Thursday, 6 May 2021

27 April - Day 2 - Westwell to between Farmington and Clapton on the Hill

Walking 6.45am to 6.30pm

Distance walked 19.15 miles

It wasn't far into the prosperous village of Westwell with its attractive houses overlooking the village pond. I believe the politician, Douglas Hurd (Lord Hurd of Westwell) lived here. His wife is buried in the churchyard. He'd be 91 now. It wasn't far to the next village of Holwell, just past which is a fine belt of trees where I overnighted a few years ago. Here, I left the D'Arcy Dalton Way and followed the route of the Roman road, Akeman Street for two miles. Along the way I entered another estate, the Hatherop. All the paths and bridleways both yesterday and today have been very well maintained and signposted.

Near Macaroni Downs Farm there was an ancient dewpond. A notice said it had been restored by Cotswold Voluntary Wardens but it was overgrown and no water in it. Shortly after, I stopped to make coffee and saw about eight deer tearing across the field in front of me.

I missed a path near Ladbarrow Farm as a sign was missing. However, I wanted to replenish my water. I knocked at a cottage door but no reply (in fact, a notice on the door said "gone to the shed"). I helped myself from a tap at the side.

Just south of Northleach, I joined the Monarch's Way/Diamond Way. I had intended to go through Northleach but as I had enough water I didn't need to and went through Upper End and Farmington. There were some grand houses in Farmington and, in the churchyard the grave of Lord Carr of Hadley, a government minister of the 1970s. Just outside Farmington, I refilled a water bottle from an old spring. After a while, feeling hungry, I stopped and heated my evening meal. Carrying on, I found my pitch for the night in a wooded steep sided copse behind a metal barred gate. I'm pitched back from the gate on the path but I think it unlikely that anyone will come by. I'm very close to some deer runs, one behind and another just in front, and I've already heard one. I may re-pitch a bit closer to the gate to avoid a deer getting tangled in my guylines in the dark.

Monday, 26 April 2021

26 April 2021 - Day 1 - Home to near Westwell

Walking 9.30am to 6pm

Distance walked 16.25 miles

Really good to be out again, three days, two nights. Lovely spring weather with a reasonable forecast. I joined the D'Arcy Dalton Way, one of my local long distance footpaths, and went through Churchill and the Sarsden Estate, Merriscourt, Lyneham and then across the golf course to Bruern. On to Idbury where, as I've done a couple of times before, I tested the water tap set in a little niche by the road opposite the church. It's still working.

The Way then entered the Barrington Estate and some way past Tangwell Farm I passed a small tree lined field where I overnighted in about 2016. After a while, I stopped to make tea as I had time in hand. Then through Great Barrington and Little Barrington, both well cared for estate villages. Crossing the A40, I passed a belt of trees and considered stopping for the night but I thought I could do better so walked on. After about a mile I came across a young area of woodland not yet shown on the map and it's perfect. A muntjac ran by not far away a few minutes ago.

Wednesday, 14 October 2020

Seven Shires Way Day 8 - 12 October - Poundon to Piddington

 I spent the night in a belt of mainly conifer trees between Godington and Poundon. The path goes through it, in theory. There was a clear way in but, this morning, I walked towards the path but overshot it and only located it by identifying the way I had come in last night. However, the path just disappeared in the middle of the trees. I was able to get to the other side by walking towards the daylight and there was a wide strip of grass the other side and then a hedge so I walked alongside the trees to the other end where I should have met the path coming out of the trees but path there was none. However, in a field corner there was a stile so I knew which way to go.

My trail guide book from 2002 said that the path through the trees was not clear and recommended going around the woodland. 

The path to Marsh Gibbon should have been easy. However, north of the village at about SP647246 I was on a clear path but there was a new fence ahead of me with no way through. I cut back towards the road and emerged at a gate at SP649246 where there was a notice saying that the path uphill from there was closed due to East West Rail works. This seems to be the proposed new line from Oxford to Cambridge. There was a lot of work going on and the path won't be open again till July 2023. Once at the road, I walked from there into the village.

After walking through fields the other side of Marsh Gibbon I followed a lane to a junction with the A41 at SP636200. There should have been a path across the road but I went back and forth and it just wasn't there so I walked along the nearby side road and took a path at SP636195 and rejoined my route a short distance into the field. It was quite wet underfoot due to the recent rain. I begged water at The Old Farm House and then made a navigational mistake a few yards away. Basically, DO NOT go straight ahead here into the large field immediately ahead. Instead, turn sharp left as you enter what is optimistically described as an orchard to a stile in the corner and into the adjacent field.

Ludgershall was nice with its wide grassy verges either side of the road. It came on to rain a bit as I made my way across fields to Piddington and the end, for me, of this part of the Seven Shires Way. To be continued but probably not until next year. About 151 miles remaining.

Monday, 12 October 2020

Seven Shires Way Day 7 - 11 October - Hethe to Poundon

Colin sent me off with an excellent cooked breakfast. I made my way back to Tusmore Park Estate and went north to Juniper Hill, the hamlet where Flora Thompson, author of Lark Rise to Candleford, lived. I took a picture of her cottage from the lane.

On to Mixbury and Westbury, where I stopped for lunch. Just over the road were ornate painted boards mounted on a wall. I don't know what they mean. The Way then came south to Finmere, Barton Hartshorn and Chetwode. The church here was very old with an attached large house, Chetwode Priory, which didn't seem to be occupied.

I'm camped in a belt of woodland between Godington and Poundon. Fourteen miles today.

Saturday, 10 October 2020

Seven Shires Way Day 6 - Kings Sutton to Hethe

Well, my pitch last night scores maximum points for seclusion, just feet from the towpath but only accessible off it by going about 30 yards through brush and coppice between the canal and river. I slept well despite the trains and traffic. The photo above is courtesy of the WhatThreeWords app.

I walked along the towpath to Twyford and Aynho. Not far after Aynho, I left the canal to cross it at Wharf Farm Bridge and followed a very quiet lane to Souldern, a lovely village. More road walking on a long straight road to Roundhill Farm although I stopped by a gateway sheltered from the wind and made coffee.

Not long after, I entered Tusmore Park, a large estate owned by a Syrian billionaire businessman, Wafik Saïd, who actually lives in Monaco. There are security cameras everywhere. I was about to take a photo of the house when someone appeared and asked me not to. A lady dog walker I met told me the owner is an arms dealer.

I diverted a little from my route to visit an old school friend, Colin, in Hethe and I'm camped in his garden. Had a great evening with him and Lyn.

Only about ten miles today.

Friday, 9 October 2020

Seven Shires Way Day 5 - 9 October - Highfield Spinney to Kings Sutton

Away at 7am. Mainly field paths which took me through Wardington, Chacombe and Middleton Cheney, not far from home but I didn't really know them. The first two have many fine Hornton stone houses and cottages. Middleton Cheney has its nice parts but has been spoilt by modern housing developments. Still, it has a Co-op which was useful.

After Warkworth. I followed the route of the Jurassic Way towards the M40 which I heard long before I reached it, first crossing the railway by means of a bridge and then an underpass beneath the motorway. Not long after, I met the Oxford Canal where I stopped for lunch on the towpath. After lunch I had a leisurely walk beside the canal for about three miles. I only have ten miles to my destination tomorrow so stopped early. I found a possible pitch on the towpath itself by a former railway bridge but preferred to be out of sight although there have been very few people about. Anyway, only a few yards further on was a way into some scrubby woodland between the canal and the River Cherwell and my tarp is very well hidden. It's not quiet though - the railway is very close and there is constant traffic on the M40. Still, both should become less intrusive later on. Someone has camped here before although maybe not since 2013. I shall take the empty beer cans with me in the morning.

Seven Shires Way Day 4 - 8 October - Mollington to Highfield Spinney

Back walking the SSW again. I have about 66 miles to do and plan to reach Thame next Tuesday or Wednesday. Amanda dropped me off along a lane just outside Mollington by some agricultural buildings. The path went alongside them.

I followed field paths and then a road into Claydon, Oxfordshire's northernmost village, bordering Northamptonshire. Along a narrow lane a short way out of the village, I crossed over the Oxford Canal. A grassy area beside Claydon lock looked perfect for camping but it was only 5pm and I planned another hour walking. The larch plantation I'd identified in the map wasn't suitable but Highfield Spinney is fine. It was very noisy earlier with pigeon, crows and pheasant but it's quiet now although I just heard thudding hooves of maybe a deer.

Just three miles walked but I only set off at 3.45pm. After all the rain of the last few
days, it's now looking not quite so unsettled. I'm sure there will be some rain but it's not cold.