Question: What makes a good walk?
I suppose the answer will vary depending on who you ask. For me it’s good company and something to discover. I don’t mind walking for the sake of it, but I do like a little find. A pretty house, a church, a monument. That sort of thing.
Last weekend we made a last minute decision to get out and do some walking. My criteria was that it had to a route with something to see, dog/family friendly and not too far to drive to get to the starting point. A circular walk from the village of Wooton Rivers came up trumps.
The walk starts in the pretty village centre, with free parking available at the village hall. The village itself is a beauty, full of stone cottages, thatch tops and flowers round the doors. I surprised myself by not being a creep and taking loads of pictures of other peoples homes, but as we wandered out of the village I couldn’t resist snapping this:
An old post box. I love it. Honestly, as I get older this list of things I fall in love with gets ever more random. Still, it’s better than when I was younger. I loved unsuitable boys and shoes I couldn’t really afford back then. This little lovely of a post box seems sadly long out of use, but I’m glad it has remained. Lockdown gave me a whole new love of post and post boxes. So much so I wrote a post about it.
Post box admired and map consulted, we wandered out of the village and dropped onto the canal side path. Accessing the towpath, we passed by a large white house. The walk guide informed us the house was converted from two pre-canal cottages and it has a claim-to-fame in that it featured in 1980’s TV series ‘The River’ alongside the one and only David Essex. I’ve watched a bit of the first episode in the name of research and it’s not bad.
The route then followed the Kennet & Avon canal for a while. I love canal boats and canal walks, for all I’m sure I have a romanticised idea of canal boat living. Also, those locks look like hard work. Found a canny little lock keeper though, and he’s every bit as handsome as David Essex c. 1980.
Leaving the canal behind, the route took us into farmland. You wouldn’t think walking through the quintessentially English countryside here that London was just over an hour away. The gorgeous views weren’t surprising, but finding a little craft shop housed in a shepherds hut was a bit unexpected.
After a few miles uphill along a narrow country lane, Mr THL spotted a memorial placed after a light aircraft crashed here killing both men onboard. Simple, but touching.
Confession: Most of our walks go off route because we are rubbish at following directions. I get irrationally irritated at Mr THL for allowing it given that he’s a soldier and should be grand with maps and instructions. I’m being unfair given I’m no better. This walk was no exception. We took a wrong turn. No harm done, we just saw a bit more of that glorious countryside.
With wrong righted, we found the next section of the walk. The aptly named Mud Lane. Muddy by name, muddy by nature. And very, very overgrown. It definitely added to the sense of adventure. Mud Lane is ancient track and once you’re in the thick of it, it does feel like its own little world. It feels a bit fairy tale. Especially when you spot a face in an old oak tree.
The Pewsey Green man. You could easily miss him, we thought we had to be honest. I’d heard about the carving and
ordered encouraged everyone to look for him. It wasn’t going well given that the lane is so overgrown and although we knew we were looking for an oak tree, most of the track is lined with them. Think looking for a needle in a haystack is tricky, try finding the face in the forest.
Curiously, the artist who carved this remains anonymous. I think I’d like the bragging rights if I’d created this one, but I guess it just adds to the air of mystery and whimsy. Adding a bit of cheeky humour to the afternoon we also spotted a forest Highland Coo. I’m coming back in Autumn when there’ll be fallen leaves to give him a hairy coo hair-do. Autumnal update photo to follow, stick around for that.
Leaving Mud Lane the walk concluded by skirting the fields and coming out back into the centre of the village. That’s what the walk route does, not what we did. Once We skirted some fields, walked through some long grass while I muttered about ticks, realised we were a bit lost and climbed through a hedge to get more or less back on track. Our route wasn’t the listed one but it felt like proper adventuring. And was actually genius, because where did it deliver us to? The village pub. I took it as a sign and we went for a drink.
Originally built as a coaching inn, the Royal Oak Free House has also seen use as a bakery and a farrier’s yard. Along with it’s perfect country pub pedigree, it looks the part. Traditional pub sign, thatched roof, pretty garden area to the rear. The garden area also included the outdoor toilets, thankfully kitted out with modern plumbing but still with vintage hardware and light switches. Definitely different!
A warm welcome and a lovely end to a lovely walk.