Monday, 30 July 2012

Backpackers Oxfordshire weekend

It was very nice to have a Club weekend not far from home that I could walk to. I scooted home from work at lunchtime and, with everything packed the night before, I was on my way at 1.15. It was a lovely day with fair weather forecast for most of the next two days so I didn't even bother to take waterproofs. Without any other warm top either, I took a Golite Wisp windshirt, no longer made but an excellent very lightweight garment that is windproof and so stops a bit of chill in the evenings and is moderately water resistant.

The afternoon's walk to Barford St. Michael took me through Little Tew and Great Tew (where it would have been all too easy to fall into the Falkland Arms but time didn't really permit this). I arrived at Barford around 6.20 where, after a quick meal, I joined others at The George where there was a mini beer festival going on which was an unexpected treat.

Next morning, a group of us set off southwards, passing through Nether Worton and Over Worton, and then whiling away some time at the White Horse at Duns Tew, an excellent pub but, I suspect, in great danger of closing if the locals continue not to support it. We were the only customers apart from a couple of cyclists passing through. Then on through Steeple Aston, the other side of which our eyes were caught by the Rousham Eyecatcher.

We then crossed the River Cherwell and the adjacent Oxford Canal at Lower Heyford, going north to skirt Upper Heyford and then east to a commercial site next to the former USAF base. I chose to stop just before then where I planned to string my hammock up in a nearby wood. I've got this down to a fine art now and it only took a few minutes, doing so some 25 feet in from the path. After a quickly prepared meal and reading suspended above the ground for a while I decided that I didn't much like the look of the clouds coming over so I put my tarp above me (in the event, it didn't rain overnight).

A little while later, after dozing and reading, I heard a twig crack and, lifting the tarp up, there was a man standing only some 10-15 feet away from me. I didn't have my glasses on so didn't see him that clearly. I said, "hello?" but without a sound, he was off. I don't know how long he'd been there. Maybe he'd just been curious about the tarp and had come over for a closer look but it was a bit unnerving. For a while I considered moving elsewhere as I prefer to be invisible to others when wild camping. In the end, I stayed put but it was a lesson learned for the future. I could have been further from the path and should have been. Anyway, he didn't come back and I slept quite well.

I was away by 5.10 the next morning very quickly and set off south west along the line of Aves Ditch, a pre-Saxon ditch and bank structure, which I left after a couple of miles to head west to Northbrook and then back over the canal and river. Here I stopped for breakfast, the hot coffee being very welcome. The sun was out and a fine day was promised. Then over the railway and into Tackley. Not far from here, I realised the map I had didn't quite cover the ground I was on and I struggled to get my bearings. In the end, I took rather a long way round to get to the village of Wootton where, sadly, the pub there, the Killingworth Castle, was an earlier victim of lack of patronage. Then up to Glympton and, on the edge of the Glympton Estate, a grand antlered stag emerged on the path about fifty yards ahead of me - a fine sight but not for long! Crossing the A3400, I passed into the Ditchley Park Estate where the clouds came over quite quickly and from then on I spent the afternoon largely avoiding the intermittent showers by being in woodland or being able to take shelter beneath trees and hedges.

On the edge of the Estate, I joined the Wychwood Way back to home. This was a good day - twenty miles walked.