Patrick and I. It doesn't get more glam!
Photos to follow.
Patrick is a friend from high school, who I got back in touch with recently through facebook (back when I went to UNiversity, we didn't all have phones or emails. We had to stay in touch using this thing called a "letter" which you had to actually go to a "postbox" and physically send, where it got eaten by dinosaurs. Fact.). As we both had been missing walking - me because I am scared to go on a hike alone in case I twist my ankle five miles from the car, and him because he lives in Essex, which is slightly lacking in hills - he came down to walk a chunk of the Ridgeway with me.
The Ridgeway might be Europe's oldest road, running from Bedfordshire above London down to Silbury Hill just south of where I live.
Not Avebury - Uffingham white horse
It uses the crest of hte furthest North of the North Wessex Downs, because before the Romans invented real road surfaces, the Celts built their rambling roads on hill tops where they would drain. From the ridgeway, on a clear day, you can see for miles over the Swindon
plain and down over the downland.
We did not go on a clear day. It started off cold and rainy, and with a certain degree of trepidation, assuring each other that as a Scot and a Half-Scot, a little rain wasn't going to stop us, we marched off out of Barbury Castle Hillfort. Barbury Castle is a 6th Century BC fort, defending an ancient village from other tribes. The ramparts are huge, given how little technology people had and then 2000 years of rain and wind to wear it down.
It must have been massive. The ridge then curves aorund Hackpen Hill, where there is a white horse (not the white horse that's famous, but a Victorian-ish imitation). The day before there had been a crop circle here, but the rain hid it. It was, however, starting to dry up. Half a packet of toffee later, Patrick and I were cheerfully inventing characters for his comic strip, which then evolved into an unwritten radio play about... actually, I'm not going to tell oyu, in case you steal the idea and make a fortune. But it was good, and it involved liquorish toffee as a major subplot.
Before we knew it, time had flown by, and we were in Avebury feeling slightly surprised. It was meant to be about 7 miles, so we weren't expecting to feel so much like we'd popped to the shops.
A very tree shaped tree
maybe I'm not as out of shape as I'd feared! We stopped in the Red Lion, a pub which I am really fond of, partly because it does good lunches and partly because nobody looks funny at you when you walk in in a soaking wet baseball cap, walking boots, and muddy trousers. This is good to know. We had a half pint each of Ale Fresco, a Green King summer real ale. It was really, really good. Then we decided that we wanted to go to see Uffingham White Horse too.
Of course, from Avebury at four in the afternoon, that takes driving. We got back into Patrick's car and went through the corner of Swindon up to the horse.
Uffingham White Horse is genuinely ancient, and looks a bit like modern art. Normally you can see it for miles, but the rain had started up again and we had to be practically standing next to it before it came visible.
I told Patrick about some of the legends - that the bare spot on the mound below was where St George (a probably imaginary Turkish Knight - I love the English!) killed the dragon (endangered species!) and its blood destroyed the grass, and that the horse drank from the pool in the valley opposite. He looked at me funny. Thanks, Patch - I didn't make it up, it's folklore! Then we stopped in the Hare and Hounds for a lemonade each, ranted about cover versions of songs that miss the point, and wandered back to Swindon.
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