A right pain in the neck

The weather had done what it seldom does and saved the best of itself for the weekend. So, in typical fashion, an awkward nights sleep left me barely able to turn my head, thereby rendering pointless the hope of my first decent weekend outing on the bike. Instead I sat with a morning coffee in the conservatory, reading Alistair Humphrey’s microadventure book, a hot water bottle on the back of my neck following a neighbours advice, generally feeling sorry for myself. I felt guilt at not living up to the sentiment of the paragraphs I was reading, so put the book down, grabbed a bag and set off on foot.

I locked the front door and made it as far as the garage, grabbed my walking boots and stove before realising I’d forgotten to fill my water bottle. Back to the house and then I set off, 10 paces down the road before realising I’d actually left my boots in the garage in my rush for a supply of hydration. I cursed myself, these delays were costing me. Not time or money, just self respect. I have little time for dithering and faffing. This inability to get out of the door would result in some stern words to myself later on.

I set off with a two part plan, the first part was to make myself a coffee at Whitlingham Broad. The second was hatched from a comment I had made on a fellow Microadventure blog recently. I set a timer on my phone for 10 minutes. Every 10 minutes of the walk I would stop and take a photo. Nothing overly arty, just whatever was near me at the time, forgoing some better shots along the way if they didn’t fall within my strict regime. I allowed myself some artistic license, if the perfect shot were to crop up say 30 seconds early then that would be OK, but nothing more than a minute either side of the metronomic schedule dictated by my iPhone.

Following weeks of rain, wind and barely above freezing temperatures the forecast of dry and mild sunshine was the best it had been in weeks. I walked past houses and industrial units, a row of Ofo bikes and a girl in a cafe eating a slice of pizza bigger than her head. Through housing estates my path zigged and zagged until, almost suddenly the urban scene ended. The South of Norwich’s urban sprawl is cut off by the River Yare, meandering it’s way through marshlands. I stopped on a bridge to watch the water rush underneath, in the summer before I’d struggled to paddle through here as my kayak ground to a halt on the river bed, what a difference the seasons make.

I turned off soon after onto a green footpath and was greeted by two horses, one stayed for a scratch on the nose but the other was clearly spooked by my presence. The path followed the path of the River Tas until it’s confluence with the Yare a few hundred metres further on. I passed beneath the huge concrete structure of the A146, one of the main arteries into Norwich city centre, drivers above heading for the shops completely unaware of my serene presence below.

I passed through to the village of Trowse, an idyllic suburb that Leah and I have earmarked as a hopeful location for our next home. I stopped at the village shop to grab a sandwich and, having seen half of one laying on the floor a few miles earlier, a lollipop. As I paid I noticed some medicines on the back counter so also grabbed some ibuprofen, the pain in my neck was getting worse. I crossed the road to sit in the park opposite to enjoy my lunch, watched a father trailing round after his two daughters keen to play and a teenage boy practicing his rugby kicks. I thought of trying the zip wire, maybe more than ibuprofen needed to ease the pain to make that a good idea. Another young family entered the park, “Daddy look they have a zip wire” the little girl squealed with excitement, so I lived vicariously watching her first flight across the park.

I unwrapped the lollipop and set off again, noticing a small pink wooden “fairy” door at the base of one of the trees. As I walked through the village a cat meowed at me for attention from a gate, enjoying a good ruffle of his neck and back. 50 metres further up the road and another cat wanted a quick fuss, though he was much younger so was soon back chasing unseen bugs around the bench. The hard sugary shell of the lollipop gave way and revealed, to my quite childish joy, that within was encased a ball of bubble gum. I carried on, blowing bubbles as I walked through a small woodland.

I soon reached the bustle of Whitlingham Broad, a range of people out enjoying the country park. Old couples walking their dogs, families with excited kids chasing the geese and joggers with their headphones in. It’s nice to see people out using the open space we have here, though preferring some solitude, I made my way to the quieter end away from the (relative) crowds. I found a spot on the river bank and sat down to boil myself some water for a coffee. A swan paddled over, clearly used to being fed by humans, but carried on upon realising I had no food for him.

I wandered back through city streets, choosing the more direct route back this time, but stopped at a pub for a pint and some pistachios, amused listening to couples complaining that their food was taking too long to arrive. Their impatience made me enjoy taking my time over my drink all the more, but unfortunately I had to set off once again. I finished my walk over the marshes as the sun started to hang heavy just above the horizon, getting home just in time to let Leah in as she hadn’t taken any keys to work. I dropped my bag and got a hot water bottle ready. The days walking had done my neck no good, but had settled my mind and allowed me to explore my local area at a gentler pace.