THE WESSEX RIDGEWAY : From the Stones to the Wheel – Hindon to Ludwell

15 September.

The early morning sun was already making its presence felt through the trees alongside Green Lane as I ascended out of Hindon. As I turned to admire the view behind me one, then two ……….…. then around fifty……. hot air balloons caught my eye. They made their way like a flotilla of yachts across the horizon. A fair few minutes were spent trying to photograph them!

After frequent looks over my shoulder to continue watching the spectacle I found myself  alone again in the countryside of Cranbourne Chase with only pheasants and my shadow for company. I walked for several miles through woods and across fields still wet with dew. The mist  hanging heavy over the valley below.

The climb was easy and slow to Knoyle Corner and Summerleaze ; then steeper up to Outhouse Plantation. The views were stunning both behind and looking towards the steady descent to follow. I continued walking in that meditative, almost limbic state I had experience along The Pilgrims’ Way – having lost my modern-day, protective coat of vanity and patiently accepting whatever lay ahead.

As I eventually arrived at a lane I came across a contender for the finest bus shelter in the land.  Erected by local craftsmen  James and Adam MacKenzie     and with its own stained glass window.

I approached the new Wardour Castle with trepidation, passing “ no trespassers “ signs along the way. Leaving the large mansion behind I took the path across the fields towards Old Wardour Castle.

The remains of the old hexagonal buildings were stunning and I made my first human contact of the walk as I bought an ice cream and ate it for my lunch overlooking the castle remains.

When I could eventually rouse myself from this simple pleasure I recommenced  my trek and swiftly found myself alone in the woods again. The second highlight of today’s walk soon awaited me.

The path passed between two lakes, Heron Pond and Pale Park Pond. I bided here for untold moments. The peace and serenity were exquisite and something I will never forget.

A swift climb up to Park Copse followed and then on leaving the wood I took a detour into Donhead St Andrew for some refreshment. The local pub was busy serving Sunday lunches and it was great to sit in the garden amongst happy families .

I took a fair while to complete the last leg of today’s walk, crossing through Milkwell to return to the Ridgeway route. The sun was beating down and I found this section particularly tiring. Eventually after passing a local family blackberrying I climbed down the hill into Ludwell and my accommodation for the night.  My claim to fame here is that I was the only person in the pub music quiz to know that “American Woman” was by the…………………………..”Guess Who”.  I know this thanks to the lovely T, who not only brings me socks and chocolate but has also vastly broadened my musical knowledge. (More to follow…!)

12 miles – what can I say – just stunning.

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