Hike Southbound through Britain with Daryl May
Click for Northbound hike
DS42 Chetwode Arms sign
DS42 Chetwode Arms pub
Days S33 - S43                                                                  North of England
Day S42 - Warrington to Gorstage
Day S41                An easy walk to a posh hotel                Day S43
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Northbound Home
Friday, April 4,  2008

Time of departure: 9.00 am
Time of arrival: 3.00 pm
Place departed: Warrington
Place arrived: Gorstage, Cheshire

Miles: 13
Cum miles: 583.2
Percent complete: 60.0

Bed sign Oaklands Hotel, Gorstage *
Cost for bed and breakfast: 50 ($100)
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DS42 Porker
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After yesterday's long walk, and relatively late night, I didn't feel guilty about a moderate 13-mile day today. The miles rolled along easily, too, with the help of a rest stop in the Chetwode Arms in Lower Whitley, which is a "traditional pub", serving "traditional food" and graced by "traditional people". The traditional people on this visit were a young Australian bartender, a young Czech bartender and an aging American hiker. We spent a half-hour discussing Australian politics and various visas. I wish those guys well. They are among dozens of people I am unlikely to see again but am enriched for having met.

Having passed a fair number of pubs-with-accommodation this morning, I noticed them thinning out as I got deeper into the countryside this afternoon. Yesterday, one motel had raised its prices 75 percent for Grand National weekend, and that was only Thursday. This background conspired to make me flexible about accommodation for tonight. Also, as I neared Sandiway, I had a choice of two (or more) routes - one that would take me southwest to Shrewsbury, and another south to Nantwich. As long as I stopped short of Sandiway, I could leave that choice for overnight contemplation. It's quite an important decision affecting several days of hiking to come.

The Oakland Hotel is one of those country hotels which cater to the discerning upper-middle class, as well as wedding parties, retirement dinners for executives, and dirty-weekenders driving BMWs - but seldom (I'd think) hikers. I negotiated a price of 55, and knew I'd done a bad negotiating job when the manager followed up by lowering the price to 50. Recovering quickly, I said "Did you say 40?" but he assured me that he hadn't.

50 is a high price to pay on such an extended vacation, but it's somewhat offset by the 7p I found on the roads today, which brings my total "road-money" for 500-odd miles to about 1.25, or 0.25p per mile. I thought this "road-money" would start to increase as soon as I left Scotland, but that hasn't happened. All the same, a price of 50 per night (breakfast included) isn't bad for an upmarket country hotel. The manager probably expects that I'll eat his chateaubriand tonight, the one with the extra charge for the sauce. But I'm more likely to order a panini instead, and then only if I can't find some leftover chips lying around. My wife rolls her eyes at my sense of humor, but says it is my saving grace . . .

The ensuite room has a bath, and there's a radiator here somewhere too. I will contentedly use both. My room also has other amenities, like a trouser press. I never use a trouser press, but it's nice to know it's there in case I ever want my hiking trousers to have crisp creases under their layers of mud. The room also has a box of tissues which I doubt I'll use, but it's good to know that's there too. And don't you just love having a shower cap in a cardboard box that's inscribed with a dignified logo (Mulben and Fearne) followed by London, or Paris, or New York - and seldom Mogadishu, Basra or Harare? I never use a shower cap, because my hair is sparse enough to dry in five minutes flat without one, the flatness referring to both the drying time and the hairstyle. But it's nice to know there's a shower cap, and I've occasionally found one useful when working under the car.
 
There's a little bottle of "gentle shampoo", also by Mulben and Fearne in London. I seldom use these either. Like most liquid toiletries, it has aqua in it. Anyone who calls water "aqua" and then (in parentheses) "water", is obviously up to something that he both wants to hide and disclose. Such people are too clever or too dumb by half, but I'm pleased to know the shampoo is there, and gentle shampoo at that. I have never actually seen harsh shampoo on a label, but it's nice that they believe in the product anyway.

Something that I will definitely use is the Mulben and Fearne soap. It's also associated with London, though it's made in Spain. It doesn't say French-milled, which I generally like in a bar of soap, even though I was brought up on Lifebuoy that lacked French-milling (as well as any other hint of sophistication). But I'm sure the hotel soap is French-milled anyway. What I like even more about this hotel soap is that it's wrapped, thereby ending any chance of recycling it after I've used a tenth of it and left the rest behind. Moreover, the wrapping is pleated, which flat paper must be if it's to wrap around round soap. Pleating adds dignity, which is what country hotels are all about.

A dignified hiker is a happy hiker. With the weather that's forecast for this weekend, it's as well to start off tomorrow feeling happy.
Day S41                                          2007 and 2008 Daryl May                                          Day S43