For the record…
On the 16th March this year the Captain made an online order for a new pair of walking boots. This was a big purchase – and a well-deserved one at that, since the soles of his existing boots were parting company from the uppers…
Twelve long months ago, on 6th March, 2020, the Captain had installed an app on his phone, one of those that records steps and distance walked.
Through March 2020 as the global news worsened the prospect of lockdown loomed.
Stay at Home was the Prime Minister’s order. Protect the NHS.
An hour’s outdoor exercise a day was permitted. Twenty four years ago the Cleddau crew had chosen to live in a Bedfordshire village for various reasons, easy access to the M1 for one, proximity to work for the other – but direct access to countryside during a pandemic hadn’t been an identified factor…
Too busy during the working years ever to recognise that the fields around the village still had the ridge and furrow profile of medieval times…
daily lives were too hectic every spring time to notice lambs gambolling in fields behind the church…
Steps recorded between 6th – 31st March, 2020: 164,575; miles walked 68.1
APRIL. Remember that wonderfully warm weather? The hedges shimmered with white hawthorn, the bluebell leaves thickened, then the dainty flowers shyly emerged. Small painted pebbles were spotted in unexpected places – and a tiny boat was discovered at the edge of a pond and by the end of the month cows had been released from winter housing into the fields to graze on the fresh new grass.
Steps recorded in April: 329,301; miles walked 136.3
MAY. The warm spring weather accelerated growth: cow parsley walls narrowed the footpaths – and secateurs were utilised to cut down over-vigorous brambles. The bluebells in Kempston Wood danced on and swathes of yellow buttercups accentuated the ridges in the ancient fields. Spacemen marked a Bunyan Trail route behind Bourne End Farm.
In the sky a happy face appeared, an aerial tribute to Captain Tom Moore, the remarkable local hero living in a neighbouring village. The warmth brought out the roses around doorways and tadpoles squiggled and wriggled in a local pond.
Steps recorded in May: 364,505; miles walked 151.3
JUNE. Bedfordshire gardeners bemoan the tough claggy texture of the soil when it’s wet. Bedfordshire walkers deplore the dinner plate size clay mass that clings to footwear during wet field and footpath walks. But in the dry season, as the clay dries out, ground cracks appear. Were the cracks in the earth particularly wide in June 2020? Was Bedford Borough parting company with its neighbouring authority, Central Beds? Would a deep fissure run from north to south of the county – or country? Would, as told in childhood, the split go right through the globe, right through to the Southern Hemisphere and to Australia…?
Step after step, pace after pace, the walking continued. Sometimes there were unexpected sightings (like the milk float with its back end stuck in a ditch on June 2nd) or a farrier, roadside, attending to a horse’s hooves (June 5th).
There were some new pleasures during June’s walking – a day trip by the Cheshire Three allowed for company up into Kempston Wood. A drive (10.5 miles) to Great Barford allowed for a riverside walk – and a sighting of a Bedfordshire flag.
Steps recorded in June: 322,589; miles walked 129.9
July 8th became Boat Day! After months of lockdown living in a Bedfordshire village an escape to Cheshire was permitted – wasn’t the change of scene and different walking territory a welcome relief!
A day later there were familiar views from the Peak Forest Canal near New Mills, a walk beside the River Goyt and along the Millennium Walkway. Then there were walks from Bugsworth Basin, over the hillside to Whaley Bridge and up through the park to inspect the repairs on Toddbrook Reservoir.
Further footsteps alongside the Macclesfield and Peak Forest Canals ceased when a broken wrist on July 15th necessitated a return to Bedfordshire. It was back to gentle local routes then, with stiles and rutted paths avoided…
July’s step total was 263,423; miles walked 106.3
AUGUST. Wrist still in plaster, walking pole held in the non-dominant hand, walks remained gentle. Several shiny new kissing gates had appeared around Tithe Farm and in the old dairy at Wood End Farm a peek was allowed of the tulip wood rocking horses slowly taking shape.
Since the world was more open than during Lockdown 1 it was permissible to drive the five miles to the Millennium Country Park in Marston Vale. Here not a weeny tadpole, but a fully grown – a hugely grown – frog gazes at passing walkers, cyclists and horse-riders… It was at the covered bridge nearby (24th August) that the Cleddau crew sought shelter from a very sudden storm squall…
Stats for August: 234,553 steps; miles walked 91.5 miles in total, 25.5 of them in Cheshire
SEPTEMBER. During a 25 day cruise (The Four Counties Ring, remember?) effort was concentrated on boat movement and lock safety. Nonetheless, there were a few extra miles and a few new vistas achieved. Who knew that a walk through Poynton Coppice back to the Macclesfield Canal involved so much “down” and “up” – or that at the bottom there would be a stream to cross?
On September 10th; while moored at Tixall Wide a circular route through Shugborough Estate parkland led over the castellated railway tunnel, within sight of Hadrian’s Arch and across the Essex (packhorse) Bridge.
Heading north on the Shropshire Union what a thrill it was to come across an old workboat being moved up Hurleston locks. (See story here:)
Too much boating and not enough walking made September’s totals look rather feeble: step total: 148,869, miles walked 64.8
A road trip to Stowe Gardens (near Buckingham) provided an autumn walk of magnificent colour.
Who could not be intrigued by the fanciful structures within the glorious Stowe landscape…
This corner of Bedfordshire is horsey country but it was wonderful to be introduced properly on October 15th to the locally made rocking horses, This was Pumpernickel; he, plus Thomas and Josephine, now had eyes, paint, manes and harness.
Much higher than September’s total, October’s step number was 234,321; miles walked recorded as 106.9.
NOVEMBER. Field paths grew wetter, stickier, muddier during November
so local walks were mostly made along pavements and hardcore footpaths. In a small scale ceremony wreaths were laid at the village War Memorial, others added during the following days…
Construction work has continued since early summer on the latest large warehouse on a site just east of the village. Day after day, week after week, Big Boys’ Toys were in operation just a half hour walk away.
Enormous power drills and jack hammers were being deployed to create a plateau where once had been sloping agricultural land.
Steps recorded in November: 285,068; miles walked 131.3
DECEMBER. Out of Lockdown 2, into Tier 2 (or was it 3?) life continued largely as it had before. By now many of the horses in the fields were covered in horse blankets and the stone lion gate guards in Wood End Road wore not only masks but also Santa hats.
On a clear day there was a view eastwards towards Cardington, where the vast hulks of the Airship Sheds are a reminder of the fateful maiden flight of the RIOI Airship in October 1930.
From time to time there are excited media reports of films being made at the Cardington Studios .Even the Spice Girls are rumoured to have rehearsed in the vast space.
Then, on 14th December, a significant mileage was recorded: 1001.3 miles walked within the parish of Wootton since 6th March…
…and the crew kept walking – even marking Boxing Day with a seasonal picnic up at Kempston Wood.
December monthly steps: 212,895, mileage 98.2.
Since 6th March footfall within the Wootton parish had amounted to 1047 miles.
JANUARY 2021. There was Wootton Church on New Year’s Day, shrouded in mist nine days later. Deep winter had set in, the oak tree a stroll across from the Back Field was now devoid of leaves and the little boat on the edge of the farm pond had almost sunk under its load of rainwater.
Steps recorded in January: 228,959; miles walked 105.6
FEBRUARY. Slowly, steadily the light levels grew during February. What a joy it was to see flashes of clean white snowdrops and on close examination the oak tree bare of leaves just weeks ago now bore tiny buds.
Stats for February: 193,640 steps, with 89 miles walked.
MARCH. A year has rolled by, a pandemic year – and on March 6th there were signs of hope: photos sent from Techno Son-in-Law of Cleddau, still afloat, while at Hall End there was a glimpse of the pygmy goats munching away in their pen and the air was filled with the loud cawing of crows busily making their treetop nests.
Year End Stats: 12 months grand total: 1301.5 miles within the parish of Wootton: 1264.3 miles
As for the Captain’s new walking boots – they’ve done a few miles already…