The Ridgeway – Wantage to Goring

I planned an early start, not not as early as it ended up. I wake at 5 and finally gave in and got up about 05:30, which meant I left the house at 06:00 on the dot. The roads were clear and I made it to Goring station by 07:00 in good time to board the 07:07 to Didcot Parkway. The train only had two carriages and after a few people got off that left just me and another person on the train.

I was the only person to alight at Didcot Parkway I went out the front of the station to orient myself, there was a taxi so rather than messing with a bus then a taxi I took the bird in the hand and waited for a taxi. One arrived dropping off but would not take my fare the next one said I would have to call his number. Weird I thought,  but he explained that he was not licensed to use the taxi rank only pre-arranged trips. I got my phone out and before I could unlock it he said he would give me a fare any way. At one point he got on the A34 he had misunderstood my destination when I said the ridgeway just outside Wantage, he thought I meant Ridgeway a village nearby. I asked why he was going on the A34 we figured out the problem and he said he would only charge me for normal fare to Wantage. By the time we got to the Ridgeway the fare was £40 but he only charged me £30. It can be expensive this walking lark.

The drop off suited me because I was already high up it had saved me a hard slog up hill. It was quiet at first but after 09:00 there were mre walkers and cyclists. Also a few motor vehicles, 4×4’s and motor bikes, but no more than 10 all day.  Eventually I had to drop down because the path goes under the A34. The place is surrounded by land used as gallops, and I saw a few horses being exercised in the distance.

According to a mural in the tunnel under the A34 East Isley is famous sheep but not wool spinners. It was my destination in the hope of getting some lunch. It was a 1.5 mile detour of the path but I figured worth it. Because of my early start I was going to get there for 11:00, which meant only the Swan would be open. I got there but it turns out they do not do food till 12:00 so I had two packets of crisps and a half of bitter. It sat in the shade as it was getting ht in the sun.

The path rises for about 4 miles then slowly descends towards Streatley. When you get close there are some very nice houses in the last couple of miles, and the last mile and a half are on the pavement of busy roads. At Streatley I stopped to get some pictures of the buttercups which were in full bloom. I grabbed some cakes from the delicatessen to share with  Helen when I got home.

Considering I had walked 16 miles and the early start meant I was finished by 15:00 an home by 16:00. Last year when I was walking the Thames 16 miles would have been a struggle, but although I felt I had walked a long way I could have walked further if need be.

The Ridgeway – Ashbury to Letcombe Bassett

Time to get back to the Ridgeway, after a few months of absence. I plotted the next 12 miles from Ashbury and determined that Letcombe Bassett and therefore Wantage would be the best place to leave the car. 12 miles would be tough as it was my first walk of that distance for a while and also there were no coffee stops or cafes on the route. One of the downsides of the Ridgeway is that it does not really go through many villages or towns near them but hardly ever through them.

I left the house at 08:10 dropped Helen up the road and headed to Wantage, ignoring the Sat Nav and going south of Oxford to get to the A34. I was hoping the rain/drizzle would stop by the time I got to Wantage but it had now. I sought out a shop to get some cheap waterproof trousers, and found some for £7 on the market. I suspect the vendor could have applied surge pricing as it was the type of inundation that makes you really wet. I grabbed a coffee in Costa to get my bearing and figure out how to get to Ashbury. Uber said there were no cars available so I wandered over to the local taxi rank. An old man seemed to be headed the same way so I held back rather than grabbing the only taxi waiting.

It wasn’t long before a taxi turned up, the driver was not very talkative and when he was he mumble quietly, so there wasn’t much conversation, he dropped me at the top of the hill where the Ridgeway crosses the B4000, which saved me having to walk up it from Ashbury. I headed off down the path the rain continued and I realised that I wold have to put the waterproofs on if I wanted to stay slightly dry.

The walk was pretty uneventful to start with but there were some ancient monuments to take a look at Wayland’s Smithy was the most interesting and the only one where I came across anyone else out having a look. I plodded on and passed a trough with a tap and a notice that said the was was fit to drink and that it was to celebrate the life Peter Wren who loved the countryside. I had a drink to save the water I was carrying. We need more taps like that in the countryside, to go with the benches you sometimes come across. Both would be very welcome on a long walk.

Eventually I came across a lady on a bicycle followed by three dogs, she stopped and told me an old dog was lagging behind a bit. About a quarter of a mile later I came across a setter who looked like he was on his last legs, it was all he could do to lift his head to look at me while he plodded past. next up was another lady and a dog this time both were on foot. The lady explained that she trying to keep off the slippery chalk, however she was running out of grass and was in danger and slipping down, I offered here a hand down but she said thank but no thanks so I left here teetering on the edge of a grass patch.
not many people Old dog

A couple of 4×4 drove up and 4 men with fluorescent orange flags got and walks across a field down to the valley. There were small sections of corn growing they clearly were running a shoot for pheasants, which were quite numerous in the area. Finally I arrived at Letcombe Basset, but unfortunately there was no pub so I settle for a bench at a junction. It had stopped raining for a while so I took the opportunity to take my waterproofs off to let my now slightly damp jeans dry out. While I was doing so a man drove out out of a parking space then moved his van into the vacated space then drove off in the car. Between each move he left a vehicle blocking the highway, there was no traffic.

The walk to Letcombe Regis was along a road because I missed a turning for a foot path, I tough someone had blocked the entrance but studying the maps more closely a complaint would not be necessary as google streetview allowed me to see where the foot path entrance was that I missed. In the village there was a big retirement complex which was run by Bupa. It was quite well done and I guess catered for all sorts of retired people, that that did and did not need care. There was a brand new village shop and cafe, it was a bit strange, clearly run by locals, but there was not much useful produce in the shop cuppa soups cakes and biscuits the sort of thing you would need if you were visiting an elderly relative! I stopped for a weak coffee and move on.

The path back to Wantage was paved but cross country I imagine that maybe it was built by the manor house at Letcombe Regis for staff in the bygone days, I wasn’t complaining it made for easy walking. In Wantage I popped into the cobblers to ask about leather glue apparently Bostik 6092 is the best stuff, but they could not sell me any even though I don’t look like a glue sniffer. In specsaver they did not have my contact lens fitting I was not being successful on the shopping front. I did manage to get the ingredients for Lhaksa at Sainsbury’s.

I dropped by Rory’s to fix his PC and he bought me a pint at the Akeman in return, it was good to catch up. The Lhaksa worked out OK.

The Ridgeway – Overton Hill to Ogbourne St George

Typical Ridgeway path view
Typical Ridgeway path view

After a successful testing of my back finishing off the Capital Ring, it was time for a new challenge, The Ridgeway. I got up early as getting to the far end would take some time 1:30 to Ogbourne St George then another 1:30 of buses to get to Overton Hill. The final miles of the M4 and A346 was typical of the countryside I would be walking through, rolling chalk down which was looking great in the spring light, even under the overcast skies.

View from the Ridgeway
View from the Ridgeway

Parking in Ogbourne St George was easy, a sleepy village with a pub, B&B, and hotel. I had to walk about a mile to the main roan to find the bus stop, then had a 25 minute wait for X5 bus at 09:46. It was a good job i did not try for the earlier bus because there wasn’t one. The X5 never turned up but the 80 at 09:52 did, and I was soon in Marlborough. A coffee at Nero wash down a pain au raisin, while I considered my next move, the 42 passed through West Overton and departed in 30 minutes so I scrubbed the idea of a taxi to keep costs down.

I had to walk a mile to the start of the Ridgeway at Overton Hill, my FitBit had registered 3 mikes by that point. Just before the start I took a quick look at The Sanctuary a stone and wood circle. The beginning is a by way and as such is a series of white scars caused by off roaders, which luckily for me are banned from 1 October to 30 April. The path keeps to the ridge, as you would expect to, he views are distant, a.x there are barrows and stone circles to be seen all over the landscape.

Barbury Castle from the Ridgeway
Barbury Castle from the Ridgeway

There was a codd wind blowing so i did not hang about, the occasional breaking of the clouds bought welcome warming sunshine. The path was fairly quiet considering the status of the path I passed a few walkers and a couple of mountain bikers. I had a ack lunch and stopped at about mile 4 of the trail.

Ogbourne St George from the Ridgeway
Ogbourne St George from the Ridgeway

There were plenty of birds about and they were easy to spot because the land scan had few trees so they congregated in the odd hawthorn that edged the path. I spotted Twite, Skylarks, Lapwing, and Chaffinch to mention a few. The path rolled with the hills but stayed high all the time, one of the higher points was Barbury castle which is now just earth banks, I’m not sure what it looked like when it was first built. I stopped for my second sandwich after the castle on a long grass stretch, called Smeathe’s Ridge and used for gallops, it had stunning views all around.

Ogbourne St George Thatched Cottages
Ogbourne St George Thatched Cottages

The trial descend as it gets to Ogbourne St George and I left the path 200m before the bus stop I started at to take a look at the river that runs through, it was a bit of a disappointment because it was dry. It gave me a chance to see the rest of the village as the car was parked at the other end of the high street. In all I had done just over 10 miles of the path, so if I could keep that rate up and slightly more I should be able to do it in another 7 sections. Lets wait and see if I manage it.