Freckles has been a bundle of energy all day – and has been relentlessly straining at her extendable lead in an effort to go further, faster and quicker. She’s an energetic tonic of a dog whose ENTIRE body wags when she wants to say hello or play.
It’s pretty much impossible to feel either tired of grumpy when she’s around, and when she greeted me by running round in circles and jumping up and down as my friend opened his door this morning I instantly felt happy.
Mind you – after today’s exercise even her seemingly endless energy was depleted – and she finished the walk we were about to embark upon with her paws in the air, resting on the living room floor.
She had the right idea. I walked over six and a half miles today (according to Apple Watch) and my feet definitely felt it. If I was a domesticated quadruped I’d be inverted on the floor as well.
Although Stourport on Severn today was grey and overcast at 10am there was a lot of enjoyment to be had walking along the picturesque river and its nearby network of canals.
We started in pretty much the perfect place, as just around the corner from my friend’s house near the river and locks were the local swanlings of the Stourbridge Canal Terminus. Sadly they don’t like Freckles – and while they were very keen to come and see if I had bread they spent most of their time looking at her like they were ready for a fight and hissing.
The locks nearby were quite busy, and as we moved away from the agitated swanlings there was a barge making its way through a gate. On the bow a young mother, her son and a fascinated spaniel sat and watched the water levels change.
Oddly I never get board of this little miracle of science – and the simplicity of canal travel is as romantic to me as it ever was. I’ve never taken a barge holiday – and one day I plan to remedy this. The languid and freewheeling nature of such a break really appeals to me, as do the quirky interiors that can be found in narrowboats.
It also never ceases to amaze me that the canal and train networks we take for granted today were built in an age where mechanisation was in its infancy. In the case of this particular canal terminus it was built by James Brindley between 1770 and 1781 when it was expanded upon (ref).
The moorings and locks were cleverly placed 30ft above the level of the river to mitigate the regular flooding that (even back then) affected the region. Today its tranquil calm is still a thing of beauty and despite its industrial heritage it feels strangely ‘natural’ to me.
Shortly after watching the barges for a while we carried on waking and followed the path of the river. There wasn’t much traffic on the Severn today – and the nearby park and amusements were also pretty deserted.
Autumn it seemed was now in control of everything, which suited me just fine as it all looks absolutely wonderful at this time of year. Freckles was just loving all the sounds and smells that were all around, hidden in leaves and climbing up trees in the shape of squirrels.
After winding our way through a caravan park we were back in an urban location, and stopped for a sit down and a cold glass of diet coke in a nearby pub along the canal side.
Many local pubs (according to my friend as we chatted) have closed in the area lately – but if there’s one thing that seemed to define our walk it was the proliferation of remaining ale houses – which seemed to be on every corner and all along the canal side.
Should one feel so inclined I imagine that a rather long and rather inebriated pub crawl could be easily planned to take in the full majesty of this shrine to waterside imbibing.
I can only assume that they must have built up around the industrial heartland of the town to ensure the working folk remained content as they dragged their barges along the waterways full of cargo destined for far flung places.
As we left the town centre and again moved to the outskirts in the countryside we joined the path of an old railway (previously used I believe for an old coal fired power station, which no longer exists) and followed its slowly inclining path through a long wooded grove and over a weathered sandstone bridge. Now the tracks are long gone and it’s instead become a nice walk with some cool views and (at least for the moment) a delightful orange and brown canopy.
As we descended from the disused railway we passed a REALLY interesting pub called the Rock Tavern, part of which had been built into the sandstone cliff. According to the plaque it was constructed in 1760 and has the BEST outdoor smoking shelter I think I have EVER seen EVER!
Granted – the furnishings may leave a little to be desired (especially if there’s more than one smoker) but if you desperately need to nip outside for a cigarette this seems like the best place I’ve ever come across to consider your mortality and the carcinogenic effects of your pastime.
As it’s soft stone and smoking takes a while people had used their downtime productively and chiselled graffiti into the walls. I don’t know why but I found this quite amusing – although honestly I don’t believe any of it’s outlandish claims. No-one can have genitals that big and survive, whether they’re from the midlands or not.
I wish I’d gone inside as it looks excellent in the online gallery – but there was still no stopping Freckles. Straining at her lead she pulled us ever closer to the nearby commons, which are very popular with dogs, their walkers, and (somewhat randomly) grazing bulls and cows.
I’d seen the bovine occupants from the road as I arrived – but thankfully none were apparent while we were walking through it. I’m reliably informed that they’re not easy to move along if they decide to block your path while they investigate a tasty bush.
There were some occasionally surprising spots of colour here and despite the overcast skies along the route there were at least three different types of large and small mushrooms – with the most eye catching ones being a vivid red with yellow spots.
I’m sure that despite its allure it’s hideously poisonous and that I’d die in agony after eating a brightly coloured omelette made with them. However suicidal eating one would be though I think that they look fabulous!
Shortly after passing through the common we were back at Freckles’s house – and as she spread out on the floor and put her aching paws up I chatted with my friend.
He’s moving house soon and his entire life is either in boxes or listed on eBay. I don’t envy him the challenge of moving and unpacking it all – along with the new jobs that await him in the shape of decorating and renovation at his new home. I’ve never been overly fond of DIY, and due this aspect of my personality alone I think that I would probably make pretty awful husband material (although I’m a good cook and I leave the loo seat down so it’s not all bad.)
I’ve had a can of Nitromors sitting in my hall for almost two years to remove the flaking white gloss around my front door so that I can re-paint it. The mood so far has not taken me and the task remains undone.
I’m sure my friend has no such issues. He’s the industrious sort and I’m looking forward to seeing what he does to his new place in the near future.
As I said my goodbyes and left his house I felt hunger pangs kicking in.
I’m a bit of a twit sometimes when it comes to eating. There are days when food is all I can think of, and then there are those (usually when I’m walking a lot) where the thought of having a meal hardly crosses my mind.
It was almost 3pm and I hadn’t had a bite to eat yet. From a diabetic perspective this is pretty naughty and I should eat regularly.
Thankfully according to the ever vigilant Apple Watch I’d walked for six and a half miles, nailed over 16,000 steps and burned 1350 active calories. I therefore deserved a treat. Thankfully on the way home there was a house of sin and debauchery (translation – a Toby Carvery) where I could indulge my dirtiest and most unclean culinary desires.
I headed back down the M42 until I reached Knowle, strolled into the pub, waved at the waitress, had the chef fill a plate with turkey, gammon, beef and pork before I piled five synful roast potatoes (2 syns each) and a ton of speed food on top with mint sauce and mustard.
I then ate my fill until my plate was shiny and clean. Manners prevented me licking it and burping afterwards. That’s just not polite in public.
So internet – that was my active and fun day.
I’m currently at 36 miles of walking for the week and have another short walk planned for the morning which will hopefully round it up to an even 40. I’m making solid progress toward my virtual Land’s End to John o Groats goal, which I’ll tally up at the end of the month and post a report on.
Hopefully I’m ALSO on track for a reasonable weight loss on Saturday. We will see!
Happy autumn internet – get outside and kick some leaves!