Day 17 – Holme to Dunham

Miles walked: About 15, we think.

Weather: Mostly cloudy, although the sun came out in the early evening a bit.

On Monday, we really didn’t want to leave Bev’s house. The bed was comfy, the bath deep, the company congenial. Every time we turned round she was offering us more bacon sandwiches, or another cup of her excellent tea, and we’d start wagging our tails and nodding sheepishly. So we caught up a bit on blogging and sound editting, taking turns on the laptop and bickering. But eventually, we could postpone the evil moment no longer.

We packed up the tent and sleeping bags Bev was lending us for the next stretch, hitched up our packs, and promptly sat straight back down again. Our packs were more than double the weight they had been now. We just couldn’t face walking the remaining 65 miles with the extra weight camping would involve.

We all three of us pulled out our phones and set-to trying to find a B&B near South Clifton for the night. Nothing that didn’t involve a sizable detour off the Trent and (given it was well into the afternoon now) we didn’t want to add too much pointless walking to our journey. Eventually Bev found us a pub in Dunham-on-Trent that did very reasonably priced rooms. (£40 for two, including evening meal! The Bridge Inn in Dunham definitely wins for value…) This meant walking about 4 miles further than we’d intended that day, but at least it was on the river. Bev drove us to Holme (on the opposite side of the river to North Muskham, which we’d walked to the day before), and we set off, considerably lighter than we had feared.

It was now 3pm, due to get dark at 7.47pm, with about 15 miles to go. We needed to get a bit of a step on. So when we reached an impassable spike-topped fence by Cromwell Weir, and had to backtrack over a mile to cross over a ditch filled with murky water and surrounded by barbed wire and nettles, we weren’t in the best of moods.

Despite the time pressure, we decided to have a morale break when we were once again level with Cromwell Weir. This meant having a drink of water and some flapjack, sitting under a tree. Sat there, contemplating the fact that we were only about half a field to the left of where we had been almost an hour ago didn’t do as much for morale as we’d hoped.

We pressed on, marching as fast as we could, and wondering why we ever left the hallowed grounds of Casa Bev. Everywhere was flat, the sky was huge and we passed a lot of gravel workings. We decided we didn’t need to follow each turn of the river and getting to Dunham before dark was a higher priority. So we took a track just past Girton that went amazingly straight for about 2.5 miles. We were covering the ground fast, but I was still stressing about nightfall approaching.

We’d planned to walk up the East side all the way to Dunham Bridge and cross there, but I really wasn’t looking forward to walking along an A road in the dark. Happily, we then remembered that Fledborough Viaduct was opened as a foot and cycle bridge recently, so there was another option. We got to the viaduct and decided our lives were too short to take the long cycle slip road to get onto the bridge, so we scrambled up the bank. It looked like this was a popular route with local kids.

The viaduct was huge, and it was pretty cool to cross it. Although we didn’t get the views we were expecting, as it’s got big high iron sides, well above head height. Efficient Victorian engineering, eh?

By the time we got down the viaduct on the other side it was pretty much dark. We had to do the last mile or two guessing our footing and checking the map by torchlight. Every so often there’d be a sudden whiff of manure, and we’d realise we’d trodden in another sheep poo in the dark. At least there was no faffing about taking photos and we made good time.

We eventually staggered into Dunham at about 8.30pm and the Bridge Inn was almost the first thing we saw. It seemed like the pub that time forgot. It reminded me of the pubs near Skegness where my Granddad would play dominoes when I was a kid. Although there was only one silent drinker, and the landlord watching telly.

Richard, the landlord, was a nice bloke though – used to be in the Royal Engineers, watched a lot of factual telly, knowledgeable without being a bore. A few more folk came in about 10pm. They told us stories about the Trent and showed us photos of the floods in 2000, with one end of Dunham Bridge under water.

Then I was writing a blogpost and Ross was uploading photos, but we could hear them at the bar, swapping river stories and talking about the history. He whispered to me, ‘See, we got people talking about rivers, even without doing a show.’

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