Sunday, 9 March 2014

Swyncome to Mongewell Park (The Ridgeway 6)

St Botolph's church, Swyncome

The next leg of the Ridgeway with Merv and Pud. We pick up the route just before the Norman church of St Botolph (although restored in Norman times).

An inviting tree lined path led along Colliers Bottom, but we turned left to head up hill through the park of Swyncombe House. We couldn't see it, but according to Pevsner it was built in 1840 to replace an Elizabethan house destroyed by fire in a half-hearted attempt at a Jacobean style. So perhaps we did not miss much. The park, on the other hand, was lovely in the morning sunshne.

We soon reached the imposing gatehouse of Ewelme Park.

The house itself was partly surrounded by high hedges, but seemed to be an enormous rambling construction in a style reminiscent of Voysey or Lutyens.

We shortly emerged at the top of two vast fields with a pleasing view towards Gangsdown Hill. Unfortunately, it was directly into the sun, so I had to make do with with this view looking back.

We then crossed a golf course to reach Nuffield and Holy Trinity church. This is of Norman origin, but the chancel, which dominates your view of it, is the result of a Victorian restoration.

A little to the south the path makes a sharp turn to the left to follow Grim's Ditch (or Dyke) for over three miles to Mongewell. There are a number of similar prehistoric earth works with the same name in southern England and little seems to be understood about them. The first section in particular was delightful to walk along: the ditch is quite clear and you walk on a slight ridge with slender trees on it to one side of the ditch. I couldn't quite find a good photo.

 At one point we noticed this rather droll sight in a field to the right: it appeared to be one white sheep in a field of black ones (in fact it is a ram). We jested that perhaps it had be sent to have its prejudices corrected and learn what it felt like to be in a minority.

At the end of this very pleasant section we crossed the busy A 3074 near Wallingford and skirted round the back of Carmel College to reach where we had parked the car.

One feature which characterised the whole walk was the number of butterflies we saw. There were lots of Brimstones and a smattering of Peacocks and Small Tortoiseshells. How great! Another butterfly year begins.

Conditions: bright, sunny, warm.

Distance: 7.1 miles (38.3 covered so far).

Map: 171 (Chiltern Hills West).

Rating: three and a half stars.

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