Day 1 – Sunday 16th August 2009

We left home around 10:00 AM to start our next trip with a weather forecast for the next four days as 'Sunny Spells' or 'Partly Cloudy' depending on which forecast one chooses.

Our first destination was Boars Hill near Oxford which, we learned, gives wonderful views over the City of Oxford. We arrived there just after mid-day and found somewhere to park which, I might add, is not an easy task. A very short walk brought us to open ground with a rather narrow view between distant trees – but not of Oxford. We followed an obvious footpath along the side of the open ground which brought us to a lane lined with houses on both sides. No view there then. We didn't want to spend much time here so decided to give up at this point and continue our journey.

We discovered when we got back home and were able to do a little more research on the Web that we probably should have gone across the open ground and beyond the distant trees to reach more open ground. Ah well next time perhaps.

Our next destination, southwards, was Waylands Smithy which is not a blacksmiths as you might imagine but a prehistoric long barrow in Oxfordshire. It used to be in Berkshire but the county boundaries have since been moved.

This site is associated with the Saxon god of metalworking, Wayland, who apparently still inhabits the mound and is ready to shoe a horse. The horse had to be left at the mound alone for a short period, along with the payment of a silver coin. On returning the horse would have been shod and the payment would have disappeared.

We didn't have a horse with us and so weren't able to test the theory.

Waylands Smithy is near the Uffington White Horse and, luckily, there is a National Trust Car Park on White Horse Hill which is where we stopped. Getting to the monument involves a walk of around a mile and a half along the ancient Ridgeway path with beautiful views over the Oxfordshire countryside (it used to be the Berkshire countryside) which are very reminiscent of those in the Sussex Downs.

Having found the monument we had a good look round and this picture shows the large stones at the entrance to the barrow with the barrow mound running off to the right.

There are four stone chambers in all although the roof to the entrance chamber is long since gone leaving it open to the sky. I did squeeze into one of the side chambers (they're not very big) and photographed the opposite chamber.

We set off back along the path to White Horse Hill because we wanted to see Uffington Castle and before you get too excited I should point out that Uffington Castle is a hill fort not a stone-built castle. The Ridgeway path is very well marked as you can see and the hill fort is the obvious mound on the horizon.

The fort, shown below, consists of an outer bank on the right, a ditch and a higher bank on the left protecting the interior space. You can see from the distant view that we are up fairly high and, yes, the views are quite something on a nice day. You may also notice a strange upright device in the picture and, no, I don't mean Amanda but the thing she's leaning on. That is an Ordnance Survey Triangulation point used in mapping.

We started off down back towards the car park but stopped on the way first to look at Dragon Hill, the flat topped mound below, where St. George is supposed to have slayed the dragon although what precisely the dragon was doing on top of the mound isn't clear.

There were no dragons around today.

From this same view point we could see part of the Uffington White Horse. Its age isn't known but it is believed to be pre-historic and it is the oldest of the white horses in this country. One very strange aspect is that there is no clear view to be had from anywhere in the surrounding countryside and the best views are obtained only from the air engendering the supposition that it was intended to be seen from the air.

The hind legs are on the left with the main body running left to right just below the horizon, one fore leg on the right with the neck slanting upwards from that.

This is how it looks from the air (No I didn't take it).

Finally a view of the village of Uffington from the hill and horse which take its name.

That was the end of this day's sightseeing and we drove from there (Oxfordshire/Berkshire – nearest town Wantage) to our hotel in Andover in Hampshire. That was a bit of a surprise (the hotel not the drive)! The hotel was one of the Olde English Inn chain owned by Green King in Suffolk who are brewers and we have previous experience and knowledge of some of their hotels.

The Bull Hotel in Long Melford, not far from us, is very old (timber-framed Tudor), very well cared for and a bit expensive. The White Hart in Coggeshall, also not far from us, is also a nice hotel and a bit expensive. We have stayed at the Castle and Ball in Marlborough which, while not up to the standards of the previous two, is still pleasant enough.

The Danebury Hotel in Andover is described by Green King as a 'Townhouse Hotel' which, to me, evokes a particular kind of image, is also old, as it was once a coaching inn, but the trouble is it looks old, and uncared for, at least from the outside. Downstairs it's divided into a large public bar and a Pizza Bar which is used for breakfast. Our room was a bit of a contrast being very large with a very large, comfortable bed, good quality white bed linen in pristine condition and showing no obvious signs of wear. There was also a large bathroom with bath and shower cubicle and a separate toilet with wash basin all in good condition. The general appearance was that of a room which had recently been decorated and well maintained.

More of the hotel later. Tomorrow is another day.