Monday, 26 December 2011

A weekend in Dorset

I have had a very eventful time in Bournemouth so far. After securing my belonging at my new house in the city I really hoped to find something to keep me occupied and my mind off worrying whether I had made the right choice of leaving all my stuff in an old abandoned house. I made my way to the New Leaf Allotments in Throope, approx four miles from the city centre. When I arrived at the site I was greeted by Chris, the person who manages the project. The entrance to the site was completely submerged due to the prolonged rainfall of the day before. This was going to be a good test for my new waterproof boots. As I manoeuvred my way around the slippery mud banks and along the temporary wooden planks, placed in the muddy puddles, I got my first look at the full scale of the site.
Thirty plus young students of Bournemouth and Poole college were volunteering on the site that day and it looks like they were all having a blast. I was lead down to the back of the 1.2arce site pass a group of volunteers shifting and spreading compost over a newly dug raised bed, where another small group were attempting to erect a large polytunnel.
The site was great, sitting in the centre of two LARGE cabbage and cauliflower fields, the first 60 metres or so was covered in raised beds of various sizes and heights, some completed and others under construction. Further down were the polytunnels and behind those was the apple orchard. The trees in this orchard were at least 100 years old and produced a stunning canopy of zigzagged leafless branches. On ground level were two vacant box bee hives which I thought were very interesting. There was so much activity going on the site that I hardly had time to talk with the man responsible for the maintenance of the site. As the sunlight slowly dimmed and the polytunnle frame began to take shape the call for everyone to gather outside the metal shipping container at the top of the site was made and everyone made their way back onto the buses which would take them all back to the hustle and bustle of the city. I had such a good time at The New Leaf Allotments that I made a promise to visit again during the coming week. That night I was extremely grateful to have a proper roof over my head and as I made up my sleeping space in the basement of my new home I couldn’t help but smile as I thought back to the night before in the New Forest.
The next day the sun was out in full force and I quickly made my way down to the beach and sat on the cliffs and watched the sun slowly make its’ way across the clear blue sky only partially obstructed by a few faint streaks of white fluff which were soon blown away by the cool costal breeze. On the beach there was no protection from the wind and sitting on the sand you get the full feel of the salty air making its’ way off the surface of the water and into the town centre. I did a fair bit of reading on the beach that morning and then walked along from the East Cliffs to the West Cliffs, visiting the Bournemouth pier on route. This was where I saw a baby seal the first time I was down in Dorset. No seal this time round but the walk was very much appreciated. As the day went on I headed away from the coast and into the heart of the city centre. The madness of Christmas shoppers was all a bit too much for me so I cowardly hurried back to the calmness of my squat. Back at the squat I decided to have a better look around while there was still a bit of sunlight left. From the basement I climbed the stairs to the ground floor, gracefully avoiding bits of old furniture, doors and empty gas canisters. Though it was bright and sunny outdoors there was hardly any light penetrating the thick wood sheets covering the doors and windows of the house. Passing a large kitchen, a huge living room and a small bathroom I continued up the stairs to the first floor. As I approached the top of the stairs a small beam of light illuminated the glossy wallpaper and the whole mood of the house changed.
All the windows on the top floor were left uncovered and this allowed the full light of the sun to fill the entire floor. This was the cleaner of the three levels. There was a good size bathroom, a large kitchen, a small bedroom with a bunk bed and a good sized living room. As I looked around the rooms I found a small dust pan and brunch and began clearing and clearing up the living space. After an hour or so of sweeping carpets, beating couches and carefully disposing of the numerous syringes that were lying around the room was fit for a king....well almost. It was dark now and I gathered all my necessities (sleeping bag, ground mat, water bottles, etc) from the basement floor and moved into the top floor which I called the pent house. As the temperature dropped I climbed into my sleeping bag laid on the superbly comfortable couch and had the best sleep ever.
I woke up on Sunday morning just before sunrise and headed directly to the East Cliffs. It was a slightly obstructed sunrise as the sun struggled to escape from behind the pink-purple clouds. The view of Poole Bay reflecting the sun rays was a sight to behold and was worth all the hardship I had endured on the way the Bournemouth. After enjoying the sunrise I headed in the direction of Boscombe and came across the Boscombe Chine Gardens, a lovely little wild garden of pine trees, and a small wetland patch. As I walked through the gardens, bright green woodpeckers hammered away at the soft wood of the irregularly shaped pine trees. The ponds were the special part of the gardens for me and were supposedly fed by a natural underground spring. I spent a long time in the Chine Gardens and then moved on to the town of Boscombe which was a lot smaller than Bournemouth but had a lot more character in my opinion. As Darkness fell once again I jumped on one of the many yellow buses which serve Bournemouth, Christchurch, Boscombe, and Poole and headed for home wondering what the week ahead had in store for me.       

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Southampton and Bournemouth

When I arrived in Southampton on Thursday 15th I had no Idea what to expect. As the train pulled into the station the first thing I noticed was the large number of boats moored nearby and a very very large cruise ship docked in the near distance. I began making my way west along the A33 and got as far as Millbrook where my back and shoulders began to really ache. Stopping to rest at Millbrook station I began to doubt whether I will be able to carry on. I went to the ticket booth and bought something called 'permit to travel' and sat down to wait for a train.
As I sat there waiting on that very uncomfortable metal bench I began to think "what is the propose of this trip of mine? Is it really worth it?" As the 13:20 to Redbridge approached the platform my mind was made up. My bag was so heavy that I began to loose all hope of walking more than a few miles before collapsing. With a sharp whistle the train pulled out of the station. A quick look at the map and I discovered that I was only a few miles from the New Forest. Had I taken the train I would have completely missed it. A few hours of walking and I saw the first sign indicating that I was approaching the New Forest. As I entered the town of Ashurst I began to notice more and more forest and less artificial lighting. I bravely stepped off the A35 and headed into the heart of Woodlands. It was very boggy and not as dense as I initially thought. As it got darker I quickly looked for a good spot to set up camp. 
I walked for about half an hour through the forest before I finally decides on a place to pitch my tent. It was cold, wet and dark and even though I was completely immersed in forest the night was as silent as death. Only the occasional sound of cars whizzing along the highway and a few creepy footsteps were what reminded me that I wasn't alone. I woke up just before sunrise to the sound of rainfall against the tent. I had a very comfortable night sleep and quickly realised why. I had chosen a very wet boggy location to set up camp The spongelike soil was the equivalent of a very comfy mattress. One end of my sleeping bag was soaked as was my ground mat, which luckily was waterproof. I waited for the rain to ease up before attempting to pack up and head south towards Lyndhurst. After walking for about two hours I managed to get a lift to New Milton and from there I  slowly made my way to Bournemouth. I wandered around the outskirts of Bournemouth for a bit and then suddenly got my first glimpse of the ocean. I headed towards the sound of crashing waves and the smell of salt and ended up on the edge of the East Cliffs of Bournemouth. It was amazing to see the horizon once again. a sight I hadn't seen for some time. Once I had my fill of tumbling waves and soaring gulls I went into the town centre, had some breakfast and shortly after found a nice abandoned four bedroom house very close to the seafront and the city centre. After checking out the property I managed to find a way in without breaking any of the very clever deterrents that were put up to keep people out. A quick nose around the two storey house and I concluded that it was safe and hadn't been in use since April. I cleared out the basement and made this my home. This is by far the most insane thing I have ever done.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Welcome all

Welcome to my blog.

I started this to keep an account of my experiences during my attempted London - Land's End walk. I will try and update it as often as I can. I took another detailed look at the map today and would just like to share with you the overall plan.

Stage 1: Mapping out
             The first section is what I call city to city to city.... and I think it might be the less preferred leg of the walk. It runs from Morden, south London and passes through 4 major cities (of which I think Southampton is the largest) before ending up in Bournemouth. I am not a big fan of the city so I’ll be attempting to get through this concrete maze section of the walk as quickly as possible. Though I’ll be walking pass The South Downs National Park, it’s the town of Lyndhurst I’ll be most looking forward to visiting on this section of the walk. The town is just outside of Southampton and sits on the edge of the New Forest National Park, attractions include; deer sanctuary and reptile centre.
The second section is woods and wwoofing, where I’ll be spending the most time. I will be doing some volunteer work on various eco projects. This section ends in Dartmoor National Park where I plan to re-visit the site where I did my Permaculture training and hopefully do some wwoofing. From Bournemouth I’ll be heading towards Dorchester then on to Monkton Wyld Court near Bridport. From there its then off to Honiton, pass Exeter and cross into the Dartmoor woods and moorlands.
The third leg of the walk will start out from Tavistock to Liskeard then heads west towards a place called Indian Queens, the name alone is reason enough to investigate further. From there I’ll be heading to the Coastal city of St. Agnes then south to Penzance. From Penzance is about 10miles to Land’s End (final destination) so I was thinking I might visit a few of the bird sanctuaries along the way.
Well that's the summery of the 306mile walk from South London to Land’s End. I have given myself just under two months to complete the walk. This route is not set in stone and I’m quite sure that minor alterations will be made to it during the course of the walk. Click here to view the route.

Stage 2: Hardening off
            For the last 9 months I have been gradually conditioning my body to outdoor living. I have been sleeping in a tent, going on 2 hour walks and reading up on wild food and money free lifestyles. Sleeping in a tent is fine it’s trying to conduct activities inside a tent that’s the hard part. The coldest temperature I have endured in the tent was -1°C and I was still quite cosy. During my hardening off stage I went on a few wild camping sessions in Brighton, Rusper and a few sites in Wales. I have experience rain, wind, mist and frost so I hope that has prepared me enough for the coming winter. I have also become a very efficient fire starter and have picked up some very useful techniques for living comfortably while on the move.
I have learnt a bit about wild food and foraging and have managed to get a hold of some really useful survival books. I have also been, slowly, adjusting my eating habits and have also been looking up on what foods would provide me with the most vitamins and minerals without being too bulky. So all in all I think I’ll be ready when the time comes to set off.
I have been through sleeping in a wet, cold and windy conditions, nursing injuries, recovering from exhaustion, being lost, hunger pains but still carrying on. “I remember reading somewhere that how important it is in life not necessarily to be strong but to feel strong, to measure yourself at least once. “ - Christopher McCandless (Into the Wild).