Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Sparsholt - Goring on Thames

The Ridgeway day 3.
Distance: 34.2km (92.9km), time spent: 9:41.
Altitude (start / end / highest): 93m / 45m / 233m.
Weather: Mostly nice.

Pancakes for breakfast, thick, juicy pancakes with bacon, syrup, strawberries and raspberries. Just the perfect start for the long walk I have ahead of me today, to The John Barleycorn in Goring on Thames. From Sparsholt you have the option to returning to The Ridgeway on a minor road going up to Sparsholt Firs, this is a shorter alternative than returning back to Collet Bush. But not an option to me, I return back up the way I came down from. From Collet Bush there is a short walk over a hill, past a plantation with the funny name of Rubblebit, to the cluster of trees known as Sparsholt Firs. Which if you venture into, might take you into a forgotten forest.

Inside the forgotten realm of Sparsholt Firs.

The Devil's Punchbowl.

The Brits must have a special talent when it comes to giving names to places. The Devil's Punchbowl is another fine example. The punchbowl itself is another scenic coombe or sinous dry valley, which you can reach from a (very) short path from The Ridgeway. There are cows grazing inside the punchbowl, but all they do is lazily eyeing me while I walk around the contours of the valley. I am a little bit intrigued by these curved valleys sinking down into the landscape.

Quote on a bench:
"Momently clinging to the things we knew -
Friends, footpaths, hedges, house and animals -
Till, borne along like twigs and bits of straw,
We sink below the sliding stream of time."

Unfortunately, the trail afterwards soon becomes less interesting. As the path looses its views, and instead meanders in the middle of fields. It is by no standard bad, but now it appears a little bit repetitive, just more of the same. I pass by another old hill fort, Segsbury Camp or Letcombe Castle fort, but it is also less interesting than the previous outings.

The Ridgeway ascending Warren Down leaving The Devil's Punchbowl behind.

It is well over midday when I come to a large column or pillar with a cross on top of it, the monument To Lord Wantage of Lockinge, a founding member of the British Red Cross. It is a nice monument, especially when the sunrays strikes the cross, but the path soon turns back into its repetitive form of today. I have met surprisingly few on the trail today, only a handful of daywalkers occasionally.

Lord Wantage Monument.

I reach another earthly ghost from the past, Scrutchamer Knob, a small overgrown hill that is clearly not altogether natural. No one knows what it really was, but whispers in the air tells of a burial site of a Saxon King, Cwichelm.

Traditional English white plastered cottage in West Ilsley.

For lunch today, I had with the success from yesterday in mind, decided to go down from Bury Down to the village of West Ilsley. This detour is a long way from being the same success. The walk down goes on a road and upon arriving at The Harrow, I get the message that they have stopped serving lunch. Luckily, I have a packet of biscuits in my backpack that I bought just in case I was in need of something to eat. I order a beer and some chips to spice up my lunch. A note to myself, do not forget what times the pubs are serving lunch at. West Isley is besides that a nice little village and the pub looks cozy.

A mural on the wall of the A34 underpass, this one escaping being tagged on.

I pass under a busy road through an underpass with a lot of nice murals on the walls, which some idiots has marred with their ugly tags. There were so many free places, and when they at first felt the need to spray their ugly tags on the wall, why did they have to do it on top of the murals. Someone should really go home to these people and spraypaint everything of value in their homes. Finished ranting, I continue on with my walk.

Streatley Warren.

The trail eventually improves, going past a scenic field called Streatley Warren, heralding the end of my walk for today. Heading down on a road, the path arrives first at Streatley, then crosses the Thames to arrive at Goring on Thames. Upon entering Goring after the bridge, I spot a street filled with all sorts of flags, pictures, candles and paraphernalia. It turns out to be outside the house where George Michael lived and all the items on display are memorials to him. I did not know that he had lived here in Goring on Thames.

Crossing the River Thames from Streatley to Goring.

My accommodation for the night is The John Barleycorn, which is an old building dating from the 17th century and has been an ale house since 1810. With the typical white plastered walls, original oak beams, uneven floors and not so high underneath the roof. Quite the atmospheric place to stay the night. The staircase leading up to my room, which is nice, creaks when I walk on it.

Outside the home of George Michael in Goring on Thames.

The evening goes by taking a walk in Goring on Thames, the largest place so far on the trail, looking at the River Thames, having a beer at another nice place, The Catherine Wheel. I order whitebaits as a starter for dinner, forgetting what it really is. But it tastes good, though I do not eat the heads. A mint burger goes for the main course. Being used to longer walks, it feels funny to think that I am now already halfway.

The John Barleycorn.

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