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Category: Wiltshire

Singing, singing, buttercups and daisies – Thursday

Singing, singing, buttercups and daisies – Thursday

It's very misty this morning with no sign of the sun although it is supposed to burn off the mist later. Today we go home but as we don't have to leave the hotel until 11:00 AM we had a last look round Marlborough and noticed this old milestone by the side of the pavement.

The distance to Salisbury is visible but the distance to Andover is now buried below the pavement.

Then we were off, but only just. These old coaching inns entrances were not made for cars and can often be a bit of a squeeze.

We had decided to go via Inkpen Hill south of Hungerford to see what it was like as we had planned to walk along it sometime.

It all went rather well until we turned south at Hungerford into the maze of little back lanes that we needed to navigate to get to Inkpen Hill. I seem to remember numerous remarks from my navigator (Amanda) along the lines of "These lanes don't match my map" which usually means:

1. She's lost

2. I'm lost.

3. We're lost

There were plenty of junctions with plenty of signs none of which pointed to where we wanted to go. Then Amanda says "Ah! I think I know where we are so go that way" and, yes, we were at last on the right road which eventually led us to Inkpen Hill. We were quite high up when we found the little car park although we couldn't see a lot because of the mist but it did look worth a proper visit one day. I didn't take any photographs because of the said mist.

We turned for home, this time following the signs for Hungerford, and had another easy run with no traffic problems.

We travelled 366 miles in total most of that along the maze of country lanes near Hungerford. :grin: Another short, but satisfactory, trip completed.
 

Singing, singing, buttercups and daisies – Wednesday

Singing, singing, buttercups and daisies – Wednesday

We were up at about 7:30 and down to breakfast just before 8:00. Amanda chose a standard cooked breakfast but I had smoked salmon and scrambled egg – yummy. Soon after breakfast we were off once again towards Avebury. We were told that the Olympic Torch was passing the hotel at about 11:00 this morning but they were going to have to do without us as we had other plans

There is a long earthwork called the Wansdyke consisting of a ditch and bank, 45 miles of it, which runs from Savernake Forest on the edge of Marlborough to somewhere near Bath. We were going to have a look at the section that passes about 3 miles south of Avebury.

There is a small car park between Knap Hill and Milk Hill which we used as the starting point of our walk. Having crossed the road from the car park we set off along the central path of three diverging public footpaths which went steadily uphill. This is the ridge we are making for and just look at all those buttercups – lovely.

After a short distance we could look back and see the car park we'd started from (just below the horizon on the right) together with yet more buttercups.

Onward. After (puff) some more (puff) uphill (puff) walking (puff, puff) we reached the Wansdyke. This is looking east towards Savernake Forest with the bank and ditch curving off to the right to a visible promentory where it bends left out of sight.

This, surprisingly, is not a pre-historic earthwork but was built around 500 AD. Now tell me why someone, using primitive tools, would want to go to all that trouble to build 45 miles of this? Why, I wonder, did they think that they needed 45 miles of defensive earthworks? This is one of the largest linear earthworks in the UK.

On the right hand flank of the bank is a small patch of yellow flowers – they are cowslips.

This is the Wansdyke running off into the distance in the other direction towards the west.

We started walking east along the Wansdyke accompanied by the songs of Skylarks and  Meadow Pipits. Meadow Pipits behave a little like Skylarks in that they flutter up high and then drop whilst singing but the song is not quite as nice as Skylarks. There was nobody else around up here and it was very quiet apart from birdsong.

We were quite high up here and I chanced to see this cow motorway down below us.

I don't know where they've come from and I don't know where they're going. That's going to remain one of life's mysteries.

A little further along the top of the dyke I spotted these.

They are Chalk Milkwort and those flowers although small really are a brilliant blue and should not be confused with Speedwell which, although broadly similar, are of a much less intense blue.

We reached the point where we were leaving the dyke to go back towards the car park but we also had a good view of the Wansdyke as it wandered into the distance. Notice how it curves round to the right and finally disappears off the right edge of the picture near the top. Although it was a warm sunny day the visibility was not very good and it did look a bit murky in the distance.

Time to clamber over the stile to get onto the new path.

We could see from the map that the next section of path formed an 'S' and the lower part of the 'S' was a curve round the top edge of a bowl giving us a good view over the surrounding landscape.

The top section of the 'S' was where the path curved round to avoid a small wooded enclosure and soon after that we came across this.

The lumpy area in the foreground is apparently known as 'ant hill grassland' and I'll let you guess how it's formed.

This next picture shows a white horse and our path, which you can see if you look carefully, crosses just above the horse then curves down to where we are now. When we passed above the horse it was easy to see the construction because it was so large but difficult to discerne the shape with any clarity because we were so close.

Once we were here it is easy to see the shape.

Now we are on the final leg of our walk, on a different path from the one we started out on, and you can see the path heading roughly in the direction of the car park in the distance.

We got back to our car, which ended a really lovely walk, and headed off to our hotel – tomorrow we go home.

 

Singing, singing, buttercups and daisies – Tuesday

Singing, singing, buttercups and daisies – Tuesday

We wasted a half-day today! It was, however, unavoidable. We left home at 9:30 AM and arrived at 12:30 PM after 3 hours of driving. That's the problem with travelling it has to be done to get anywhere but it could be better spent exploring.

The weather of late has been constantly cool, and raining for a lot of the time, but then last Monday, 21st May, good weather was suddenly forecast for at least 3 days so we booked some accommodation and left home on Tuesday, 22nd May for Wiltshire.

We had a clear run as far as the M25 and although there were no visible problems we started to see electronic signs displaying a message 'M4 junctions 6 to 10 long delays'. Guess what road we were planning to use for the next part of our route? We kept going past these signs and eventually decided that if we could see traffic queueing on the M4 slip road we would try an alternate route.

There was no queue on the slip road so we took a chance and went on to the M4 at junction 4. There were no signs of problems by the time we reached junction 6 and to cut a long story short by the time we passed junction 10 traffic was still flowing freely. There were no problems at all and I can understand why drivers tend to ignore such signs which seem not to be turned off once the problem has been cleared.

We arrived at Avebury under a clear blue sky with temperatures forecast to be around 75F. We didn't come for the stone circle but we did come partly for the stone West Kennett Avenue and partly to see inside Avebury Manor which has recently been restored. The restoration of Avebury Manor by the National Trust was the subject of a series of programmes on BBC television and it was very, very interesting so we were here to see for ourselves.

However, first things first! West Kennett Avenue starts from Avebury stone circle and winds across the landscape to the Sanctuary. It was originally lined with large stones of the sort which are to be seen in the stone circle but only some now remain.

This is a picture which I took on our previous visit in October 2011 which does not really show it to best effect.

So after lunch we walked along West Kennett Avenue to the lower end. This is what we saw this time.

Don't those buttercups make a difference? They show up the path along the Avenue very well apart from looking beautiful in their own right. There are also daisies in there somewhere but they aren't easy to see at a distance.

There is an old english folk song called "Strawberry Fair" of which the first two lines are:

As I was going to Strawberry Fair
Singing, singing, buttercups and daisies

Mid-June is probably strawberry time and buttercups and daisies are still in flower at that time but the first flush of Buttercups and Daisies appear towards the end of May.

Having reached the bottom of West Kennett Avenue we had also reached the path that went up and over Waden Hill to Silbury Hill so we just had to go to the top of Waden Hill to see the view of Silbury Hill.

We are just above the top of Silbury Hill at this height and looking a little left of Silbury Hill we could also see West Kennett Long Barrow which we have already featured on the web site. Even the standing stones which mark the entrance are visible at the left-hand end.

We went back down Waden Hill to the end of the Avenue and passed one of the locals looking a bit sheepish. Well you'd probably feel sheepish if you were seen wearing a thick wooly coat on a hot sunny day.

From here we went back to Avebury to look inside Avebury Manor. For the restoration it was decided to restore each room at a different time in the Manor's history, from the age of Queen Elizabeth I to the eve of World War II, and it is one of the few National Trust properties where visitors can touch, handle, sit in and lie on the furnishings.

This shows the Dining Room, with hand painted Chinese wallpaper, in the Georgian era.

The Victorian kitchen with one of the visitors, whose name shall remain anonymous but which starts with "A", leaning nonchalantly on the Dresser and she didn't even do the washing up.

This is a rather opulent bedroom, part of the Queen Anne Suite, and,yes, you could lay on it if you wanted although it would be nice if you took your shoes off first.

Then, of course, some of us have to start taking liberties on the Chaise Longue in the Withdrawal room.

We finally decided it was time to head for our hotel in Marlborough but, on the way, as we were passing the Sanctuary we were going to stop for a look.

This is where the Ridgeway starts and heads off to Ivinghoe Beacon in the Chilterns which I wrote about in the Blog – http://localhost/deoprrssw/?p=170

This is the signpost at the start of the Ridgeway, and it's a long walk to Ivinghoe Beacon,

and just across the road is the Sanctuary which was begun in about 3000 BC. The the site was constructed and modified in a number of phases, with eight rings in total (six wooden post rings and two stone circles) but, sadly, it is now just a set of concrete markers.

We went off to the Castle and Ball Hotel in Marlborough, where we were staying, for an evening meal and to prepare for our expedition tomorrow which features a lesser known historical monument and even more buttercups.
 

A Mere interlude – Day 4

A Mere interlude – Day 4

Monday, 3rd October 2011

Today we leave Mere to make our way home but we are going back via Avebury. We have been to Avebury before and there are pictures on the main web site but we are going again so you'll just have to put up with it. :devil:

On our last visit we didn't look round Avebury Manor although I did include a photograph taken from the front gate but this time we were able to look round the gardens. The interior was temporarily closed to the public so we weren't able to go inside.

There are no prizes for guessing who that person is walking by the hedge with the nice topiary.

There is a picture already on the web site which includes this stone with the funny face taken from this same viewpoint. So? It's a nice happy, friendly stone.

Amanda stopped to have a chat with one of the other stones and, being paranoid, I think they're talking about me.

Amanda: "What do you think of that old buffer with the camera?"

Old Stone: :censored:

There is the West Kennet Avenue, comprising more stones, which leads away from the circle towards The Sanctuary. This picture shows part of it with some of the missing stones replaced by small markers.

That was the end of our trip because we wanted to leave around 2 O'Clock so that we would be home in time to avoid most of the rush hour traffic which we managed without incident.

This is a Mere finale. :roll:

 

A Mere diversion – Day 3

A Mere diversion – Day 3

Sunday, 2nd October 2011

Today we are going to foreign climes – yes, we are leaving Wiltshire and venturing into Somerset. Today is Frome day! Frome (pronounced 'froom') is a small market town about 10 miles from Mere, to the north, and about the same distance east of Wells.

Needless to say it didn't take us long to get there and we quickly found a car park. This car park is a short stay (max. 2 hours) and is Pay & Display. The good news is that the restrictions and charges don't apply on Sundays so we parked free and the car stayed there for our whole stay.

As luck would have it the car park chanced to be very near the Church of St. John the Baptist which would be difficult to miss.

The original Saxon church was built in 685 AD but was replaced by the current building which was constructed between the late 1100s and the early 1400s and was further restored around 1860.

An interesting external feature is the unusual clock face together with a nearby sundial.

There is a spring in the churchyard which is fed into a channel in nearby Cheap Street, one of Frome's medieval streets, which runs the length of the street before disappearing underground. There is a good flow of water in this channel so be careful where you put your feet.

Cheap Street runs from near the church down to meet the Market Place near the Market Cross, also known as Boyle Cross, in the shadow on the right.

Leading uphill from the Market Place is Stoney Street which leads into Catherine Hill. This view is near the top of Catherine Hill looking down towards Stoney Street.

This footpath, Paul Street, curving off to the right in the picture above, cuts across to Palmer Street.

Near the top of Catherine Hill is an attractive little side lane called Sheppards Barton accessed via some steps.

Part way along Paul Street Amanda stopped to discuss the weather with one of the locals.

We wandered back towards our car going back up Cheap Street and at the top, on the corner, was a small cafe called La Strada where we had a light lunch.

After lunch we drove out of Frome, south east, towards Warminster and just outside Warminster we stopped near Cley Hill.

Hmm, looks a bit lumpy. "Surely", I hear you say, "you're not silly enough to climb another hill?" but, unfortunately, yes, we are silly enough. Besides there's a Triangulation Point up there somewhere and Amanda collects them – remember? The climb wasn't as bad as it looked and it didn't take long before the summit was in sight.

And that's Warminster down there.

Amanda was still heading purposefully for that triangulation point which can just be seen on the top of the rounded hump ahead.

So now we can say that we've been there and done that. Back to the car, easier on the way down, and off on a very short drive to a car park between King's Bottom (Sorry your majesty) and Hitcombe Bottom. We are now near a well known estate so a short walk through the forest reveals this:

Longleat House, a stately home owned by the Marquis of Bath, a somewhat eccentric gentleman, and open to the public. We sat here for a while looking at the view and then decided it was time to go back to Mere. Tomorrow we go home but not without another diversion.
 

A Mere peregrination – Day 2

A Mere peregrination – Day 2

Saturday, 1st October 2011

After yesterday's walk we decided to have an easy morning looking round Mere. Our B&B is a very short distance from the High Street and the first thing we see is the 16th century George Inn which is the (apparently) timber-framed building in the foreground. I say 'apparently' because the George is actually stone built with a facing of timber and plaster. The stone building dates from 1580 but I don't know when the facing was added. King Charles II visited the inn in 1651 when he was fleeing after his defeat at the Battle of Worcester.

Beyond the George, on the opposite side of the road, is the Old Ship Inn with the large rounded archway. Originally built as a house in the 17th century it was reputedly converted into a coaching inn in 1785.

A short distance away is the Church of St. Michael the Archangel, dating from 1091, although little of that original church remains. A lot of the changes, including the tower and nave, were made in the 15th century.

That 15th century tower, as I mentioned yesterday, is massive. Someone in the 15th century had money to throw around.

The South Chapel had a rather nice stained-glass window which threw a coloured pattern on the lower wall and also put some blue spots on the brass of John Bettesthorne who was the benefactor of this chapel in the 14th century.

We left the church (there will be more interior photographs when we add Mere to the main web site) and made our way back to the Clock Tower by the George Inn.

We had a snack lunch then drove to Alfred's Tower which is part of the Stourhead Estate but has seperate access and its own car park.

This brick tower, also known as Stourton Tower, was built in 1772 on the north-western edge of the Stourhead Estate and is a folly: it is a building that arguably serves no purpose. It is 160 feet high with a spiral staircase of 205 steps which we duly climbed for the view from the top.

They didn't provide parachutes so we had to climb all the way down again. We then drove the short distance to the edge of Whitesheet Down, which we saw from Castle Hill yesterday, and promptly started climbing again. Will we never learn?

This is part way up, near the top, but we are aiming for that distant plateau because there is an Ordnance Survey Triangulation Point there and Amanda 'collects' them. There is also an Iron Age hill fort.

There are also sheep and people using hang-gliders. I don't think it's the sheep on the hang-gliders although it's difficult to see at this distance.

And there in the near distance, just poking up above  that spur, is Castle Hill again.

We eventually made our way down to our car and went back to Mere. The end of another interesting day.
 

A Mere jaunt – Day 1

A Mere jaunt – Day 1

Friday, 30th September 2011

This turned out to be a trip to anywhere! The current spell of fine weather was forecast to start from Tuesday 27th September, which it did, and to go on for about 7 days. Unfortunately we had a funeral to attend on Tuesday and I had a long standing dental appointment on the Wednesday so those two days were out. We didn't trust the forecast anyway because 'they' had got it wrong so many times recently so we waited until Wednesday to see how the forecast changed.

We were originally planning to go go up to the Yorkshire Dales but by Wednesday the forecast for the north had changed for the worse so we thought we had better stick to the southern half of the country. Our next choice was going to be Great Malvern in Worcestershire but it looks as though most of the country had the same idea as us, to go away while the weather was fine, and we couldn't find any suitable accommodation.

Next choice was Swanage in Dorset. Same problem – no accommodation available. We were beginning to run out of ideas and Amanda said, as an aside, that she would like to stay in Mere in Wilshire sometime. We had stopped in Mere once, to have lunch, on our way to Porlock Weir in Somerset and she was rather taken with the little town so I though that I'd try there to see if they had any available accommodation. They did and so here we are after an amazingly clear run from home even though it involved a lengthy spell on the M25 which is often called the largest car park in the country.

As we came over the hill at Amesbury we saw the familiar sight of Stonehenge in the distance. If you can mentally ignore the A303 stretching out in front of you then you can imagine how it once looked with Salisbury Plain spreading out all around it. We didn't stop because we had other plans for this afternoon.

We arrived in Mere just before 1 o'clock, booked in to our B&B, had a snack lunch and set off. We were headed for Stourhead Gardens (National Trust) and we were going to walk 2.75 miles each way plus whatever we walked around the garden.

From Mere we headed out via Castle Hill.

It was a very easy climb (Translation: Puff, Wheeze, Gasp. I hope nobody sees me on my hands and knees.).

There used to be a castle here, hence the name, but all the stone has long since been removed probably to build the town down below. This is Mere from castle Hill.

That church tower, as we discovered later, is absolutely massive. Having got this far we continued along the ridge admiring the views over the surrounding countryside.

Just beyond the tractor in the foreground you should be able to see the A303, the road which goes past Stonehenge and which brought us here. On the other side of the A303 is the high ground of Whitesheet Downs and its Iron Age hill fort. We are headed out of that view to the left.

Back down off Castle Hill we reach ground level once again, cross the A303 on a footbridge, and head off across the fields. But wait, what's this? Amanda wearing shorts? Well it was hot, somewhere in the low 80s, and that footpath stretches a long way into the distance with Whitesheet Down off to our right.

Looking back we get a good view of Castle Hill (did we really go up there?) and can even see the Union Flag flying on the top.

We finally stagger, hot and thirsty, into the cafe at Stourhead for a brief respite then on into the garden.

The lighting looked amazing at this time of year together with the fact that the sun was getting noticeably low by 3:30 PM. The last time we were here was August 2008, and in the morning, so on that occasion the sun was lighting the opposite side of the bridge.

The Temple of Apollo was also beautifully lit compared with the photograph taken on our previous visit.

You can see those previous photographs on the main web site.

After walking about 1.5 miles around the lake we decided we'd better start for 'home' and set off again on the footpath back to Mere. The sun was getting quite low by this time and the views across the fields to Castle Hill were quite dramatic with the long shadows.

We arrived back at our B&B rather tired but very satisfied with our afternoon having walked a total of 7 miles. Tomorrow is another day.