It’s so low and flat where I live that my GPS sometimes shows me as being below sea level, and today was no exception when I grabbed an opportunity for a last walk of 2011.  Given the short daylight hours, rather than opt to be dropped off at Hampton Court, near where the rest of the family were spending the day, and then walking a stretch of the Thames Path and getting a train home, I went for the safer option of a local walk.

Having done an 11 mile out and back along the Mardyke a few weeks ago, rather than repeat that, I opted to make it a one way cross-country with Langdon Hills as my goal.  Langdon Hills is the highest point in Thurrock, a unitary authority so it is a form of County Top.  However, ironically it is on the very edge of the borough – in fact at the opposite end from where I live.  I calculated it was about a 9 mile walk to get there after which I would head south to Stanford-Le-Hope or north to Laindon for a train home.

After a brief hint of sunshine before I set off, the walk greeted me with a ceiling of grey, but at about 11 C made for very comfortable walking in just a winter base layer.  I headed out of “civilisation” and joined the path alongside the Mardyke, which after the heavy rain of last night and clearly several pairs of feet on it, was a bit churned up in places.  A couple of times I skidded on mud before I got far enough away from the road to be on grassier terrain.

I slogged my way the 4 and a bit miles up to the derelict Fen restaurant and there faffed about trying to find the path across the fields headed east towards Langdon Hills.  The path I did take has been detoured but even so the farmer had fenced off the detoured route, so I returned to the road and slogged it out through the lanes – probably a wise move as a late start meant I was going to be pushed to get the walk done.

As I walked through Bulphan, I took my first abuse of the day – from a boy on a bike who saw me pacerpoling along and shouted at my back how steep the road must be.  It’s worth highlighting that this was the point where my GPS said I was below sea level and there wasn’t an undulation in sight.  Telling him that if it was too steep for him, he should get off his bike and rest, I ploughed on towards the hill.

After the morning spent seemingly descending more than ascending, the last stretch up the hill felt much tougher, but I stuck with it and just under 3 hours into the walk sat down for lunch at the “summit”.  Well, actually I found a nearby tree and sat down resting against it.

It was now just after 2:30pm and dark wasn’t far away and I now had a choice of either a 3 mile-ish walk to Stanford or just under 2 miles to Laindon.  I chose Laindon, retraced my steps to the road and followed it down to the station and ended my walking for this year.

Today felt like some sort of “gear of the year” celebration, as I had the lot with me.  I was wearing the Geigerrig and it probably had its most thorough test today, as I had it full.  The rucksack felt fine, but I’m starting to get irritated by the hydration system itself – mainly because the nozzle on the drinking tube is so stiff to turn that I can’t do it one-handed.  And whilst it does spray, it goes everywhere, so I ended up sucking anyway, completely negating its USP.  My best piece of gear this year is easily the Pacerpoles, and they did a good job again today.  Thankfully because of the mild weather my bright orange Haglöfs Viper softshell stayed in the pack – otherwise goodness knows what abuse I’d have had to take for that.

Walk stats: 18.10km (11.25 mi) | 113m ascent | 111m descent | 3hrs 25 mins.

Bagged: Langdon Hills (County Top – unitary), 118m

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