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

7 thoughts on “Ups and downs in the county of Wiltshire

  1. Good report, David. Looks like lovely country. Tell Eric Clapton hi for me. I will send you a Mariners update after tomorrow’s opening game of their series against Houston.

  2. The navigation part of the walk is very similar to our walk in May in the York Wolds. However, we did not see another walker for the first two days — just sheep, cows, geese and bulls. But loved it.

  3. Sounds like you two are having a great time and probably losing weight along the way! That’s not usually the case when one goes on vacation. Way to go!

  4. Susan Pierson-Brown

    Sounds like an amazing trip and creative way to get your daily steps in! Please keep posting so we can walk vicariously with you.

  5. Both cloudy and smoky here at home. So glad you are having a fun escape.

  6. Georgeanne Brown

    So glad to hear you are having good weather. The mileage is impressive!
    Like Susan, I am walking vicariously; I’m afraid it is the closest I will get to England. Pictures are beautiful. Thanks, David. Ya’ll take care.

  7. It’s so fun to read your comments. It brings back fun memories and definitely reminds me to plan another similar trip.

    Good thing you have ‘experience’ with all the maps and lingo…. Tricky business.

    Thanks for taking us along on your journey. It’s almost like being there.

    Happy trails. 😉

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