Walk to Hatton

Another little milestone of sorts has been reached today and I’m now sitting at home on my sofa looking at my feet dangling over the edge of my leather pouffe whilst admiring their new attire.

(Warning – gratuitous underwear shot)

On the way home today I treated them to some new thermal socks. They deserve a bit of TLC and at the moment feel a little achey – but in a totally good way.

I have no blisters, just a bit of a throbby reminder that I’ve been out and about.

This morning myself and a friend had been planning to walk from the outskirts of Leamington (starting by the Lidl supermarket) along the canal to the Hatton Arms.

This is a distance of just under 5 miles – and one that I’ve partially walked before, but not for a very long time. I’m not sure I’m ready for a ten mile round trip walk just yet and this distance seems more than enough if I want to be exercising daily!

The great thing about doing it with a buddy is that we could leave one car at the pub, and one back at the start of the walk.

The weather for our little jaunt proved to be pretty much perfect – and as we set off I could see lots of blue appearing between the clouds, just like the weather forecast said it would.

The canal towpath between Leamington and Warwick is for the most part well maintained – although in some sections there are quite a few dips in the path where ground water (because of the tightly packed aggregate surface) doesn’t drain very well. At the start of the journey (due to some rain last night) there was a bit of hopscotching to do while I ducked under the older lowest bridges and skipped back and forth among the puddles to avoid getting my boots wet.

The new (stiffer) soles on my boots appear to have done wonders for the plantar fasciitis heel pain I’ve been experiencing and over the last few days I’ve noticed a definite improvement in the condition. I’m hopeful that with my weight loss, repaired footwear and exercise I’m turning a corner with this.

I’ve had it for almost nine months now and I won’t be sorry to see the back of it!!!

It wasn’t long before we reached the ducks and swans that congregate by Tesco. They appear to have grown significantly since I saw them a couple of months ago in the same place.

Unlike the St Nicholas Park swanling these have beaks that are starting to turn orange (which I don’t think phographs or shows up that well so you’ll have to take my word for it) but seem to have darker plumage.

It’s interesting looking at the slightly different development cycles that they seem to be going through. Although it’s broadly similar there are subtle differences that mark them apart from MY swanling who has a whiter bum.

These guys are also a lot more territorial and ‘hissy’. They didn’t strike me as the type of swans that I would like to invite over for dinner.

I’m sure that bringing wildfowl home as evening guests will sound like folly to many – but an element of this mentality runs in my family. My father regularly travelled back and forth on busses with Eric (his pet goose) in the mid 1990’s, and was well known by the number 71 bus drivers for this eccentricity.

Eric used to comically fall asleep on the journey to Solihull with his long neck inside the sleeve of my father’s jacket (which was being worn at the time).

When I first moved in with my dad some years later he had a lounge room that was ‘bird friendly’ and contained nothing but clear plastic sheeting on the floorboards. This catered for the obvious consequences of having several ducks and a goose as permanent house guests that were free to come and go as they pleased.

Going barefoot wasn’t an option for me in those days and one had to be particularly careful whilst sleepily going the kitchen for cereal in the morning. The eccentricity of it all did make me smile back then – and still does over two decades later when I think about it.

It’s probably why I like swans and ducks so much.

The canal is a lovely place to walk if you want to see this and other kinds of wildlife. There are fields of sheep, lots of dogs and even horses to stop and say hello to – although in the case of the equine residents I’m not sure they cared too much for my (sugar lump free) company and were a little laissez faire!

Before long we were on the outskirts of Warwick and passing the first canal lock at the Warwick Parkway train station.

I’d thankfully remembered for once to start the workout app on my watch when we set off. It was periodically tapping my wrist every so often to remind me that a mile had passed and was also keeping me informed about the pace (around 23 minutes p/m) which today was not designed to be a race, just a pleasurable walk.

The work that’s gone into the stretch of canal between WP and Hatton is really noticeable and as we strolled on past the train station there were quite a few guys strimming the borders and maintaining the gears and housings of the locks themselves.

I couldn’t help but pick the occasional blackberry to munch as we walked, as there were quite a few on the bushes. Sadly though they were mostly out of season and mouldering on the branch – but what were still ok to eat were pretty tasty.

I hadn’t had any breakfast before leaving (I rarely eat before a walk and my appetite disappears almost completely during exercise) but I wished I’d brought an apple along with me to go with my bottle of water.

It was approaching 2pm by now and my stomach was rumbling.

However the pub (and coffee) wasn’t too far away now. After the slow climb up the network of ascending canal locks we would be there and I could either eat or have something after I drove home.

Thinking about hunger didn’t last long for too though as everywhere I looked there were plants and flowers to grab my attention and make me pause to examine them further.

There were bees all over the flowers along the route – and it was lovely to see all the insect life so healthy and flourishing on and around the canal side plants. Everywhere I turned there was something flying or buzzing in the background and the environment was clearly carefully managed to promote this diversity.

After a couple more miles we reached our destination. The Hatton Arms, which is opposite a small canal and river trust building and coffee shop.

Their signage here (I couldn’t help thinking) was a lesson for life in general – not just for a stroll along the canal. If there were ever words to live by given how much I’ve needlessly stressed lately about weight loss I think these definitely fit the bill.

I stopped my workout app, turned around and and simply enjoyed the view.

It really was lovely. I’d never noticed on my previous walks – but framed perfectly by the trees and shape of the canal in the far distance was the church tower in Warwick town centre.

I don’t think my camera phone does this justice (its just to the left of the man operating the lock dressed in black and red) but it looked great.

Had we really walked that far I wondered?

I checked the results from Apple Watch’s workout app in my phone browser.

We definitely had.

Although we’d sat down twice on the way (the tendon problem in my left leg kicks in at the two mile mark it seems) this represents real progress as this walk has almost no benches. I’m dead chuffed that I’m beginning to significantly build on my continuous distance ability.

When I’d finished digesting this my attention once again turned to the pub. There was a gate leading directly from the canal to the rear of it by the Hatton Lock building. As we turned into it and trudged up the grass path to the welcoming bosom of the Hatton Arms I spied several trees to the right surrounded by yellow and red lumps on the floor.

Could that be… breakfast?!

The answer was a resolute ‘yes!’

There was no sign prohibiting picking them, so I grabbed a few apples and proceeded to munch away. There were 3 different varieties and the larger ones seemed like a cox/jonagold cross with a sharp and crisp taste (my absolute favourite apple flavour!!!)

Completely fresh and picked off the tree. This is the way food should always be – not arriving in a chip shop polystyrene case or cardboard pizza box.

What better reward than a sun warmed fresh apple (or three) after a long walk?

Well coffee of course, because coffee is better than almost anything in life, and when it’s in my presence it doesn’t stand much of a fighting chance.

I practically inhaled this tall americano. It died for a good cause though. I felt quite perky after it’s noble sacrifice.

As we drove back to Warwick to pick up my car I mused on the walk and the sense of well being that had come from being outdoors talking with my friend, seeing birds, horses, sheep and swans, picking fruit from bushes and apples from trees as we walked and looked at that beautiful cloudy blue sky.

It had been a great day.

But thankfully it hadn’t ended.

After a short trip to Aldi for some fresh veg (and my aforementioned socks) I returned home to the wonderful scent of a curried beef stew in my slow cooker – which I’d had the presence of mind to throw together before leaving.

And that, internet has been my day. I WAS going to end it with a trip to the cinema – but it seems that now I’m home I’d much rather put my feet up and watch episode three of Westworld with a hot bowl of stew. So far it’s shaping up to be an excellent new TV show.

Have a lovely evening people – it’s time to chill.

Davey

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