Velcome to LEJoG Day 27
Please accept my appoloagies for the inconweenience
Day 27 pre-amble
Blackadder II is, for my money, the best and funniest series of my third favourite sitcom. Though it is pretty much a three-way photo finish, e.g. Blackadder The Third has my favourite episode and Blackadder Goes Forth gave us one of the greatest endings to any TV programme ever made. In any genre. My decision rests on three factors:
- The best ensemble, especially Miranda Richardson’s Queen Elizabeth, who it is fair to say helped pass on an enduring desire for girlish playfulness in otherwise mature, confident and intelligent women. Also, Tim McInnerny is especially brilliant in the single funniest episode of all 24, ‘Money’. (This clip ends with my single favourite putdown, so exquisitely timed by Rowan Atkinson it is Exhibit A in why I could never get on with Mr. Bean)
- The songs at the end.
- The fact that Goes Forth relies on plots from previous series, e.g. ‘Major Star’ borrows wholesale from II‘s ‘Bells’ and ‘General Hospital’ is clearly indebted to ‘Amy and Amiability’. Flashheart is obviously strong enough to sustain a complete episode, as in ‘Private Plane’, but as unforgettable as those lines about his face and how to treat your plane are, this from ‘Bells’ isn’t just stealing a scene, it’s running away with the whole episode in three minutes. I might also add that, at this point, the late Rik Mayall was best known for The Young Ones and had pretty much never done ‘sexy’. If you don’t think this man was some kind of genius we can’t be friends.
He agreed to make a guest appearance as Lord Flashheart in Blackadder II: Bells (1986) on the condition that he get more laughs than Rowan Atkinson. According to Tony Robinson, after filming, Mayall asked, “Did I win?”.
Today’s post title is the set-up for the final joke before the final credits* of the final episode of Blackadder II (‘Chains’). To wit:
And me, did you miss me Edmund?
Madam, life without you is like a broken pencil.
I’d love to keep talking about Blackadder and the denizens of 1980s comedy, but I have more mundane reasons for choosing this title. That’s what today’s stage, and LEJoG in general, felt like: bloody pointless.
(*as fans well know and will point out if I don’t do so first, there is a brief post-credits sequence)
LEJoG Day 27 (Tuesday 31 July 2018)
Ross-on-Wye to Ledbury (17½ miles)
Cumulative: 388½ miles
Facts: Time on walk: 5 hours 20 minutes (seemed longer). Average speed: 3.28 mph. Weather: Warm, sometimes very warm, less breeze than yesterday.
Practicalities: None until after the walk: straight out of the door and off.
Start: Raglan House, Ross-on-Wye, 9:50am. End: Feathers Hotel, Ledbury, 3:55pm (seemed later).
After 47 days (at the time of writing), I don’t think there’s any doubt – this was the most demoralising one so far. The only time I almost lost my head.
Reason one was that, as with a number of stages in Somerset, I underestimated the total distance by at least 2 miles. I thought from the map this stage would be 15 miles tops. Add this to afternoon heat and the need to get back home from Ledbury that evening, and you begin to appreciate why any detour, delay or error seemed magnified.
The day began straightforwardly enough with a stroll down the hill and a gentle climb up Brampton Street. Here’s the satellite map for you to plot the route as described. All chosen paths are marked on OS Explorer maps 149 (Hereford and Ross-on-Wye) or 190 (Malvern Hills and Bredon Hill) with a short section on OL14 (Wye Valley/Forest of Dean) only.
After crossing the A40 on a footbridge, it’s downhill on Brampton Road. At the right hand bend go straight ahead. There is a clear path through the potato field. You will emerge near St Michael’s Church (no wedding bells today) in the small village of Brampton Abbotts. Follow the road to the right, turn left into Ross Road, right into Gatsford Lane and left again past a farm and kennels. There is a very obvious footpath between here and the A449. The main A road between Ross and Ledbury has narrow verges but is far from the worst en route, and you’re not even on it for half a mile. So far so good, little to complain about.
At a crossroads of paths, take a right and pick up a wide, grassy track bearing left, then right again. Head for the farm buildings in the middle distance. You are diverted around them in a semi-circle and then join an access road which leads to the B4224. The road has narrow verges both sides; there’s more room on the right. Turn right downhill, cross at a suitable place and then, before reaching Crow Hill, clamber over a stile on the left and into a field. Don’t go through the nearby gate.
Follow a path heading uphill and lined with trees to the right, which finishes with an enclosed section leading to the residential homes of Upton Bishop. Turn right at the first street you encounter, then left at the first junction. Then just keep following the road for just under two miles. It is quiet and wide enough to avoid traffic with comfort. I must admit I’d forgotten how comparatively easy – almost blissful – this first part of the day was.
By the time you’ve got to the end of the road, 7 miles are behind you. Turn left at the junction and pick up a footpath about fifty metres or so down the road, on the right. This path is marked ‘Daffodil Way’ and heads SE through farmland. As you reach the farmyard the path bears left (E). You re-emerge on a road just south of Kempley. Turn right, then immediate left into a (rather posh) cul-de-sac, picking up a new footpath to the right.
Follow the path SE. At the end of the first field there appear to be trees in your way and no clear path through the hedges to the right. Keep straight on: there is a way through the trees straight ahead but it is not easy to find. Once through there are more farm buildings and sheep dips. To your left there is a large, dense wood which you will need to head for. There is a signpost, which is encouraging, but any waymarks will soon disappear. I will try to be as helpful as possible with the route, but this is where things started going wrong. 8½ miles completed now. It’s a walk of two halves, Brian.
Right then, here goes. The first problem: no obvious entrance into the woods. Sure, the path NE from the signpost is clear enough and dead straight. But when you reach the edge of the wood there are no signs, waymarks or gates. It’s pure guesswork as to where the path on the OS map actually is. I fought through brambles to a clearing. Tripped over, flat on my face. Only later did I realise the trip had cost me the Bloc sunglasses I bought only a month earlier.
So, from the clearing I thought there should be a direct path to a narrow road. According to the satellite map there is indeed a faint path through the trees, south of where I ended up. I headed for the triangular-shaped lake, fought through some more woods and headed SE towards a building. This turned out to be residential. Without the inclination for a retreat, I pushed through some more trees, climbed a fence and left by the front gate, finally arriving on the narrow road as intended.
Headed south on the road and then east along a track identifiable on the satellite map. This headed directly for another road, which I wanted to use to reach the village of Dymock, a mile to the north. However, the path then bore right (south) and I could hear the traffic on the M50 getting closer. Knowing this was the wrong direction, I came off the path and climbed through the wood hoping for a stile or fence that would bring me out on the Dymock road. I was in luck, but scratched, bruised and flustered.
Could have followed a parallel footpath to the east, but stuck with the road to Dymock. Stopped for lunch (1:20-1:50) on a bench. By now it was very warm: easily the highest temperatures on this July section. I guessed (fairly accurately for once) there were 6 miles left. Wanted to stick to roads as far as possible but knew this would be difficult due to traffic and narrow verges. Headed north along the B4216. Just after the River Leadon there was a clear footpath (E) through a ploughed field to Ryton Road. From there I picked up another path heading N then E. Upon meeting a bend in the road, headed north through open fields. Other than a brief diversion for cows, this was the easiest part of today’s second half. Turned right along the road, and then left opposite Charles Martell & Son (cheese manufacturer).
This is also a straightforward section, leading you back to the road just north of the Vineyard Farm. Kept following the road north, taking a left at the fork and sticking with it to the final bend before heading into a field with farm buildings on the left. Reaching the end of this field, there is no obvious gate in spite of the path being marked on OS. I can’t see the path on the satellite map either. What I did was branch right, following a vague line of trees in the general direction of the A417, hoping the path made itself known to me. It remained shy. Having almost reached the A417 I turned left, trying to find a way into the next field north. Naturally, they were separated by a ditch… had to go several hundred yards left before finding a crossing point.
Some cause for optimism: there was a clear path heading towards farm buildings and an access road. And the first waymarks (!) for miles, proceeding north to the right of the access road. But then… another ditch, which forced me to turn left, cross the access road and pick up another promising-looking path heading NW. This seemed to fulfil its promise for the first half mile. But then… within sight of the A449, I found the way blocked by temporary wire fencing. Wire fencing, of all things! Had to divert right for a couple of hundred yards, then turn right and complete a loop just to be able to head north unobstructed. This map is centred on the loop.
Finally I found a route to the A449 Leadon Way, through some crops. I very much doubt it was the right of way on the map, but I’d had enough by now, didn’t care and no-one shouted at me. Turned right, crossed the road to give myself a pavement, and turned left to follow the main road for the last half mile or so into Ledbury. Stopped opposite the Feathers Hotel, my accommodation when re-starting next week.
I was really fed up, beyond anything I’d ever felt on a walk before. Hot, bothered, unsatisfied, dishevelled, wondering why I was doing this and who I was doing it for if it made me unhappy. My perspective has changed since. I’m very lucky to be able to challenge myself like this, and write about it. One of my weaknesses before illness was not counting my blessings, or rather thinking I did but not acting as if I truly believed myself fortunate. You’ll see from tomorrow’s entry that the Malverns were my well-earned reward for today’s nadir.
After the walk
More walking. Ledbury train station was a mile north of the Feathers. Walked there, checked the train times, changed and deodorised so I was fit to share public transport. Incidentally, if you have to use public transport after a walk I strongly recommend doing this. It should go without saying, but I guess many commuters have found themselves in close proximity to people who don’t place a premium on personal hygiene or basic social obligations. There were no toilets at Ledbury station, but it was reasonably easy to change and freshen up surreptitiously in the platform shelter. It is essential – you can always find a way.
Had time to pop to a Spar for sandwiches and drinks before catching the train home. Disappointed that I didn’t have time for a rejuvenating beer on this warm afternoon – kind of envious of myself on Day 1. However at least I can say that, by the time I was on the train, I’d thrown off my mental chains.
About a quarter of a century ago I wrote this line as the conclusion to an undergraduate essay about Richard Nixon’s attitude of “benign neglect” towards civil rights in the USA. It feels appropriate for today. For the Malverns read Kennedy and Johnson, for today read Tricky Dicky.
Tomorrow’s walk through the Malvern Hills is promoted as “a breath of fresh air”. By comparison, the walk from Ross-on-Wye to Ledbury was like being cornered at a bad party by someone with severe halitosis.
Postscript – My Listening Pleasure (the songs at the end, if you like)
Chart Music #19 (from Ross-on-Wye to the bit where I nearly hit the M50). Largely rotten music, but Sarah was in her element talking about Fuzzbox and there was plenty of comic mileage in the unfortunate debut presenter (Simon Parkin).
Chart Music #20 (from Dymock to my change and freshen at Ledbury station). Mike Read makes his first appearance on Chart Music, and for comic mileage, Simon Parkin has nothing on this lady. The highlight, though, is the No.1: one of the greatest three and a half minutes in pop, by one of the most unimpeachable bands who ever lived.
On the train home: Chart Music #21. The latest TOTP to date (1995) and again it feels lacking next to the best 70s and 80s episodes. Mind you, the No.1 is shamelessly ace, and it’s genuinely appreciated by the panel. This is also the episode where the Patreon appeal starts (I’m top-tier of course).
Picture of Rowan Atkinson (Edmund, Lord Blackadder) and Miranda Richardson (Queen Elizabeth I), from Blackadder II, episode 6 of 6, ‘Chains’, written by Richard Curtis and Ben Elton and first screened 20 February 1986. He’s literally pursing his lips to say the word “pointless”. Big thanks to bleistift for this image.
Next: Day 28 (4 August 2018)… in which there’s golden sunshine in them there hills you’ve seen so many times from the M5.