"The weather is OK today, we should get a walk in."
"It's going to be muddy after all the rain over the last two days."
"That's OK. I've got my boots."
It is Sunday morning and we take our time. The dogs are getting impatient. They didn't get a walk yesterday, they refused to go outside in the heavy rain, and are making a fuss now.
It is dry and mild when we set off. We don't take waterproof clothes. We will risk getting wet if it rains.
"I wonder why the anti-Trump demos the Student was going to see have been cancelled."
"The uni probably doesn't want trouble on campus."
"Were they going to be on campus? Anyway they are better protesting against policies than an election result, but I think they just wanted to register a protest against sexism and racism. How come you said you were going to that one last night. A bit of a long way to go for a demo."
"I accidentally clicked like on their Facebook page. Could have had fun at US immigration .... sole purpose of visit: attempt to overthrow the president-elect. Haha, they wouldn't have let me in."
"Oh well, at least you haven't been accused of being a fascist just because you asked a Brexit supporter to name one example of where his personal freedoms were limited by EU law."
"I bet you didn't get an answer."
"No, I didn't. He said he could give me hundreds of examples but he didn't actually give one."
"Are we going this way?" the Webmaster asks, heading towards the stile and the path up the hill.
"That was the plan."
The Young Dog leaps over the stile and lands in the mud on the far side, sinking in up to his knees. The Webmaster steps over and walk across without comment.
The Old Dog crawls under the stile and the mud reaches up to her belly. She wades across unperturbed.
"Look at the dog. We'll never get her clean."
"We've got a long way to go yet. It's bound to get worse."
We slip and slide our way up the hill.
"Anyway, never mind the US elections, what about gravity? Did you see that Dutch scientist says it's an illusion and he doesn't think there is any dark matter. No gravity, no God!"
"There is no God. What's his theory, the Dutchman I mean?"
Something about phenomenon and entropy. Didn't really get it. I only did A level physics and that was over 40 years ago. You'll have to look for yourself. Maybe it is the great unifying theory."
"So what do you reckon to Farage being the unifying force? Ambassador to the US, trade envoy..."
"No way. He was on US TV last night telling them 'the truth is' that the only people complaining about Brexit are professional protestors who couldn't even be bothered to get out of bed to vote. What planet does he live on?"
"You don't need gravity as God. The people have spoken and Nigel is the new god, ascending up to heaven in a golden lift."
"Haha. But I'm a member of the non-people now, a heretic. His heaven sounds like my hell."
We are at the top of the hill. The Webmaster is hot and stops to remove his sweatshirt. It isn't raining, the sky is dull, cloudy and grey but there is no wind and it doesn't look like rain. We walk on for several minutes in silence.
"Look, someone has put cones in the potholes we reported," the Webmaster points as we walk down the lane towards them. We haven't been this way for a few weeks so they could have been here for some time.
"They have filled it in a bit too. See." The broken road edge hasn't been completely repaired but the large hole and sudden drop have gone. "I wonder if they did it because we warned them about it or because someone actually went off the edge and complained."
First a new sign in the car park and now a pothole filled in. Maybe Farage is right and we are professional protestors.
We climb up over the stile and walk past the allotments on the left and then the riding school on the right. We follow the path up the hill. More stiles then several more stiles again as we skirt round the edge of a posh looking property with a fancy garden house and impressive gates. We have to help the Old Dog over them. Her hips haven't got the flexibility for her to climb and she won't attempt to jump.
"How much longer do you think the Old Dog will manage long walks?"
"She's OK apart from the stiles. Maybe we need something to help lift her over. If we tried picking her up like that at home she'd have our arms off but she must know she has to co-operate to get round the walk."
Our path takes us across the top of the village and joins the route of our evening walk. The horses are in the first field after the stone climb and stile. One is blocking our path. The Young Dog stops. He seems wary of horses, but the horse walks away as we approach.
Once across the road the path becomes very wet. Despite his boots the Webmaster complains. The ground is very soft and the stiles slippery. He stumbles, mud is nearly up to the top of his boots.
"This is awful. Remind me why I'm doing this," he whines.
At the next road we go straight across and follow the path. We have not been this way before. The Webmaster mutters about it possibly not being a very good idea.
"Which way do we go?"
"Straight on until we reach another path crossing this one. I haven't got the footpath map, only a copy of an old OS map and it doesn't show the same paths. We'll have to do it from memory."
"Grrr. Show me the map."
We stop and the Webmaster looks at the map. He stretches his arms to their full length and tilts his head back, eyes squinting.
"Can you see it?"
"Well let's carry on then."
A few metres further on we see a path signposted to the left.
"Is that it?" asks the Webmaster.
"No. That's going back towards Hill Top we need to go straight on."
"Show me the map again."
I humour him. Pull the map from my pocket and put on my specs. "We are here, and we need to go there." I point.
'We need to turn left."
"No we don't. It's more or less straight on but bearing slightly right."
"Look. We are here and we need to go this way."
"Oh. Did we come along this way?" the Webmaster points to a path on the map.
"Oh" and he follows the direction I pointed. "Yes, it's this way. Here is a stile but you'll have to walk through all the slurry first."
The path takes us gradually down hill. The ground is rutted and cut up with deep hoof prints. It is soft, muddy, uneven and hard going. The Old Dog is picking her way carefully across. The Webmaster is swearing under his breath.
"I think we need to go that way." The Webmaster points to a footpath sign attached to a wall. It is not at all clear which way it is pointing but the ground on the other side looks much firmer and so it is tempting. The way through looks like a gap created by a partial collapse of the wall. Stones lie around half buried in thick, grey mud. It looks as though there has been a terrible accident in a pottery and all the clay and slip has been spilled.
The Webmaster attempts to cross to the gap in the wall using the fallen stones as steps, but his foot slips and he slides into the mud. His foot and new boot disappear as the grey sludge reaches almost to the middle of his calf. He moves his almost dry foot to another stone but that too slips as he tries to extricate himself from the mud. Now he has two feet engulfed. It looks as though his feet have been removed and he is walking on stumps. Needless to say there is a lot of swearing.
The Webmaster's sudden halt as he sinks into the mud throws me of my stride as I follow behind him and the stone I am aiming for is no longer within reach. The Webmaster isn't the only one with grey sludge going over the top of his boots, but he makes enough fuss for an army.
Meanwhile the Young Dog has made his way through and, looking pleased with himself, stands, a dirty grey colour up to his shoulders, on the other side of the wall.
"Sh*t, Sh*t, F**k and F**k. Look at the dog. It will never come clean. And my trousers are wet." By now we are all on more solid ground and we make our way down to the next stile.
"Which way now?" There is no indication which way the path goes and from memory this is where the OS map and the footpath map diverge. We decide to follow the route on the OS map simply because it is the only one we have with us, and so we go straight across the next field.
"Where now? That's all barbed wire fence. No stile."
"Maybe through that gate."
"It won't open. There are no hinges. It is completely tied up with string and if we try to open it, it will collapse. Look it is probably holding up that fence post.
We both study the map and agree where we believe the path should be relative to a stone building we can see about three hundred metres ahead and to the right but we still can't see a way through.
"There is another path up there. We'd better go that way and join it."
We walk up the field and find the alternative path. After a few metres is drops down onto a track. The track is over ankle deep in mud but we have no alternative but to wade into it and follow it, negotiating several gates, for about fifty metres. Eventually the mud ends and we are walking on a solid track once more.
We are now off the planned route but decide we will walk back through the village and stop at the ford to wash the mud off the dogs. At least that cheers up the Webmaster a little.
"Let's go this way," suggests the Webmaster pointing to footpath sloping steeply down to long, cobbled steps strewn with leaves. "It cuts off the corner and we need to be on that road down there."
We step off the road and immediately slide, almost overbalancing backwards. It takes us a few seconds to stop and it is amazing we didn't fall, the dogs pulling ahead being a serious hindrance.
"F**k" says the Webmaster whose vocabulary is becoming more limited by the minute, "I'm not going down there." It takes us more effort than we expect to get back to the top but now thankfully the dogs are pulling us up.
We make our way round the road. The Webmaster starts to limp. His boots are hurting his ankle. They aren't rubbing his skin and there is no blister, but something is clearly wrong. He tries to grin and bear it. We reach the ford. The dogs paddle and wash off some of the mud, then we start on the long trudge back up hill. For the next mile we follow the road before turning off onto the path that will take us up through the fields, almost back home. The Webmaster's boots do not hurt so much when we are walking up, so it is easier and we make reasonably good progress but now his shoulder is hurting and the Young Dog is pulling. He must have pulled his shoulder and twisted his ankle earlier in the walk.
We swap dogs. The Young Dog pulls. It takes all my strength to hold him. I make him stop. The Webmaster and the Old Dog open a large lead on us. The Young Dog doesn't like it. He always wants to be ahead. As soon as we move he pulls again. I make him stop and walk in a circle. Every time he pulls I make him stop and turn a circle. For a while he was turning more circles than walking forward. Eventually he got the message and we walked on to catch up with the Webmaster and the Old Dog.
"Come on, keep going. Less than 400 metres to go."
"Thank goodness for that. Next week remind me not to listen when you say you have found a new route."