Monday, 31 March 2014

Day 32: Chiseldon to Letcombe Regis

Staying in Swindon last night turned out to be quite useful as we were able to catch up on some shopping and the bus dropped us at the door of the Hotel. We were able to breakfast early so we were back on the bus for 8.30 and on our way back to Chiseldon to resume our walk where we left off.

We followed the old route of the Ridgeway up to its current path and on we tramped past farms where the farmer obviously had a sense of humour

And more rural sights and smells :). We passed a piggery where the field was like a little pig village with little pig houses and groups of pigs and piglets going about their piggy business.

The day was overcast but warm (ish) and although we had the occasional light shower we had no need to don our rain gear. The route is well marked and easy to follow so we made good time. We had checked the web yesterday for availability of an evening meal in the village and as there did not appear to be any we had stocked up on snacks so we would not go hungry. We left the Ridgeway to head towards our B&B about lunch time and headed down Blowing Stone Hill 

to a little village

As luck would have it in the village below was a great little pub so we had a slap up lunch to make up for the possible lack of Dinner. Then to add to our fortune, when we went to pay we were told it was half price Monday... Bonus!
We then followed lanes through little villages.

Past fields of rape.

Paths through the fields

And bridleways.

Then at some point we wandered into our 5th County: Oxfordshire

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Day 31: East Kennet to Chiseldon

A short day today and that worked out well because last night was the beginning of daylight saving: so we missed an hour's sleep. We had not planned it because of that, it just worked out in our favour. We had stopped short because of availability of accommodation in rural areas can be sparse. The day dawned bright and sunny, even nicer than yesterday. We ate a leasurely breakfast, then on our way out of the Village...

and then straight along the Ridgeway.

This national trail follows the chalk ridge of Wessex Downs (which is strange because it is up) and follows an ancient route followed  by travellers, farmers and soldiers.

It was very pleasant walking with views across the valley and the farmlands either side of the track.

And the white showing in the photos is not snow but the chalky limestone that lurks just below the surface.

In recognition of the ancient history of the land the trail occupies, it follows a Roman Road and as you walk you can see ancient sites such as the site of Barbury Castle, an Iron Age hill fort

We reached Chiselton by lunch time and as we had not been able to secure accommodation there we had booked in a hotel in Swindon. So we hopped on the number 5 bus to Swindon and our digs for the night. In the morning we will take the bus back to Chiselton to resume our journey.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Day 30: Semington to East Kennet

Sometime yesterday we quietly slipped into our 4th County; Wiltshire and if the two words for yesterday were Rain and mud our two for today would have to be Spring and sunshine! It was a glorious day. We commenced as we finished yesterday, with a walk along the Kennet-Avon Canal and spring had brought out the birds

Swans and ducks amongst them

The walking was flat and easy.. On the feet and on the eye...

But then, surprise, surprise, a hill, namely, Caen Hill. Who would have thought! So what does an engineer do when faced with a hill when building a canal? Of course, they build locks and in this case a total of 16 locks to get to the top of the hill and then a further 12 through the Devizes area.

Amazing but also I would expect, mind mumblingly boring if you are on one of the narrow boats plying the canal.

But talking of the feats of engineering, it was also mind blowing to be walking alongside the canal only to look over the wall and see that we are passing over a major highway below. Those Victorians (the era not the State) did not let things get in their way. Similarly the swans did not let the passing traffic interfere with their nest building and family rearing activities... Just check out that nest

For the second half of the day we left the canal and as we walked up the bridge there was a lovely little pub with a delightful beer garden and so we just had to stop :). As we sat I couldn't help but notice the crows/ravens (I can't tell the difference) nesting in the nearby trees. The nests entirely visible as the trees are still bare... A novelty for one from an environment with principly evergreen trees.

We continued on through picture book villages.

And rural countryside.

Until we reached Allington and then began to climb, and climb and climb up to the limestone ridges. The view was spectacular as we looked back to the rich, rural valley below.

This cutting alongside the path shows the white, chalky limestone that lurks beneath the surface of the ridge.

Once we reached the top we had a gradual descent down Arlington Downs and along a track to East Kennet and our digs for the night.

Friday, 28 March 2014

Day 29: Camerton to Semington

Today can be summed up in two words: rain and mud. 

We set off optimistically minus our rain jackets despite the overcast sky and weather forecast. 

However we had not gone far before the heavens opened and we had to stop and don our coats. Despite the rain it was not too hard a going as it was not compounded by wind and we soldiered on

About half way through the day we stopped at the pub in Midford and had lunch. The rain was falling heavily whilst we ate and immediately after but it soon slowed and stopped, becoming occasional showers and by mid afternoon there were increasing areas of blues sky.

We followed Cam Brook.

Until we joined the Kenneth and Avon Canal and saw our first river narrow boat this trip.

Canal walking is pleasant and flat :) so we made good time

And enjoyed the scenery.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Day 28: Cheddar to Camerton

We started our day by ambling through the little village of Chedar (yes, where the cheese comes from). Then our first view do Cheddar Gorge...

On then through the gorge, which is startling. 

The walk led us gradually up hill and tho we felt a little out of breath as we steadily climbed, the goat (including very young kids) took it in their stide as they nimbly climbed the side of the gorge. 

On leaving the gorge we followed the grassy path as it climbed gradually upward through the Mendips

And we reached a path through a lovely estate...

And on up till we met our next trail, the Limestone Link.

Which took us further up into the Mendips

And lovely views down toward the valley below, the villages and the Chew Valley Reservoire

We continued to follow the Limestone Link through fertile rural country-side

And stopped to chat to some of the locals.... This little calf seeed very friendly!

We reached Camerton in good time and are moving east on the next stage of our trek after the initial North East track through Cornwall, Devon and into Somerset.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Day 27: Bridgwater to Cheddar

After the beauty and climbing involved so far, today we faced the flat terrain of the Somerset Levels. Easier on the cardio-vascular system but not so easy on the eye; just lots of level land and waterways.

But we did get some respite by walking along a disused railway

Which was still easy walking but also attractive and full of birdsong!

We crossed the Huntspill River at Gold corner

And then back to the water drains and sedge

We then struck out across the fields but the past rains and lots and lots of cows had turned many of the paths into mud bogs which slowed us down considerably as we tried to make our way through without sinking up to our mid-calves in mud... Yuk! So we stopped at the Sexey Arms pub... No I did not make that name up! And Keith went inside to order a soda and lime whilst we sat outside as our boots were too muddy to venture in. When the landlord brought the drinks he had misunderstood the accent and we had Cider and lime instead... We all had a good laugh and he did not charge us for the drinks. Fortified we decided to leave the mud behind and continue down the lanes instead. Despite stopping to chat to the cutest little pony in a bright little coat...

... We made good time and arrived at out B&B in Cheddar in the shadow of the Mendips and Cheddar Gorge.