18 September: It took me a while to get going this morning. The proprietor’s dog decided to follow me for the first mile and despite lots of pointing and several shouts of “casa”, she refused to obey and return home. So I had to walk her all the way back to the farmhouse where I had spent the night and begin again. It also took me a while to get back on the main Wessex Ridgeway and I trudged across newly ploughed fields and through extremely muddy woods, where the sunshine of the last few days had not yet shot through.
Just as I was starting to despair that I would ever feel I was making proper progress I turned a corner and there in front of me was a large box. I’d heard and read about this box. The Dorsetshire Gap. Here there is a crossing deep in the heart of Dorset of five or six paths and inside the box was a notebook for all walkers to sign and leave a relevant comment. The note before mine was from a men’s walking group who said they were enjoying the glorious early Autumn weather. The comment before that was from a couple who said they were now back off to the pub in Plush.
I left my own pertinent comment (you will have to do the walk to find out what this was) and then moved onwards. The path rose out of the woods and I enjoyed solitary clear Ridgeway walking at its best.
Pheasants and partridges scuttled out of my way; a buzzard terrorised a wood pigeon ; sheep safely grazed and all was more than well with the world. This really is my heart’s desire – to be walking in Wessex on a day like this – well, nothing beats it.
Mile after mile of gently rolling hills followed and I passed not one single person or heard one single car. Up and down up and down the Way went and I happily trudged on. Although this area is quite hilly, I did not find them so challenging as in previous days. The woods and hills and open Ridgeway continued its now familiar pattern passing little farmsteads snuggled away in the hollows.
I passed a raised mound of earth which my guidebook said was an “enclosure”. Far, far away south and slightly west I believe I saw a structure on a hill on the horizon. I was pretty certain it was the Hardy monument near Portesham that I would be passing on my last day.
I reached the Giants Head campsite, crossed a road and began the slow descent into Cerne Abbas. I stopped for a long while half way down the hill. I was intoxicated and bewitched by the beauty of the landscape and the peace of the day’s walking. I did not want my trek to end.
However, I had to eventually draw myself away and spent a pleasant hour exploring this pretty village.
The houses were a jumble of styles and periods; with stone and flint next to timber framing and a spattering of Georgian formality. The church and it’s perpendicular tower had been apparent from up on the ridge.
I explored it’s churchyard and found a well to St Catherine ……the Saint who was martyered on the wheel.
That of course pointed me to the final destination of this pilgrimage – St Catherine s tower , in just two day’s time. From hereonin I will be coming off of the official Wessex Ridgeway and taking my own route south to the coast.
Yet to see the Giant ! My son arrived at my accommodation in the evening to join me for the final two day’s walking. His first words were – “Where is this Giant then?” Then he unpacked his walking snacks.
Probably about 12 miles, but again it was one of those days where I could have walked for ever, so mileage didn’t really mean anything.