Thursday, 30 September 2010

Barnsley - The Village Pub - Akeman Street

Barnsley- The Village Pub - Akeman Street
A beautiful Cotswold Village that lays close to Bibury and Cirencester
Walk aprox 2 1/2 miles

The Village Pub
 Finding a dog-friendly pub that stands close to a
"Way" is getting more and more difficult, but I won’t be beaten. I have six more walks to find to complete Paws Along the Way, and am confident that they are out there somewhere..
Today’s walk gets in by the skin of its teeth, as we managed to incorporate a ¼ mile of Akeman Street, the Roman Road, that runs from Cirencester to London.
It proved a walk full of interest actually as we began by taking lunch at The Village Pub, Barnsley, which put many of the pubs we have visited over the years in the shade.

Crispy Duck Salad

Not only was Pythius allowed to choose the table he wished to sleep under while Auntie Liz and I enjoyed a scrumptious crispy duck salad, the staff were friendly, the d├ęcor stylish but comfortable and the food absolutely delicious.
Auntie Liz and I left feeling we had visited the pub of our dreams and promised each other we would visit again – often!

Cotswold cottages

The circular walk covered about 2 ½ miles and took us past beautiful Cotswold cottages, down quiet country roads, lush green lanes that ran besides unspoiled woods, and on into large meadows filled with wild flowers that we didn’t expect to see blooming at this time of the year. Sweet chestnuts trees too!

Highland cattle we met on the way.

Stile that Pythius couldn't climb
 Our walk, was not without its problems however - stiles not designed for dogs almost forced us to turn round and find other routes! These would have proved particularly dificult, had  Pythius not been so compliant and accepted our help.  Bless him, after sniffing round the first difficult stile and recognising that there was no other way, he permitted Auntie Liz to lift him up towards me, and then allowed me to pull him over the stile's high wooden boards. He has been known to leap a difficult stile, but these were far too  high.
Posh Horses
 That done we all felt very pleased with ourselves – but this mood was short-lived whenl we realised we'd entered a field filled with some very posh horses, who on seeing us enter their territory, immediately galloped over to greet us.
This would have been fine if we hadn’t had Pythius with us and if I was not scarred of horses, but I am.

Some trotted besides us as we headed for the next stile, praying that it would be dog-friendly, and the rest followed, nuzzling into my rucksack as they did so.
I did try not to panic – honestly – but admit my heart was beating like mad. Auntie Liz on the other hand was stoic, having fastened Pythius on his lead she marched purposefully towards the stile and ushered him through. (Yes – it was dog friendly!)

Barnsely House
 Having left the field things got better, as the lane we were travelling passed t Barnsley House, with its glorious 11 acre garden developed in the 1950’s by the legendary gardener Rosemary Verey. Gosh the garden is impressive. As we approached the main gate we bumped into Richard the head gardener who after admiring Pythius, stopped and chatted about his four dogs who are lucky enough to roam this beautiful part of the Cotswolds on a daily basis.
He suggested that we call in one day when the gardens are open to the public and take a proper look at all that this glorious garden has to offer. Obviously we promised to do so.

So in the end– apart from a couple of hazards - it proved a lovely day.

Danger Bull
  Pythius  has his say:
The girls don't panic very often - it is not their style, but they were in a real panic when they saw those posh horses galloping towards us. It didn't take me long to realise this was not a time for stacking on an act or doing one of my whirligig barking acts, which I am inclined to do if we meet a horse. These horses were far too big, far too well bred and far too close for that. Auntie Liz was leading me forward on a tight lead, and although she didn't speak, I could tell  that this was one of those moments when I had to follow in her footsteps, which is exactly what I did - so did Helen.
As to those stiles which were not  designed for dogs - I guess they were made that way to stop dogs like me walking over the horse's field, even though we were travelling on an official foot path marked with a yellow arrow.
By the way (just to make you laugh) had it not been for the horse incident, perhaps I would have told them about the other yellow sign we passed in the last field. It was a twisted plastic notice which said "Danger Bull". Perhaps you will agree with me if I say that some things are best unsaid!

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Grim's Ditch - Nuffield & The Crown Pub.

Grim’s Ditch – Nuffield & The Crown Pub
This is a walk that can be as long or as short as you want it to be, we turned back after about two and a half miles, but could have gone on for miles.

We knew rain was forecast – but we walked anyway.

Our destination was a section of Grim’s Ditch, that large linear earthwork built during the Iron Age and named after the Nordic God Grim. This remarkable ditch runs for five miles from Mongowell to Nuffield, South Oxfordshire.

Uncle John, Pythius and I joined it just outside the small village of Nuffield.
Had the skies not suggested rain was imminent, perhaps we would have taken the footpath that crosses the golf course to the path that leads to Grim’s Ditch, and begun our walk close to the Crown Pub that stands besides the golf course on the A4130.

Lord Nuffield's Grave
 Instead we turned off the A4130 and drove into the village, taking the first right hand turn and parking the car besides Holy Trinity Church, where Lord Nuffield, who created the Morris car in 1913, is buried in a modest grave.This cut off about a quarter of a mile of the walk, which would have taken us over close-mown lawns and past several frustrated gulf enthusiasts who do not like dogs walking over their patch.

After leaving the churchyard, having paid due homage to this great man who died in 1963, we followed the path next to the church which is clearly marked along the left hand side. The track led us through a large field that in turn took us to the ancient ditch. 

Pythius & the black sheep

The Crown pub

We then walked for approximately two and a half miles before deciding the promised rain may be about to arrive. As the skies darkened we turned back and made for the car and then The Crown, where Uncle John and I enjoyed a delightful lunch, while an exhausted Pythius slept under the table, dreaming of Mr Badger, Mr Fox and some rather attractive black sheep who he spotted in a field adjoining our path. 

Taps at the Church

Pythius enjoys water enroute
 The quirky thing that really amused us during this walk were the water taps – yes water taps. Outside the church there were two taps, one marked drinking water and one marked water, then half way along the walk we encountered a white farm gate where another sign for water was painted on the post. Underneath this tap was a log that had been slightly hollowed out to catch water. Pythius was particularly grateful for this tap on our return as there are no rivers on this walk and despite it being a damp day – no puddles either.

Pythius leads the way
 Walking the ditch was an amazing experience. Each step we took suggested we were walking on ancient foundations, and the tangled roots of trees suggested this was another bosky wood in which goblins, trolls and other strange creatures lived. We were also aware of the power of nature, the great age of the trees and a strange magical feel that embraced this route, such that at times we were convinced we were being watched by unseen eyes. That said, it was a great walk, we returned to the pub feeling we had made contact with our ancestors and the very essence of the earth and all it stands for.

Pythius has his say:
Well - if I was allowed to give scores for walks this would get 9 out of 10. Only the river was missing.
The  water tap fixed to the gate with its little wooden trough, carved out a tree trunk, in which the water  settled was a dog's delight as I was just beginning to get thirsty. Never have I seen such a drinking hole before, and the water was crisp, cold and satisfying. Had I needed more when we got back to the church, I could have drunk there too!

The walk seemed to go on forever

As to the ditch - well what can I say?  It was amazing, all those wonderful smells, the falling leaves that 

created a soft  carpet on which I could walk, the black sheep in the field that trotted over to speak to me, and the slippery slopes which I ran up and down all the way  to the end and back.  Well actually, that is a bit of an exaggeration, we didn't actually go to the very end - but we did go a very long way before  Uncle John and Helen decided to turn round.

By the time we returned to the pub I was exhausted - gosh what a lucky dog I am.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

The Talbot Inn - Eynsham - Oxford Green Belt Way & The Thames Path

We had intended to visit the Cotswolds today, but the weather forecast spoke of rain and more rain, so decided to take a walk close to home instead.
We began with lunch at the Tablot Inn, which stands just outside our village of Eynsham, and about six miles west of Oxford and on the B4044.
This one-bar pub, with its exposed beams and small restaurant area, dates back to 1774, though it was called the Horse and Jockey in those days. It was renamed in 1836 and purchased by Arkell’s in 1997. This means that it has a great selection of Arkell’s real ales that are dispensed from  barrels lined up behind the bar.

Eating before the walk calls for a light lunch, which is why Auntie Liz and I both selected warm chicken salad, which we washed down with a couple of glasses of 3B, Arkell’s Best Bitter,  first brewed way back in 1910. Some suggest that the 3 B’s stand for Big Boy’s Beer – perhaps they are right, but we drank it anyway.
Warm Chicken Salad

The walk that takes in a section of the Oxford Green Belt Way - a recently established 50 mile circular walk round Oxford’s Green Belt, was created by the Oxfordshire branch of Campaign to Protect Rural England, . Since it was established it has helped residents of Oxfordshire appreciate the glorious countryside that surrounds our wonderful city.

Crossing Swinford Toll Bridge

You reach it by turning left after leaving the pub, walking on for 250 yards until you reach Swinford Bridge, one of the few toll bridges left in England. Walkers and their dogs can cross free of charge, but cars are charged 5 pence each to make the crossing. It’s a busy bridge and the footpath is narrow, so great care is needed when walking with a dog. A short tight lead is a necessity.

Once over the bridge you will notice a footpath sign and some steep steps on the left that take you through a glorious wild area and onto the Thames Path and the Oxford Green Belt Way. Another way sign indicating that Oxford is to the right takes you to the Eynsham Lock and on as far as you wish to walk.
Pythius splashing about in the river
Thanks to the fact we were walking both the Thames Path, and the Oxford Green Belt Way we managed to turn it into a great little circular walk, which took us into the edge of the bosky Wytham Wood  and along a delightful little path that runs besides the mighty Thames. Pythius had the time of his life, for although the riverbank is quite steep in parts, he managed to find some shallow areas that he could splash about now and again.

As to the wood, well dogs are not allowed in Wytham Wood, but the small section fenced off that walkers are allowed to pass through when walking the Green Belt Way are a dog’s delight. (Walking passes for the wood are available on application to the University – but not for dogs!) Wytham Wood is recognised as the birthplace of ecology. Studies that show the effects of changing climate conditions that have been conducted there go back more than 50 years.

The bosky wood
The ancient trees, with their massive moss-covered branches that twist their way towards the sky and the tangled undergrowth that is also fighting its way upwards to meet the light, are not just impressive but mystical. Had a couple of trolls or a hobgoblin or two trotted out of the wooded area to greet us, we would not have been surprised. Inspector Morse could have greeted us too, for this is one of the many Oxford areas that has provided a story line and backdrop for this popular television detective series.

The Oxford Green Belt Way
We turned from the Green Belt Way and headed back towards Swinford Bridge having reached the FAL Farm and a large sign indicating all that this amazing farm stands for. Turning left and joining up with the Thames path again we made for home, having walked about a mile.

Pythius has his say:
Helen always misses out the fun bits when she writes up our walks. What she didn’t tell you was that on the way back, as we walked along the river path I dropped my ball in the water and was unable to save it. (The bank was too steep and I am a little frightened of deep water). I hadn’t meant to drop it – it sort of left my mouth quite unexpectedly, then a couple of splashes and there it was bouncing about in the water.

Waiting for Helen to save my ball.
 Helen decided to be brave (really brave) and laid down on her tummy, then gradually (very gradually) eased herself over the damp grass towards the bank, having found a piece of old iron which she used to scoop the ball from the water once she was down far enough.
What she didn’t know, as she clung rather desperately to clumps of long grass that saved her from falling in head first, was that Auntie Liz had picked up her camera and was ready to take her photo. Perhaps that would have worked and it would have been included in this blog had Auntie Liz realised that you have to turn the camera on before taking pictures. She didn’t so sorry folks I have no photographic evidence of Helen’s dramatic moment when, for a second I thought she was going to fall in!

Sunday, 19 September 2010

The Poem Tree - Wittenham Clumps

A little bit of poetry while we wait for the Mini to be mended.
Pythius wants to chat:
Helen has gone out. I am left alone in the cottage. She says I am in charge, but actually it’s those pesky cats Harvey Sweetie-Pie (ginger mog) and Buster a crazy mixed up Burmese, who are really in charge.
As they have taken over the best chairs in the main room, I have decided to sneak upstairs and chat about poetry.

The pesky cats relaxing

Border collies are not really into poetry, but Helen is, which means that there are times when poems feature in our walks.
Sometimes, there is a plus side to her love of poetry as it takes me to magical places like Wittenham Clumps, which is a doggie paradise, providing I accept moments on the lead if we bump into the sheep, who act as lawnmowers and keep the Clumps neat and tidy.
Wittenham clumps are two ancient hill forts topped with trees that stand close to Little Wittenham, South Oxfordshire. They stand tall and proud and dominate the landscape for miles around.
Castle Hill

My favourite walk is Castle Hill, the largest of the two clumps, where Helen and Auntie Liz often walk (or should I say climb?) to visit the poem tree.
The view from the top of Castle Hill is stunning There are panoramic views of the Berkshire Downs, Didcot Power Station chimneys and the historic riverside town of Dorchester that nestles in a fold of the Thanes.
Helen’s favourite trick, having reached the top of the Castle Hill, is to throw my ball right down to the bottom. I bound after it with great enthusiasm at first, returning carrying the ball in my teeth. After about half a dozen throws I am not quite so enthusiastic and the girls are usually laughing at me.

Pythius tries to read the plaque

Fortunately they recognise my need for a rest after a while and make their way to the poem tree and the plaque on which the poem has been transcribed. This gives me a chance to save face and catch my breath. It wouldn’t do for them to discover even Border collies get tired occasionally.

The poem is all gobbledegook to me. After all, anyone standing on the top of Castle Hill can see how beautiful the surrounding countryside is, why should anyone need a poem to tell them more?
That said, Helen and Auntie Liz seem to enjoy reading the poem. If they are happy, I guess I am happy.

The Poem Tree
While walking this area we have to be careful not to disturb ground nesting birds, but there are loads of places I can run. I love the unspoiled wildness of this ancient place.

Helen says
This 250 acre nature reserve is managed by Northmoor Trust and is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Information maps, which detail the wild life that inhabit the area, can be found at the entrance by the car park.
The poem tree died several years ago and all the words that were carved on its trunk by Joseph Tub of Warborough in 1844/5 are now twisted and rotting. They are certainly very difficult to read.
However, thanks to Dr Henry Osmaston, who took an accurate tracing of the poem in 1965 when the tree was still alive and the words were more legible, visitors are able to still read the poem which describes the scene laid out before them.
The plaque commemorates the poem’s 150th anniversary.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Still no car so we took a local walk

Pythius wants to talk about the"village walk"he's been taking every day lately
The Fishpond area - Eynsham - half a  mile circular walk
The Newlands Pub, Newlands Street, Eynsham.

Unfortunately my mobile dog-kennel is still at the garage waiting for the new parts to arrive. This means it may take a couple of days before Helen and I are able to leave the boundaries of the Oxford village of Eynsham where we live.

The good news is that the AA insurance will cover not just the cost of the parts, but the labour too, so Helen is a happy bunny.

While we wait I have been restricted to village walks and more village walks. Today I actually had to put up with THREE walks in the same place. Yes three! Whilst I do love walking round the village, must admit the same walk taken three times in one day can get a bit boring. No new smells, nothing new to see nothing new to explore.

As we approached the Fish Pond area for the second time today I was tempted to give a big yawn and suggest we caught a bus and went somewhere else.
Perhaps I would have done that if Helen hadn’t had guests – Roy & Kate Cooper – friends of long standing who now live on a Greek island.

 Watching them looking round at everything we passed, while listening to Helen explain things of historical interest, it suddenly dawned on me that people who don’t walk this area every day may find it an enchanting little place.

Roy and Kate on the
Fish Pond  Heritage trail

The Fish Pond area, which we reach by walking down the Station Road is certainly exceptionally beautiful during the autumn when the leaves are turning gold and it is decorated with all manner of coloured berries that attract loads of birds.
The little stream that runs besides the path often attracts kingfishers too, which is something I don’t quite understand as I have never seen any fish in the stream, perhaps they just visit because it is a nice wild place where they can rest in peace?

If you press the following link to the Eynsham website you will learn all about the fish pond which dates back to the time when Eynsham had an abbey and the monks stocked their fish ponds with trout for their dinner.

With the  help of the Wychwood Project led by Nick Mottram and a group of enthusiastic Eynsham volunteers, work restoring this area began in 2003. Together they have now turned a neglected wilderness into a great walking area, which includes a picturesque expanse of open water in which I can splash about.
Roy and Kate thought it was all very beautiful.

The Fish pond in all its glory

We walked on after taking the circular path round the pond, to The Newlands Inn, Newland Street, where I am always welcome.
We were served by the lovely Eileen who knows just how to pour a pint and make a dog feel welcome.
Helen and Roy went for the Wychwood Brewery’s September ale called Bountiful, which is brewed just six miles away at the bustling little market town of Witney. As Helen says, you can't get more local than that.

Kipper & John Russell

Bountiful is a  glorious chestnut coloured ale with a beautiful creamy head and an aroma  suggestive of the fruits of autumn.  Helen rates it highly, but refuses to give me a taste. All I ever get to drink is water, water and more water even though I am a member of CAMRA.
The Lovely Eileen
While Helen, Roy and Kate tucked into their lunch, I trotted over to have a little chat with my Jack Russell friend Kipper and his master John Russell. As Kipper is a really small doggie, he gets to sit on a barstool next to his master. I tried that once – but the stool and I parted company as soon as I leapt towards it. It all ended in disaster and rates as one of those moments I would prefer to forget.
Kate and Roy have gone home now which is a shame because they are great company. Never mind, they will be back soon.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

The car has broken down!

Pythius explains:
Oh dear - Helen was having so much fun adding our walks to the bog - but things have gone wrong!
My mobile dog-kennel which  takes Helen, me and her friends to hard-to-find places where we can have a nice walk, has broken down.
The mobile dog-kennel driving through a storm encountered last year  - as pictured by the talented artist Sue Mynall.

Helen and I were travelling back from Witney, having visited her mother who is in nursing home. We got within  a quarter of a mile from home when a loud and alarming banging sound errupted from underneath the car and the engine sounded as if it was not happy.
 She pulled one of those panic faces that I have come to recognise as "car break down" and carefully navigatged it to a safe place off the main road, before contacting those nice men from the AA.
I won't go into the details, as they require me to understand the car-speak these nice men use - which I don't. Enough to say Helen had to suffer the indignity of being towed to the nearby Eynsham garage run by Mr Bruno, who has promised Helen that he will keep her vintage Mini on the road for as long as she desires to drive it.
As it all happened on a Saturday and Mr Bruno closes on Saturday afternoon, it will have to stay parked there until Monday morning.
The AA man was so kind . Having helped Helen park the car, he drove her back home, which saved her a 15 minute walk.
There was a time when she only had to call the AA when she had left her lights on and the battery had run down - now the car is getting older and older she is calling them out for more serious "happenings".
All I can say is thank goodness she paid for extra cover which pays for any main part that breaks down.
Lets hope that that kindly Mr Bruno can fix it.  I have my paws crossed and every faith in his abillities.
Not sure when I will be in touch yet fellows, hope you understand that much depends on acquiring parts for the Mini and Mr Bruno's ability to keep her car on the road. I'll be in touch as soon as possible, so best wishes from Pythius-Peacocke  (Border Collie) who will only be walking round Eynsham for the next few days.

Picking the blackberries to make wine

Blackberry Picking at Clifton near Deddington

Pythius says:
Helen hasn't got time to write  the blog today, as she is busy making blackberry wine, so she has asked me to make a comment or two about our walk yesterday.
Actually it was quite fun as we walked a leafy lane in the company of Helen's special friend Tei Williams and her lovely dog called Cane who I get on with very well.
While the girls scrambled about  in the hedge - continually getting stuck in the brambles - Cane and I had fun running up and down the lane looking for rabbits.  We didn't find any - I guess we hadn't really expected to -  but it kept us amused for some considerable time.
Helen picked enough blackberries to make a whole demijon of wine and is now turning the rest into a pie for dinner. (Click to see Helen's recipes)
The next picture is of the wine she made earlier - it will take about six months to settle before she can open it up and share a glass or two with friends. At the moment she is drinking rhubarb and ginger wine she made in the spring.
The wine Helen made earlier

Thursday, 9 September 2010

The Chequers - Cassington & Pinsley Woods.

The Chequers Pub – Cassington

A walk round Pinsley Wood.

Today we had planned to walk along a small section of the Shakespeare Way, but everything went pear-shaped and we had to change all our plans.

Had the pub, that stands close to the walk, opened at noon as advertised all would have been well – but it didn’t. We spent more than half an hour sitting outside waiting for it to open  along with a group of walkers and several thirsty locals who were also congregated outside wondering what to do.

As I was judging a local food and produce show at 4pm, there was no time drive further afield and pick up the Shakespeare Way at another point.
Having been forced to pose for pictures outside the pub (which will remain nameless), Pythius was getting impatient, all he really wanted was a walk.

In the end we stopped off at one of our favourite local pubs, The Chequers Inn at Cassington, where dogs are always welcome. Auntie Liz and I munched our way through a couple of juicy rump steaks, then headed for Pinsley Wood.
Rump steak with chunky chips

We love this place as it is one of the few remnants of the ancient Wychwood Forest, which once covered a substantial part of Oxfordshire. It has a mystical atmosphere, which for reasons I don’t quite understand seem to appeal to Pythius.

Pythius adds his bit:

I don’t know why the girls made such a fuss when they found the pub was closed. I know that they go to great trouble to match a pub with a walk – but surely they know by now this is not always possible. Pubs are closing at such an alarming rate, that soon they will have to pack a picnic and forget all about visiting a pub before the walk.

Helen, forgot her frustrations and became quite excited when we reached the wood as she discovered a great assortment of Autumn fungi nestling amongst the fallen branches and moss. Auntie Liz and I went off to play ball, leaving her kneeling down examining the toadstools and things and then photographing them.

 And yes, as we chose a walk close to home, she got to the village hall in good time to judge all those cakes and vegetables.

These are some of the pictures that Helen took while Auntie Liz and I had fun in the woods.
She has no idea what these amazing  growths that stick to decaying pieces of wood, or simply errupt from the earth are called - but they certainly fascinated her.
Please note we did not take any home for tea1

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

These are a couple of photos that have been taken of Pythius recently

Pythius in the decaying trunk of the poem tree Wittenham Clumps.

Pythius doesn't enjoy posing or a photograph, but I sometimes manage to catch him unawares - these are a couple of those moments.
 He has just been given a bath and is NOT happy!

Blockley - Crown Hotel Heart of England & Monarch's Way

There are times when our Paws walks don't always turn out as they should. This is sometimes due to the fact we get lost, but mostly it's due to the fact that the field we wish to enter is full of livestock - sometimes bulls! Occasionally we turn round because the way is waterlogged and far too muddy to pass.
Our walk along the Monarch's and Heart of England Way, which both converge close to the charming little Cotswold village of Blockey, near Morton-in-theMarsh, was finally declared a failure when we found ourselves encountering more and more fields of sheep, sheep droppings in plenty, and a steep uphill climb.

Yes, Pythius is a sheep dog, his parents are of farming stock, but that doesn't mean we can let him off his lead when we walk a field full of sheep. Farmers have the right to shoot the dog if they disturb their livestock - something we could never risk. He will tolerate a lead-walk for a while, but there comes a time when he gets restless - this was one such time.
The village of Blockley has two pubs, we stopped at the first, opened the door of the bar in which dogs were permitted - took one long sniff of the stale air, looked at the shabby decor, the piles of  junk sitting on the pool table and turned heel and left. It was scruffy with a capital S.
After getting back into the car we headed for The Crown Hotel in the centre of the village, a charming 14th century coaching inn that has aged to perfection.
I have a theory which seldom lets me down - the posher the pub - the more welcome Pythius is made. The Crown, which is both stylish, welcoming and beautifully furnished did not let me down.
The Crown Blockley
Pythius was made really welcome at the Crown, and soon settled himself under our table, having chatted for a moment with a charming little Scottie dog under the next table, who was also enjoying the atmosphere of this quiet Cotswold pub.
Our meal took a moment to arrive as it was freshly cooked. (Cod cooked in beer batter, served with the most delicous crunchy chips). It was simply delicious and very reasonably priced too.The bar staff were friendly and did everything that they could to make us comfortable.
After a very satisfying meal we set about looking for the Way marker which combines the Monarch's Way with the Heart of England Way at this point.  It was not easy to find, despite trying to follow the footpath signs shown in my copy of the Ordnace Survey map, which I never fail to take with me on a Paws walk.

Pythius finds the gate
We did find the sign eventually (off the B4479) and began heading across a well worn track that passes through the first field. Pythius spotted the gate to the next field before we did. Unfortunately there were sheep in plenty in that  field, and the next, and we found ourselves on quite a steep uphill walk, covered with sheep droppings. There came a time when Pythius became restless. He was not happy, neither were we.  Suddenly this walk was becoming difficult and much of the joy of walking free to take in the beauty of this glorious area was deminishing. We turned and admire the view of Blockley from the hill and then in unison decided perhaps it was time to go back. This is exactly what we did, having promised Pythius that we would find him another field in another place that he could run free.
The view

Pythius says:
Well I'll say this for the girls, they do go out of their way to try and give me a rewarding walk, but bless them, they often get it wrong. 
If they had taken a good look at the Ordnance Survey Map they would have noticed all those red rings close together which suggests they will have to climb a steep hill. I didn't mind the hill, no Border collie worth his salt would worry about a little climb during a walk.  I do mind being kept on a lead though, that is not something I can cope with for long.
Admit I was really relieved when they decided to turn back and give me a walk somewhere else. That said - the scenery was breathtakingly beautiful, so was the little village of Blockely.
Fish & chips which Pythius is not allowed to share

He Says:   What spoil sports the girls are - their fish and chips smelt sooooooo good and looked deliciious, but I wasn't even allowed a chip!

(Picture by Sue Mynall  who illustrates the Paws series)

Pythius putting on his "hungry for food now" face..

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Waylands Smithy - The Ridgeway

Waylands Smithy is found in a small wooded area just off the Ridgeway
Can be reached by travelling the B4507 that runs from Wantage to Ashbury
White Horse Inn is found in nearby Woolstone
Walk 2 miles aprox

The sun was shining, the day was warm, yet had a definite autumnal feel - in otherwords it was just the sort of day to take to the hills. We chose the White Horse Hill and a Ridgeway walk which took us to Waylands Smithy - a late Bronze Age Long Barrow that can be found just west of Uffington Castle and the White horse.
We enjoyed lunch at the White Horse Inn, Woolstone, which welcomes well behaved dogs who place their paws under the table. Built during the Elizabethan period, this imposing white building, trimmed with beams is considered one of the oldest inns in the country. This suggests it is a pub not to be missed, as it is as saturated in history as the ground on which it stands.
Woolstone was once known for its abundance of wells and which produced crisp clean water.  Indeed legend suggests that the water was so pure that the White Horse would get up from its hillside retreat occasionally to drink from the water at the Woolstone wells.

Unfortunately we miscalculated the weather, which turned so warm that Pythius was forced to take a cold bath in a puddle that he found along the way.

We began our walk after parking in theNational Trust's car park that leads to the Ridgeway. This cost £2 for a four hour stay, but that was OK as it is the only place you can park in the area, unless you leave your car in the pub's carpark and are prepared for a road walk of at least a mile.
I  have no need to give directions for this walk, for having left the car park and turned left and walked on until you hit the Ridgeway, which is an ancient road that has been walked for centuries, there are ample way signs at every point of the way.

The Wayland Smithy is about three quarters of a mile along this section of the Rideway, having turned right. You can't miss it.
This ancient place, which is surrounded by trees, had a weird effect on Pythius - he was certainly not happy about being there.  I did manage to get him to pose with me for one photo, but even that was not easy.I was reduced to shouting at him  That was a mistake, Border collies don't like being shouted at. Besides, behind the  long barrow we encountered a lovely young woman poet sitting under the trees recording the gentle rustling of the leaves - the last thing she needed was the interuption we created. On discovering her there, I apologised about the language I had used to get Pythius to pose, and soon discovered she had been commissioned by Radio 3 to create a sound poem that captures the essence of  White Horse Hill, which will be aired next year.

When I explained I had shouted as Auntie Liz was trying to take a photo of Pythius and me that might be used in the next book Paws Along the Way, we both laughed about the various difficulties we encountered when attempting to get all we need from a walk.
On our return journey we took time to enjoy the spectacular views and the various wonders that Autumn brings - the blackberries, the bright red hawthorn berries and the rose hips, counting ourselves among the lucky ones given that we are able to escape easily to routes our ancestors walked thousands of years before we were born.

Pythius has something to say:
All I have to say is why oh why didn't Helen take me on a river walk? It turned into such a hot day  I was reduced to sitting in a puddle to cool down - not  a very dignified pose for a Border collie. And as for suggesting I relax in that spooky place filled with stones - couldn't she see that it was freaking me out? Yes the poet lady was really lovely, she seemed to understand that Helen had to shout at me - but I didn't. Gosh I was glad to get out of that place.