

Once you're safely past this nightmare, follow what remains of the footpath and it will lead you to a gap in the hedge. Now, you won't see the gap because it's completely overgrown but, trust me, it's there. You'll need to push your way past all the brambles, the nettles and the thorns. Once you're finally through, your clothes and flesh torn to shreds and your hair full of leaves and twigs, you will pause to remind yourself just how wonderful it is to be outdoors, soaking up all this nature, instead of being comfortably at home in front of the TV.

4 If you've gone through the right gap in the hedge, you will now see that you are in a large, roughly L-shaped field. You will also note that the path has completely disappeared and that there is no indication of which way you should go. Don't even think about turning round and going back - the gap in the hedge will now have completely healed over and there's no way you'll make it through without a flamethrower.

Onward is your only option. Now, I could give you a few hints about which way to go but I personally spent about forty minutes wandering around this bloody field looking for the exit and I don't see why I should deprive you of a similar pleasure. Also, at some point you may encounter a fat, red-faced man shouting at you. I certainly did. In my case he was instructing me to get off his land. I shouted back that I was trying to but the old fart hobbled off without providing me with any useful information. Anyway, persevere and you'll eventually find the way out. Or do what I did and clamber over a wall.

Visitors' Centre

I don't reckon much to the new visitors' centre

5 You should pick up the trail quite easily after that. There are some more fields. Three or four, I can't remember how many. Sorry, I'm a bit vague about this but by this stage I was feeling thoroughly miserable and just wanted to go home. And anyway, a field is just a field, isn't it? What is there to say? Grass, mud, cow shit, more grass. Actually, there was a bit of a surprise as I left one of these fields - a notice behind me saying 'Beware of the Bull'. Nice of them not to bother putting up a notice at the point where I actually entered the field. Still, there was no sign of the bull, so either it was hiding or it was just a really, really small one.

6 Assuming you survive the bull, you will enter a wood where you will be set upon by swarms of flies. How they normally operate is that two or three will circle your head to distract you while their friend, usually a really big bugger, settles on your neck and sinks its fangs in. Meanwhile, the ground will be heaving with ants, many of which will stream up your legs and lodge in your clothing. Plus, of course, there will be the usual nettles and brambles and triffids to negotiate.

I should warn you that the spot is also popular with dog walkers, as evidenced by the many little black sacks of dog poo draped over branches like shitty Christmas decorations. I have no opinions one way or the other about dogs when they keep their distance, but unfortunately they rarely do - keep their distance, that is. On this occasion I was unable to avoid this lumbering, slobbering monstrosity of an animal as it bounded up to me and started licking my face, presumably after having spent the morning doing likewise, with equal vigour, to its own genitals. The owner was one of those loud, overenthusiastic women of the kind that you find shouting at children in supermarkets. She informed me that her dog was just being friendly. I heaved the drooling animal aside and started licking the woman's face. Oddly, she didn't consider this a comparable expression of friendship, even though I assured her that I hadn't licked my genitals for absolutely weeks.

Evil swan

This evil bastard pinched my sandwiches

7 By now, you're probably wondering where the 'enchanting waterside section' that was promised earlier has got to. Well, hang on tight because it's coming up. Following the path through the woods will bring you to what I've heard some people describe as the 'hidden lagoon'. I will describe it as a 'shitty little pond', and I think my description is more accurate. Lagoons aren't normally brown with green slicks floating on top, are they? Thought not. Anyway, I know for a fact that before the chemical refinery closed down, this was where they dumped their waste when they thought no one was looking.

Actually, most of their waste was buried where the golf course is now, so if you notice any of the members starting to glow in the dark, it's their own fault for not being able to find anything better to do with their time than wander around a series of nicely kept lawns, knocking little white balls into holes. I digress. The really lethal stuff got pumped into this pond, which is why anything that falls in is unlikely to come out again with its skin intact.

8 By all means pause to admire the pond in all its toxic, reeking beauty, but I'd advise you not to linger too long if you value your health. The path will take you around the edge of this filthy puddle and on through an abandoned quarry. You have two choices here: you can take the lower path and dodge the falling boulders, or you can opt for the higher path and risk plummeting over the edge. Or maybe you won't have a choice: when I was there the whole place seemed pretty unstable, so the chances are that by now the higher path is the lower path anyway.

One thing that I thought was really quite impressive was the amount of rubbish that has been disposed of here. The place is quite remote, which you would think would make fly tipping too much of an effort, but no - the site is littered with old fridges, furniture, builders' rubble, bikes, prams and washing machines. There was even a boat. I kid you not - an actual motor boat, bobbing about on a sea of junk. It almost, but not quite, made the whole expedition worthwhile.

Sewage

This is mostly sewage

9 At this point you may have formed the opinion that this walk had been a bit of a drag. I certainly had but then I'm not the kind of person who usually enjoys spending their leisure time tramping through shit. I don't know how you feel about that. Anyhow, I was certainly pleased to learn that the last stretch of the route was along a purpose-built walking and cycle route, which follows the line of the old railway. A tarmac surface, benches, litter bins, proper signs - civilisation, at last!

You won't find it entirely without its problems though. Being a cycle track means that it unfortunately attracts cyclists and the sight of half a dozen lycra-clad bottoms whizzing past you every minute is enough to put you off your lunch. The 'proper' cyclists aren't the real problem though - at least they know to keep to one side of the track, and they'll ring their little bell when they're coming up behind you, bless 'em. No, it's the day-trippers who cause the most grief. They come bowling along on their hired bikes, great packs of them, weaving about erratically, not looking where they're going. Some fat bloke invariably comes wobbling up the track on a bike that's far too small for him, the combination of his girth and the momentum created by his sheer mass causing anything in his path to be swept aside.

My advice when facing approaching disaster of this sort: treat it like a challenge. Find yourself a sturdy stick, plant yourself dead centre in the middle of the track and wait until you see the whites of his eyes. Then, at the last moment, swing yourself aside like a matador springing from the path of an enraged bull and thrust the stick through the spokes of his front wheel. It takes nerve and split-second timing to pull it off but when you get it right the results are spectacular. The sight of so much wheeled blubber hurtling through the air is one that you will treasure for the rest of your life.

10 Your route is effortless from now on. The cycle path will lead you back to the town centre after about half a mile, and it is to be hoped that you won't have wasted too much of the day. From here it's a short hop, skip and jump back to the starting point, where you will find that those dodgy looking kids have disappeared and your car is up on bricks. For your information, the bus station is just two streets away.

Map

Tony Fold will, I'm sure, be fully recovered in time for next month's walk, and good luck to him. Meanwhile, I shall be in the pub watching the racing.

 

Taken from The University of the Bleeding Obvious Annual 2020.

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