Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Winter walk Dec 13

A brisk but sunny December day and only a few hours of daylight left. We were off to explore a new walk in a favourite area nearby. It starts here, with a helpful footpath pointer, past sweeping fields and sparse headed trees -
- to scrubby estate woodland and down to a rough crossroads, breaking into a stretch of our usual walk. This is not just any old muddy track though: this is the still used remnant of a straight Roman road,
Akeman Street. It goes on ahead through here...

...and up to fields, where it stretches along for about half a mile.
To the left of us, down in the valley, we saw that our old walk - which takes us through softly rolling grassland - was flooded. In summer, we meander alongside the river, which has now breached its banks and spilled over into the pasture.

Reaching the end of this pathway, and looking into the heart of the vale. Under the little stone bridge, the water is flowing strong and deep - four feet, Andy thought, though it is so clean and clear it is difficult to judge.

In a few minutes, this gently rippling silver ribbon will reach the water logged valley we had been viewing earlier.

On the level, looking across from the bridge.

A spectacular beech clump overlooked us as we continued along a lazily winding stone road, our cold nostrils catching the scent of fresh flood water.

Here we said goodbye to Akeman Street; it is not part of this modern path, but cuts through in ruthless, military fashion, across fields, on its way to the Roman town of Cirencester, once the second most important town of the Empire, after London. Here the old road is just visible as a disappearing indentation going up the grassy slope and into the the trees.

A little gateway intersecting the wall indicates that this time trodden route is still used today.

We crossed over to a pastoral hummock of grazing sheep, to begin rounding off our journey.

At this point we found that 'someone' had blocked the footpath - twice - which we intend to report to the relevant authorities. Crossing through silage munching cattle, we had to duck over (Andy) and under (me) barbed wire, where there should clearly have not only been footpath signs, but at the very least, unencumbered access from field to field.

Dark clouds beat across the skies, but only a few drops scattered over us. The showers raced over to descend on
Burford, a few miles over the way.

The sinking sun threw long shadows and the fading golden light illuminated the brights of winter bare woods and lichen. We were following a snaking trail, progressing towards a distant beech grove, seen on the horizon.

It had appeared to be a warm purpley brown from half a mile away, but as we drew nearer and the sun caught the tips of the last scraps of foliage, it glowed a warm copppery orange.

Now we were on the last leg of our walk, past farmlands and free range pigs, who were happily rootling around in chilly mud. In the blue distance, the neighbouring county of
Wiltshire and another ancient route, the Ridgeway were just visible and somewhere (although unseen) the Uffington White Horse. It is good to be able to place yourself within a landscape - one day we may be over there, looking across to over here.

The best walks are full circles, and after nearly three hours of tramping we were very glad to see the back of our trusty bike waiting patiently for us. And the remembrance of coffee cake waiting at home.


  1. Gretel...the 2nd photo looks like an oil painting...beautiful. I love our walks, but I have a question...with all this walking we are doing..why am I not losing weight?????? The coffee cake sounded like the best part of your day. Oh...maybe that's why I am not getting thinner ;-)
    Your friend across the pond,

  2. A bit like Pooh's woods . . .

    barbed wire, eh? you'll have to check back to see if it's taken down.

  3. Love the photos especially the pig one.

  4. Thank you, dear Gretel for letting us look over your shoulders as you and Andy took this walk through such beautiful land. How is it that you know so much about the history of the areas in which you walk and live?

    Is it through books, or do folks just share the stories, the truly old stories? It is such a pleasure to have you pass this history on.

    Seems that you must be feeling much better to be out and about for hours! Great news. (Also thank you for visiting my silly, superficial urban views.)



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