My Unlucky Left Leg
Well, I have to start this blog with a bit of an update from the past couple of weeks. You’d think with lockdown in full swing, it would have been fairly uneventful, but I appear to have stumbled (literally) across a run of bad luck. More specifically my left leg has.
It started just after Walk 6. I managed to stub my little toe with real force, resulting in a badly bruised foot and painful little toe. I have weirdly long toes so I’m used to catching toes on furniture and the occasional broken toe is not unusual as a result. However, I was uncertain if this was a break or bad bruise. I followed guidance for broken toes (ice, elevate, buddy strap) and it improved – still swollen and bruised but not too painful unless I put weight on the troublesome bit. Which I seem to do quite alot!
So not too bad all things considered, and I was back out on the dog walks in no time. It was on one of these walks, my left leg got involved in an altercation between Wilf, our daughters young Patterdale pup, and a number of cars. You see, Wilf has a high chase drive and about 10 days ago he decided to up this from squirrels to cars.
He may be small but he’s very strong , and so when I put myself between him and an oncoming car , I took the full force of his lunge on my left leg. Another huge bruise just above my knee; more ice and elevation.
So now, I’m hobbling a bit – a swollen toe, knee and some nasty bruises as trophies. Surely my luck couldn’t get any worse. Of course it could!
We all take it in turns to practice Wilf’s recall training in the garden. To do this he has a long 10 metre lead that trails behind him so if he decides to head off after a squirrel we can stamp on the lead and keep him safe.
Wilf and I headed out to the garden with his lead trailing behind him, and he was understandably excited. he ran through my legs circling my left leg and scooted off towards the lawn. The lead was wrapped around my left ankle and pulled tight as he ran – the full 10 metres whizzing around my ankle at speed giving me a nasty friction burn. Look away now if you are squeamish.
The good news though was that restrictions have eased and unlimited exercise is permitted – so I can get back out and complete the 20 mile walks. As you know I had them planned in various locations across the country, but these will not be possible as we can not stay with friends and family. Also a 20 mile walk takes between 6-8 hours depending on terrain. That means at some point I need a ‘comfort’ break and all hostelries are currently closed. I’m not the peeing behind a bush kind of girl, so for this walk decided to keep it local so I could make a pitstop back at home.
This walk therefore, was a 10 mile circuit around Matfield and Brenchley in Kent, which I completed twice.
I headed out on Saturday morning with just Ruby, our Spaniel for company. We headed up to Matfield village, and instantly noted the lanes and paths were much busier than they had been recently. This was the first weekend of the eased restrictions. Usually at most you may pass 1 person on the half a mile up to the village, I passed 8. Several with maps in hand and rucksacks on their backs. We are really lucky to have amazing walks on our doorstep, and after the orders to stay home it was clear that the attraction of these walks and open spaces were drawing people to them. It makes us appreciate where we live even more.
It was a grey start to the day but pleasantly warm. I walked out past the village pond, and our local butchers were already in full swing with their ‘drive through’ service for the village. A cheery wave from the team there , and probably a smile from behind the facemasks. Its hard to forget how different things currently are, as there are small reminders of the impact of this virus everywhere.
I headed out on to the footpaths. I know this route well. In fact its an amalgamation of several different dog walks we take, and I was at this point guessing that it would be about 10 miles. I met my neighbour almost straight away, and had a quick socially distanced chat.
As I have mentioned, like many places there have been a lot more people out walking in recent weeks. Its not always easy to follow and find the footpaths if you aren’t familiar with the route or investigated it beforehand. Signs can be covered this time of year as hedges and trees burst into life, and many very quiet paths that pass through peoples property have become exceptionally busy. In fact some routes have temporary diversions set up to help people distance more easily.
From here, the paths were really busy. on this route I would maybe see 3 other walkers on a busy day. I had walked 2 miles and had seen 24. Not an issue, but the need to socially distance each time,so people can pass, means this was becoming slow. However, there’s always a positive and all these pause points allowed me to drink the views in. In my last blog, I talked about the creation of visual memories, and here was a great opportunity for this.
The ground was incredibly hard underfoot and dusty. In places there were deep cracks where the earth was completely parched. It made for very uneven walking at times and this meant I kept, involuntarily, putting too much weight on my little toe. My ankle was carefully covered and protected, but my toe was sending my several sharp reminders to be a bit kinder to it.
I started to become more and more aware of the sheer number of Oast houses, that I pass on my walks. These iconic Kentish buildings stand out across the countryside with their white cowl tops catching the sun. In fact look back and you’ve seen one already by that footpath redirection sign.
There are many different styles of Oast houses – not sure why – maybe I’ll take some time to investigate, but I decided to try and capture images of the different styles as I walked.
The sun came out (hooray!) so time to switch glasses back to my full light blocking ones. These are definitely striking, and I’ve learnt not to be so self conscious in them. Of course I’d prefer stylish ‘cool’ frames and lenses, but the reality is they are not strong enough in eye protection on extra bright days.
The number of Oast houses was increasing rapidly now – white ones, square ones and round ones. I couldn’t quite get the depth on my photos to show the tips of the cowls dotted across the views. I was literally crossing fields that had Oast houses at each end – a reminder of the history of this area for growing hops.
The route now took me up towards Brenchley viewpoint – a spot that gives panoramic views across the countryside. It was, unsurprisingly, busy this morning so I took a quick diversion across another unexplored path where I suspected I would get a similar view. I was right and it was even more enhanced by the beautiful, if curious, cows and calves in the foreground.
Just by this path is a newly refurbished Oast House. The roundels have a distinctive render, and they have placed great tops on the cowls – fighting hares and the symbol of Kent the Invicta horse.
It took me a while to get both of these in shot, as it was a bit breezy and the cowls kept blowing round and hiding their treasure.
At the top of this road we head towards Brenchley. The buildings here are really stunning – a fabulous Oast and barn and plenty more historic buildings. The village itself dates back to the 1200’s.
At this point I’m still only 5 miles in. The views just keep coming as do the Oasts, and as I return closer to a village, so do the other walkers. The pace slows again as we social distance to pass each other.
I’m now heading up through the orchards back towards Matfield. I pass the best named house – I want to live here just because of its name – Ruby seems keen too..
Its warm now, and whilst I’m actually less than 2 miles from home I need to tick off twice that to hit 10 miles and complete the first loop. So I plan a zig zag route back to home. Heading back to Matfield Green, I get that wonderful view of our beautiful village.
A sharp left turn here, behind the cricket pavillion and I’m back on the High Weald Landscape Trail heading towards another classic Oast House.
We are now on a cross country events course. Ruby loves this – I’m sure she would have attempted the jumps in her younger days. Usually, I avoid walking here at weekends, as the course is often in use and you can find yourself in the middle of a full scale competition with horses on the course. At the moment its closed, and a little known route with the most amazing views , so its been a great walk for us when paths are busy.
Now its just a short stroll down to Cinderhill Woods and back towards home. As I come out of the woods I can hear a familiar bark of Wilf still trying to catch a car as he’s heading back from his own late morning walk.
A quick pitstop of 20 minutes and I head back out again, this time with Neil for company.
Its now about 2pm, the paths are quieter than they were this morning which helps. We navigate the short narrow paths quickly and head back out into the wider fields and spaces.
This whole route has only a couple of short narrow paths where it would be impossible to social distance. Knowing that routes are busier, planning for this was important so we could avoid having to retrace our steps to give distance. We also try to minimise stiles and gates as much as possible, especially on busy routes. They can’t be avoided completely and I’m becoming adept at using elbows to open gates:
It didn’t seem to take anywhere near as long to get back to Brenchley and be crossing the orchards towards Matfield. It seemed really quick for the village green to come back into view. another reminder that company and chatter always helps the time fly by.
My feet were now sore and my little toe throbbing from the uneven and hard ground. The ankle injury also meant that I couldn’t wear my usual walking socks and the alternates I’d chosen were proving to be less than supportive. It made it hard to turn away from the usual direct route home and double back on ourselves.
We finally had the entrance to the woods in sight. From this mornings calculations, if I was at 18.75 miles here I would hit 20 miles exactly when I reached our gate. My not so trusty watch app was only showing 18.4 miles. I hadn’t factored this mornings actual route into the equation as I’d walked up on a detour to the village to drop a poo bag in the bin, thus adding a third of a mile.
So we had to add a wiggle to the route in the woods. Ruby was happy as that meant a trip to the stream and a dip in her favourite place to cool off, but it also meant we had to climb another hill on tired feet back out to home – I’d planned the original route to avoid this – that’ll teach me to stay alert!
It worked – we reached the gate and my app hit exactly 20 miles, love it when that happens!
It felt really good to get back out and get a proper 20 mile walk under my feet again. Not sure my feet, or more precisely my left foot was so appreciative.
My little toe was really unhappy and my feet covered in dust and dirt from the dry paths and inappropriate socks.
*****Warning – foot picture with my weird toes coming:******
Here’s hoping that my luck changes for my left leg and I can be a bit more comfortable on Walk 8. I’m back route planning, keeping in mind to stay local. Who knows, maybe I might hook up with a socially distanced friend next time – keeping 2 metres apart for 20 miles will be a good exercise in itself!
As you know I am completing this challenge to raise funds for the Macular Society. All charities are facing difficult times, and many provide specialist support to many people and research organisations too. This is true of the Macular Society who have seen an increase in calls for support at a time when large fundraising activities have had to stop.
If you can, please do make a donation for this challenge to help support their work – both the Macular Society and my unlucky left leg would appreciate it.
You can find the link here: