Or, an English Civil War Micro Adventure, as my trek will take me out from 1700 on Friday evening until 0900 on Saturday morning, and will lead me to the scene of the Battle of Naseby, the key battle of the First English Civil War when, on 14 June 1645, the main army of King Charles I was destroyed by the Parliamentarian New Model Army commanded by Sir Thomas Fairfax and Oliver Cromwell.
I need to get there, though, and I work on an industrial estate in New Duston, which is about 12 miles away. So I plan to leave my office right on the dot of 1700, knowing that I must be back by 0900 the following morning because I have other things planned for the Saturday. I would be wearing a Rab short-sleeved base layer and Rab Vapour-Rise Lite Alpine jacket, The North Face Paramount Peak convertible trousers, Paramo boxer shorts, Bridgedale socks and Scarpa Zg10 GTX boots;
and carrying my green Rab pull on, red Mountain Equipment beanie, my afgan blue Buff, The North Face gloves, my Mountain Equipment Fitzroy jacket, my Rab Alpine 600 sleeping bag, an old foam rollmat and a much newer Thermarest rollmat and Gore-Tex bivi bag in my Berghaus Cyclops Crusader bergen. I will also have two Camelbak bottles filled with water mixed with High 5 Zero citrus tablets, and another litre of water in addition to that; the Explorer 223 map and some other relevant sheets I have printed off the internet which tell me more about the battlefield, and also my Silva compass, Petzl headtorch, spare Scarpa bootlaces and Lifesystems Trek first aid kit, my Rite in the Rain all-weather notebook and a pen.
I will also have my Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS3 camera and my telephone and will be using the Endomondo app on my phone. This may ‘only’ be a Micro Adventure, but I am treating it in the same way I would treat any overnight adventure.
Synchronicity is a funny old thing. I had packed my bergen the night before but had not put my camera into it, and now I was in the office and realised I had left it at home, so I spent my lunch (two) hour(s) driving home and back to get it. When I got home I found that my copy of Le Sacre Du Travail, the new album from The Tangent, had arrived, and as I listened to it as I drove back to the office (and it sounds brilliant even just on a first listen, by the way) I was struck by the opening narrative which talks about people spending 8 of their 24 hours working, 8 of them sleeping, and the remaining 8 doing bodily functions like eating, washing and watching TV. That sounds like a great reason to promote the Micro Adventure concept, and this is how I spent my 16 hours outside of work…
I had intended to set off on the dot of 1700 and had tried to arrange my afternoon work schedule to achieve that,
but as with most days work managed to steal some of my time and I eventually set off at 1730, straight into the pouring rain which had held off through the afternoon, and which had clearly waiting for me to leave the office. I put my work things into my car and put on my Mountain Equipment Fitzroy jacket over the top of everything else at the same time, a jacket which had been more than tried and tested by me whilst I was in Peru in October 2011, including in the snow at 5012 metres, so I knew it would have no problems with this rain. I put my 25lb bergen on to my back (and, yes, I quickly remembered just how that weight feels), went out on to the A428 and turned right, away from Northampton and towards Lower Harlestone, following the road until I reached a footpath on the right which took me away from Round Oak Plantation and through Harlestone Heath. I had driven past this turning so many times over the last five years but this was the first time I was walking down it, and although the map showed a number of footpaths, bridleways and tracks over the land, it all felt like a wonderful maze with endless possibilities once I was inside. I was able to join the Midshires Way before taking another footpath to the left which took me to the edge of the woodland, and by this time the rain had stopped falling. I came out of the woods and into the wet long grass which led to the railway line, and I could see a bridge I could walk under to get to the other side, so I decided to take the direct route over the field to get to it, and that took me straight into boggy ground which had been made that bit wetter by the recent rain. Now, that is nothing that my Scarpa boots could not deal with, but I still skirted round the edges and soon got to the other side and under the bridge. There I found a man in a digger who told me I had just missed a fox, which was a pity as I was just about to head through the woods of Fox Covert to get to the Northamptonshire County Golf Club. The sun was out now and shining down brightly, which the rabbits seemed to take as a signal to bounce across the track ahead of me. I joined the Midshires Way again as it crossed the golf course, walked through the car par and past the clubhouse, and then turned left into Golf Lane and followed it to the main road. I stopped at the main road which, again, I had driven along so many times before over the last five years, to take off my Fitzroy jacket because I was really working up a sweat under the hot sun, to have a drink, and as I had reached the edge of the map to turn it over before I walked off the end of the world. I turned right and then immediately took a very narrow path on the other side of the road to keep me walking through Church Brampton rather than following the road to Chapel Brampton.
This was a lovely little cut through which does not appear to be much used, judging by how overgrown it is, and it brought me out on a corner, which I followed round to the right before taking a footpath to the right over the fields and past Brampton Hill Farm. From the top of the first field I enjoyed some stunning views of the open countryside around me.
I passed over a track at the farm and carried on straight ahead, following a mud track down through the rape seed field, before climbing out of that on a grass track which brought me to a made-up track which led out on to the A5199 Welford Road. This was another road which was very familiar to me, and I knew how potentially dangerous the corner I had come out at could be, so I kept up as high as possible on the grass verge and tried to make myself as visible as possible, conscious that my bergen is a solid khaki colour. The grass verges had been recently cut, which made it heavy going walking along them, and now the road was rising through the bends towards Spratton and the sun was still shining down. My bergen was feeling its weight. I reached Spratton and immediately encountered more rabbits along the hedgerows, enjoying the evening sun a lot more than I was, and I paused for a while under the shade of a large tree. I had covered 6 miles and it had taken me 2 hours. I expected that I still had another 6 miles to go just to get to my destination, let alone to have a look around, and I began to wonder if I had bitten off more than I could chew. Having read this far, you might be having much the same thought. I had something to eat and drink, and felt a lot better for that, so I picked up my bergen and set off again. I soon reached the Highgate House hotel where I used to stay with work. I wondered if they had a room available, and more wondered if I would be thinking of that later on as I lay in my sleeping bag in a field somewhere. I could see the Hollowell Reservoir on my left and was looking for a good view from this end of it to get a photograph, so I quickly jumped over a metal gate to take a look from inside a field, and while the reservoir evaded me I did get a stunning view of back where I had come from this evening.
I kept along the main road, walking in the road when it was clear and on the grass verges when there was any traffic coming from either direction, and before long I came to a gate which gave me a perfect view of the reservoir from the side, and as I would find out later on, it clearly struck a chord with me.
Not far beyond that was a roadsign which indicated Naseby, which meant I was near, and at Hanwell Spinney I saw the sign which told me I was still 3 miles away as I turned right towards Naseby.
Time to push on, and the road now was undulating, which is a word much used by Silvia, our guide in Peru, although with her it generally meant there was a mountain waiting around the corner. The sun was not down, although the moon was very clear in the sky now, and it was maybe that combination which had brought out the slugs which littered my way along this road. I eventually got to Naseby at 2143 with the sun just about down, and was pleased to note that Endomondo had measured the distance as the 12 miles I had estimated by using a piece of string and my map. I wandered around the village, went past the remains of a cross, a very interesting memorial to those who fell in the two Great Wars, and the church, before taking a left fork to follow Shakespeare’s Avon Way until I went past Clothill Spinney on my right. The sun had gone down completely by now and my path was lit by moonlight as I then turned right and followed the road to Sibbertoft as it went over the A14 and took me to the Cromwell Monument, a mile and a half outside of Naseby, where I found an interpretation board and board with a reproduction of an engraving of Streeter’s 1647 picture diagram of the battle.
The Cromwell Monument itself was unveiled on 26 May 1936. I had got here for 2230 and though the scene felt very atmospheric as I looked out over the battlefield, I realised that in fact I wanted to sleep at the Hollowell Reservoir. Which would be another four and a half miles of walking from here. Well, the only way to get it done would be to get going.
I set off in the dark, under the light of the moon, and it really was just a matter of pushing along on the route I had taken earlier to get here. There were very few cars on the road and when any did appear I made sure I was as far onto the grass verge as possible and as visible as possible. I must say I was enjoying walking under the moon and did not feel tired, as I probably should have done. I was almost at the junction with the A5199 Welford Road when a very large lane flew overhead at a very low height. I am not a plane spotter but it looked to be the same shape as a C-130 Hercules, and certainly got me wondering what it was doing. It was maybe the same plane which flew overhead after I had reached the Hollowell Reservoir, which I did at just after midnight, climbing over the metal gate to get into the field on the other side. The sight of the moon reflecting on the water of the reservoir confirmed that I had made the right decision to come back here to sleep, because it was stunning and beautiful, and I could not have wished for a better 5-star view. You would pay a lot for far worse than this.
I found a spot at the top of the slope against a hedge, got out my foam rollmat, put my Thermarest rollmat on top of that, and decided that I would take off my boots, put my Fitzroy jacket back on and sleep inside my bivi bag without using my sleeping bag. Yes, if you wear a Mountain Equipment Fitzroy jacket then you do not need to use a sleeping bag ! (and if that does not win me a prize from Mountain Equipment then nothing will) I drank some more of my water and filled up my water bottles ready for the morning, then ate some of the food I had brought with me and settled down to sleep. It was dry and calm and I fell asleep very quickly. I was woken at 0215 by the rain hitting against my bivi bag, and after checking that I was still fully dry inside, I quickly fell back to sleep. I woke again at 0525, ready to get on my way, and sat up to put on my boots and take a look around me.
That was when I noticed the cows coming up the slope, and I believe I came as just as much of a surprise to them as they did to me. It was no longer raining and I packed away my things, noticing how very wet both of my mats and the outside of my bergen were, and was pleased that my old bivi bag had kept me perfectly dry.
I had something to eat and also took in the view again, which was just as lovely in this overcast morning.
I set off at 0555, following my route from the previous day in the opposite direction, and saw that rather than slugs I now had snails encroaching on my route. At about 0700 the sun tried to break through, and by this time I had reached the turn off from the main road, had something more to eat, and could go back across the fields again, which was a great way to be spending my morning, spotting the rabbits just before they made a mad dash into the corn fields. It started raining again as I came out of Fox Covert but nothing could dampen my spirits now and I got back to New Duston and my car at 0835, and, half an hour early, that brought to an end my excellent English Civil War Micro Adventure. I will look forward to doing more in the future, although next time I doubt I will plan it around something which is 12 miles away to start with.
You can see more of my photos from my Micro Adventure here.