Notes on walk from Marlborough to Woodborough

Saturday 7 January

After a week of gales and heavy rain we had a bright day; the sun unseasonably warm.

8.30am. J and I walked out of the town along the Kennet and past Merlin’s Tomb (yeah, yeah), and the college running track (yah, yah). The speed of departure, looking back to see the town small behind us, surrounded by hills.

Walking under a fine brick bridge supporting a disused railway (Marlborough – Pewsey). The bridge was beginning to deteriorate. Crossing farmland we came across a deep cutting – J guessed it was a strand of Wansdyke; back home I checked my map and he was right. It was deep, and flat-bedded like a river. We ploughed on, spotting a dog fox, a yellowhammer, deer. Heavy clay mud on our boots.

In West Wood we bumped into a small shooting party, the guns beating for one another. The older guns wearing ties. We stopped for Christmas cake and fig rolls and watched them work their way through a section of the wood. Heard one shot, saw one bird but too low to shoot at. January pickings. Across a great field full of flint, I picked one round as an orange and beautifully light. J told me to break it as there might be a crystal inside. I kept it intact – to break perhaps another day when I am feeling lucky.

Out of the woods and onto the hill; marching along the spine towards Milk Hill. Gorse, old thorn trees, dew ponds. Pewsey Vale in our faces, the wind fresh out of the South West and the Atlantic. We dropped into the Vale on a track edging a deep bowl marked on the map as a Neolithic Camp. Two tall stands of gunmetal beeches, grey and frowzy, which you couldn’t take your eyes off. You couldn’t take your eyes off the depth of the bowl, the slow full curves of it, its hairy flanks, the scale and THE QUIET. Like the edge of a volcano. You could hide an army in there. An urge to shout and leap off.

A yomp alongside a field the size of Manchester Airport; a great attraction in the summer for crop circle aficionados. Many from Iberia.  Ground thorn hidden in long grass tripped us, the whips as tough and hard as metal. A climb to Woodborough Hill talking about girls, and at the top someone had left flowers under a stone. And down the other side, across the canal to J’s house and a can of Guinness. 12.30 pm.

12 miles+, not quite in a straight line.

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