DAY FIVE – THE RIDGEWAY
Sometimes when out walking, as in day five of walking the Ridgeway National Trail from Watlington to Princes Risborough, I just plod. This relatively short day held nothing particularly physically demanding and nothing mentally challenging. I had by now settled into an easy rhythm of walking each day and so I just put one foot in front of the other and moved ever along the trail for an easy twelve miles.
Beginning back at the White Mark Farm car park just outside Watlington I began strolling along the hedgelined way. The terrain underfoot was less chalky than earlier days making the walking easier and it was a pleasure to hear bird song and see wildflowers along the way.
THE MODERN WORLD INTRUDES ON THE RIDGEWAY TRAIL
The Ridgeway begins to rise here for a long time but at a very slow pace and the hedges begin to be replaced by beech trees. Whilst still hearing the birdsong I also noticed a gentle hum in the background, gradually increasing the further East I travelled. Eventually the reason for the hum became apparent as I approached the M40 motorway. The absolute sense of isolation which I had felt in the early days of my experience of walking the Ridgeway National Trail had now disappeared and the “modern” world intruded on my trudging so much more. I crossed the motorway by tunnel and skirted round the Aston Rowant Nature Reserve. After crossing a further major road, the A40, things quietened down a bit for a mile or so until a rhythmic thumping noise could be heard ahead of me. The further on I walked the louder the sound got. It was the heavy bass beat of dance music and the further on I travelled the more the noise increased. it got until I expected any minute to turn the corner and find myself in the middle of a music festival. I love all types of music and attend lots of concerts but the bass sound was so overwhelming that it was becoming physically painful. All I could see from my map was that I was passing to the right of the Chalk Quarries just outside Chinnor. I never did find out what the source of the music was and I didn’t pass anyone at all near here to ask.
Once I had left the noise behind, the track entered woodlands and gently rose along the lower slopes of Bledlow Ridge. Again I felt less sense of isolation on this part of the trail. A passed a couple of cottages and occasional garden plants began to appear alongside the path.
I also passed the occasional other walker, cyclist or horserider…………
…………….. and train. (The recently renovated Chinnor and Princes Risborough steam railway runs along a restored line close to this part of the Ridgeway). I spied one form of horse powered transport nonchalantly ignoring a steam powered one!
A REWARD AT JOURNEY’S END
The Ridgeway continues for several more miles along hedgerows and through woodlands before descending and crossing the mainline modern railway line. Although the trail is still mainly rural on this part of the Ridgeway one is frequently reminded of the intrusion of modern man on the landscape and upon reaching the noisy A4010 just outside Princess Risborough I longed for the seclusion of just a few days ago. I had to walk alongside the road for only a few hundred yards but I found it quite painful to be jolted right back to modern reality. I then returned to footpaths and skirted the town. This day’s walk ended with a long climb up to the top of Whiteleaf Cross. After a day of “plodding” with a general background resentment about the intrusion of other things and people upon my peace the climb to the top of the hill was the highlight of the day. Half way up I got talking to a chap who was doing his daily count of butterflies on the wild flowers; there was a stone age long barrow to the left of me and the views were stunning. I could look right back over the last couple of days of my walking and if I tried really hard, even see Didcot Power Station (which I thought I had long left behind!) in the distance.
The lovely T was waiting for me in the car park at the top of the hill with supplies of chocolate and I returned home to get a good night’s sleep ready to walk day six of the Ridgeway.
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