Sunday, 22 June 2008

The great outdoors..........

I've come to the conclusion that you can definitely have too much of a good thing.

The 'good thing' in question is the great outdoors. Or more to the point, getting well and truly lost in it.

Even small dog, who normally is completely in favour of camping, and all that it entails, especially walks, has had more than enough of the great outdoors over the weekend and is currently tucked up her basket, resolutely ignoring us.

The weekend started off well enough. Found our camping place easily enough, nestled in a vineyard with views over the Sussex South Downs. Put up the awning tent, took a short walk into the village for a look around, then relaxed for the evening, watching the other campers arrive and set up.

Yesterday morning.......leisurely breakfast, then the suggestion that we might take a short walk to the pub for lunch, via a public footpath. We were assured that it was no more than 1/4 mile away, so off we set, small dog taking the the lead.

All went well until the footpath took us through a large field, which contained a sizeable herd of cows. As we had no alternative route, other than turning back, and as the cows were right over the other side of the field and we could see the exit gate in the opposite corner, we deduced that it was safe to proceed.

However, the cows were only feigning indifference, and as soon as we were at a point exactly equidistant to both entrance and exit, they started moving towards us.........slowly at first, then picking up pace as they approached. One of them, a frisky young heifer, started galloping, then lowering his head, and bucking up his back legs. We accelerated. So did they. Finally, breaking out into an undignified trot we reached the gate and practically vaulted over the stile, small dog in hot pursuit. Not a moment too soon, as almost immediately the herd arrived at the gate, snorting and mooing at us.

No matter. The field we were then in was empty and we followed the footpath arrows down to the far corner, only to find a second stile so high that Dick Fosbury would have had second thoughts.
Small dog scrambled underneath, and PP managed to climb over the top, but I just couldn't manage it. My legs were too short to make it over the top bar and I couldn't find a way to get through. Faced with the option of going back through the cow field I was resigned to staying there indefinitely, so PP went off in search of an alternative route. Meanwhile I decided to try to get through a very small hole, lined with barbed wire, which seemed the only option. After trying to get through head first and finding there wasn't enough room to get my legs up and through, I decided to try it backwards, feet first. Unconventional and extremely undignified, but after a bit of huffing and puffing I did manage it.

By now we were soaked up to the knees by walking through long, wet grass, as well as liberally decorated with cowpats and mud, not to mention hot, bothered and lost. Small dog was soaked to the skin and had amassed a motley collection of twigs, burrs, nettles and mud which had all amalgamated together and woven into her fur.

Unanimously, we all three decided that we'd had enough and would curtail our walk, find the nearest road and head back to the van. So off we set, through a series of even muddier fields till we finally found a track, which became a narrow lane, which became a road and eventually brought us onto the main thoroughfare. We must have looked like wild things, covered in mud and muck, soaking wet trousers and trainers and with small dog looking like nothing so much as a drowned rat.

Now my sense of direction is usually spot on, and having traversed the fields in a roughly semi-circular direction it seemed to me that the only way back would be to turn right at the main road to complete the circle. We estimated that a 15 or at the very most, 20 minute walk would bring us back to the village.

Over an hour later we reached the outskirts of a town lying in completely the opposite direction to the way we should have gone. A further 20 minutes on, we found a bus stop which showed that we'd just missed the bus we needed to get us back to the village and that the next one would be along in another hour. By this time we had walked about 3 miles. We could either wait an hour for a bus, or walk back.

I was all for ringing for the air ambulance but PP persuaded me that there was a very pleasant, level walk along the Cuckoo Trail, back to the village. So, against my better judgement, and with even small dog dragging her paws, we set off to walk a further half mile into town, to get to the Cuckoo Trail, then another 3 miles back to the campsite. I estimated that in total we had probably walked 6 1/2 miles. Small dog vigourously disagreed and put it at nearer 10 miles.

When we eventually staggered back to the site, a mere 3 hours after we had set off, we must have looked as though we had just emerged from the jungle, complete with swamps, quicksands and man-eating insects.

Small dog headed straight to the van, drank the entire contents of her water bowl in one long sigh, and promptly collapsed on the grass, twitching until more water was poured. After we'd all drunk half a gallon of water and recuperated for a while, we recalculated and reached a more realistic consensus on the length of the Great Trek. We surmised that it averaged it out at probably nearer 12 miles although small dog, who is always prone to exaggeration, was adamant it was over 20 miles. She also ventured the opinion that if we even mentioned the word WALK to her again over the weekend she would have no option but to bite us.


The remainder of the afternoon was given over to discussing our various aches and pains. Small dog was convinced that her legs were at least 2 inches shorter, and grumbled non-stop as I carefully de-burred her fur. After that she had to have a lie down to recuperate, only perking up when sausages were cooked for dinner.

The look on her face says it all really. That is a disgruntled expression if ever I saw one!

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