My most recent walk-leading experience took place two-weeks ago today. It’s number 2 for 2014 and my third is already lined up for a weekend in early July. This walk followed the same route that I took during my pre-walk in March. This time, the big difference was that the day continued as it began, under the rays of glorious sunshine.
My followers for the day.
Let’s return to Lansdown near Bath; just north-west of the city centre.
I reached the Bristol meeting point on time. Slightly early, in fact. Yet there were still two walkers stood and waiting ahead of my arrival.
Five minutes passed before another one and then two arrivals joining what could now be regarded as a group. Just as I was beginning to visualise squeezing everyone in to a single car, the group more than doubled in size, with bodies roaming in to car park from every direction!
That infamous treeline on Freezing Hill.
We left Bristol with a total of 14 people (including myself – always important to remember to include you when head-counting!), spread between 4 cars. We probably could’ve survived with only 3 but I’m not going to force anyone to spend 30 minutes confined like a sardine. Especially when the sun is out, they may not know each other and we’re going to be walking for a good 3 or 4 hours.
Three more arrivals joined us at the roadside in Lansdown. We had some issues parking as the lay-by doesn’t provide an awful lot of space (plus, it was a Bank Holiday weekend – many people were out and about in the sun). But we got going eventually. A little later than planned but we were all there for the walk; not to be home and fed by a certain time.
I recognised the route but the landscape was a near-transformation over my wet and windy experience from two months earlier. Not only had the clouds parted by the change in season had changed everything. In one field where a knee-high electric fence safeguard walkers and the footpath from a herd of bulls; this time, the bovine beats were on the wrong side… Although, I imagine this has more to do with man’s intervention than the force of Mother Nature!
Freezing Hill. Without wind or rain, this time!
Leading a line of 16 followers along a busy road spared of a pavement caused for some delay. I was a bit concerned about the pace, as we left the last field for the tarmac but the line held well and, each time a car approached in our direction, I was pleased to see the Domino effect where everyone followed my attempt to stand halfway in the hedgerow, before we were soon able to drop down through and follow fields (legally or not) through to the Freezing Hill treeline.
This was my second led walk of the year and fifth experience of leading the group overall. Sixteen (not including myself) is the second-highest tally of ramblers I have had on my trail. When the walk is set at only 8 miles long, you will get a mixed range of abilities. I walk particularly fast (as some of these photos may well indicate) so I have to practice being patient in allowing others to cross stiles, pass through gates and generally ensuring that I do not lose complete sight of the tail-end of my crew.
After one more climb (not to mention slight misdirection up and out of the trees), we reached the next Battle of Lansdowne information board, where I decided it would be best to stop for lunch (probably 20 minutes after I was first questioned about it).
Harmless but hungry…
We sat on the wrong side of the fence, in favour of the towering views to the west. I took a chance on that idle herd of cows maintaining their distance but after returning from my personal toilet break to bite in to my first sandwich, they were heading over! So, our lunch break continued in the meadow over the fence, beside a triangulation point (trig point).
About 45 minutes later(!), we carried on. Longer groups will tend to rest for longer periods of time, in my experience. Likewise, smaller groups may prefer to get going sooner. It was now on towards the golf course.
I remembered passing “white flowers” along this stretch back on the first weekend; perhaps the very dawn of Spring 2014. I was expecting it to look nice on this day but still, it managed to impress me.
There isn’t much for me to say about this golf course, other than that it was considerably more active than it was in the wind and rain!
We followed the same route as on my pre-walk, before reaching Prospect Stile and the visual splendour overlooking the Georgian city of Bath, below:
View from Prospect Stile.
Far in to the return stretch now, we continued along to the site of Lansdown Racecourse (I did check in advance that there would be no events taking place on this day and so, we were safe to cross).
Bath Racercourse at Lansdown.
My lead requested people to duck under a series of fences (used to divide each race track) but I didn’t hear of any complaints after.
Then, we cut through to our second and final golf course, before crossing the A36.
Beckford’s Tower (and I still haven’t been there).
With clear skies overhead, I noticed that you could spot the car park along this final straight. Not to mention the Grenville Monument straight ahead. It was significantly less muddy as well – all points very welcome!
We finished in a good time, the weather didn’t falter and the majority of us continued south down the A36 for a brief journey to a local pub (The Brathwayt). Both of my passengers payed me in advance for their fuel share (without my asking them) and one of them kindly bought me a drink on top of that, which I think summarises that the walk went down very well indeed! In the pub garden, I was also asked for when I might have another walk arriving on the programme! ;-)
Thank you for reading. I hope you’ve enjoyed this summary or, at the very least, my sun-kissed photos. I look forward to my next walk-leading experience but I have a lot of personal miles to cover before then!!