We survived

(Originally posted on Oct. 17 but somehow lost temporarily.)

The countryside in Wiltshire

We are back safely in London after eight days walking through Wiltshire and North Dorset.

The last hike was the toughest, a little over eight miles mostly through fields and woods. Also, it was the only day we really got lost and had to figure our way to the next pickup spot for our ride back to the inn.

Foot Trails, the company that planned these walks and provided daily trail guides and ordnance maps, has done a great job of taking us through this very  rural area.

We get picked up by taxi and driven to a starting point, and then usually walk back to the pub/inn for the evening.  Or sometimes we walk from the inn to a destination for pickup. The timing has been precise and very friendly. One day, the driver took us on a side trip to a ruined castle that we decided we had to see, even if it wasn’t on the itinerary. Another time, the driver gave us a tour of town so we could pick out a restaurant.

One element that has made this trip enjoyable is that we stayed at the same inn for several nights, so we don’t have to pack and repack daily. Also, the start times have usually been about 9 or 9:30 – very civilized.

Rather than a rural inn, the last day ended in Shaftsbury, a town in North Dorset.  Shaftsbury was one of a few towns established by King Alfred, in the 9thCentury, as a safe spot from which to fight the invading Vikings. There are the ruins of the abbey where Alfred’s daughter was the first abbess. The area is also the background from some of the scenes in Thomas Hardy’s novels.

It was also the home of the Hovis break company, which has a famous commercial available on the internet. Pat was in touch with her roots here, as her mother’s maiden name was Hovis. You can ser treatment on her Instagram account: travels.with.patty.

We are in London for a few days before heading to New York. 


A folly, an ornament in English landscape.

The town hall and 13th Century church tower in Shaftsbury.

Ups and downs in the county of Wiltshire

Patty walks along a path in Wiltshiree

We are on the fourth day of our walking tour in Wiltshire and beginning to pick up on the lingo in our trail guide.

There are paths, tracks and lanes, in ascending order of development. Some paths are more visible than others, and some are just grass where someone appears to have walked somewhat recently. Tracks often are dirt and gravel, and many appear to have been driven over by a tractor. Lanes have pavement, and cars, and then you get to roads.

Note the difference in the photos here.

A track

A path

We have yet to be able to specifically tell the difference between a town and a village. Some of the villages where we have stayed or walked are pretty small. 

Hinden, where we spent the first three nights, had two inns, a shop, a church and the showroom of a furniture maker.

Milton, where we were dropped off for our first walk, had only a phone booth (which still are in use here.)

At Swallowcliff, where we are staying tonight, there is an inn, a church and a town hall. The inn is the Royal Oak, owned by James May, a TV celebrity here, and the business partner of Jeremy Clarkson, of Clarkson’s Farm, a hit in America on PBS.

However, the area is close enough to London for folks from the city to have a weekend getaway. At Milton, the taxi driver told us that Eric Clapton had a place nearby.

We traveled through the village of Tisbury, which has shops, restaurants, a train station and other accommodations, but we were told that it isn’t really big enough to qualify as a town.

But the point of this adventure – after two years locked inside by the virus – was to get out in the countryside, and it is even more rural than I had imagined.

So far, we have been on walks of 5, 5.5, 6.8 and 7.8 miles. Mostly they are on Britain’s public footways – public rights of way between (and sometimes on) the fields. Some routes have included an inn for a lunch stop, but not all of them. We have seen plenty of sheep, however.

We are traveling on routes laid out by Foot Trails, a firm that specializes in customized walks. For each day, we get a narrative guide to the trails and an ordnance map. We are on our own for the walks, not with a group, although we have come across other walkers at the various inns and pubs. The directions are not always clear, but Patty is getting quite good at checking details on the maps.

Familiar readers of this blog will recall that we came to Wiltshire, which is west of London near the city of Salisbury, on the idea that the walking would be fairly flat. That was not quite true. The terrain reminds me of the rolling hills of the Palouse, where I grew up, although there are more woods here, smaller farms, and a lot more sheep.

Other highlights, along the way, have included some amazing old churches, including one dating from the 13th Century. In East Knoyle, we went through the church where Christopher Wren’s father was the vicar. (You English scholars will recall that Wren is perhaps the most famous English architect and responsible for redesigning scores of churches in London after the Great Fire of 1666. Another highlight: the Stourbridge gardens laid out by Lancelot “Capability” Brown, the famous 18th Century English landscape architect.

Walking continues tomorrow. We are still enthusiastic, uninjured (one small blister,) and having great weather. Also check out Patty’s intermittent Instagram posts at travels.with.patty

Some of the local residents

On the road again

Like many of you, the travelswithpatty.com blog has been hiding in the basement for the past couple of years, waiting for the all-clear signal that still hasn’t come.

While there has been some domestic travel, the last time the blog ventured beyond the secure borders of the U.S. was at New Year’s 2020, in Bucerias, Mexico. The last actual blog post was in the summer of 2019.

Stir crazy, we decided we needed to get out for a fall trip this year So we are off for a couple of weeks in the UK – a very safe venture – followed by a few days visiting our son, Charlie, in New York.

The trip to England – whose economy we hope hasn’t completely collapsed by the time we get there – will include a few days in London but is focused on some walks through the countryside in Wessex and North Dorset. Note the maps attached here.

This adventure began when we contacted a tour company about doing some walks in Cornwall, and they discouraged us by noting that it is very hilly. “You’d be happier in Dorset,” they said, and so that’s where we are headed.

The walks are mostly seven miles a day, between inns. We have trained for this by walking around Green Lake, having lunch, then walking around it again. Another time we walked the Burke Gilman between Lake Forest Park and Bothell, with lunch in between at the Kenmore Lanes. I am hoping the upcoming trip is a little more glamorous.

Dorset is mostly known for the fossils found along its beaches, which has given it the name the Jurrassic Coast. It is home to Brideshead Revisited and assorted Thomas Hardy novels. The north part, where we are headed, is known more for its countryside: Inns and pubs rather than fossils and beaches. Watch the blog to find out whether this experiment was a wise one.

In addition, Patty has begun an Instagram account, called travels.with.patty (note the periods).  Follow her there where she will post photos as we go along.

More to come,

Pat and David