We weaved across the countryside heading generally north east. We crossed the Grand Union Canal with its narrow canal boats a few times, one time stopping for lunch and a walk along the towpath.
Our destination this time was Stroud Hill Park in the village of Pidley (north of Cambridge), a site on a farm which has diversified in several directions. While the original farm still grows crops and sheep - black-faced Suffolks according to the old farmer we chatted to while on on a walk between rain showers - it now has a campsite with beautiful amenities in a huge oak barn. In the barn is an award winning restaurant and a bar (untried sadly). Above us on a bank is a small lake stocked with fish up to 20 lbs (9kg) and a tennis court. The weather precluded sitting on a bank fishing or any thought of tennis!
We decided to walk into the next slightly larger village called Somersham to pick up a few groceries. We collected a walking path map from the office, donned waterproof walking boots and set off. Public footpaths crisscross the whole country and people are everywhere on them usually walking their dogs. We followed the signs onto one path clearly labelled on the map. We reached a crossroads in the middle of a golf course with paths going right left and ahead. The sign pointing the way had rotted in the ground so now gave us no clue which way to go. The map was generally unhelpful at this point. We tried to the left and the path disappeared; ahead and a golf course sign told us it was not a public footpath so we tried the right hand path. A golfer helpfully told us the path went nowhere so we had no alternative to return to our second choice. Eventually we entered some quite overgrown wood and came on a stile. Now a stile means a path so on we went. This time we were literally walking through the middle of ploughed farmer's fields. We slipped and slid and got enough mud on our boots to grow our own crops, but finally we reached the outskirts of what we fervently hoped was Somersham. The office had told us the walk would be about 20 minutes - it took about 2 hours…
We were much more confident about the walk back. We walked along the main road for a while before deciding to take a chance on another marked walking path heading in the general direction of the campsite. It took us through fields and though a small wood where we spied pheasants in the undergrowth. Not far (fortunately…) from home, the rain started - no surprise there… until it started to hail on us! The last downhill path to the site had puddles wide enough and deep enough running across it for ducks to be swimming in them. And up to this time we had sloshed through the mud without incident (though often we came close to more intimate contact with the mud) but on this last stretch, I slipped and fell and had the pleasure of two very cold, muddy knees.
And the rain continued and continued and…