Thursday, 16 July 2015

Barbury Castle to Overton Hill (The Ridgeway 13)

View from the Ridgeway towards Avebury

Today we completed the 86.8 mile Ridgeway. We started this great walk with our friends Merv and Pud in October 2013, but made little progress in 2014. Seven sessions this year however have finished it off. A proper review will follow in a future post, for the moment I will limit myself to the final leg.

We set off from the car park at Barbury Castle in a grey mist, apparently a sea mist that had penetrated far inland. As we approached the Iran Age hill fort, we saw a couple of examples of this pretyy flower which none of us could identify.

The hill fort itself was of the familiar shape with two circular ditches and earthwork ramparts and was surprisingly large. It dates back to about 500BC. It was much too murky to take a picture. We did see a few butterflies however including some pristine Marbled Whites.

We followed the clear path, first south west and then due south. There were soon some reasonable views through the mist. At Berwick Basset Downs we came on this Dewpond. A helpful sign board explained that, despite the name, Dewponds were carefully situated and designed to be fed by rainwater with a view to providing a source of fresh water for grazing sheep. Most date from the 19th century.

Soon after this, I was very pleased to see my first Gatekeeper of the year, joining the innumerable Ringlets and Meadow Browns that we had already seen

Now we also began to see lots of Sarsen stones by the wayside and in the fields. These stones are post glacial deposits and some larger ones were used at Stonehenge and nearby Avebury. The origin of the name is a corruption of Saracen, a medieval term for a Muslim which came to mean anything non-Christian.

Then there was another good butterfly moment. I thought this was a Small Skipper, but closer inspection revealed the dark tips to the antennae which indicate an Essex Skipper (Small Skippers have orange tips). This was the first time I have definitively seen one. It was soon joined by a Large Skipper.

Shortly after this we reached a point north east of Avebury and the weather seemed to have relented enough for me to take the picture at the head of this post. Soon after this we crossed the Wessex Ridgeway - our next project - and the view south towards some rolling hills offered a delightful palate of colours.

Not long after this we reached the end of the Ridgeway at Overton Hill. It was, it must be said, underwhelming. Just a nondescript car car, no band, no finishing post, no sign even. Fortunately Merv and Pud had brought champagne, so all was well.

Conditions: Misty then cloudy, but quite warm.

Distance: 6 miles. Distance now covered 86.8 miles.

Map: Explorer 157 (Marlborough & Savernake Forest).

Rating: four stars. A lovely walk, just not an ideal day. Surprisingly good for butterflies though.

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