Sunday, 4 September 2011

Ridgeway day 2– Ogbourne St. George to Down Barn Farm

Back in 2006, this is where I called it a day. I awoke in the morning to give Simon the news that the hip injury had not eased overnight. I headed home to pick up the car, whilst Simon carried on. My role in this charity challenge was now as support vehicle.

Returning to 2011; After what may be considered a leisurely ten miles yesterday, ahead of me lay sixteen(ish). Fortunately, there was no great hurry to get there, and as this section is rich in history, the many side attractions can lengthen the distance and duration further.

I started in the rain, at 9am, after a hearty breakfast. I had intended to do a little side trip to the abandoned Medieval village of Snap, but that must have slipped my mind, as I  strolled along the lanes of the ridge, spotting all the free food that lined the track. I spotted the usual blackberries, damsons, sloes, apples. There were some I wasn’t sure about so always best to leave well alone! A time when I wish I had my “Food for Free” book with me!

First major historic site was Liddington Castle, another Iron Age hill fort, slightly off the trail, but well worth a diversion. I didn’t bother this time, though, and continued while the weather had brightened. Although, as I said earlier, there was no hurry, I was mindful of the band of rain expected later in the afternoon and I would rather not be pitching up in the wet.

Shortly after the hill fort, I descended to cross another, much younger but still significant highway; the M4. I had set my heart on reaching Fox Hill on the other side of the motorway by midday, and I was bang on target.

As I approached a well known landmark just before the hill, the Shepherds Rest pub, I was disappointed to find that any intentions a rambler may have of a quick drink are soon scuppered as it is now an Indian Restaurant! Sadly, while you cannot have too many curry houses, too many pubs are closing down in the countryside, or becoming eateries.

So, I carried on up Fox Hill, and an hour later I stopped, more through fatigue than design, to brew up and have some lunch. A freeze dried meal of Thai Chicken with Rice, not too bad, and it set me up for the rest of the day.

By two in the afternoon I reached the excellent Wayland’s Smithy, a fine example of a chambered burial tomb nestled within a shady and very pleasant copse. I stopped for a brew and to break out the zinc oxide as a precautionary measure for a hot spot on my left heel. All patched up, feet suitably rested, I picked myself up and began the final leg.

From here, there is one last major landmark on the trail before I would reach the end of the day. It is another couple of miles to reach the hill fort known as Uffington Castle. A short excursion from here will enable you to visit the more famous chalk carving that is the Uffington Whitehorse.

For me, though, it was too much of a diversion, and it is something better seen from the air, or below the ridge.

The afternoon drew on, and I started scanning the right of the track for Down Barn Farm. I swear I will never get used to working with 1:40000 scale maps, compared to 1:25000. It’s that silly perception that a destination doesn’t look far away and the frustration at realising how little I have actually travelled!

Eventually, an hour after Uffington, I spotted the turn off, but I could see no farm! I soon realised it was a half kilometre walk down a very grassy lane to a turn off where Down Barn Farm could be found nestled below the hill I would ascend tomorrow.

The camping facilities were basic, a toilet back at the house, and a tap in the paddock. I made myself comfortable for the early evening, chilling  with a book. I timed dinner just right, just as I had polished off my Chicken and Vegetable Pasta and packed away the cooking gear, the heavens opened and I retreated to my tent. That was my lot for the night.