Despite me originally intending to do a new walk today I changed my plans late last night when I was unexpectedly invited out for a bank holiday lunch at the George in the Tree at Balsall Common.
I’ve been here a few times in the past – but not often for good reasons.
Most recently this perfectly nice pub has somehow become completely associated in my mind with meeting relatives after my mom died in January last year – and a sense of personal failure surrounding this already grim event.
Not only did I have to agree funeral details with relatives that I hardly knew – but also I was hovering around 35 stone and visibly not coping very well at all in life.
This was me around three weeks after those events, having not long given up drinking, but still three months away from joining Slimming World.
It occurred to me when a friend suggested I join them there today that not only I could start to attach more positive memories to this place but that I could kill two birds with one stone and also get my exercise in for the day.
I could probably now walk all the way there from my house – but then making my way back would probably have been a step too far.
It’s a round trip of 20 miles.
When I wasn’t working if I overdid things then I could just rest up the day after for a bit. However now I don’t have that luxury. I need to be match fit every day to walk back and forth to my job.
I opted instead for the shorter Kenilworth Greenway (about 11 miles round trip), and leaving my car at Crackley Wood – which means I didn’t have to walk along any busy roads and that I also got some nice views too.
The woods looked great just before 10am today, and a wonderful dappled light was playing on the ground everywhere as the canopy above me gently swayed in the breeze.
Initially this morning was a little overcast, despite being quite warm – but as I moved through the woods and onto the greenway it was clear that any clouds were not going to last long, and they were swiftly clearing to make way for blue skies.
I didn’t really know exactly how long it would take me to walk to my destination, so I tried to keep exploration and the impulse to photograph everything to a minimum and just keep moving forward.
Although the Greenway is pretty easy going on the way to Balsall Common it has a continuous incline. When I first did this walk (link) back in April I forgot to set a workout programme – but when I checked Apple watch I remember it showed my heart rate as above 100 bpm. My workout today shows an average of 88 on the outward journey, and on the greenway I didn’t once see it go above 95 – which is really cool progress!
I’m definitely getting a lot fitter!
One of the things that I really love about this particular walk is the bridges.
This is for two reasons.
Firstly (and quite without warning) I’ve become a huge fan of red brick construction. It really boggles my mind that these days we just set steel rods in hundreds of tons of concrete, bolt it all together, and voila!
Sure – they’re strong, light, flexible, resilient and safe – but boy oh boy is concrete UGLY. In contrast railway bridges pieced together, brick by individual brick – now THOSE are things of beauty.
Secondly this Greenway and its bridges are slowly being eaten by nature – and that too is jaw droppingly lovely at times.
When I finally arrived at the Beefeater I was a lot earlier than expected. The whole walk (almost exactly five miles) had taken around 90 minutes, so I sat outside in the shade and changed my (slightly sweaty) teeshirt for a long sleeved one I’d brought along to look a little more presentable.
Shortly before midday I went in and was led to the table my friends had booked.
It was a booth.
There’s still a part of me that has a complete meltdown when I see fixed seating.
I can’t seem to get it through to my panic subroutines that I fit into them now – but I guess thats because it’s really only been a few months since that’s been the case. Partially because of this I’m still taking evidential pictures to prove to myself that I can do it – which I’m starting to think may be a little daft.
However I still find it almost as much of a novelty as seatbelts that actually go around me and click into place in other people’s cars.
I may stop taking these kind of pictures one day… but not today!
I’d already decided waaaaay before arriving that I wasn’t going to get into an ‘I’ve done lots of exercise so I can eat what I like’ mentality, and that I was going to avoid things like mixed grills (what I used to choose when I came here previously) and instead have a salad and a baked potato on the side.
I ordered the chicken Caesar.
What arrived was not Caesar salad (not in my eyes anyway) and was clearly deep fried breaded chicken. Normally I wouldn’t go near anything fried in breadcrumbs – but I reasoned that at the very worst this would just use up my syns for the day and negate some of my exercise I’d already done, so I tucked in.
Honestly – I’m glad I did, because with the (butter free) baked potato I’d ordered on the side this ended up being quite filling and tasty – which was a complete win.
As it’s been a while since I’d seen my friends we sat chatting over drinks for a while after the meal ended. They’re absolutely loving their National Trust memberships at the moment and are using it regularly to go and explore some of the local National Trust estates.
I’d not considered joining before – but they may well have sold the whole thing to me! However – that’s for another day when I have some spare money. In the meantime I’m strictly a cheap walk kinda guy…
A twalker can dream though!
After we said our goodbyes I headed back (a slightly longer way) toward my car. It was now getting a LOT hotter and I’d changed back into my short sleeved top. In retrospect (as I sit scratching my sunburnt upper arms while I type) this may have been a tactical error – but you live and learn.
The way back was at a slightly slower pace, and it gave me the opportunity to look a little closer at the hedgerows and bushes, which were full of butterflies!
I also just missed a shot of a bird of prey hanging on the breeze over the fields surrounding the walk. As I readied my camera it swooped towards its target and disappeared from view. I can’t say for sure what it was but I think it was a Kestrel.
Since getting any pictures of things in the sky seemed impossible I busied myself instead with the floor, which I ‘d realised was covered with hidden mushroom colonies!
By the time I arrived home I felt well exercised, satisfied, and like I’d made full use of my Bank Holiday weekend.
There was a time when I’d have bought myself a new video game and many litres of wine for such an occasion – but I think the way I use my free time now is a far better use of my health and happiness.
I’ve managed 35 miles and around 70,000 steps in the last three days.
I feel content, pleasantly tired and I know that when I get back to work tomorrow internet I’ll have a sense of pride that not a single moment has been wasted.