I’m typing this well over a week after this walk. It’s been such a busy time of the year.
I set off on Saturday, 4 February 2023 for a hike based on an All Trail route, which I modified slightly. I parked at the delightful Whitehall garden centre and tea room, in Woodborough, and walk a circular route.
Here’s my map.
Much of the area reminded me of the route we took with Aimee and Richard on my Walk Across Wiltshire in June last year.
It was a little cold be a nice walk and I was just so relieved and happy to have gone out, after about 10 days cooped up at home, isolating because I managed to catch COVID for the first time in three years of avoiding it.
So I took it easy as I was still very tired from it.
Here are a few pictures from the hike.
I used my trusty trail running shoes as my hiking boots were falling apart after around 10 years of using them.
Next outing next month, because this coming weekend, I’ll be volunteering at the Festival of Tomorrow. But I might post about my plans for walking Hadrian’s Wall.
The scenery was so beautiful, almost a winter wonderland at times.
The route was good. We used this All Trails route but we did it backwards which I was glad about as it would have otherwise started along the main road. It was nice to start the walk on the Ridgeway.
The All Trails red route isn’t easy to follow as it’s not on the actual paths so if you decide to do this walk, follow the closest (marked as a dashed line) path to the red line.
It took us 2h40 to walk the 11.5km, a little faster than the average time published on All Trails. That’s also a little longer than the All Trails map but only because we kept walking at one poi t while chatting and drinking coffee from Andrea’s flask. It wasn’t hard to get back on track and in terms of elevation the hardest part was the hill back towards the road in the last 30 minutes. So no massive challenge.
I decided that in 2023 I will do as many miles as I can but I know that I can’t plan too far ahead without a chance of it being cancelled, because my mother has been taken ill in the last few weeks, and I may have to go France at some point during the year.
Having said that I’m now planning some walks twice a month, on weekends, trying to train through the winter so that I can hopefully do a longer walk later on in the late spring or summer.
I’m still not sure whether to do a portion of the South West coastal path (which is a dream but also very hard) or maybe I should leave it for another few years… Another consideration is whether I should walk the Cotswold Way which is more local but very difficult to find accommodation along, and I don’t really think I’m not ready to do wild camping quite yet! Finally I could do Hadrian’s Wall. I’ve looked up a company who can support and provide accommodation or I’ve looked up the logistics of doing it by myself, but it’s about the same cost so it’s something you’ll have to consider.
Today, the walk started with the heavens opening the second I parked. It’s was wet and windy on)off the whole way. On the way I managed to somehow lose my backpack rain cover before Broome Manor. It was a slow pace walk because of the dog stopping to sniff everything and mostly because my fitness levels have gone downhill since my last walk, but I’m not happy with it.
It’s a pity that the rumbling M4 noise was in the background pretty much the whole walk but otherwise the walk was great, despite the wind and rain. Missy got super muddy especially in the fields South of the M4 at Wroughton. They were saturated with water and I wished I’d got wellies at that point. My boots held ok, though and Missy got a bath as soon as we got home.
In summary, I’d do the walk again. It’s a really pleasant walk especially with the dog.
Some pictures of the walk:
I look forward to another walk in a couple of weeks hopefully, weather permitting.
I’m going to do my best to recall the walk but most of it is told by pictures and thanks to Aimée for pushing me on till the end on day two and three.
Saturday – Day 1: Meysey Hampton to Avebury
Shortly after starting the walk, I went through some woods before reaching the Fairford airfields and the early morning birdsongs were absolutely beautiful and enchanting. I’m sat in my garden now writing this and the bird songs now are lovely and echo the sounds of that morning.
It was so nice, just 2 weeks after I finished the Thames path, to re-walk some of the Thames Path walk, near Cricklade. It was especially such a striking difference, on a summer quiet day compared to when I last had approached Cricklade, late February in the midst of Storm Dudley!
My friend Richard, Judith’s husband, joined me in Cricklade for a good few miles all the way to Purton. It was great to have company. I was chatting so much that I forgot to take many pictures on that stretch.
After Purton, I had to cross another cows’ field and reached Mouldon Hill. There was a very overgrown area to cross but I made it. Then the rain started to be very strong as I stopped for my regular socks change and snack. But I still stopped, under a tree to make sure I had a good break.
At that point I was ahead of schedule. But with the weather and fatigue starting to hit me, I started slowing down.
By the time I reached the Oasis and Steam museum, I’d lost all the time that I had previously gained.
It became more difficult to progress, but walking along the canal as I left Swindon was such a pleasant experience. As I left Wichelstowe before crossing over to Wroughton, I saw a sign telling me the path I expected to be there was shut as they are literally building a road there. So I walked along the road to Wroughton and that was a pretty unpleasant part of the walk, as I kept having to jump on the side/ditch as the car zoomed past. Richard joined me again in Wroughton and we climbed to Barbury Castle together. We also met Mike Pringle on the way who joined us. It was so mice to have company. Also the weather had stayed dried since Wroughton too. Then I joined the Ridgeway, on very familiar territory now as I walked this last bit to Avebury with the Race to the Stones twice before. It’s always such a hard part for me. And this was no exception. The weather turned, the wind picked up and I was miserable. Slow, cold, tired. My hips hurt with the pressure of my bag on my lower back. But I kept going and wobbled all the way to Avebury.
I was so tired and arrived quite late; I didn’t even take time to take photos. The car par was shut and there were a lot of security guards about as they were preparing for the Summer solstice that weekend.
Sunday – Day 2: Avebury to Stonehenge (and a bit further)
On day 2, the amazing Aimee joined meat Avebury and walked all the way till the end with me! Avebury to Stonehenge was a marathon.
We were very lucky with the weather.
Richard joined up, just after Walkers’ Hill / Alton Barnes, along the canal and up to Woodborough.
It was very civilised as we stopped at a tea room and later in a pub garden for refreshments.
After Richard left, we then joined the Avon. We took a detour from my mapped route on Salisbury plains as the route was taking us woods that had no paths.
We saw some tanks crossing and then headed to Larkhill and Stonehenge. We carries a little further past Stonehenge to reach a lovely farm where Aimee’s friends live and Mark, Aimee’s husband picked up up from there.
I stayed the night at Aimee and Mark’s house in Salisbury.
Monday – Day 3: Stonehenge to the border with Hampshire
I have to admit that day 3 was a bit of a blur. In some ways so many memorable moments but also all starting to blend because of the exhaustion. Aimee is mad enough to have joined me on day 3 and I probably have had to do a fourth day of walking if it wasn’t for her being there.
By then, my hips pain from day one was really taking a toll but it was a case of ‘mind over matter’ and I kept putting one foot in front of the other, thinking of all the people who kindly donated for Prospect Hospice, and listen to Aimee’s advice and encouragement.
Two things made a major difference: 1 – we switched on music on my phone and we walked along while dancing to the music. Our pace really increased. 2 – the way past Old Sarum into Salisbury, in the sun followed by an ice cream and lunch at the Cathedral was so enjoyable!
Before I forget to mention it, because I don’t have photos, one awesome memory has been to be able to watch parents and young Peregrines on the spire of the cathedral. Outside of the west front of the cathedral, run by the local Salisbury members group of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) there was an event allowing members of the public to watch the Peregrines through the two telescopes set up to watch the birds.
The rest of the day was tough, in the heat, diverted as the OS map route doesn’t indicate part of the route was private, and simply exhausted.
I was slow and felt like a burden for Aimee but we got there: we managed to get, after three days of walking, to the border with Hampshire; I also saw some wild horses which I’d been looking forward to seeing.
The press coverage has started – eeek! I have my first ever live radio interview tomorrow morning so I’m a little nervous but also very excited to be able to get people to know of the amazing job Prospect Hospice do. https://swindonlink.com/charity/hiking-for-prospect/