The Ex-Chippy School Pages

Bronze Practice Expedition

Kenny Hoverd , John Mann, Michael Peart and Ian Strongman
1975

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The group met up at Michael Peart's house in New Road, Kingham. Michaels's mum had a deep freeze and Michael introduced us to his great idea - big containers of frozen orange squash. The idea was that the squash would gradually thaw as we walked along, giving us a continual supply of cold drink.

The group on the hike near Oddington Church with the frozen orange squash!

Photo: Ralph Mann

The official starting point of the expedition was Kingham Church (SP258237). Our route took us along to Duck End then by bridleway to Daylesford. Here we crossed the railway and made our way to the old Church at Oddington (SP235255). From here we took the bridleway South to Bledington, through the village and then onto the bridleway to Foxholes, where we met up with the River Evenlode. "Is this the river?" Michael asked. Two fisherman responded: "No, we're fishing on dry land!". Walking this part of the route recently I can understand Michael's question. About one single pace suddenly reveals the Evenlode in front of you when a moment before you had no idea it was there.

At some point it was discovered that no member of the group had brought the list of times and checkpoints. Ian told us not to worry as he had the route in his head.

From this point we diverted onto land belonging to the Bruern Estate, with the permission of Michael's uncle who was an estate worker. We continued to the intended camp site at SP263208, where there was what Michael described as a "lasher". This was a sluice gate at the point where Evenlode water was diverted off to serve Bruern Abbey. The force of water coming out of the sluice had scooped out a pool and on the edge of this we pitched our tents. A superb spot to camp on a hot afternoon and we had great fun swimming in the pool.

Our camping spot was popular with others though. We were joined by children from Foxholes and then by youths from Milton-under-Wychwood. As they were a year or so older than us we were very uneasy in case they attacked us or wrecked the tents. We couldn't move as our tents were pitched so we had to sit it out until they went home for tea. In case they re-appeared we decided to move camp. We pulled out the pegs and moved the tents bodily round to the far side of the wood. Here we were visited by my Dad who was assessing the expedition. This was to be the first "proper" use of my new tent. I'm still using it to this day so it's been good value!

Camp site at Bruern

Camp site at Bruern. From left: Kenny Hoverd, John Mann (in Radio Oxford T-shirt) and Ian Strongman.

Photo: Ralph Mann

A trip to Bruern was needed to fetch water. With our water bottles full we wandered up to the railway level crossing. Here we amused ourselves in typical 14-year-old fashion by filling our mouths with water and then "gobbing" it out at each other. The Ascott-under-Wychwood signalman was doubtless amused if he was watching his CCTV screen.

That night after dark we began to hear rumbles of thunder and then the rain began. I rashly pointed out that it was possible to tell how near a storm was by counting the seconds between the lightning flash and thunderclap. Having made this statement, the others of course asked me how far away the storm was. I realised I didn't actually know the formula so had to guess quickly.

To save weight I had only brought the inner part of my new tent. As the rain pounded ever more heavier on it the sheer force of the drops began to force moisture through in a fine mist. The rain and lightning seemed to be increasing in intensity and we began to get a bit worried about whether the tents would stand up to it. I said I thought that with a storm this intense my Dad would come out to see if we were OK.

At a quarter to midnight the glare of headlights appeared on the tent wall. Michael's uncle was there in a Land Rover. Without time to argue we were told to grab our sleeping bags and get in the back. We were soon at Michael's uncle's house. We wondered about ringing my Dad but Michael's Uncle said we should not use the telephone during a thunderstorm. Shortly after our arrival the rain stopped but we spent the rest of the night on the living room floor.

My Dad did come out, but finding the empty tents he guessed what had happened.

Next morning all was fine again. We returned to our tents, which had survived the night. After breakfast, we packed up and set off along the bridleway through Bruern Abbey grounds and into Bruern Woods. Here we got lost. Also, no-one could quite remember the route we were supposed to be following. Eventually we reached the Lyneham road and turned left under the railway to our next checkpoint at Lyneham Post Office (this delightful little shop, basically the front room of a cottage, is sadly long gone). We could have taken a much more direct route from Bruern to Lyneham, I can't now recall whether the route through Bruern Woods was intentional or a mistake. From Lyneham we walked along the road up to the A361, which we crossed, descending on a bridleway to the river bridge at Ascott (SP299190).

From here we followed the river to Greenend in Chadlington (SP324212). Here in a bizarre incident, a gentleman emerged from a house and insisted our rucksack straps were incorrectly adjusted! From Chadlington it was more on-road walking back up the hill to the A361 at SP299213. Here the group disagreed. Michael and myself insisted that the route was along footpaths to a finish at Sarsden Cross whereas Kenny and Ian favoured a slightly longer walk along roads to Churchill Church. In the absence of a written checkpoint list the argument was solved by each pair following their preferred route!