The Wilderness

8-9 August 2015- the Oxfordshire Cotswolds

Me n PG

A weekend of pedestrian adventuring at long last. To Charlbury for dinner to celebrate the birthday of Prof S. It occurs to me that everyone- really everyone (except those under 18)- I know who lives in Oxfordshire is an archaeologist. I wonder what that means, and if anyone has ever mapped archaeologist habitation by county. Would be interesting to see the results.

We stayed at the ancient but newly-refurbished Woodstock Arms. Monkey wallpaper, Winston Churchill and a lacquered ceiling, quirky and good. We’d decided to stay in Woodstock and spend the afternoon walking to Charlbury, about 7 miles. Thus after a quick lunch, we headed off into the park at Blenheim.

Photo0032Whatever you think about aristocratic country houses (PG not much), Blenheim is undeniably impressive. The scale of the landscape vision is breathtaking. We walked out along the north drive- miles, I think literally, of straight avenue across the park and monument to the house. Enhanced by the slightly odd experience of the house (?fire) alarm sounding in the distance. Felt like the apocalypse and noone left but us and the sheep.

photoThen we were off along the Oxfordshire Way. Also strangely deserted, not a dog walker in sight. Many massive rolling fields of wheat and burning sunshine: we resigned ourselves to being sweatier on arrival than we intended. The route then headed through Stonesfield, followed by a final slog into Charlbury, this section accompanied by the sounds of the Wilderness festival* on the horizon. We ended at The Bull in the centre of Charlbury for a marvellous dinner.

photo(3)Fortified by a hearty breakfast, on Sunday we visited the deserted village at Hampton Gay. We parked at Shipton-on-Cherwell and took the footpath over the canal, the Cherwell and under the railway to Hampton Gay. Such a complicated and interesting bit of landscape, so many loops and routeways.

 

photo(1)
Hampton Gay was fabulous earthworks, extraordinary ruined Elizabethan manor and tiny chapel. And a sad story of a massive train crash in 1874  (34 dead and 69 injured on Christmas Eve) and the manorhouse gutted by fire in 1887.


All that done and not even eleven, we decided to keep going to Hampton Poyle, home to another small church and more earthworks. Then it was a loop back over the Cherwell to follow a track along the river, through a fantastic community woodland where we heard a squirrel cracking nuts and saw some deer in the undergrowth.

photo(2)An icecream stop at Thrupp Bridge, and back along the canal to Shipton, to tour a third and final small church, this one with colourful windows. Not a very long walk, but really lovely- a bit wild and woolly and a good slice of medieval landscape. Felt like walking two dead ends either side of the canal/ river/ railway and that’s a good thing.

 

* Discovered that the name of the festival comes from an area of managed landscape on the estate where it’s held. Thus dispelling the Cotswolds= not wild issue that was troubling PG.

 

Beasts of the Chase

7-8 February 2015- Brockenhurst, Hampshire

Me, Paddy Garcia, Jim the Alien, Big O and the Doctors

LIMG_2084ovely weekend in the New Forest with old friends, two short but interesting walks.

On Saturday, we took a dog-walk through the Forest, rambling through ancient woodland and over the vast heath. Such an alien and utterly beautiful landscape, nothing but wildness and scrub right to the horizon. It really doesn’t strike your eye quite like anywhere else. Plenty of gorse and heather to wade/ rugby tackle through, and boggy landscapes with small pools, heavily iced over. Enjoyed (as I’m currently reading about the Normans), imagining William the Conqueror hunting in the vicinity.

IMG_2079Our destination was the valley bottom, to visit the spot where Big O and Jim the Alien had previously noticed a mystery ferrous object. We examined the context, squidged the mud, discussed the possible geology and history of the spot*, and concluded that some mystery ferrous objects are destined to remain a mystery. Unlikely to have fallen from William the Conqueror’s horse though we think.

 

IMG_2101Sunday was a trip to the beach at Barton, for a swim in the sea (dog) and icecream (me n’ Jim). Absolutely stunning weather, the Solent flat calm, the sun dazzling, and hazy views to the Needles. Stopped on the way back to watch Big O playing rugby.

 

Fun weekend, with truly gorgeous weather, plenty of Bananagrams**, super-cute animals, good catching up and tasty Sunday lunch. Me n’ PG drove home accompanied by a beautiful sunset over the Wylye Valley, and noted to selves to return to Coombe Bissett and Limpley Stoke for walks sometime.

IMG_2099

* Perhaps discussed our lack of knowledge on the subject would be more accurate. So much Forest, so much to learn…

** In which we proved that there are enough letters to make antidisestablishmentarianism, quantification and exploration all at the same time.

Freedom

Saturday 5th and Sunday 6th July- Watermouth, Devon

Me, Paddy Garcia, Kate Force One, Magic Dave, Burge, Madame Citron and Mr P

Not a walk as such but definitely a journey. After a complicated early morning, me, PG and KFO set sail in the mighty micra, loaded to the gunnels. An extended stop in Williton (lovely farmshop, ample street parking where required for making emergency phonecalls) en route before we met up with Madame Citron and Mr P at Porlock Weir, where, happy days, we stumbled on ‘Weirfest’. Not only 50+ craft ales and ciders, but food (not quite as good as it should have been, but food none-the-less), and Stormy Normy…. Dire Straits and a extended mix of Rockin’ in the Free World… in a carpark. PG thinks nothing further needs to be said about Stormy Normy.

IMG_1286After poking our head into Millers to admire their interior decoration and definitely marking it down for a future stay, it was off through a selection of small toll gates into deepest, darkest Devon. Beautiful, beautiful wild and woolly woodlands and sweeping views of the sea. Through Hunters Inn and Lynmouth, past what must be the most picturesque cricket pitch in the land, to eventually* arrive at Watermouth.

IMG_1215The campsite breathtaking, we pitched the tent on a high field overlooking the sea, then headed down to the steep steps to Broad Sands beach for first swim in the sea.

A very fine evening, reunited with Burge and Magic Dave who’d been climbing (and toasting their skins, sausage-style) at Baggy Point. Barbecued (actual) sausages and played petanque as the sun went down, strolled to see boats in the dark and swift pint in the pub.

Rain overnight but another glorious IMG_1278morning (despite the voice of doom passing us by), we packed up, spent some more time on the beach (canoes hired by Magic Dave and Mr P), then headed off to find fish and chips and funicular railway at lovely Swiss-style Lynmouth/ Lynton. At this point, energy deserted us- possibly sapped by intense yet pointless discussion about Burge’s previous walk in the Valley of Rocks which wasn’t in the Valley of Rocks**… Milling set in and we split up for the return leg, admiring Exmoor on the way back and rooting for Novak.

Overall, a perfect weekend away. Proper sunburn/ windburn, a variety of athletic endeavours, some drinking, milling, happy conversation and beautiful, astonishing scenery. This stretch of coast is a touch less extreme than Hartland (Beyond the Devil’s Window), being in the estuary rather than the Atlantic, which gives it a special charm. Feels lush and (this weekend) almost tropical.

*Some concern by KFO that the journey was too long, but not agreed with by us. Vital to remember the right campsite if we return. Hazardous plastic park next door.

** Fortunately met couple with local knowledge on funicular who confirmed Burge was remembering the wrong tea shop. Burge told them they were mistaken.

IMG_1240