Sunday, August 13, 2017

Overton Hill - Ogbourne St George

The Ridgeway day 1.
Distance: 18.1km (24.7km), time spent: 4:21.
Altitude (start / end / highest): 174m / 159m / 269m.
Weather: Nice, blue sky with some clouds.

The proper start of The Ridgeway does not stand out in any particularly way, being just a car park at the top of a hill. A small information board displaying the route of the trail and the first pathmarker is all there is. However that does not stop me from being thrilled at being at the start of the trail. I am always thrilled when I am at the start of a trail, but since my start was at Avebury, it is not that kind of excitement I feel now. What thrills me is the sight of the path (more like a gravel road) winding itself upwards into an open landscape. It is a promising start.

The first steps on The Ridgeway goes on this gravel track leaving Overton Hill.

As this is a short walk and I only have this week at my disposal anyway, I have already booked all the accommodations for each night on my walk. I am walking on a fixed schedule so to speak. Today I will go to Ogbourne St George where I have a room at The Inn With The Well. Another side of The Ridgeway, is that there is not any accommodation situated directly on the trail in the first three stages, but after those stages, the accommodation options will be more frequent. You usually have to leave the trail to get to a place to stay for the night. Unless you are wild camping on the way. I am not.

Berwick Bassett Dewpond.

The Ridgeway on top of Hackpen Hill.

Walking on The Ridgeway does not take you high up, but the views are still quite good, as the surrounding area is quite flat. And I am walking in an open landscape, which I truly enjoy. There are also no places to buy food on the trail until Ogbourne St George (unless you leave the trail), so I have brought with me some lunch, which I eat sitting down on the grass next to the trail.

The Hackpen Hill White Horse. To see the chalk horse cut out of the hill fully, you have to leave The Ridgeway and walk a little way on the road leaving the hill.

On the way, I take a short detour to the Fyfield Down National Nature Reserve. This leads me to a large chalk grassland with a huge amount of the large sarsen stone strewn around. It is where you can find the largest collection of these stones in Britain. Locally they are known as 'grey wethers', resembling sheep from afar (a wether is a castrated ram). Though these sheep are quite immobile.

Barbury Castle. Walking on the grassy ramparts of the Iron Age hill fort.

The path going through the middle of Barbury Castle.

The trail from there continues in the same manner, through open fields and acres on both sides, passing by a small picturesque pond on the way, the Berwick Bassett Dewpond. Before arriving at one of the weird, but cool, sights along the trail, the white horse at Hackpen Hill. This is a figure of a horse cut out of the hill consisting of white chalk, it was first cut out in 1838 by a local Parish Clerk, Henry Eatwell. Too properly see the horse figure, I have to leave the trail and walk a bit down the road from the hill. There is actually a White Horse Trail passing by here, which visits seven more of these white horses on its way. I spend some time at the head of the horse having a nice conversation with a elderly couple on their vacation.

The memorial stone of Richard Jefferies and Alfred Williams on Burderop Down, with views.

Although the name states Barbury Castle, there is little that resembles a castle in the way we think of a castle. This is actually an Iron Age hill fort and now only the earthworks are left behind, consisting of a double ditch and earth ramparts, with nothing but grass in the middle. As I walk around the castle on the grassy ramparts, a wind from the past blows gently through the grass. There is actually a van selling mineral water, icecream and some chocolate here, near the remains of the castle. I opt for a cold can of coke and an icecream, before I go through a lot of cow shit to visit the memorial stone to Richard Jefferies and Alfred Williams on Burderop Down. I have no knowledge of who those two were, but the views from the memorial stone are nice.

The Ridgeway on Smeathe's Ridge, although no apparent visible path, the direction of the trail gives itself.

I have had a great pleasant walk since I began walking from Avebury, now the first days nears it end. The last part before going down to Ogbourne St George is a beautiful open ridge called Smeathe's Ridge. Ogbourne St George lies not directly on The Ridgeway, instead, the trail goes in a half-circle around it. To get to my accommodation for the night, The Inn With The Well, I have to walk an additional kilometre outside the route. The village or small town looks very much like a nice place, but quite sleepy.

At the bar in The Inn With The Well, my place for the night.

My place for the evening and night however, is very nice. I have a large room in an annex. This is the first day of my walk, so for dinner I go for probably the most common of pub foods you can get, fish and chips. Before settling down too much with the usual after-walk beers, I take a short walk around Ogbourne. Once there was a railline passing by here, but it has now been closed and the tracks are now abandoned, overgrown and lost (the tracks has been dismantled).

The first day on The Ridgeway was exactly as I envisioned it to be, so I am very satisfied. Tomorrow, the forecast is for rain, but just light.

Where the abandoned railway past Ogbourne St George went, now the tracks are dismantled and grown over.

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