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Rutland columnist Allan Grey has walked in the Himalayas and the Atlas Mountains but his favourite is at home

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Over the last 20 years I’ve had the privilege of walking in some of the most amazing places around the world, the Himalayas, the Atlas Mountains, Patagonia, and of course our own Lake District to name but a few, but one of my favourite walks is right here in Rutland, writes county columnist Allan Grey.

Head out of Oakham, up the Cold Overton Road, turn right at the transmitter pylon, and then down to Barleythorpe and back home, just shy of four miles. On a sunny, crisp spring day, the views on the downward leg across Oakham to Rutland Water, Burley-on-the-Hill and Langham are truly stunning, and hopefully any of the cares of the world you carried on your shoulders before you set out are swept away for a short while.

Back in the day this single track road was fully tarmacked, but the upper reaches are now seriously muddy, potholed, and even cratered, with an appearance that would happily grace an artillery firing range on Salisbury Plain. This however detracts not in the slightest as far as a walk is concerned, or even a cycle, but I wouldn’t take my Mini down there. She might get lost down one of the larger craters, lose an exhaust, or even worse, get a little muddy.

Allan Grey at Everest (45516101)
Allan Grey at Everest (45516101)

A couple of weeks back I did the walk in reverse, starting up Manor Lane, round a couple of bends and find I’m confronted by two warning signs, firstly, ‘Unsuitable for Motors’. OK, fair enough I think, that might sensibly deter a casual visitor, but not any local farmers in sensible 4x4s. It’s the second, newly located sign that amused me: ‘No Road Markings’, a sign usually found where roads have been freshly resurfaced, but not had their white lines reinstated. Now I’ve been up and down Manor Lane for the last 20 years or more, walking, running, cycling and I have driven it once or twice, and there have never been any road markings. No double yellow lines, no white lines, no pelican crossings, none, zilch, zip. If the ‘Elf ’n Safety’ guardians have been round and done a risk assessment, maybe now I’ll have to think twice before walking the road any time soon, no cats eyes, no skidding Sherlock, maybe I’ll give it a miss today!

And while we’re on the subject of roads, how long does it take to upgrade and widen a mere 300 metres of footpath alongside the main road out of Oakham? Now, before you answer that question, factor into your calculations that you are a professional construction company, you have the use of mechanical diggers, a couple of tipper lorries, road rollers, pneumatic drills and all other manner of road construction paraphenalia, plus a highly motivated workforce… Three days, a week, surely no more than 10 days?

The answer is, it all depends on how long you want to seriously disrupt drivers with a road closure, and wind up residents with a diversion through their housing estate. The council has it at five weeks on its website. Everyone should be more than hacked off by then, so job done, but please don’t hold your breath. It could well be longer, the early afternoons I walked by recently, said highly motivated workforce were obviously WFH.

The sign spotted by Allan Grey (55668289)
The sign spotted by Allan Grey (55668289)

You may have gathered that I have been involved volunteering at the Oakham Enterprise Park vaccination clinic. Last week I was on the entrance, you know, asking the covid questions: have you tested positive in the last 28 days? Have you lost your sense of smell or sense of taste, or even your sense of humour? That usually raises a smile. Unbeknown to the two of us on the door, some of the clinic staff had ordered pizza for their lunch, and a delivery guy eventually turns up. Short in stature, late 40s, early 50s, he stops at the door and says: “Is this the place where you get vaccinated?”

“It sure is”, we reply in unison, “why do you ask?”

“Oh, I’ve not had my first jab yet.”

“Well we’ve got some spare vaccine today, you could deliver your pizzas and have a vaccination straight away.”

“OK, fine by me” he says, and we duly get him vaccinated.

So, clearly not anti-vax, then why would he be surprised that he was arriving at a vaccination centre. Where had he been for the last 18 months of the pandemic? Didn’t he know a nationwide vaccination programme was going on? Had he not noticed the white haired one on TV exhorting us all to ‘Save the NHS’? Had none of this registered at all, or had he just not been bothered? On reflection, I think, he had just been taking the pizza.

When you read this column, the lovely lady and I will have adjusted our carbon footprint for the year. I started out by thinking that heading for warmer climes for three weeks would help the planet, but my hopes have been dashed, and I’m now convinced we won’t be winning the Greta Award for Approaching Net Zero anytime soon. Turning the home heating and lighting off for three weeks, no driving our cars for three weeks, that must be a good thing, yes, well no actually?

There are several websites which allow you to assess your carbon footprint, and even decide to offset if you so wish. Having input all the necessary data into one of them, it seems the carbon footprint of a return flight to the Canaries will be 10 times what we save, and even if we stayed out there forever more, we’d still be no nearer net zero. However, any suggestions as to how the lovely lady and I might reach net zero will be treated with net zero interest.

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