The weekend before last there was, very briefly, a minor heatwave in the south of England. So I decided to have a big day out exploring. Except I wasn’t really exploring at all, because I just walked along the section of the Ridgeway from Swindon to Goring. Still, it’s guaranteed to be a fun day out: one of my favourite places to go walking, just behind the other bit of the Ridgeway out towards Avebury, but that is a bit of a pain to get to from where I live now.
And this is one of my favourite places on the route, the neolithic long barrow called Wayland’s Smithy. It’s about 5500 years old and in a glade off the main path surrounded by these old, but not quite so ancient, trees. It’s really one of the most atmospheric places I know, especially if you’re there on your own. I ate lunch on the roof. Hope that wasn’t too disrespectful.
I experimented a bit with using my phone to take photos but Samsung seem to have dropped the oversaturation bomb and everything looks a bit psychedelic. Apparently that look is popular in Korea. Think I’ll stick with my camera in future.
This place is called Uffington Castle, which is a truly fantastic name. Friend Blodgett once commented on a previous visit here that it’s not a real castle. But that is clearly incorrect. This is either the moat or perhaps part of the rampart. Use your imagination. On the side of the hill there is a large chalk horse, but it’s quite hard to see from above.
This place is about 2500 years old. It occurred to me while I was sitting here having my second lunch, that when this castle was constructed, the long barrow nearby was already over 3000 years old, which is older than this castle is to us now. History is weird.
The 20 miles or so from Uffington castle to the Thames at Goring is uneventful, but pleasant, and usually devoid of people. The evening sun going down the long hill at the end was really pretty. Didn’t time it quite right to catch the sunset though.
There’s an alarming trend among clothing manufacturers recently, particularly those in the “outdoor” sector, to make coats without the little loop used to hang it on a coat hook. Seriously! WHY??! This is a £130 Berghaus “Light Hike” jacket. How am I supposed to hang it on the coat hook, eh? By the hood or something?? A little fabric loop would have cost about 5p.
Well the joke’s on you Berghaus, because I returned it and bought a different one. Here’s another example from a Craft running raincoat. This is almost tolerable as it’s a special purpose item I can chuck with the rest of my running stuff, BUT HOW HARD WOULD IT HAVE BEEN TO PUT A TINY LOOP ON IT???! There’s already even a little elastic thing for tying up the hood.
And just to prove it is possible in 2016 to put a normal hanging loop on a coat, North Face managed to get it right.
Who knew there was a castle in Berkhamsted? Not me! And that was my major discovery during an otherwise uneventful walk along the canal towards Birmingham.
In the little information hut I learned the castle was built during the Norman period and was once besieged by the French and held out for two weeks. But it later fell into ruin and that’s what we see today.
Going north of here towards Birmingham becomes a bit logistically complicated. Maybe for the next trip I will try to reach Milton Keynes. Exciting!
I’ve been getting seriously behind blogging about my adventures! This one happened several weeks ago before the coming of the heatwave and is almost the reverse of a walk I did this time last year.
I stumbled upon these carvings in a wood near Bedwyn. The owl one is quite subtle.
My word of the day is gibbet, which is an “instrument of public execution”. Here is one that gives Coombe Gibbet it’s name. I had lunch here which wasn’t the best spot to choose as it’s rather exposed and sooo windy.
Originally I planned to venture somewhere new like Andover or Amazingstoke but the weather wasn’t that great and both were unexpectedly far away so I decided instead to try climb a local landmark: Beacon Hill. The hill is a huge isolated mound in the valley and on top is an iron age hill fort. Judging by how tired I was after scaling the side, it must have been impregnable.
On my last day in China I didn’t have much to do except go to the airport. But how to do that? Perhaps I could ride on the worlds fastest operational passenger train??! Sounds like a plan. Oh, also it’s a MAGNETICALLY LEVITATING TRAIN. It looks quite unassuming:
It’s very important before you go on the maglev that you do a bit of homework: because running the train at full speed is so uneconomical, it only operates at 430km/h at certain times of the day. Outside of these times it runs at a rather plodding and pedestrian 300km/h. You can find the times and speeds on this helpful website.
I timed my trip so I arrived for the 9am train which is the first 430km/h trip of the day. On the way there I had a bizarre taxi experience. I got in and asked “去龙阳路火车站！” and the driver said something like “磁悬浮站吧？” and I was like “…whut?”. 磁悬浮 of course is “magnetic-suspend-float” or “maglev”. In what universe do you expect a foreigner who can barely speak to know a word like that? :-? Anyway I managed to redeem myself a bit later by telling her that I really wanted to go to the station and not straight to the airport because I REALLY LIKE FAST TRAINS. This I think is one of the major problems with the maglev: it doesn’t actually go anywhere useful so you need to take a taxi or metro to get to the station.
While I was on the train I made a video so you too can experience the awesome. Note that the train is still accelerating at the start of the video, so it doesn’t reach the maximum speed until right at the end.