Wysis Way or, rather, Wys-ish Way   7 comments

Wysis Way marker 6.5 miles

 

Excitement and dread were the only emotions I could muster while the coffee to finished brewing.  I had a full day of running from Gloucester to Monmouth along the Wysis Way, a long distance path, and then either to Ross-on-Wye or Coleford following (mostly) the Wye River trail to log somewhere between 39 and 45 miles for the day.  The tale of failure before you should be instructive  as much as cautionary.

 

Long run breakfast

 

However, a journey on foot of this distance requires fuel, and I take my nutrition seriously starting with a pizza, a two egg omelette with onions and red bell peppers, and a chocolate milkshake…and some mineral supplements for added magnesium and potassium.  Along the run, I would need copious quantities of water and carbohydrate replacement both of which I manage with 60 g/L maltodextrin which absorbs easily, doesn’t taste foul, and doesn’t trigger a massive insulin response…prepped 1 liter to take and carried a specimen jar to add to the second liter.

You also need simple sugars, minerals, and protein along the way and I am fond of my banana-orange bread recipe for this, a variation on Molly Katzen’s Moosewood banana bread recipe:

Soak two squished bananas in the juice of one orange (Molly uses coffee) while mixing the dry ingredients.  Instead of plain white flour, I use a 50/50 mix of whole wheat flour and ground almonds which provide a bit of protein, keep the mixture moist, and add a mild, nutty flavour (2 cups total).  Add ½ tsp salt, ¼ tsp baking soda, ½ Tbs baking powder, and ½ tsp each of cinnamon and nutmeg.  In another bowl, cream together 180 g butter (1.5 sticks in the States) and ¾ cup (6 US or 7.5 Imperial ounces) packed brown sugar; add 1½ tsp vanilla extract and some grated orange peel, then two eggs and beat till fluffy.  You want to mix in the dry ingredients a little more than folding, but really only till they are moist and only slightly lumpy…do about half then the second half.  Butter the pans (two loaves) or muffin tins (about 18) and coat with sesame seeds before adding the batter/dough.  Bake till done, 350°F (175°C) for 40-50 minutes or a little less for muffins.

 

Long run liniment

 

And, liniment is probably indicated.  A shot of vodka to wash down a muscle relaxer and some codeine should suffice.

Now let’s talk about that pesky trail…for instance, the way that the first marker I saw for the trail (at the top of this post) was at 6.5 miles and actually fairly obscured which is why the folks that are pulling these down probably missed it:

 

Wysis Way marker 6.5 miles as spotted

 

To get to this point, I spent a lot of effort just getting out of Gloucester following signs for paths that should have overlapped the Wysis Way such as National Cycle Route 42 or waymarks to easily spotted landmarks like Richard’s Wood (the double-double entendre gave me an adolescent laugh). It was about a mile in I realised I was going to be chasing ghosts and a little more than that where I missed the 42 heading off along the same side road as the WW.

 

Wys-ish map 1.3 - 3.8 miles

 

Resigned to being lost, I settled into enjoying the early morning.  Gloucester sits on a tidal marsh despite being so far inland, and the smell reminded me this Summer morning of many Winter trots around the coastal plains in Georgia and the Florida Panhandle.

 

Wysis Way marker 4.2 miles

 

So, down an alternate path and a steep (but not so tall) wooded hill to a pasture I found the intersection of this path with the Wysis but had no proof as can be seen above.  Turns out I actually was on the true path but soon missed a turn and wandered up on a field of cattle (including one very randy bull with an anti-runner attitude) and after running back to the overgrown stile just cleared it in time to avoid a goring (but not ripping a bit of my arm).  I bleed like I’m the last of the Romanovs, so my shirt and shorts were soon crimson (this shot from about an hour after successfully stanching):

 

wrist versus blackthorn

 

I grew up, in part, on my Uncle’s dairy but there were also 50-100 hogs to deal with per year and thousands of acres of soybeans and corn; so, I have respect for farmers and farming and I think most users of these trails do as well.  I also understand the rights-of-way are a pain in the ass to maintain but there is compensation for these annoyances.  So, for the most part, I think those landholders and tenants that make paths difficult to find are first-class assholes first for making it impossible to follow the trail then again for bitching about how walkers don’t stick to the trails.

On the other hand, there are paths that unfortunately pass right through the centre of farm yards and I opted not to go through the Bovone Farm near Tibberton as they are raising hogs and chickens in humane, free range environments and, by the signage, running a biosecure zone.  I had just passed through cheep and cattle farms and who knows what vile plague I might have brought along, so with another path clearly marked I was able to circumnavigate their lovely site (although I would have loved to have a closer peak).  Soon enough, though, I was back on the dickhead estates:

 

Wys-ish map to about 8.6 miles

 

Part of my map showed a dismantled railway and since it would be a more serious crime to remove the right of way marker belonging to the Great Western Railroad than to remove the ones proscribed by the Countryside and Rights of Way Act of 2000, this one remains in a pasture:

 

GWR boundary marker in pasture near Rudford

 

Almost as soon as finding my first Wysis Way marker (I had been following the concurrent Three Choirs Way, for the most part), I lost it again and with the cloud cover was left to my own acute sense of direction which took me, as it does, miles out of the way.  At the A40 below Huntley, I stopped for malto-water, a couple of B-vitamin tabs, and wolfed down some banana-orange bread/cake then readjusted my soaked, bunched up socks and returned to the road.

 

Wys-ish map to about 11.7 miles

 

Off the maps I brought with me at this point I realised I had not progressed nearly as far west as planned by now but could see the hills a mile away so tried to find a path through a neighbourhood.  Bailing on this idea just a bit too soon, I returned to the A40 (the closed-till-noon Red Lion was there and not where I have it marked on this map) and worked my way to the mountain with the intention of going straight through the woods without a trail if need be.  Fortunately, the well-marked Gloucestershire Way appeared and just after that I came upon the Huntley C of E chapel and school just before making a long. steep climb for the next 10 minutes.

 

Huntley C of E school

 

The next segment was more to plan as the roads were mostly marked and looked like roads.  With the clock past 11, I knew the descent from the peak of May Hill was going to hold some beer for me if I could just find it.  Patience was key and I made myself laugh at how little I actually had…

 

Wys-ish map to about 18.8 miles

 

I took an intentional ½ mile detour where the Glocs and Wysis Ways split to see if the Nags Head was open yet.  No luck but they seemed to be expecting me:

 

Nag's Head Box Bush entertainment 13.6 miles

 

A quarter-mile up the road I spotted the Farmer’s Boy Inn, now 13.8 miles into the run.  The door was open and I found the landlady at an ice cream counter serving some tourists.  They blocked access to the bar where, blessedly, stood a bartender but when I finally squeezed past and asked if the bar was open she said she couldn’t serve alcohol until 12.  Tease, I thought…don’t stand at a closed bar.  I looked at my watch and saw it was 11:15; “that’s a shame…I’ll be miles away by then.”

“You could stay for a cup of tea,” the proprietress offered. Turning my right wrist so she could see the gash, I unreasonably answered, “Tea? TEA? Why don’t you just slash my OTHER wrist while you’re at it?”  I thought better of asking directions here and promptly got lost again for a couple of miles.

 

Wys-ish map to about 32.6 miles

 

I had a lovely pub crawl just after that catching a pint at each of the White Horse (Mitcheldean), the Hearts of Oak (Drybrook), and the Malt Shovel (Ruardean) with only one pub, the Rose in Hand, shut till 6pm and the landlady who was out chatting to neighbours couldn’t have been nicer:

Rose in Hand Crooked Inn open at 6

 

Back in the Forest just below Ruardean I ran up on a hippy enclave:

hippie house Forest of Dean 20.6 miles

 

I stopped after recovering from the onslaught of amateur cyclists on rented mountain bikes to emerge in Christchurch then make my way to the New Inn in Shortstanding.  The Wysis Way crossed the road somewhere between it and where I turned west again but I finally found it; and, only 29 miles into the run I spotted a Wysis Way blaze (below).  In keeping with the theme, I was off trail again and lost in the forest in less than 100 meters.

 

Wysis Way marker 29 miles finally

 

Eventually I emerged from multiple ascents and descents in the village of Staunton but if I continued on to Monmouth from here and had no other directional issues I would not get back to Gloucester in time for any earlier train than the last one of the night.  It wasn’t a happy decision, but I made my way to Coleford mostly along a ridge but with a climb or two remaining.

 

Wys-ish map last leg

 

Marked well, the local trail is known — appropriately enough — as the Burial Path:

 

Burial Path marker below Coleford

 

Coleford’s industrial past and present emerged off the trail as I scaled the hill near an old quarry,

 

quarry near Coleford

 

Finishing off, for the most part, in a grand park dedicated to Angus Buchanan, VC, a remarkable man who, at Gallipoli, witnessed two of his men rush out to assist a downed officer; when one of them was shot, he rushed out under heavy machine gun fire and helped bring back the original casualty then went out again and rescued the other.  The most heroic thing I managed was a fifth pint at the Angel and a piece of cod from the Tram Stop.

 

Angus Buchanan Park Coleford

 

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