One foot in front of the other: London to Bristol!

Like many of our adventures, this began in the pub with the plan being to attend an Ebo Taylor gig in Bristol and rather than take the train, we thought we might walk 100 plus miles over several days – it seemed a good idea at the time so the three of us; myself, Tug and the Vicker set off from London, early on a Tuesday with the aim to walk all the way hhe way meeting up with Vodka Dave near Bath and after that, taking in the gig – returning to London six days later on the Monday…

Cutty Sark - Greenwich

Setting off early, we grabbed a quick breakfast in Maggie’s Cafe in Lewisham – steak, chips and mushrooms for me with the other two going for the full English and whilst breakfasting (and chatting with the owner) it began to dawn on us what the next few days might hold, the weather was looking grim and Bristol was a long long way away!

On the Thames Clipper

The morning was glorious and to make up time leaving London we decided we’d take the Thames Clipper from Greenwich to Putney, all three of us feeling very Beckham like as we hurtled down the Thames sweeping past Canary Wharf which was looking spectacular in the morning sunshine. Before too long we could see the Tower Bridge, the Shard with the rest of the city opening up as we came around one of the large sweeping bends of the Thames. Passing under the various bridges, full of commuters heading to work – our spirits were soaring and we were all looking forward to our adventure properly starting.

The Shadows, on Tour!

Once ashore, we followed the Thames out of London and before long we settled into our routine – one step in front of the over, keep moving forward and I think all three of us (whilst we didn’t say anything) probably felt that this initial part of the walk was probably the most difficult – our berghans were beginning to cut into our shoulders, we were carrying our camping equipment plus food and water, they were beginning to feel quite heavy! This was also, in my mind anyway, our longest day – we wanted to get outside of London and beyond the M25 and all day long we could see planes flying in to and out of Heathrow…

Berghans

Eventually, sometime after Reading we left the Thames and picked up the Kennet & Avon Canal which was to be our ‘map’ for the next several days as we followed this pretty much all the way to Bath before picking up the River Avon into our final destination of Bristol. Walking the canal was an amazing experience though was difficult as the ground was quite rough and stony but we all cracked on, all enjoying the solitude of the countryside with the odd barge passing us by, swapping greetings with the owners of these barges. Before long we were alongside the M4 which wasn’t the best part of our walk – lorries and cars screaming past us as we continued our walk.

Are we there yet?

We stopped off at some great pubs and we always made the comment that ‘…tonight would be the night we got on it..!’ and bar one night, we didn’t really get ‘on-it’ as we were shattered and after a big pub dinner and a couple of pints, climbed into our sleeping bags, exhausted! Our best night was Friday when we met up with our really good mate, Vodka Dave who drove over to meet us. Our initial plan was to meet up in Bradford on Avon though not being to enamoured by the pubs there opted to carry on walking to a recommendation, that being the Cross Guns in Avoncliff – we had a fantastic night and drank too much and ate some very good food. It was good to see Vodka Dave too and to catch up with him. Later that evening a young couple came in with a guitar and set about entertaining us and several others in the bar – singing along to a song from the Jungle Book was a blast! We got chatting with them and on hearing of our trip, invited us back to theres so we could sleep in a bed – we couldn’t believe our luck and whilst it meant backtracking to Bradford on Avon, took them up on their very kind offer and headed back to their place!

The next day began very slowly – we’d been up into the early hours, drinking whiskey and generally chatting with our newly found friends! This part of the walk was particularly breathtaking and was definitely the better end of the canal! Before long we were heading through Bath which is a beautiful city where we stopped for tea and an ice cream – it was here we found out that Tug is terrified of Ducks!

Bristol!

Eventually we arrived into Bristol where our journey ended – we took some pictures at the John Cabot Statue on the waterfront and grabbed our room at the hostel. That night we met up with our friends Richard and Lucy (and their friends) and wend to see Ebo Taylor perform – he was fantastic and though we were tired, our legs and bodies were aching, boogied into the night and had a thoroughly great end to our walk!

Ebo Taylor - Legend!

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Cycling Trip with Camping

Being thoroughly enthused by the Tour de France I’ve been jumping on my bike at every opportunity and heading out on fairly decent bike rides – mostly exploring London, taking in the sights – something I usually miss whilst commuting and having found myself with a few days to spare I decided to load up the bike and head off. My plan being to follow the river east riding the Thames Path, out towards the Dartford Crossing with my aim being to find somewhere to wild camp at the far end.

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Travelling light – I was carrying 2 litres of water, a jungle bivvy, roll mat and sleeping bag I set off mid-afternoon from Lewisham in SE London and was very quickly at my start point – the Trafalgar Public House, right on the River Thames in Greenwich where I grabbed a photo of my bike next Nelson who was looking north across the river at Canary Wharf.

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I do love this ride out of London and its interesting seeing the contrast between north and south – on the north side is Canary Wharf and south is mainly derelict buildings, ship breaking yards and large aggregate industries.

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Before long, the O2 Centre came into view…

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The whole area is being redeveloped, certainly all round the O2 Centre, its one big building site. After a short while the Thames Barrier came into view. The Thames Barrier became operational in 1982 – I do like to see this structure as my father who sadly died earlier this year fitted the lightning protection to it and I remember the stories he use to tell me all those years ago.

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I couldn’t resist this next photo, a well placed bike against a nice piece of graff – almost looks like the guy is about to jump on the bike…

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I carried on riding, heading further east before stopping in Erith for refreshments. Having loaded up at the local supermarket my thoughts started turning to where I might sleep tonight. Looking at the map on my phone I spotted a couple of likely stops over near Bexley Village. Leaving Erith I rode along several trails, chatted to some fisherman all of whom were having quite a good day. I also stopped to eat some blackberries! Before too long, I was peddling through the village of Bexley heading towards the spot I’d found – on arrival I was very impressed, it was a great little spot so set up camp and settled in for the night.

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I had a great ride and night out under the stars though next time I’ll remember to bring my mosquito repellent!!

Caminito del Rey – Finally Being Fixed

After many false starts, the world-famous Caminito del Rey is finally being made safe so that many more people can enjoy this thrilling walkway – thankfully we got to bag this a couple of times over the years by using our Via Ferrata and Climbing gear to gain access, we were able to enjoy this unique place.

Hole in the Box

Box Freestone Mine is located on the outskirts of Box village, just off junction 17 of the M4. Again like so many of our trips, this one was conceived in the pub with emails going out the very next day. Several weeks later here we were, getting ready to enter these vast underground tunnels.

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This limestone quarry has been mined since Roman times though this came to halt during the very early 70s. Now its visited by intrepid explorers and the curious – buying maps from the local pub, the very good Quarrymans Arms (who looked after us once we’d finished our adventures) and is also the place where you can pick up the key to gain access to the mines.

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The tunnels are vast and if I remember correctly, are broken up in to three distinct areas Northern, Southern and one other area which I can’t remember!

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We had a great time, the mine is very impressive – there were discarded tools, old wooden cranes, graffiti going back to when the mines were mined and areas of tunnel that were collapsed.

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We were underground for a good few hours before finishing up at a place called the Cathedral, natural light teeming in from the hole above – its only whilst you have someone stood there that you get a sense of how large this space is.

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We exited the mine into someones garden (a seriously impressive garden it was too) and headed straight to the pub – not more than 100m from where we came above ground.

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A great session in the pub was the perfect end to the day with most of us opting for the very quaffable mole beer!

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Turning Right

Having had a great evening with friends in the Somerset Village of Box, I set off bright and early the following day to return home to London. Twenty minutes in and already the electronic signs on the M4 were saying ‘Severe Delays’ at the next junction…

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Not being in any great rush to get back to London I opted to turn off the M4 and pretty much ‘follow the sun’ back to London – not looking at the map, just following my instincts and the road ahead. What should’ve been a couple of hours journey time ended up being about five hours – a thoroughly awesome five hours, which lifted my spirits greatly – it was much-needed and made me wonder more about sometimes just doing something with no end goal and seeing happens.

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I actually ended up in the village of Avebury in Wiltshire, spending a couple of hours enjoying the early morning sunshine amongst (I’ve since found out) the largest stone circle in the whole of Europe. It was really special and having been known to hug trees in the past, couldn’t resist touching these ancient monuments and wondering about all that has gone before these great monuments.

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Not being much of a religious person, I ended up visiting the church in Avebury, taking pictures of the church and its gravestones very near this monument built by our ancient ancestors.

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This morning really brought home how amazing we all are and how lucky we all are to have these reminders of previous lives. It also made me think of a walk I’d done with the boys a couple of years back – Op Rafter, where we also came across an ancient stone circle…

The Longest Walk 1.0 – Epic Walk

Saw this really great time-lapse video on Twitter this morning and it really resonates with me – I love the idea of just heading in a direction, keep walking – one foot in front of the other.

That and finally being able to grow a great beard!

Back in 2011 I was fortunate in that I was able to go on a world-wide trip, taking in many continents and experiencing many rich cultures. Seeing the above time-lapse made me think about a time when I was in Noida, Delhi taking photos of pilgrims on their own epic walk…

I really do fancy going on an epic walk somewhere.

An Englishman, an Indian and a Chicken, board a train…

Memories of train travel, India…

CraSh Williams' Blog

…almost the start to a great joke!

I had to get back to Delhi – I had my ticket to leave Varanasi, sometime around 1pm Sunday. India has a huge train network, probably the biggest rail network in the World – it’s certainly India’s largest employer. When it works, it’s fantastic and certainly a great way to see the country though when it goes tits-up, it really does!

Booking tickets is fairly straight forward if you’ve an Indian credit card or family member who can book you a ticket online. Otherwise it means joining the queue at the station and waiting in line. Not speaking the language there’s an almost 100% chance you’ll get something wrong which will see you starting the whole process over again.

They also have something called the ‘waiting list’ where you buy a ticket though you’re not assigned any seat – the idea being that…

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