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Thursday, 17 August 2017

Footsteps In Sound: Volume 3 (Stage 3 & 4)

The Ridgeway: Stage 3
Watlington to North Stoke 
or Snowdrop-Bulb Rustling 
August 2016

A Red Kite near Watlington
Day 3 got off to an amazing start! As I walked along a farm track I saw 7 Red Kites hunting over a recently harvested field*. It was an awe-inspiring sight that made up for yesterday's boring trek. 

For the next few miles the path skirted around idilic farmland before climbing through a fairly steep woody plantation. Soon after, I passed the beautiful parish church of St Batolph, a church famous for being a Snowdrop-bulb rustling site! Feeling somewhat bemused by this information, I made my way towards one of Henry VIII's old stomping grounds, Ewelme Park Estate. Apparently, the young tyrant practiced archery here when he wasn't terrorising the royal court!

The parish church of St Batolph
By midday I'd reached the village of Nufield (where Vicount Morris of Morris Motors is buried) and the bloody heavens opened! For the next two hours your trusty hiker was battered by rain, it was so heavy that even the trees surrounding the mysterious Grim's Ditch couldn't save me from a good soaking. Still, I did manage to spend a few moments marvelling at this huge Iron Age earthwork. From here I pulled up my hood and marched on, however, I was so intent on reaching North Stoke and escaping the rain that I forgot to pay attention to the path!

About 30 minutes after leaving Nufield I somehow managed to leave the Ridgeway and walk right through a private garden! Just as I was about to pass through a gate a woman came out of her house to enquire what I was doing. 
'I'm on the Ridgeway', I replied
'no you're not, you're in my garden'! 
Bugger. Apologising profusely, I was escorted off the property and back on to the path. What an idiot I am. 

Grim's Ditch (right of tree)
I 'heroically' waded on but by 2pm I'd walked 10.5 miles in 3.5 hours and I'd had enough. I stopped for lunch at a church in North Stoke (the only decent shelter on route) and decided to make up the miles later in the week. I phoned Kathy for immediate evac. Great walk, crap weather.  
*I soon found out that this isn't an uncommon sight around these parts!

The Ridgeway: Stage 4
North Stoke to the Baron Wantage Memorial 
or 3 generations and you're forgotten! 
August 2016

Mural found in motorway underpass

After a lovely day off visiting the (creepy) Hell Fire Caves and the Roald Dahl museum it was time to brush the dirt off my boots, pack my bags and return to the Ridgeway. 

Viaduct over the Thames
First off, the weather was glorious, and with the sun beating down I completed the first 4 miles with ease. The path followed the Thames, passing through affluent villages like South Stoke, before heading west over the river at Goring. It was obvious that the Ridgeway was changing and not before time too! The woodland walks and monotonous hedged paths were gone, now the Ridgeway traversed wide open tracks and access roads through beautiful farm land. The wide low valley of Streatley Warren, covered in wheat and dotted with rabbit warrens, was a particularly impressive sight.

Past Streatley Warren
By early afternoon I'd reached the most exposed section of the Ridgeway yet and thank God it wasn't raining, because there wasn't any shelter for bloody miles! However, the walking was very easy and the wildflowers, wheat fields and racecourse gallops provide interest on route. 
Baron Wantage memorial

By 4pm I'd arrived at the neglected monument to Baron Wantage and the end of stage 3. Weeds now grow in cracks on the plinth and the pillar stands scratched with graffiti and discoloured by lichen. It's a shame as Wantage was, amongst many other things, a soldier, philanthropist, friend of Florence Nightingale and a founder of what later became the British Red Cross Society. 

Day 4 was over. 

Thank you for reading. 

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