Friday, 2 March 2012

Startops End, Marsworth and Tring Reservoirs (Circular Walk)

In which the sun comes out and we enjoy and wander round the (worryingly dry looking) reservoirs, and I wonder if the Chap is really as bad an eater as I think he is.

Distance: 2.5 miles
Time: 1 hour
Rating: Easy Walk

Free from flu and with the sun suddenly shining, we decided to celebrate our recovery with a wander around the reservoirs.

Parking in the reservoirs car park  (£1.50 for 3 hours at time of writing) in the implausibly romantic-sounding Startops End, Marsworth, we started with a cup of tea & a piece of cake at the Bluebell tearooms (nearly £10 for two coffees and two pieces of cake! Is that the price of things these days? I nearly fell over. It's a good thing I've gone back to work if that's the price of cake these days). The Chap refused all offers of cake, but at least consented to eat one of those little caramelised biscuits that come with coffee. It's a pleasant little cafe, and we were quite excited by the bookcase of kilner jars with tea on them - always a good excuse to come back and investigate!

Filled with fat, sugar and caffeine, all three of us walked (yes, even the little one!) back to the car, where we got the sling out and then set off. Mounting the steps up the side of the embankment, we started at Startops End reservoir and followed the path to the right.

The water is still looking really low in the reservoir, which corresponds to current reports that we have a drought going on. The anglers were still out here and there, however, these reservoirs apparently being famous for producing monster bream and other fishy fiends.
Follow the route anti clockwise around the top of the first reservoir - looking to the right you get views of Marsworth, and to the left there's the reservoir and across towards Tring or Pitstone Hill, depending on which way you're looking.

Startops Reservoir with Pitstone Hill in the far distance.

Follow the path round the back of the reservoir, over a small wooden bridge and up a rise and then pop out on Tringford Road. Step over a low crashbarrier to cross the road and follow the path immediately opposite to follow to the left of Tringford Reservoir. This was a lot more full, and apparently is the thing if you're after trout. This reservoir is a lot less obviously elevated and exposed, because shortly after joining the path you go into the line of trees that surrounds it. Bear left, and ignore the path that leads off to the right in a short time, instead heading straight on.

If bird watching is your thing, there are also a number of hides, and there had been a fair few  waistcoated, bearded men with large and expensive cameras around Startops, but they hadn't got as far as Tringford. There were some pretty views from the hides, but no actual birds that we could see.

Tringford Reservoir from the bird hide

I have learnt an interesting thing this week. I went round for lunch with a friend, and  from my point of view watched her son throw food down his neck like all children who aren't my child seem to do. He ate rice cakes, all his own blueberries, then all of the Chap's blueberries, and then a yoghurt. "How marvellous to have a child that eats!" I thought. My own dear offspring consented only to eat marmite rice cakes and yoghurt while turning his nose up at the offer of fruit, cheese or chicken, before performing his usual trick of starting to whinge and flap to be taken out of his chair.

So I was interested when later the same day, the mother of this fruit-eating child posted a question on Facebook about how she was worried about the way her son will only really eat blueberries. Which makes me reconsider my perspective about whether or not I see the Chap's refusal to eat as worse than maybe it is. I'm not saying that having a child who only eats blueberries isn't something I'd wonder about, but at the same time I hadn't seen a child with a problem - I'd seen a child who likes blueberries. Similarly, I wonder if for a while I have been seeing a problem where in fact I have a child who just really, really likes breakfast cereal. In fact, my litany of 'well, my child will only eat...' has now got a bit like the 'what have the Romans ever done for us?' sketch in Life of Brian. 'Well, he'll only eat breakfast cereal. And toast. And sausages. And yoghurt. And apples. And bagels. And noodles. And exactly two  bites of broccoli, but never the whole floret. And fruit smoothie pouches. And red pepper. And individual commercial pies, like apple pies or mince pies. But apart from that, he eats nothing, I tell you. Nothing.'. Ok, so often he'll only eat two bites of something and then throw it on the floor, but things have got a lot easier since we negotiated a sign for 'all gone', which he now uses when he wants to get out of his high chair. It's a lot more preferable to the screaming, howling banshee who used to make an appearance every mealtime.

I have gone in cycles with the Chap's eating. Christmas was particularly bad. I had had visions when we started Baby Led Weaning that it would mean he would, at the age of almost one, be able to sit down and have a piece of turkey, a roast potato and some veg with us. What did he have for Christmas dinner? A shreddie. One. One centimetre square piece of breakfast cereal. Anxiety about the Chap's behaviour at mealtimes has pretty much ruined every meal for the last 6 months. Recently he has seemed to get better, by which I mean he doesn't eat any more, but we can thrust a piece of apple impaled upon a baby fork at him, and he will then wave it around or remove the apple only to try to get in on the tines again. But the whole eating thing is very stressful, particularly when nurseries start reporting what you know back to you; that yes, your son doesn't eat. It's also bad to arrive early to pick your son up to find he is, in characteristic fashion, howling to be removed from his high chair after two bites of toast. Just because he can do the 'all gone' sign and you've told nursery about it doesn't mean he is consistent in his use of it.
In some ways I'm glad it's not just me he does this to.

Weaning - to me, anyway - appears to be The First Great Test of parenting. Do you go for purée or baby led weaning? Do you let them have sugar? Sugar appears to be so dangerous that you might as well strap them down and start injecting them with heroin and be done with it. I reported to a Health Visitor that the Chap had consented to eat a bit of pork pie, and instead of being congratulated on finally getting some sort of protein into him, she sucked her teeth and announced "ooo, it's very high in cholesterol.". I'm afraid I have not been back since.

My anxieties about weaning also feed into nursery. Trying to explain why the Chap going into nursery has prompted such a strong reaction from me, I found myself saying that "the problem is that with him going into nursery is that this is when they find out."

"Find out what?" ChapDad asked

"Find out everything I've been doing wrong." I said. I don't know what it is that I have done wrong, but I am sure there are a lot of people out there with their golden Judgement Cards all ready to produce scores followed by a critical commentary from Len Goodman gratuitously using the word 'fleckle'.

People say that having a baby will find any cracks you have in your relationship and turn them into potholes. Certainly, starting to wean a child will identify all the issues you have around food and crack them wide open. Truly, I feel I am the last person who should have responsibility for feeding this child, because my own anxieties are completely clouding any rational judgement I have around food. True, since slightly before Christmas and the infamous Mugging His Mother Of A Mince Pie Incident, his eating does seem to be slowly, slowly picking up, but there are still days when all he's had are three rice cakes and 20 oz of formula. Whatever happens, though, already in my head he is The Baby Who Will Not Eat. He could eat a whole packet of sausages, a loaf of bread and a bushel of apples every day for a week, but if on the next day he complained he might just have a bit of rice cake because he was feeling a bit full, and I would be there like a shot. "See! See! I told you! Only a rice cake for The Baby Who Doesn't Eat!"
New Mill, Tring

The path leads you away from the reservoir and along the sides of fields inhabited by the occasional horse or pony. We followed the path until Tring flour mill (New Mill on maps) was in sight, and then when the path lead off to the left we followed it instead of following the map's indication of heading straight on.

The concrete path we took along the side of the field looking over towards the mill ended in a white metal fence and a padlocked gate. A path lead off to the left, but we weren't sure if that would get us onto the road, and we knew that we wanted to get onto the road to head back towards Marsworth reservoir. ChapDad asserted that of course he could clamber over the fence while his small, sleeping infant son was strapped to him. I, of course, did what every sympathetic wife would do. I stood back and took pictures.

Once on the road, cross over a turn left along the pavement. In a hundred metres or so, you will see the path you could have taken before you climbed over the gate pop out onto the road. In two places. Feel a bit foolish. Carry on until a path leads off bearing gently right. This was the same path I had taken when I had walked here from the Grand Junction Arms at the end of last year, and we carried on along this path, past some ducks in the reeds and between Marsworth and Startops reservoirs.

When you get to the end of this path, we then headed straight on and bore left along the edge of the Grand Union canal, and then back to the Startops car park.

Things I Learnt

  • I am not the only person who gets wound up by their child's eating. Or lack of it.
  • My son does not need to worry about his cholesterol as yet. He's one.
  • All you need is one sunny morning and suddenly the whole of the 3 counties area seems to decamp to these reservoirs!

Ordnance Survey Map: 181 (Chiltern Hills North)


  1. Over the years I have become tired of telling your mother that there is no National Allower.
    Now I realise I should have spent my time telling you there is no National Purveyor of Golden Judgement Cards.
    Fleckle? wazzat?

  2. Urgh. We have moved on from the health visitor and are now at the School Nurse stage. L goes through phases with eating, or lack of. She has months of hardly eating anything. I went to the school nurse almost ready to hand over control of my child since after a fortnight of her only eating a sandwich and satsuma a day, I was clearly not up to the job only for the woman to tell me to let her carry on for another week and that then they would look at it as a problem!
    Tonight we had sweet and sour chicken and she proclaimed 'I quite like this!'. I nearly did a dance around the kitchen...only I know next time she has it, she will turn her nose up at is as if it is poison.

  3. we're always scared the 'this is where they find out' when I get a job interview 'thats when they find out I'm just pretending to be a teacher' when I talk to naturally-minded baby rearing friends it's only a mater of time before they find out that I'm not longer breastfeeding and I don't use cloth nappies.... I think we just dont trust ourselves to make the right decisions sometimes and it's like we expect to be told off or set right at every juncture (a la healthvisitor, whose last words to me were 'he's a bit big really *concernedface*)

    but no one in school/nursery is going to be massively concerned about an otherwise healthy child who seems to have a small appetite.... they have bigger fish to fry...

    I am of course, in no position to talk... Stevie would eat a brick if it was mushed up with milk...