New Year’s Day dawned bright and relatively clear and we wanted to kick off our new “regular walking regime” with an actual walk. But where to go?
We wanted somewhere a bit flat (because we’re just starting). We wanted somewhere near water (because we both like water). We wanted somewhere the poet could have a go on his new “spotting scope” (because it was his new Christmas toy and he wanted to play with it). We wanted a National Trust property (because we’ve paid for it). And we wanted somewhere fairly close-by (because we didn’t want to spend the limited daylight hours at this time of year driving and only an hour of daylight walking).
So where to go?
Our choices included Nostell Priory (but we weren’t sure what would be open), Calke Abbey (but that might be better visited on our way back from Birmingham one day), and Clumber Park (but we’ve been there before – lots of times). We settled for Clumber Park for the flatness, because we know there’s birdlife, and we knew it would be empty … And anyway, as there’s a path all the way round, I wouldn’t even need my walking boots …
Ho ho ho – how wrong were we on those last 2 counts?
So we packed our picnic, packed the car, and headed off. Within 45 minutes we were there.
And it was PACKED.
And very, very MUDDY.
We had to go through 2 different checks to get in on our membership cards and then drove around for a while, in the regular car park, looking for a space. And we found one that was just being vacated.
Clumber Park has lots of facilities for visitors, including bicycle hire (and power cycles), gift shops, nature trails, things for kids to do, several cafeterias, a church, a walled garden – I love the walled garden but (a) the dog isn’t allowed, and (b) it was closed on this visit. The dog, however, is allowed everywhere in the grounds SO LONG AS HE’S KEPT ON A LEAD … there were a number of other dog owners there who really need to know that this applies to them as well.
(Mini rant alert) If there are other people about, especially children, or other dogs, or livestock, or signs that request it, we always keep our dog on a lead. He’s not vicious, but he is playful. Very playful. Quite excitable. And a nuisance. So when other dogs come up to him that aren’t on leads to sniff at him, he may think they’re coming to play and he goes into play mode. But if that’s not what they want, they can go into snap mode – and that causes our dog to go into snap mode too. He also has a massive BARK. And then it risks getting nasty. OUR DOG IS KEPT ON A LEAD FOR A REASON. Please respect that when you see other dog walkers around. And please, please, PLEASE respect the signs. They really do apply to you too. Those who don’t keep their dogs under control risk having dogs banned from that attraction for ever – and that really isn’t fair on those of us who do keep them under control. (End of mini rant)
So anyway, we headed off across the lawn to the lakeside and started our walk. By this time I had put my walking boots on … and my gaiters, as it really was very wet and muddy underfoot, with path-wide puddles up to the ankles in some places. It was incredibly busy and we tried to keep to the grassed and wooded parts, where we saw a rhododendron coming to life after the autumn hibernation and a white squirrel. There were grey squirrels playing too, but the white one was quite a treat.
The poet took pictures of the ducks, the geese, the swans, the other waterfowl. He took pictures of the surroundings. He took pictures of us.
About halfway around, just over the first bridge, there was an ice cream van and a snack bar. We’d left the picnic in the car but I needed some sugar to get me back there. So we both had mince pies, I had an ice cream, and we shared a bottle of Coca Cola. The dog was far too excited to have anything, especially as all of these hundreds of people were obviously there just to see him! (And in fact, some of them were!)
I checked MapMyWalk and we’d done just under 2 miles, so that didn’t feel very good.
We walked a bit further to where the poet could set up his telescope, and we stayed a while to see what he could see through that. We met a labradoodle and a jackshit (a cross between a jack russell and a shiatsu!). The lab was yampy, the jack was very sweet – and quite quiet for a jack.
By the time we got back to the car we were ready for our picnic. The weather had stayed dry and we’d walked more than 4 miles, but the dog was filthy and needed a good rub down before being allowed back in the car. He had a big, long drink, helped us with our picnic, and then fell asleep.
The walk was nice and flat, if muddy underfoot. It’s further than we’ve walked just lately but it was doable. We were both stiff when we got out of the car at home 45 minutes later, and I was quite achey the following morning (so was the poet, but his was gigor mortis). But it was a nice, easy walk to start with and had plenty to see and do on the way around.