English Magic

Saturday 25th October- Bradford-on-Avon – Freshford

Me, Paddy Garcia, Mr P, Madame Citron, Smurf and Sir FX

IMG_1661Smurf and Sir FX on a visit from London-town, so we decided to head out for some West Country-side, choosing Bradford despite protests by PG that he is ‘forced’ to visit the Tithe Barn far too often. Definitely a pretty late start for an autumn afternoon, but we achieved the 14:22 train, heavily laden with rugby fans (Bath v Toulouse).

Milled around in Bradford for a bit (failed to find the cheese shop; the Smurf nearly broke a craft market), before heading to the Tithe Barn. Sir FX discovered interesting marks on the masonry in the porch which have escaped our previous notice (despite so many visits!). Subsequent research suggests they are protective symbols called Daisy Wheels (reliable source here).

Bit of sporting/ shopping diversion and then we were off towards Avoncliff, along the riverside rather than the canal towpath (see Gongoozling). Amusement (possibly inappropriate) provided by the unusual sight of a woman falling in a hole in a bicycle-avoiding manoeuvre gone wrong.

IMG_1658Truly beautiful autumn afternoon, sun shining on the sheep on the opposite bank of the river. Slippery underfoot, but arrived at Avoncliff without any hole-falling ourselves. To the Crossed Guns, where much complex ale-related deliberation was undertaken at the bar, resulting in 6% chewy Box Steam Brewery pints in the garden. Highlight of the day, possibly the weekend, or indeed the whole year, was watching a pleasingly-fat kingfisher on a nearby branch sizing up the fry, before making a flashing dive into the water and coming up with a fish. Unbeatable.

IMG_1659Having established that neither of the maps we’d brought with us included the vital next stretch, we set off blind. Fortunately the route under the aqueduct took us on the right side of the river and it was an easy stroll through woods and open fields into Freshford village. Another pint by a lovely open fire in the charming Inn at Freshford. Every single table was booked for the evening meal, which suggests the food is well worth returning for another time.

IMG_1671By now dusk was falling, so it was a quick dash to the station to flag down the train- much excitement about the concept of the request stop. Accepting we were now on a pub crawl rather than a ramble, decided to hop off at Bath and took a stroll around, admiring the Jacob’s ladders on the Abbey West Front. Town still mighty full of rugby fans, so one drink only (more ale-related dithering, resulting in pints of ‘Intrigue’) at Gascoyne Place before returning to the train.

Walk ended, as so many great walks do, at the Barleymow by Temple Meads, where we ate a hearty meal (in my case, very fast), drank more craft beer, and then parted ways, greatly satisfied by a grand afternoon out.





13 October 2014- Portico of the Madonna of San Luca, Bologna

Me n’ Paddy Garcia

SuppoP1000504sedly the longest colonnade in the world, the portico runs from central Bologna to the Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca on a hill outside the city. Being sans guidebook, we weren’t entirely sure what walking the longest colonnade in the world would be like, but decided to tackle it anyway.

We cheated slightly by taking the bus from central Bologna out through the Saragozza Gate to the Arch of Meloncello and began the walk there. Much more than just an archway, this marvellous orange Baroque extravagance set the tone for the whole walk.

IMG_1611IMG_1608It’s an unusual experience, walking 3.5 km under a colonnade. Built in the 17th- 18th century to protect the annual procession of the icon from the sanctuary down to the city and back, its 666 arches are all pretty much the same. Beautiful, winding and with the occasional altar, but you never see the way ahead, or glimpse how far away the destination is until you arrive. All the better for focusing on the pilgrimage we assume.

The arches do frame a great view down over the city and surrounding countryside, of course, which we very much enjoyed- beautiful though it is, Bologna is not a very green city.

P1000516The surprisingly tough ascent of uphill steps and slopes, combined with the hot humid weather, made us glad to reach the extremely imposing sanctuary. Amazing views over the Apennine Hills from the church terrace. Found ourselves in the back of mass in the church (again!), and then set off back down the colonnade. Equally tough on the legs downhill, and we were truly impressed by the number of locals who passed us jogging up and down. Hardcore exercise.

PG was pleased to get a view of the Bologna football stadium as we made it to the bottom again, then we headed back into the city for a well-earned cold drink. Nothing like a bit of Catholic pilgrimage to whet the appetite.


Mangold Hurling

Sunday 5th October- Sherston, Wiltshire

Me, Kate Force One, Magic Dave, Mr P and The Boy

NIMG_1565ot a walk, but a fine Sunday outing to the Cotswold village of Sherston to enjoy the ‘Ancient’ sport of Mangold Hurling. Is there anything finer than spending a Sunday afternoon throwing large vegetables around whilst listening to a brass band and drinking cider*?


IMG_1558First discovered the existence of the Sherston Mangold Hurl a few years ago during a stop at the Rattlebone Inn whilst rambling. We finally made it this year and it was everything we hoped it would be.


Team Norman made the semi-finals. Next year, victory. Marvellous.





* The Boy would argue yes: writing computer code. We outvoted him.