Archive for the ‘Run Across Britain’ Category
Planned a run today, anyway, but there was also the Broad Town 5 mile race the start of which was 3.2 miles from a bus stop in Wootton Bassett so I signed on for it. This was the first race I’ve been in since the London Marathon a little over a year ago as well as the first since I entered the 50-59 age group–which the running club sponsoring the event calls “Super Veterans.” Yikes…I really am old, but at least I’m not in the 60 and older group, which they refer to as “the Poor Dears, Bless ‘Em.” Don’t ask me my t-shirt size, fer fuck sake, just see if I have a favourite hymn I’d like played in the unfortunate but inevitable case, etc.
The jog to the race HQ was in a steady and drenching rain and included a steep downhill start from RWB and then a relatively flat bit out to Broad Town School. Assuming the rain would continue , I stayed in the wet kit and stashed my bag with the organisers and took shelter with a bunch of club runners under a marquee (it was also the day of the School Fête). Five minutes before the start, the clouds dissipated and the sun broke through along with some blue sky.
The race didn’t have a big timing clock and the starter was a guy hollering “mark-set-go” as a single word before anyone could really jockey for position on the line. There were probably 150 of us so the normal crowding in the first mile was minimal. Except for the strong winds (20 mph steady, 40 mph gusts), the conditions were perfect.
Start in view of the Broad Hinton White Horse
I would have been happy to break forty minutes on this loop (I stopped timing my runs a couple of years ago, so really didn’t have a metric on my capabilities). At the 4 mile marker my watch showed 30 minutes and I felt pretty good; the crest of the dreaded hill (not much to speak of, really) was just a few dozen yards away so I decided to blow out the last mile at as high a pace as I felt I could maintain…just about 6 minutes for the last bit, passing a bunch of wheezing folk along the way. Without a clock or anyone calling finishing times at the end, I have to guess–for now–that my watch is correct: more than 36 minutes but nowhere near 37 [36:38 officially, and 32nd of 153 finishers so not too bad].
After a 5 minute break to stretch a hamstring cramp, I found my way out of the Fête and got back on the road to Wootton Bassett just as the rain resumed, stopping at Oscar’s Grill and the Phoenex [sic] Bar for well earned snacks and a beer. Roughly 12 miles on the day and a successful race showing in the grandpa division.
The Plough in Kington Langley makes it three Ploughs in a row, not by design but coincidence–a happy one, but a coincidence nonetheless. I had an hour and a half to kill at the Chippenham Station and opted to get in a short run but two miles in it started raining and I took cover in this barn of a pub. The staff were pleasant enough (the cook was reading a newspaper near the bar and she had left the kitchen doors open so that the fried goodness therein could taunt the damp, hungry interloping loper). I had a cider from Kingstone Press which was fizzy and crisp but not especially impressive. It was still raining when I finished this, but not nearly as hard as at its peak so I bimbled back to town for my ride home.
The long runs result in large numbers of pub stops less frequently now that I have covered so many of them. It is USUALLY only on these truly momentous runs (or, should I say, volumetric ones) that I snag some item of other from a location and then usually only at close to toxic BAC. These souvenirs usually get passed along to one or another OTHER pub later in the year marked with its date-of-absence details like this:
I am awful tempted, now, to start shooting billiards again just to start a ball exchange:
The White Swan
The King’s Arms
Eight pubs, eight pints and about 13 miles into the day’s effort (I got, erm, ‘lost’ on my way to the town centre from the Ship), I was closed to famished and soaked through to the bones. I needed a dry place to change into my dry clothing and the King’s Arms seemed to suit the bill. I couldn’t very well go in just for that so I had a Rite Flanker by Wickwar (very floral hops in this delight) which I now think had a rugby theme (Right Flanker) but at first thought it was a play on Right Wanker.
There is a pub map of Bath that is designed like the London Underground map on the wall nearest the bar and front door. I can kick myself for not having the presence of mind to take a photograph but also am fairly proud that I DID have the presence of mind NOT to just tuck it under my arm and walk out with it.
About a quarter-mile away from the Anchor and Hope I passed, then doubled back into, the Ship Inn, a massive building with a surprisingly cozy bar. I waited for the awkward school girls to cross the street before snapping the photo but should have left them in (quite goofy looking).
“Wine, the classy way to get shitfaced!” Classy, indeed.
Sticking to the mostly cider theme of the day I had yet another Thatcher’s and listened to the couple of old dudes down the end of the bar trade solutions to the crossword they were working. The barmaid quizzed me on Georgia and Arizona and winced when I said we were living in Swindon because it was so cheap; “really? It’s much cheaper here, mate.” She also does shifts at the Anchor and Hope and either is worth a visit for that feature alone.
Running up on the Anchor and Hope from the Black Horse I apologised to the guy having a smoke in the doorway: “it’s not you, but the venue.” “It’s never me, mate. I’m not that famous.” Funny, and I hope there’s a better story to that than this one I relate to you now.
I had a Black Rat Cider, always good and surprisingly orange in hue (as the birthday boy’s picture beneath the legs of Elvis ’68 attests). They had a variety of interesting ales on tap, too, and a nature programme on giant predators (an eighteen ton shark featured as we spoke about the relatively non-traditional nature of pubs closer to the town centre).
The pub dog, just a puppy, snoozed nearby and I reckoned wouldn’t be a problem if anyone wanted to sneak in and boost the collection of miniature booze (these ALWAYS make for the most delightfully miserable hangover).
Nice crowd and staff at this diner of a pub (Americans should think Bob’s or Shoney’s “Big Boy” except with cheap booze). The selection of said cheap booze wasn’t great and I fell back on lager (Carling, as usual). After a good couple of laughs with the regulars I was back out in the rain, running for another pub (blessedly nearby, a half mile or so along the way).
“So has it started raining, then?” the landlord asked.
“Only just. Pint of 6X, please.”
John Denver mocked the situation, crooning about sunshine on his shoulders and all the happiness it bestows.
The pub was huge, a right barn and packed with dining cattle to boot. A large party of people although party might be extreme: there was something funereal about the group and it might have been a wake and a big one at that. Not too surprising as most of the customers were at deaths door or, at a minimum, ringing for reservations (fat, old, fat, decrepit). The beer was perfect, by the way.
Just out on the highway down the Church Street from the Cross Keys sits the Bell Inn, ancient and furnished with, if modern, wooden tables that look worn with age. It was also just across from my off-road trail so a perfect place to stop in for another quick one (slower and slower though these seemed to become). I also intended to come in and ask why they had the Liberty Bell on the sign but it completely slipped my mind.
The Lilley’s apple/pear cider was a real delight. Clear but with the colour of ripe and slightly oxidized pear meat, it had the acidity of cider apples and the sweet depth of a properly done-up peary. Seek this out.
The sound track here was Mumford and Sons which bothered me because I thought it was just some R.E.M. I had missed along the way. It finally dawned on me as I was leaving.
The trip to the Cross Keys from the Red Lion was blessedly short if a bit muddy. In fact, it was a bit too short as I arrived there 5 minutes before opening time. I walked a bit of the village then came back when I knew I could enter, removed the muddy shoes, and ordered up a Thatcher’s Cheddar valley–an unusually dry and orange coloured cider with almost no sweetness and a bitter aftertaste of malic acid (quite a contrast to the bog-standard Thatcher’s I had just finished).
The house is old and serves as an inn more so than a pub (from the looks of things). The kitchen appeared to be larger than the public bar and smelled wonderful (at least compared to my mud and cow shite coated shoes and, frankly, self).
I thought the Red Lion would be open at 11 and so was disappointed to find the hours posted as 11:30 on a handwritten back of a cardboard box. I had blown past a couple of pubs that WERE open thinking, hey, let’s get to the turnaround point on this trek then settle into drinking at every stop on the way back…since it looked like it was going to pour rain at any moment. Best laid plans being what they are, I settled into some more of the Bob-fest on a picnic table and waited out the storm or the doors, whichever would be first.
Inside at last, the place filled quickly with diners and the professional wait staff were all a-flutter (some literally). I took my Thatcher’s Cider to a quiet end of the bar and listened to the Sinatra they had on and rather enjoyed the surroundings for this little break. Later, I would pay for the dalliance but overall it was worth the wait and the wet.
The birthday run has to start somewhere and it frequently has started in a bar (last year was an exception for a trip to Maastricht). Early mornings dictate a Wetherspoons (most serve alcohol from 9 am) and the other ‘Spoons in Trowbridge was reviewed on my previous trip here, so the Albany Palace got the nod.
You always know what to expect food-wise (not very appetising) but the beer selection and prices are always fantastic. I had a very floral beer called Spring Daze but didn’t note the brewery, sadly.
The pub is right on the park from which I planned to start, anyway, and so I did a few minutes later.
*For my 6th birthday, grandma put a crisp dollar bill in a card and instructed me to go get something I really wanted. The then 3-year-old release of Bringing It All Back Home was on sale at Woolworth for 99 cents, and I really wanted Maggie’s Farm; this amused mom no end as she thought I would by a model or a giant bag of army men. For this year’s birthday run, 45 years hence (yeah, I am now 51 years old), I loaded a shitload of Dylan on my mp3 player and headed to Trowbridge.
The route was simple and not too much of it off the paved surfaces, as you might be able to tell better from this link
than from the copy of the above map. A hard rain was forecast but for those lucky enough not to be expecting rain it was still not dark yet (but it was getting there)…there’s three paraphrased Dylan quotes in one sentence for those keeping score.
“My names Danny, aged 45, looking for married or single ladies for discreet [sic] adult fun 07751-497085″
Don’t forget that the country code is 44 if you ladies seek to contact Danny. This was sighted at the Swindon Bus Station.
The above bridge was between Woolverton and Rode or, more importantly, between the Red Lion and the Cross Keys. The one below is in Trowbridge where the stream is a little more decorative.
There wasn’t a lot of graffiti, surprisingly. The one below, spotted on the way out of Trowbridge, was a brief amusement; however, it was time for my boot heels to be wandering.
I was absolutely drenched when I showed up at the Pearl (formerly The Navy Oak, if you look it up on Google Streetview). There were some ales on offer but as this doubles as a Chinese restaurant I decided to go native and had what turned out to be a quite nice lager: Sun Lik beer. Quite strong, too, I would assume from the advertising campaign:
I spotted the Oxford HHH hare at the train station and decided to crash the party (who’s the hare, now?). Stealthily avoiding recognition I sped up to the appointed start, the Rose and Crown, and grabbed a delicious Wye Valley Brewery Slater, floral and astringent and simply perfect. I awaited my unwitting tracker expecting him to dump off his trail marking gear and got lost in the Tom Waits album playing over the loudspeakers.
He never arrived so I whipped out into the rain to try to find another pub around the nearby Cornbury Park (actually the grounds of a stately home). I also never found any of his pre-laid trail, which made this less of a G-Had HHH trip than I hoped for but they can’t all be great. The pub, though, was top-notch.
Spotted this Great Western Railway emblem on the benches at Charlbury Station during an earned rest out of the rain (though drenched).
The Bell has taken ages to make this list as it is almost always closed when I run through here. This time, though, I planned well and 9 or 10 miles into an orienteering trudge (actually a few miles after completion) I staggered into the abandoned house as the lone customer. The landlord and landlady were friendly and the Wiltshire Gold was delicious but there was really nothing notable about the visit. After all that effort to get in, I guess I expected more; still it was better than the kebab that awaited me at the run’s conclusion.
[*kpw = kebab per week for 2013, as noted in an earlier post and the 23rd entry for the 2013 Challenge]
So insidiously salty that my jaws started to lock a half hour after ingestion, this structure-free meat-esque abomination was covered with delicious tomatoes but lettuce that was soggy and had all the flavour of Easter basket hay. Yuk.
Perhaps Sammy’s Kebab shop’s name was as misleading as that of the neighbouring store which sells decorating shite but which I imagined to be a head shop. I’d have to be REALLY stoned to get another dish from Sammy’s.
This has been a fun way to explore the town but I’m glad it reached its conclusion, with the other runs here:
Runs 1 and 2
Run number 3
Runs 4 and 5
My dance card for the Swindon Rounds Orienteering Challenge is nearly complete, so much so that you can guess the final markers although a Swindon Borough Council “Travel Choices” employee answered my query about some of the absences I discovered by saying I should just write “MISSING” in the slots where the markers have gone walkabout. I’m sure some of these are the results of infrastructure updates, but she seemed certain there has been some vandalism-by-theft. If so, it would have been more imaginative to pull a “wartime resistance action” by putting up homemade markers with the wrong letters or, better, something like this batch of 30:
I only wish I had thought of this BEFORE starting the rounds….
The southwest quadrant had one marker (19 J) remaining and I needed to pick up some groceries and so I hopped off the bus out the Wootton Bassett Road and found this one a mile away on a busy bike trail before doubling back to the rail trail into Old Town. This was a very pleasant jog despite the swarms of gnats every 100 meters or so:
Next day, I bailed from the bus home at Greenbridge Roundabout for run #7 to pick up the last of the southeast quadrant markers while trying hard to find the missing 9 and 30 signs along the way but I can now confirm that there are no traces of the old markers within 100 meters in any direction of the mapped locations. Moreover, the lamp posts at the site of #29 are relatively new and this marker was probably hauled away with the old equipment. Shit, that’s four missing so far with only seven more to chase.
Run #8 took in a bit of the suburban northwest part of Swindon which is full of parks and bike paths and yobs. Also, as you see above, geese (a gosling was being protected by a group of birds just out of frame to the left).
It was cold (6°C, 42°F) with sustained winds of 25 mph and gusts to 40 (but at least it was also raining). I searched all over for marker 17 G and passed it at least once. The next one, 27 AA, was much easier to find and I took its lettering as a hint to head toward home and find some alcohol.
The final run, run #9, continued on to Purton Stoke for a pint at the Bell Inn and then to Cricklade for a disappointing kebab at Sammy’s. First, though, there were a number of markers remaining but that were unusually easy to find (for a change). Near St Mary’s, I picked up 13V and down the bottom of the hills beyond Thames Drive I found 15Z in the sun of this splendid day.
The suburban hellscape of northwest Swindon yielded the final two, 14K and 16R, and I was free to trot on to my beery reward:
The completed grid:
H, Q, AC, and AD are the ‘Missing’ markers and I infer that 29 and 30 are AC and AD, respectively. If this is correct, you have a 50% shot at nailing down 6 and 9 as H or Q (although the authorities in charge have already stated that they will accept that the missing markers actually are missing if you annotate your form thus). You can get the form at
. Let me know what the prize is and I’ll post it here soon thereafter.
Friday and Saturday yielded two more little runs in the Orienteering Challenge with the other runs here:
Runs 1 and 2
Run number 3
Runs 6 through 9 (finish).
The first one involved a trip to the mega-Sainsbury’s in Even Swindon and began near the Outlet Centre where I eventually hunted down the marker quite distant from the location the organisers’ map indicated:
The plan was to loop over to my old neighbourhood and pick up two more on the way to stock up on wine, liquor and artichoke hearts for the weekend, but the #6 marker was missing, victim to new lamp posts and other construction removals (fences, etc) at the intersection of the Western Flyer path and the National Bike Path #45. Still, once laden with 4 cans of chokes, 1.5 litres of vodka, and 3 each of wine (a box) and tonic I made my way home via Wootton Bassett Road to pick up a third marker for the trip.
Saturday, the holy war continued and I took a trot to Purton with a side trip into the parkland just north of the Link Centre. The exit from this section put me in the Lydiard Park and Manor grounds in which I always get lost.
So, the score sheet now stands at: