Sunday, 14 April 2013

highest points

Is it possible to travel to the highest points of 5 counties and get back home all within the hours of daylight? This was the question that was going through my mind as I was staring at a list of the highest points on the internet and the fact that the highest points of Hertfordshire, Essex, Cambridgeshire, Suffolk and Norfolk run in an almost straight line in a northeast direction made this even more of a temptation. At 6.01 I started my car determined to prove that it was possible (yes I have heard of the 3 peaks challenge, the 4 peaks challenge and the 5 peaks challenge.)

                What could this possibly achieve, Apart from using a hell of a lot of fuel, creating a lot wear and tear and wasting a day? It would give a foundation on which to extend the principal of reaching the highest points to the whole of the UK with the aim of raising money for charity. With the engine ticking over I entered the first set of coordinates in the sat nav, 99 miles and 1 hour 52 minutes, (yeah right!) according to the mapping software the whole trip would take me 8 hours and 3 minutes so about 9 hours if I included breaks and walk ins and would be 390 miles in total. With sunrise at 06.04 I only had a couple of more minutes to wait, of course with anything like this the doubts start creeping in will the car breakdown? Have I got the coordinates right? Will I fall asleep! The clocked ticked over to 6.04 and the challenge had started, knowing the roads of the UK and the fact that I had to use the M25 didn’t fill me with confidence but it didn’t put me either.

                The A12 was unusually quiet and with cruise control sat at 70…ish, I started thinking maybe this would be easy, and then I reached that glorious traffic jam known as the M25, mile after mile of 50 mph road works with their associated average speed cameras and truck drivers who don’t know the meaning of the words “stay in lane.” Blessed relief came once I had turned off the M25 and onto the A41, I could finally get my mind back on the task in hand, Hertfordshire`s highest point just outside Tring and no more than 30 minutes’ drive away, the point I was looking for was in the middle of a field but was the field accessible? I`d find out that it was and also (almost) handily marked by a lone tree, it was 8.15 and had taken me over 2 hours to reach this point, never mind time to push on, (coordinates SP914091).


                It was on the way to Essex that I realised that I could have also added Bedfordshire`s highest point to the list as well as the route I was using took me straight past this.

                Essex, land of the fake tan, fake hair, fake everything…well not really. Where I was going was actually on the border with Cambridgeshire, I didn`t know Essex had a border with Cambridgeshire until this point. Parking at a church in Langley I followed a path for about a kilometre until I reached the point I was looking for (TL443362), with the pictures taken I headed back to the car and programed the sat nav for Cambridgeshire’s highest point, it came back as being 4 miles and 9 minutes away, I didn’t think this was right and tried again, 4 miles and 9 minutes away.

With nothing else to do I decided to follow the sat nav and within 5 minutes was in Cambridgeshire, curiously a village hall had been built right next to the highest point with two skate ramps in the grounds…did this mean that the highest point in Cambridgeshire was a skate ramp? (TL427386) probably, I`ll let you decide.

 58 minutes away was Suffolk`s highest point (TL786558) and a relatively easy drive mostly along duel carriageways, I could actually see the point I was heading for some distance away thanks in part to the mast constructed at this point, which also meant that I could actually park the car on the point I was going for, after a brief rest stop it was time to get back on the road and head for Roman Camp just outside Cromer, this was going to be the longest stint of driving and as it was getting close to lunch time it would also mean stopping off at some point, this posed a problem, dodgy sandwich from a garage or dodgy burger from a van? In the end the garage won and a slightly dodgy sandwich was more than made up for with a surprisingly good coffee. Arriving at roman camp I was not only to find a car park but a campsite at the top of the hill , the walk in to Beacon Hill (TG183414) was disappointingly short but was more than made up for by the views out to sea.

 with all the points done it was time to head for home another 2 hour drive lay ahead but with the sun due to set at 19.51 and it having on just gone 13.35 I had more than enough time to make it home, on the way home I started thinking about the wider ramifications of my journey, yes it was possible to do this type of journey, yes it would be possible to reach more than one point in a day. However this would not always be the case especially as I got further north and I would need to plan the route very carefully to minimize wasted time on the road and maximum time in the hills, I now also know that not all mapping software is accurate as the software I used said the journey would take 390 miles and 8 hours and 3 minutes to complete, 350 miles and nearly 10 hours was the final journey statistics, with careful planning and attention to detail a journey to reach the highest county points of the UK should take no more than 4 to 5 weeks.  


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