2014, a whole new year …

2014-1It is still early December as I start to write what may well be my last blog of 2013. I started the year by saying an aim was to get my blog off the ground; well at least I have achieved one thing that I set out to do.

Many things have happened this year; some good, some bad. Some that I will detail here and a number that I won’t. Has it been a good year? I’m not sure, perhaps not; certainly not the best, but also not the worst.

Morocco was a highlight. Three weeks driving through the mountains and deserts as well as the long and tiring journey there and back. There were many sights, sounds, smells and experiences which I will not forget from that trip, much of which I wrote about at the time. It also marked the completion of the third of my “overland” journeys that I had in my sights when I purchased my current Land Rover a couple of years back; Nordkapp, the Scottish Highlands & Islands and finally Morocco.

As always work has played a major part in my life. Probably too much as it has left its mark in a number of ways. The first half of the year, 10 to 12 hour days, six days a week, thankfully based in the office so there wasn’t the addition of travel, but even so…. The last six months have generally only been normal weeks but a lot of trips to the Middle East for projects there. In fact I am writing this very passage while sitting on a plane in Dubai heading for Qatar and then home. This year also saw Lauren pass her A Levels and head off to university. A very strange feeling leaving your only child at her new home while you drive away. I see her as much as possible and Skype when not in the same place. She seems to be getting on well, and is happy which, of course, is all I can hope for.

So as 2013 comes to a close what will the next 12 months have to throw at us?

It is of course impossible to know what lies in wait. There are many things which we cannot control or avoid and so simply have to make the most of. However, it is possible to plan; to list what you want to achieve and set out on a path which will, if all things are equal, ensure that you archive those goals ……..

Christmas is now behind me and so it is less than a week to the start of the New Year. 2014 is a year in which I intend to travel more. There is a possibility of a trip to Australia, which if it comes off will simply postpone one of the other destinations I have listed, but as it is completely out of my control I don’t intend including it in my plans. If it happens great, otherwise I will simply make the following destinations in stead:

Norway

I have been to Norway before but this time I have a different location in mind. I am hoping to see more of the country as my previous trip was all about the journey and the single destination. This time my plan is to get a ferry directly into Oslo, finding time to explore the city properly either on the way in or the way out, and then travel up the East coast. This will allow me to see the fjords and the mountains.

In addition to Oslo there are two particular sights I want to see, the Atlantic Road, which has been described as the best road trip in the world, as well as the Sognefjellet National Tourist Route which is the highest mountain pass in northern Europe.

The Alps

It looks like 2014 may be the year of mountains and high passes, although I am not yet sure which of the following options I will choose, I guess it will depend on the time available and the final route I map out, but here are a few which are included in a list of the 10 best drives in Europe:

Of course it is just possible that I will do all six!

Personal Challenges

It is my intention to set myself a few more walking challenges next year to help improve by general fitness and well-being. As you can see elsewhere in my blog, I did two 20+ mile walks in 2013, both along relatively flat waterways. Therefore my next locations may not be quite so far, but they will involve more slopes. Locations have yet to be chosen but living here in the Chilterns hills are not too difficult to find. I would also hope to include another sponsored event which will need to be both further and more physically demanding than the last if I am to better my previous amount raised.

With those thoughts and plans set out for all to read I hope this will give me the motivation to achieve them, only time will tell, but for now all that is left is to wish you a very Happy and Prosperous New Year.

2014-4

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Challenge No. 2, The Canal Side Walk

The Canal Challenge; Aylesbury to Wendover and back via the Grand Union Canal: Sunday 3rd November.

The challenge was again straight forward, a 20 mile walk from Aylesbury along the main road to Wendover (6miles) and then back via the Wendover Arm (6.5 miles), Grand Union Canal (1 mile) and Aylesbury Arm (6.5 miles).

I set off from the car park in Aylesbury at 08:20 heading straight along the main road to Wendover in the most direct route. Generally there is not a lot to see along this stretch but at that time of the morning there was only me and a few joggers about. I made good time and was at the start of the Wendover Arm at 09:40.

2013-11-03 09.42.06The Wendover Arm, although not navigable along the bulk of its length, is to me the far more interesting section as I feel it has more history; as well as in parts the renovation work is there for all to see.

“The Leaky” Canal as it become known was initially designed as a way of transferring water from a natural spring to the increasingly busy, and thus thirsty, Grand Junction Canal as it was known at the time. Work began in 1793 and were soon expanded to create a navigable route through to the village. The canal opened in 1797.

Within 5 years it became evident that the canal was leaking. Despite many attempts2013-11-03 09.44.15 to solve the problem the water loss increased over the next 100 years to such an extent that rather than feeding water to the main canal, the Wendover Arm was actually draining water!

In 1904 the Arm was abandoned. A stop-lock was constructed at Tringford and the remaining water diverted underground to Wilstone Reservoir.

One of the villages passed through on the early part of the walk is Halton; now principally known for the RAF base which surrounds the village and covers a large amount of the surrounding land. In 1720 the estate was purchased by Sir Francis Dashwood, although not occupied as the family preferred their principle residence at West Wycombe. When Sir John Dashwood died, leaving enormous debts, the property was sold for the sum of £47,000 to Baron Lional Rothschild whose family owned a number of large estates in the area. One notable visitor to the estate was the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII, who enjoyed the opportunity to meet with his mistress Lily Langtry.

The "Narrows"A short stretch of the canal still shows the extent to which attempts were made to “plug the leaks”. This section is known as “the narrows” and was lined with concrete to act both as a wharf for delivering goods to the now demolished Green Park home of Sir Anthony De Rothschild, as well as to prevent the persistent leakage invading his dining room!

Leaving the wooded canopy the canal passes into open fields which is the general terrain all the way to the Grand Union. At 10:45 I passed under the A41 and came to the part that had been drained or, as is probably more truthful, allowed to drain.

2013-11-03 11.05.09 As you move along the tow path you initially pass by the empty remains of the dried waterway followed by a section that has been fully renovated and ready to be refilled; next renovation is underway and then through the process back to the dried out remains, but this time with a very muddy canal floor that has been well churned up by the construction traffic that is moved along its length to get men and materials to the construction site. Clearly the traffic is moving regularly.

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It is fascinating to see the renovation in progress with specific pieces of work being undertaken so visibly before you. What would once have all be done my hand is now supplemented by machine, but the basic process is as it always was.

Another element of the renovation that fascinates me is the time the overall project will take to complete. People who were there at the beginning will never see the end, yet they put their time and efforts into a project that, when complete, will provide a lasting legacy for all.

2013-11-03 11.55.56Having completed the second leg of my walk I reached the Grand Union Canal at 11:55. This magnificent house marks the junction between the Arm and the Grand Union. It was also the first time I saw real boats on the canal during my walk!

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On reaching the Grand Union you turn left and follow the main canal for just under a mile before turning left again and heading back towards Aylesbury. This section provided an opportunity for a well earned, in my opinion, cup of tea at the Blue Bell Cafe which is housed in an old canal building. It was clearly very popular judging by the number of people queuing and eating.

Having stopped for lunch and enjoyed my cup of tea, I started the journey along the Aylesbury Arm at about 12:30.

Immediately on turning left onto the Aylesbury Arm you are presented with something that is missing from the whole length of the Wendover Arm – a lock!! As can be seen from the following pictures they are extremely deep and, interestingly, narrow. Locks on the main Grand Union tend to be 14ft wide, where as those on the Arm are only 7ft. This wouldn’t have been a problem as most working boats were designed for the 7ft locks.

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The walk back to Aylesbury was generally uneventful with the exception of the detour around one of the locks which was being repaired (http://www.bucksherald.co.uk/news/more-news/update-collapsed-aylesbury-canal-lock-should-be-repaired-by-august-bank-holiday-1-4965839). Unfortunately it was not possible to get close enough to see the work being undertaken and the detour itself was not well sign posted so proved to be a little annoying.

A little while ago when I first thought about walking the Aylesbury Arm, there was a small boat yard right at the end of the canal; the boats were visible as you drove out of town. Recently when planning my route I had noticed that the yard had gone, seemingly brushed away by the development work being undertaken around the new Waterside Theatre. What I wasn’t aware of was that a brand new boat yard had been built a little way out of the town centre with new moorings and sheds which will hopefully help to breath new life in to this wonderful asset.

My walk complete I was back at the car by 14:45. My challenge was done, my feet were sore, but I had seen a part of my local countryside for the first time so headed for home with a very satisfying sense of achievement.

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For more information about the Wendover Arm please take a look at their website. It is full of interesting facts about the history of the canal as well as the progress of the on-going renovations works  >>  http://www.wendoverarmtrust.co.uk/

Although no specific website exists for the Aylesbury Arm there are a number of interesting pages to view – just Google! The following is just one example I found  >>   http://www.grandunioncanal.co.uk/Aylesbury-GU.html

Challenge, the first, completed

It is with great please that I record the completion of this challenge.

Lauren and I set off slightly later than planned due to various traffic issues on route to Reading, but we were away by 09:00 which was good enough.

2013-09-08 09.01.03-1 Our route took us down the Thames path from Reading Bridge through Sonning, Shiplake, Henley on Thames, Remenham, Medmenham, Hurley, Bisham, Marlow and finally our destination, Bourne End Marina.

We completed out walk just after 16:00, a quite respectable 7 hours.

In Sonning we spotted this post box on the side of a bridge over the river. Sonning Bridge If you click on the photo you will see a bigger copy.

We thought it a rather odd place to put such an item; who was going to post their letter there, and how was the postman supposed to collect them? Well it would appear that the locals were also mystified as this story from the BBC news website testifies: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-berkshire-24028902

Generally we were very luck with the weather, although we did get soaked three times with short, sharp showers.

I intented to record every significant point with a photograph; certainly the start and finish. The start is above, however, when we finally arrived in Bourne End we’d had enough and just needed to get into the car and go home, so unfortunately no end photo.

2013-09-08 09.52.40-1 It is safe to say it was tougher than expected. Both Lauren and I had blisters, aches and pains. But we had done it and were both very pleased with ourselves.

Finally, I would like to thank everyone who sponsored us. Currently we have raised £372 (£447 with gift aid) which is way beyond my target or hope. THANK YOU!

Challenge, the first!

Baldrick In true Baldrick style – I have a cunning plan!

Well actually that isn’t quite true. About as far as I have got is the need to start slow and build from there. My initial thoughts, and subsequent Google searches, have identified a number of walks and treks which will fulfil my ambitions very well. But not just yet.

So to the first challenge which is now in place and only a couple of weeks away….

At 08:30 on the 8th September 2013 I intend to set off from Reading Bridge on a 20+ mile walk along the River Thames to Bourne End marina. I am not too sure how long this will take or how I am going to feel at the end of it. It sounds very straight forward when you say it quickly but for someone who in the past has only put one foot in front of the other out of absolute necessity, it is a very long way! Fingers crossed I survive and am still enthusiastic for the next obstacle I put in my own path.

As part of the challenge I am looking to raise money for two great causes; Help for Heroes and Rennie Grove Hospice Care. If you are kind enough to venture to my fundraising page you will see that I have kept my initial target rather low; just £100. This is mainly because I intended this to be just the start. As the challenges get harder so the target will get bigger!

So finally, if you are in a position to spare a few coins, all donations will be greatly appreciated:

www.virginmoneygiving.com/DarenBarber

Thanks for reading and please come back to see how I get on and the next challenge I decide to undertake.

RGHCH4H

Time for a challenge …..

20130817-223838.jpg There comes a time in your life when you must accept you are not getting any younger. Normally at the same time you realise that there are still a million things to be done! When you are young you have all the time in the world. The sun is always shining and there is no rush for anything. There is always tomorrow ….

Then you realise that there are only so many tomorrows left and, of course, you have no idea how big or small that number actually is!!

“Tired of lying in the sunshine staying home to watch the rain
You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today
And then one day you find ten years have got behind you
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun”
Time – Pink Floyd

I have come to that time in my life. Although I think of myself as twenty+ years younger than I am, there are many things to remind me that I am not! When once I didn’t suffer from hangovers now it takes me a good week to get over a serious night out; plus I have my daughter reminding me every half hour that it is my own fault.

Over the past few years, as this blog will verify, I have started to do some of those things that have been on my list for ever. I have driven to Nordkapp and Morocco. I have travelled the highlands and islands of Scotland. Although I plan to go back to these places plus many others, I can at least look back and say “I did that!”.

Now I am beginning to think of my physical self. I am certainly older that I would like to be – aren’t we all – but of course there isn’t a great deal I can do about that. A time machine could be useful but I am no inventor or physicist. I am also heavier than I would like to be and less fit; these are things that can be rectified. They are within my power to change, to make a difference.

And so changes are a foot. Gym membership has been gained and exercise is becoming part of my life. Who would have thought it! I have spent my entire life avoiding any kind of sport and now I find myself with a season ticket to the greatest rugby union team in the country, London Wasps just in case there was any doubt, and a gym membership. I have also heard myself saying at the end of a particularly hard session – I enjoyed that! What, this cannot be right! How can anybody, let alone me, admit to liking exercise?

Well that is where I find myself. Although I still have a long way to go before I can say I have met these particular objectives, and to be honest I am not entirely sure I have set them yet, I am on my way.

So next I am thinking I need to set myself a challenge. Some form of sponsored activity which will benefit both me and those less fortunate would seem appropriate. But what? A challenge is good but needs to be achievable. And so I am thinking some form of walk would fit the bill. So what should I do? Climb Mount Everest, walk to Sainsbury’s?

Watch this space ………

Happy New Year

First let me say Happy New Year; to those far and wide, keep safe and have a good time.

I have set myself a couple of targets for the new year and getting this blog up and running was one of them. Although I still have a lot to do to fill in all the gaps I am hoping that by having it available to all will motivate me to complete the current sections as well as ensuring that I add the appropriate updates during this years travels.

Land Rover plans for 2013 include a 14 day trip around Morocco in April, a handful of shows and events including the ALRC National, the four RTV’s run by BORG 4×4, a number of green lane runs still to be identified and a possible French Alps or Pyrenees trip late summer. In preparation for further travels I also intend adding more equipment to my 90 but only as I clearly identify what is needed. I don’t want to spend out on unnecessary gizmos. There is also a long list of work to complete on the Series III. These will be added to the appropriate section of the blog so that I can keep an eye on how I get on.

If that wasn’t enough I will also be keeping up my support of London Wasps; attending as many home games as possible. Last year Wasps escaped the drop on the very last game of the season, this year things are going a whole lot better so hopefully there will be much to smile about.

So that’s the plan for 2013. Only time will tell how I get on.

Comments, advise and suggests would be appreciate.