Autumn at Bedgebury
Walk 19 was one of the few from my original, pre covid, 20 walk plan. We walk here regularly this time of year – the maintained trails an escape from the ankle deep mud that appears on our local foothpaths. For this walk we had created a plan of 3 connected loops that brought us back to the entrance of Bedgebury and meant friends could drop in and out of each loop throughout the day.
However, Bedgebury closes its gates at 5pm so the schedule didn’t allow for any prolonged breaks and required us to be on the trails by 8.30am. The weather was looking fabulous and I was genuinely excited to be out in the Forest all day.
A bit of traffic caught us out and so we were a few minutes late starting, but our close friends Graeme and Tracey were already waiting for us in the car park raring to go. Neil and I switched the apps on and we headed into the forest to start the first 8 mile circuit.
It was a gorgeous morning and autumn was definitely now taking hold across the forest and there was a beautiful light mist catching the sunlight.
We quickly fell into step and Tracey and I set the pace, with Neil and Graeme chatting away behind us. Its funny how quickly you fall into a natural rhythm walking like this and the miles start falling away. We headed off the main family trails now to follow the wider route around the forest.
Neil realised he hadn’t reset his app after the faffing at the end of Walk 18 – so he was still measuring our progress in KM’s not miles. Not a major problem, but meant we could have more mental maths challenges later in the day as we refined the last loop to hit the magic 20 miles.
As we were approaching our furthest point out in the forest, we were approached by someone who had lost their dog. It was a rescue dog they hadn’t had very long – we took his number as we hoped by being out in the forest all day we may have a chance of spotting the dog. Unfortunately we didn’t, but I hope they were reunited.
It was getting warmer now. The sun was pushing through and soon jackets were consigned back in to rucksacks and we were enjoying that beautiful light catching the autumn colours around us.
This section of forest, is my favourite at this time of year. The colours are all around you and shortly the ground is a carpet of the leaves too. I made it a point to ensure we walked everyone through this section today. It was different each time with the subtle change in light.
We were at about 6.5 miles now, yet it felt we had only started a few minutes before – love how company speeds the time by that way. Graeme and Tracey needed to be back to the car by 11 and it was now around 10.30. Unfortunately, I didn’t know about the 11am part and had been focused on the distance and the fact that we were picking up our friends Sharon and Margo at 11.15 for the next loop. Nothings a problem though so a quick jiggle to make it a slightly quicker route back and we managed to just about hit 11am and exactly 8 miles as they got to the car! Loop one done!
Margo was already in the car park by our cars and just then my phoned buzz to say Sharon had arrived too. We all headed to the Visitor Centre (and its loos!) so we could have a quick stop.
We all met by the visitor centre, and like a well coordinated team set off in step for the start of this 8 mile loop. It was definitely warmer now and we had clear blue skies lighting our way. We headed back towards that favourite spot and unsurprisingly it called for a photo stop.
We started heading off again and I paused to grab the picture again of the light in the trees. With my light blocking glasses sometimes I see colours differently, so before lining up the shot, I lifted my glasses to check it was as it seemed. Almost instantly I got that tell tale rainbow arc in my right eye.
The start of an ocular migraine. These have always been in my left eye until recently. In the past few months I’ve started getting them in my right. Always light triggered and always start where my visual field is compromised. However, they are less dibilitating. They grow in size of the space of 10-15 minutes and the area inside is blurred and obscured. Then it reverses and disappears.
I still grabbed the photo – not bad given I couldn’t see properly!
It was bloomin’ annoying to have an ocular migraine strike in my favourite part of the Forest , distracting me and forcing me to keep my head down for a bit, but I took comfort knowing we would be back here later.
As it eased, I rejoined the casual chatter as we continued on the walk, blue skies framing the views and glasses firmly fixed to my eyes now.
My phone buzzed and it was a message from Pete who had joined us on our last walk. He was heading over to meet us for the last loop of the day. I wasn’t quite up to reading and messaging so left this with Neil to coordinate the next rendezvous.
The light was really special and out on these quieter trails you get that great sense of space as trails lead off in every direction.
There are some vistas that just stop us all in our tracks (excuse the pun) and its great to have the time to just stop and drink it in. If we’ve all stopped, I reach for the camera on my phone to try and capture whats caught our eye. Neil likes capturing the picture of me capturing the picture..
So now we rejoined our familiar trails and usual dog walks and were heading back to pick up Pete – doing our best to get this second loop to 8 miles. Neil’s feet were starting to complain and it was then he explained he had put on his old trainers and not his ‘proper’ trail trainers this morning. The only explanation he had to offer was ‘sabotage’ as they had both been sitting next to each other by the front door.
We paused to give the dogs a treat – we were at 14 miles for Neil, Ruby & I and 6 miles for Sharon and Margo – so a little snack break for all seemed sensible.
So on we went and headed back to that favourite spot from the other direction this time. Again a subtle change in light and it offered another stunning view.
It was just coming up to 2pm and we said goodbye to Sharon and Margo by the Cherry Tree Avenue that gave them a direct path to the cafe and a coffee and the 8 mile mark.
We turned back towards the car park to pick up Pete. Just as we met my app buzzed 16 miles – Neil’s buzzed some sort of KM equivalent..
So now we had just 4 miles to finish. We would head out now to other parts of the forest and then turn into the Pinetum itself, where I was hoping we would get a fantastic autumn display from the specimen trees around Marshalls Lake. I’d also planned a ‘finale’ for this walk by walking through the Cathedral of Trees – a special spot hidden in the pinetum.
Again the route took us back past ‘the spot’. I haven’t mentioned that you get a glimpse into the Pinetum itself here and the glow of colours catches you as you walk along
As we turned the corner here we went through the gate this time into the Pinetum and walked towards Marshalls Lake. It didn’t disappoint and its main display isn’t even starting yet!
I’ll let the pictures do the talking!
We were over 19 miles now yet we took plenty of time to enjoy this area. We were feeling so lucky that we had caught perfect sunny skies alongside the autumn weather, although Neil’s feet were struggling and he seemed to be morphing into some sort of flamingo with one foot permanently in the air when we stopped
We headed across the little bridge and a small group were gathered looking into the water. They pointed out a large carp just on the surface – if you look closely at the photo of the tree reflected in the water here you can just make it out..
So now we had crossed the lake and stopped to capture those amazing reflections. It wasn’t hard, perfect conditions made for an easy photo.
So now we headed up towards the Cathedral of Trees. Pete pointing out that its name gave him high expectations of something that didn’t yet seem to match the general direction I was pointing at. Neil still hobbling along behind desperate for the end of Walk 19.. We got to the unassuming entrance and peeked into the gap – Pete confirmed it was worthy of its name.
We walked through and back out into the main paths of the Pinetum watching others walk past without knowing it was there. We set off back towards the visitor centre and the other end of Cherry Tree Avenue. Despite Neil’s protests, I made a quick trip to the end of the avenue to capture it in this wonderful light and as we arrived by the cafe 20 miles (32.2 KM) buzzed on the apps. With over an hour before closing we could even grab a cuppa. Perfect!
Walk 19 done.
So a small reminder from Neil, that footwear is very important on these walks. Do not pick up your old trainers (furthest from view) that you use for nipping into the garden, or you will end up with a VERY big painful blister. Get those nice bright ones on instead – you can’t miss them!!
This walk flew by with the continuing loops and change in company on each section. Don’t be fooled that it was a gentle stroll though, however pretty it looked it came with its fair share of hills:
So this was the penultimate walk for the 20, 20 challenge. To be frank, I had to go back and double check it really was Walk number 19 as I can’t believe I’ve actually got so close to completing this.
A HUGE thank you for all who have supported so far – whether through a donation or joining me on a walk. Your generosity is very much appreciated and the donations really are making a difference in challenging times.
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Thank you again for following this challenge and just one more to go!!