No, that’s not a metaphor for once, it was today’s literal truth. As is often the way, while all the sane people were saying ‘It’s bloody horrible out there, I’m staying in,’ the continual, pelting rain lured me out. There was a moment when the sofa and the latest O’Brian put forward a compelling counter-argument; but remembrance of months of near total inactivity that have almost made me think I should start running again won the day.
I planned a nice, 9.5 miles in the Chilterns, but it was two walks joined together so if the weather were too ghastly, or the re-waterproofing of my jacket and trousers hadn’t taken, I had the option of wimping out 5.5 miles in. The rain it rained, and that was fine, although waterproof gloves just got higher up on my wishlist. The view was mostly grey-brown and dingy green, some of the paths were pure running water, but it was pretty much as expected. I passed a pub called The Three Horseshoes that seems worth a visit when I’m not soaked and muddy.
Then the day took a turn for the worse. Horizontal sleet and snow stood in for the rain, and I mistook my route enough for 15-20 minutes of backtracking. Also enough to make me very irritated with myself indeed. Anyone who has been walking with me will have witnessed my surprising inability to read a map or even follow written directions. On the other hand, I never have to figure it out myself because someone else is usually there to do it for me. Today, I reckoned, I’d have no choice, and so necessity would force me to make sense of the puzzle.
Yeah, not so much. I took a wrong path for the second time, and by that point I was too tired, cold and fed up of slipping through mud to backtrack. There was no decision to be made about cutting the route short, either, I’d left that option behind somewhere unknown. I hit a road, and since I knew roughly where it was, and where it would tip me out, I stuck to it. What I didn’t know was exactly how far this new route would be, but distance was unlikely to be the problem. The Chilterns aren’t exactly uninhabited, either. I’d either frozen or waterlogged my phone but if I really felt like giving up, I thought I could knock on someone’s door and get them to call me a taxi back to my car.
I didn’t feel like giving up. Or rather, by the time I did, my next known reference point (where I also knew there was a tea shop) was only 3/4 mile away; and when I got there (to find that the teashop had closed) the car was a maximum of 5 miles away. That was further than I’d hoped, but hell, 5 miles of certainty on the straight flat? I picked up the pace.
The next concern was that I’d parked the car in a garden centre, and it seemed likely that it would be closed when I got there. Unreliable memory furnished the village with a pub, though, so my worst-case scenario was still the ‘call a cab’ option. I think the last mile through the goddamn village to the garden centre was the worst. There was no pub, the snow was trying in earnest and I was chilled to the bone. A very, very big thank you to the staff at Studley Green Garden Centre, who had hung around waiting to see if the solitary car’s owner turned up and then were very gracious about it.
So that was that, adventure over. It took me a good couple of hours with a blanket, a hot water bottle and copious amounts of tea to warm up. No real harm done, but several lessons learned. It saddens me that I really can’t be trusted to go walking on my own but I don’t think it’s something that I’m prepared to give up. Map reading lessons it must be.