Just like last year I decided to organise my own multi-stage trailrun around Christmas time. Last year it was a solo three-day trail following the 135km Ridgeway Long distance Path in beautiful cold winter weather just after Christmas.
This year I enjoyed a two day trail together with my friend Wilco Faber just before Christmas in again very pleasant but much warmer (+9 degrees Celsius) weather. Instead of frozen fields we enjoyed a bit of a foggy start in the morning, making especially the second day through the Chiltrens Hills rather mystic.
We started off in the very nice village Henley-on-Thames located , as the name clearly indicates, along the Thames. Before we parked the car for free and safely in a side street (Hop Garderns) we had dropped a bag with clothing and stuff at our B&B in Ipsden. The owner Jill welcomed us warmly and would made sure we could get in if we would arrive without her being at home in order to enjoy tea and Mince Pies. A very pleasant start what would become a great trailrunning day.
I had made up a two day trail route myself using several Long Distance Path which I found on the Ordnance Survey Maps. I use the RangeViewer App for my route making, it provides for free already very detailed maps. I upload the route to my GARMIN FENIX 3 watch and together with the App on my rather sturdy but waterproof Blackview BV 6000 phone and the abundant signposting you can not get lost (almost :)).
We started off along the Thames to the West passing locks and fish traps along the Thames Valley Path. After a few kilometres the track climbed up to the Northern scarp slopes / hillsides of the Thames valley following the Chilterns Way. This way I thought to keep a bit away from the more busy part around the city of Reading. The Chilterns are a so-called Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB, and sure it is!) and a great area for trailrunning with plenty of off road forest tracks and public footpaths crossing fields, farms, back gardens and old cemeteries. Lucky me that I live just around the corner.
There is enough relief, sometimes rather steep but not for long and the tracks are a combination of chalk stones and mud.
Mud was the continuous thread for the two days, sometimes very sticky, mostly OK and fun to run through!
At Hartslock we arrived back at the Thames and soon after found a great tea room in Goring and Streatley. The Village Chocolate Cafe was just like how I prefer an English tea room. Nothing fancy, but great refillable pots of tea, good coffee, soups and … delicious cakes, MJAM! Better quality than Starbucks, Nero or Costa and much better atmosphere.
Trailing, just for trailing and not as part of a race is really relaxing. You can decide yourself where to stop for a photo, snack or an hour long stay in a tea room. Or to watch Red Kite birds of prey swirling through the air, wannabe birds, i.e. pheasants trying to take to the air and deer crossing barren farmland. There are also plenty of small resting moments passing all the kissing gates, or you must like to jump over them like Wilco!
Before we arrived in Goring and Streatley we had covered 30km in roughly two parts. The first 20km in one stretch to the (unfortunately closed) 12th century Mapledurham House Estate where we paused at an old cemetery. Than 13km to Goring and Streatley after which a final 10km followed to Ipsden, to our B&B for the night.
Trailing along the Thames is easy going and the kilometres just followed whilst we chatted away, slipped through some muddy parts and amazed ourselves about the very nice houses build all along the river banks.
Our B&B in Ipsden I found via Air B&B and was just what we needed (‘B&B in Centre of Village, 2 Prospect View, Ipsden’). A warm welcome with tea and Mince Pies, good beds, shower, all very relaxed, a bit chaotic and disorganised, no really meant ‘no worries’ feeling. No problems at all when we arrived just before sunset, all muddy and sweaty. After a warm shower, more tea and Mince pies we made our way to the King William IV Inn for what turned out to be a great meal. The Inn was full and I think we were rather lucky to find a table for us two. The food was excellent, a little more expensive than the usual English pub but really worth it. Back at the B&B we finished the evening with some wine, cheese and pleasant conversations with Jill and her neighbour who joined us.
All in all Ipsden left us the next morning around 0830 with good memories, including a nice English Breakfast.
The second day was a shorter day (34 versus 44km) but crossing the Chilterns meant some more relief. We followed the old Icknield Way (the oldest road in the UK), Grim’s Dike or Ditch (old demarcating lines) and after Christmas Common (when I saw this place on the map I thought we just needed to go there just before Christmas). The Fox and Hounds Inn was not yet open at 11.00 but after putting on our biggest smiles we could stay in for a rest and warm up from the foggy weather outside and were even offered a cup of tea, how nice!
It is really great to experience all the kindness of people we met these two days along the trails, in the tea room, the Inn and the B&B.
It felt almost … ‘just like Christmas’.
Because of the early start we arrived already just after midday back in Henley-on-Thames. It was pleasantly busy with people doing there final Christmas shopping. We celebrated the end of our two day trail in the Chocolate Cafe / Tea room with view on the Thames – could not be better!
With these fine memories I already look forward to the next ‘just do it yourself’ multi-stage trailrun …
… feel free to join or provide me with some of your own experiences, cheers!
We decided to have a very unscientific test of some energy bars during this trail for no other reason than that I ended up with a bunch of different ones to take along.
In the end we came to the following ranking – however be aware of the ‘small print’ – proof of the pudding is in the tasting – so ‘just do it yourself’ as well:
- (1) Justnuts Almond bar – Very tasty and easy to eat along the way – a real treat.
- (1) CLIF Bar Chocolate Almond Fudge – Good taste, not too chocolatey, a bit of a bite – mjam!
- (2) Nature Valley Crunchy Canadian Maple Syrup – OK, a bit sweet, great with an espresso, already broken in the package so not useful to eat whilst running.
- (3) Powerbar Proteïne plus Vanille: Nice taste but already crumbled to pieces in the package and although meant to eat after a run we still needed to peel the bar from the cellophane, not very practical.
- (4) EAT NATURAL Brazil & Sultana. Hardly any taste, does what it needs to do = provide energy.
- (5) Sultana & Cherry Flapjack – No taste, very heavy. – Flapjack from the local super market is much better, do not buy is our verdict.
And finally some ((not) very useful) statistics:
- Day 1: 44km, 525 metres of height gain, average 10km/h.
- Day 2: 34km, 725 metres of height gain, average 9km/h.