Monday, 10 April 2017

People, chalk mines, brickwork railways and Spring.

Up and down our country (and yes, that includes Scotland) Challengers are stretching their legs. Social media tells of new shelters, boots, rucsacs and knocking back pints of methylated spirits to dull the pain. Most seem to be preparing alone; they prefer it that way. This is either because they have no mates or the oft-used blether of seeing more wildlife, appreciating the silence and rambling wherever their wont takes them, unencumbered by a companion. 

However, on my solitary strolls (No, I don't have any mates either) around the local patch I've experienced enormous pleasure bumping into some fascinating characters.

I had passed a Foggy, Compo and Clegg combo on an afternoon thirteen miler, ambling along a fine stretch of footpath only to bump into them again a few hours later. It would have been curmudgeonly not to have a quick chat, seeing as we were the only people for miles around (I would add that this is not something that would have troubled the Curmudgeon-in-Chief, Lord Elpus) and I discovered them to be a wonderful bunch. They have been walking together for fifty years or so and by all accounts had been there and got the t-shirt. 

Amongst various stories we shared, I found out that they had helped in the campaign for the Ridgeway to become a National Trail and were the first people to walk it, along with the campaign's chief organiser upon its designation in 1972. 

We were strolling along a straight section of path that I had often thought looked a little direct, and the trio mentioned that it had once been a railway for the Binfield Brickworks. This area used to be full of brickworks; As a boy I had learned to canoe (or worse, learned to capsize the bloody thing) in the old Warfield Brickworks' clay pit lake. It's now a housing estate.

I have tried to find out more about the Binfield works, but have drawn a blank. From the map I can only surmise that it used to be where the sewage works is now, but that has been there since before I was born. 

Surprised at my ignorance of things local, the boys then told me all about the Reading Chalk Mines. At this point I was convinced that these blighters were pulling my leg. Indeed, they continued, a shaft to the mine could be found in an excellent pie shop in Reading town centre!

Yeah, right...

Well stone me, mate, but after a very quick Google I discovered that indeed there was a Reading Chalk Mine and it still exists! The chalk was used in the production of the local bricks - a soft red rubbing brick. A few years ago a terrace of houses started to collapse as the mine workings beneath fell in. Lorry loads of concrete were poured into the mine to prevent further disasters. I have yet to find the Pie Shop referred to, but intend to track it down as the pies are purportedly delicious.

The pictures in this post are in chronological order and you'll notice that since my last post three weeks ago Spring has sprung and it just remains for the oaks to pull their roots up and get on with it. They are lazy blighters.

I spent a nervous half hour yesterday attacking my very pricey Carbon Superfeet insoles with a very sharp knife. It's a tricky job as you only have the boots' floppy insoles to use as a template and the Superfeet have a very definite vertical profile, so it's a question of a tiny slice at a time until they fit perfectly. They're much more comfortable now.

And speaking of huge expense, I recently took out a mortgage on a new pair of Smartwool socks. Dear God! When did they become so expensive?





For completeness I've attached the progress to date. It's all going rather swimmingly.

In a week's time I shall be amongst a gang of hooligans on the Annual PreWalkDaunder, this year being run by our Guest Fat Controller, that VeryVeryNiceMan Mr Williams. He's had his work cut out, as there are fourteen of the blighters on this year's walk! It's like herding cats.


  1. Soft, red rubbing bricks? Everybody has their own particular peccadilloes, I suppose... Personally, I'd recommend baby oil and two feet of parcel string.

    1. Wouldn't you prefer the coarser fraggley sisal, Sir? Of course, I wouldn't recommend baby oil with sisal. Perhaps a grinding paste?
      But each to their own.

  2. I always find industrial archeology and history very interesting. Your photos are particularly good too. Nice post.

    1. You're a very kind fellow, Al.
      They're a mixture of phone and camera, both cheapo jobs, and all taken with a generous dose of shake.

      The industrial archeology is strange for me, as I was brought up in this neck of the woods but all we had was a New Town, that bulldozed everything before it.
      It's only now that the new town itself is being demolished to make way for a newer town that I've started to take an interest in what was before.

  3. Alan,
    I think the pie shop with the mine entrance may well be:-


    1. Thank you Stewart. That looks very promising!
      And it sells pies!

  4. Never ceases to amaze me how much interesting stuff there is in the `UK~ in the most unlikely of places. A chalk mine indeed. I don't feel quite so bad about telling my kids when they were small that Trig pillars were filled with parmesan cheese and salami

  5. Who was on the thirteen miler, the Last of The Summer Wine crew or you?
    I've just discovered that one of the fields I regularly walk through used to host a prize winning Polo pony stud farm.

    1. Yes.

      I'm not sure how far the bigger boys were walking, but the highlighted route on their printout looked formidable.

      My sentence construction has always been woeful. I put it down to a Comprehensive School education, a love of Fred the mathematical fly and Brexit.

      Your readers now demand in depth research on the polo ponies, famous alumni and highest scoring matches.

  6. Glad to see you are sticking to your training schedule Alan. Cardon Super Feet and Smart wool socks ! Whatever next! Self herding moggies maybe?
    Good luck for the TGO, hope you have fun ;)

    1. Story of my life Andrew. My socks are smarter than me and my insoles are made of tougher stuff. My walking poles don't have dodgy knees and the boots have not a shred of gout.

      The schedule's going well, but it's all gentle well-mannered stuff. However, next week I'm off to the Lakes from some proper rufty-tufty stuff, and possibly a few beers.

      But nothing can prepare you for the sheer fabulousness of the TGO Challenge.

    2. I have already started daydreaming that maybe one day....

    3. Do it, Sir.
      Promise yourself to fill out the application form in September.

  7. Sock price inflation never gets the exposure it merits in the mainstream media. I like Thorlos hikers and light hikers, although they're not always the easiest to find (in the shops, that is, not the sock drawer). But the RRP for the light hiking socks is fourteen quid, for what is not much heavier than a liner sock, although you might find them a bit cheaper online.

    I don't generally buy much from Mountain Warehouse, but I've found their Isocool liner socks actually pretty decent. Not quite up to the standard of Bridgedale liners, but not bad and quite durable for.

    1. RPI, CPI and yes, SPI.
      Someone should get in touch with those statistical boys with the ear of HMG.

      Having bought these expensive blighters, what do I find at the bottom, right at the back of the bottom sock drawer? Yes. Four (yes, FOUR!) pairs of the blighters that I had bought when there was a rumour going round that they weren't going to be made any more...

  8. I just wrote a very long comment which has disappeared as I pressed summat on this not very clever phone. I'm not going to try again. Laziness? Absolutely. All I'll say is that it was very droll. Hilarious. A masterpiece of a comment.

    1. Yes. I am now the owner of a very bright phone. Much smarter than me. So much so that it writes my sentences for me. It's better at them than I ever was, or could be, and so from now on this blog is going to be looked after by Moto G4.

      And as for your your Comment Lassitude, Sir, it need a smart kick up the derriere. Give me droll. Give me a masterwork in hilarity. Good Lord, this place could do with brightening up.

      So - back to work for you my boy. Retired eh? Not on my watch, you're not!


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