Did you know that [counter] people have been having a skeg at my little autonomous region?




Yesterday I was cock-a-hoop to be able to say that I travelled to Cockadilly in Gloucestershire. My journey was a thirteen mile walk in the Woodchester, Selsley Common and Coaley Peak sort of area of the Cotswolds really, but as we skirted by the village of Cockadilly I thought it deserved a mention, it having a name like that which made us giggle like naughty school children.

I ventured there with my jolly good friends Ray and Chris to accompany another jolly good friend Simon, who was on a reconnaissance mission to plan a future walk for that noble band of brothers (and sisters), the Chippenham Ramblers. Simon’s biggest fear was that his route was such a distance from Pewsham Base Camp and so hilly and so long that most members of the Chippenham Ramblers would be put off and that only we four would turn up to do the walk proper in six weeks time.

Simon had the map and Ray had his ‘contraption’ (i.e. his G.P.S. Unit) so they sort of took charge of the navigation and gauging the distance and deciding where the coffee stops and wee stops would be. So we had to have many more wees than normal to test these places out. Honestly, we met Springer Spaniels along the way that hadn’t splashed against as many trees as we had. Considering the dedication that we showed to our governing body, the Ramblers’ Association, my eyes were tinged with salt water and my heart was filled with pride.

I had never really talked to Chris all that much before so it filled me with great delight to discover that he was a dedicated, full-on, active, ‘yes I was there’ Queen’s Park Rangers supporter. Consequently, he and I became the stragglers at the back of the pack who weren’t paying attention because we were too busy talking about football and his team’s big relegation battle against Stoke City that very afternoon. He said he had also once been in a lift with Spice Girl, Geri Halliwell and was planning to walk el Camino de Santiago Pilgrims’ Trail in North West Spain which can be up to 143 kilometres long, depending upon which route you take . . . but without Ms. Halliwell, I hasten to add. So a more interesting man I couldn’t have wished to have met.

The walk turned out to be incredibly scenic with lots of lakes, lots of wooded bits and lots of stunning views, especially over the River Severn to far distant Wales and the Black Mountains, where we have said we will one day go.


woodchester sheep

Refreshment stop on Simon's walk

near Woodchester Park Estate.


There were also some quite steep bits, which Simon said he had chucked in for the benefit of anyone planning on trekking in the Andes in the next couple of weeks. This scared me a bit because I did get a bit hot and sweaty and out of breath whilst never really being out of reach of an ice cream van, so how would I ever cope with the remote upward extremities of the High Inca Trail? It dawned on me, however, as the journey progressed, that my fitness level had been impaired by the Magnum lolly that Ray bought me when we stopped to eat our lunch at the mansion in Woodchester Park Estate. It must have settled too heavily on my tiny little tummy. Things will be so much different in Peru. . . I just know/hope/pray they will be.

What helped to convince me that I’m fit enough to take on the world was my observations that I didn’t fall asleep in the car on the journey back to Chippers, my limbs weren’t stiff and achy when I got out of the car and I was able to spend three hours cutting my lawn and giving my garden a massive tidy up without dying when I got home. This pleased me intensely as, due to the inclement weather of the last month and my lack of being at home on a dry weekend day, my neat little smallholding had turned into a meadow, this was the only day I had available to do anything about it and failure to meet basic horticultural standards would have deemed it necessary to smuggle an alpaca, or a flock of guinea pigs, home from Peru to do the job for me.

After this truly magnificent (in my opinion) effort I went to bed at 9.30 p.m. feeling a bit hair lacquered. This is why this bit of my blog begins with the word ‘yesterday’ rather than the word ‘today’.

Today I broke off from my Peru preparations for an hour to dabble in a little bit of preparation for my Scotland trip at the end of July. My jolly good friend Lesley (a travel hungry woman of Stoke on Trent, Japanese and Oxfordshire origin) is going there with me and she has planned and booked absolutely all of it except the ferry over from Kennacraig to Port Ellen on the southern Hebridean Isle of Islay. There we plan to cycle from distillery to distillery on rented bicycles fitted with stabilisers, baskets on the front to put our bottle(s) of whisky in and bells (i.e. bells for the purpose of letting people know they should get out of the bleedin’ way, not Bell’s the whisky, which doesn’t even appear on our itinerary as it’s not from Islay and it’s of the blended variety).

To display our level of sophistication, the trip has also been scheduled to take in the fine fish restaurants of Oban and the fine deep fried Mars Bar restaurants of Glasgow.

Any road (the high one or the low one), I know roughly which ferries we need to catch so once they are confirmed with my trusty travelling companion I shall go ahead and book them and then look into the arrangements for hiring bicycles, posting bottles of whisky home, killing midges with my bare hands, disposing of any whisky I don’t manage to post home without killing myself or my internal organs, and reciting the works of Rabbie Burns (I can’t believe he was Jewish) and other great Scottish poetry, such as:


Nobody knows and nobody cares

Why you must always buy kippers in pairs.

If you’re eating a haddock, one will do.

But if you fancy a kipper, you’ve got to get two.


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