Operation “None Softhearted” (1)

This is the first post relating to my plan for the Donald Featherstone annual tribute weekend in 2021. 2020 is already booked as a Zulu Wars game, so I have plenty of time to prepare.

My intention is to present a game based largely on the novel “Bomber” by Len Deighton. It will focus on a bombing raid in 1943, with each player taking command of 3 Lancaster bombers. But to add to the interest, each player will also have a JU88 night fighter to use against his fellow players.

The strategic game will be based upon a 6cm hexagon gridded cloth map. I am assembling terrain items at 1:3000 scale to place on the cloth.

I already have a large town, a castle on a hill and a chateau in its grounds, and am working on 3d printed small towns. I have received today two airfields, which will be start/finish points, and a couple of factory complexes. I have adapted them to sit on 6cm hexagon tiles to be placed wherever needed.

Now I need to integrate the bases onto the hexagon tiles and pint them to blend with the background. It is a night raid, so dark shades will be used in painting.

Walks with my dog (8)

15th July 2019

We only had a short walk today, having tired the poor chap out yesterday at two public events on the lead. This is his first day off the leash after his dentistry last week.

We played ball in the local woods as we usually do after breakfast. This woodland is about five minutes from home. The whole ground covering is old beech nut husks, and for those old enough to remember the old Joyce Grenfell monologue I am not collecting them to make “useful and acceptable gifts”.

Later in the morning we went for one of our exploratory walks. The dice dropped us at a point 3 Km west of home, in Ashford Hill. There are several footpaths and bridleways here, and I decided to take the south-north route past Brook Farm.

However, knowing that I could easily park at the destination, Oxford Bridge (circled), I decided to start at the finish, so to speak. At Oxford Bridge it was clear how little rain we have had lately.

We set off to the south, passing a paddock that bizarrely and possibly dangerously had electric fencing tape woven between the posts, such that for half the length it would deter horses from leaving the field and for the other half it would shock pedestrians who strayed too close! As no warnings were evident I hope for the landowner’s sake that the fence was not powered, but I was unwilling to experiment. (** see end of this post)

After about a quarter of a mile I got fed up with trying to beat back the brambles and nettles with my walking stick and retreated. This (to quote Michael Caine in the film “A Bridge Too Far”) is the wide part.

Returning to the road we took the path to the north instead. This looked more promising…

It opened into a well-beaten path through open woodland, that looks like it has been used for a recent cross-country cycle or running event, judging from the painted indicators on the trees.

After a couple of hundred yards we came to a wooden footbridge across the River Enborne, into which the largely stagnant stream we were following empties in normal weather conditions. The Enborne is a tributary of the Kennett, which feeds the Thames. Frequently it overflows into the flood plains, but not today.

Crossing a stile at the end of the bridge (Sparky finds stiles a bit of a puzzle) we crossed a field recently cut and baled for silage. The black plastic-wrapped bales were awaiting collection. At the end of the field we came to a confuse-a-dog gate, (x on the map above) beyond which was another overgrown path.

My bare legs having suffered enough on the earlier path, and consulting the map I saw that it was only about 300 yards to a narrow, winding, busy road, I declined further investigation and we returned the way we had come. Sparky made two new doggy acquaintances on the return walk.

** A story of electric fences. Many years ago, at “historical” re-enactment events, it was a common practice for the “soldiers” to take advantage of the then severely limited English public house licensing hours and liberally refresh themselves in the Beer Tent between 12 noon and 2 pm, when alcohol could legally be sold. Thus, by the battle start at 3 pm, most were in urgent need of bladder relief, and usually performed the action against any available hedge or fence immediately before (and sometimes after) entering the public area. Nowadays we have moved on, alcohol is more readily available at any time and thus common sense normally prevails, saving the drinking for after the excitement of battle.

However, on the occasion that I recall, an armoured pikeman walked up to a fence, not noticing that it was electrified, hooked his tassets (loose fitted metal plates hanging from waist height from his chest armour) over the wire fence and, standing in a puddle, released a stream of liquid from his most sensitive parts onto the electric tape, thus completing the electrical circuit by the shortest route. As a bystander, the result was most amusing. As I recall, he received a round of applause, which was probably little compensation.

Walks with my dog (4)

A walk that brought back memories of my Dad.

Today the dice told us to start at grid square 6057. (Pamber)

We started at the point 607577, where the green footpath meets the yellow road towards the north-west. Our first encounter was this sign.

Sparky considers himself to be on a virtual lead most of the time, and there were no livestock present, so I carried the rope and let him explore the path, ready to hook him up in case of any potential problem.

After skirting the newly-planted field we entered some woods that reminded me of the sort of place where we we would have in the 1960s helped my dad to load the boot of his old pre-war Morris 8 with free firewood

In the woods I was suddenly “caught short” and had to dive into the minimal undergrowth to perform an action that I normally associate with the dog. Luckily I carry “poo bags”, but I was nonetheless reminded of my Dad’s old ditty: “In days of old when knights were bold and paper wasn’t invented, they wiped their ass on a piece of grass and walked away contented.” I found some dock leaves near a nettle patch. Note to self: add pocket pack of tissues to walking gear!

Sparky seems to have a problem with negotiating this type of gate, where one must enter a “holding area” while the gate is moved…

After the woods we came upon a flock of curiously-patterned goats, including one (pun intended) “Billy No-Mates”:

Then , through a narrow pathway we reached the village and walked to ‘The Mole”, a pub that we have previously frequented, for a refreshing drink. Alas, we found it closed, with this notice:

I guess it is just another case of “Use it or lose it”, but it is a sad loss. On the other hand, I suppose that my four or five visits for lunch with friends over ten or more years were not likely to substantially add to a sustainable business. Maybe a lesson to us all.

And so once again we retraced our steps to the car. On the way back I managed to catch a picture of another old church nestling amongst the trees. I believe this is St. Luke’s, Pamber Heath

Tomorrow we are going to the Barbury Horse Trials with Sparky. We will walk the “cross-country” course. I will take photo’s if possible but maybe no daily report will be published.

Walks with my dog (3)

Thursday 4th July 2019.

The first two days’ walks have actually involved more driving time than walking time, as the start/finish points were some distance from home. I have devised a new randomising method to try to ensure that we start within a reasonable distance.

I use two 8-sided dice. One is marked with the eight points of the compass and the other with the numbers 1 to 4 twice each. I roll these dice twice. Today’s result was 4 NE and 1 S. starting from my home (OS grid reference SU5862 I counted 4 map squares north-east and 1 square south to grid reference 60,65. This was just over the edge of the map onto the next sheet.

Starting in this square are two paths. One leads from Upper Church Farm in the middle of the square to the west, and straight back to the busy road after about half a mile. The second runs from the north of the square northwards towards Aldermaston Wharf on the Kennet and Avon Canal. I chose that one.

Unfortunately when we reached the point on the narrow lane where the start should be I could not see the path marked, nor anywhere to park. However, about 400 yards further was a place to pull off the road and a footpath/bridleway which would join our intended route, so I took the easy option.

The track led to Padworth Church, seen here through the lych gate.

From there we cut across to a tarmac road leading to Home Farm. What a difference from yesterday’s welcome! Following the signs between the farm complex and the stables and barn I came to a point where the map showed a path, but it was unclear exactly where to walk. The owner (I believe), greeted me and explained it was through the paddock where her horses were grazing, then diagonally across a meadow. She advised that the electric fence was active, but said that Sparky could be let off his leash without any problem. He is accustomed to horses so I had no fear of him doing anything silly. Her terrier ran up to play as we passed through the paddock.

After crossing the meadow the path had been mown through a new plantation.

Next we came to a group of footbridges crossing the streams at Padworth Mill. An information board explained about the salmon “steps” that were built here about 20 years ago.

This is the old mill race, no longer used to drive anything.

Most of the rest of the walk was along an uninteresting track lined with cottages until we reached our goal: Aldermaston Wharf, with its recent canal-side residential development.

From here there was no sensible alternative but to retrace our route back to the car. A very pleasant walk, taking about 75 minutes.

Walks with my dog (2)

3rd July 2019

Today’s walk was in the parish of Winterbourne, north-west of Newbury, Berkshire.

We started at Winterbourne Manor, with the intention of walking a horseshoe shape, returning to the road at Mud Hall Cottage.

We set off past the church and a group of barn conversion dwellings towards Lower Farm.  On the way we passed these poppies growing wild at the edge of the field.

Lower Farm had notices requesting dogs to be kept on leads, so we dutifully hooked up.  Just as well, as the entire premises were surrounded by an electric fence wire about three inches from the ground. We turned left and the path followed the edge of a field of barley.

Past Wyfield Copse was a gate, and the footpath/bridleway was signposted around the edge of a grassy field.  There was no noticeable path so we kept to the edge and followed the marked signposts around Borough Hill.  When we reached the point marked “Borough Copse” on the map there were no further footpath signs, only a barbed wire fence, thick nettles and a notice advising “Private Woodland”.  So we retraced our steps to the car and both had a refreshing drink before returning home.

Somewhat disappointing, but good healthy excercise nonetheless.