When it comes to ticking things off that I want to do, I’m not so brilliant. I really shouldn’t create lists like that, because I only end up ignoring them. Lists are for shopping and Saturdays where you have heaps to do and need an order of importance. So it should be said that one of the things ‘On That List’ includes walking Hadrian’s Wall and seeing a ‘famous’ person just being a regular person in the streets of London. And as of Saturday afternoon, I’ve done one of those! Er, cough. Saw Simon Callow walking along Camden Passage in Angel. It was easy enough to act like a normal person as I was thinking about all the yarn I would be stroking at Loop and didn’t care. Which is the correct attitude – brilliantly coloured wool, silk and alpaca is so much more important than an actor.
Oh, off topic. Brilliant.
So, a few weeks ago, Adelle & I went walking in Wiltshire. It was a list-bucket thing. We walked from Salisbury Cathedral to Stonehenge, roughly about 17kms, although I think we managed more as we got lost a few times and one backtrack took us hilariously off course and past a suspicious looking electricified fence area.
Salisbury Cathedral has the tallest spire in Britain and the best looking Magna Carta. Del was pretty set on seeing that particular document, so off we set along with hordes of other people in the rapidly warming Sunday. And after gazing at the beauty of a parchment that neither of us could read (although the translation alongside was very informative) we wandered out of the Cathedral grounds and tried to find the river.
Once we found the river, we had to walk up to Old Sarum and into the wilder part of Wiltshire. This is old country, the area has been settled for thousands of years and when you’re sitting on the ramparts of the Iron Age fort of Old Sarum, you can see why. The countryside rolls and blooms, the summer heat creating a glow of ripe fields and green hills. It was beautiful, so much scope for the antics of druids and rites of the solstice and equinox.
Down the hill we scrambled, as we had missed the path, and not for the first or last time, had to make our own way for a bit. Past a detached farmhouse and up a chalk road and on. It was high summer and it was a very warm day so it was a system of slightly slower walking in shaded areas to help combat the heat. Lots of undalations and wooded areas made the walk really interesting, although we did have to consult the book many many times to try and figure out which path we should be on. If attempting this walk for yourself, it might be best to take the track suggested by the little markers, although there are not very many of these to begin with!
And so we reached the bench and the road and then missed the turn, which meant we had to climb over a few barb wire fences and through nettles and over uneven ground and then in a big circle around a suspicious looking fence. I thought it might be some sort of crazy animall (I might have been thinking dinosaurs) but Del thought drugs, which fit a little better. There were sheep that were quite anxious about our presence too, but not a bother. It was at this point that we both started to really look forward to a pint of cold something at the promised pub that would be our stop for lunch. We had another 2kms to go until then, so we pushed on, eventually finding the country road through a tiny hamlet of houses.
And there it was, finally, the pub. A chance to fill up our water bottles (empty) and have a little food before pushing on for another 5 kms towards Stonehenge. But woe! The pub closes between 3.30pm and 6.30pm on Sundays! It was bitter, very bitter and the guidebook said nothing about this eventuality! We had to make do with snacks of nuts & chewy sweets and a small bottle of water that I had frozen to keep things cold in my bag. It was the bottle of water provided at the Jubliee concert I went to last year with Adelle, so thank you, Your Majesty! We didn’t dehydrate as much as we could have in those last few agonising kilometres.
On we trudged from the pub. It was still fascinating countryside, with a few ancient burial sites and a Stuart manor house that saw action in the Civil War.
And finally, the Barrows that appeared on the rise of a hill meant that our walk was almost done. Seeing the stones of Stonehenge appear in the distance was one of the most relieving and magical things I have experienced this year. It could have been the lack of water and the aching of my feet, but how relieved and elated we felt. It meant there was only another 1 & 1/2 kilometres to go! Hooray!
But saying that and walking that is an entirely different thing. Because we were smarty pants, we decided to cut across the field instead of going around like the signpost instructed. And when we got to the corner, we found out why – barbed wire fences are hard to climb, especially when your legs are only just able to handle the ‘one foot in front of the other’ drill. But we made it with teamwork and loads of determination. We also made it across the very busy road without getting killed or beeped, which was great.
Stonehenge is not one of the most visited sites in Britain for nothing. It is absolutely miraculous, a feat of human engineering several thousand years old, old when Julius Caesar saw them. The optical illusion that the stones are is so apparent when walking towards them as we did, growing bigger and smaller from different angles, sometimes almost hidden by the undulations and others towering over the little tourists crowded around.
I didn’t go onto the actual site this time, I was absolutely exhausted and could barely manage to limp around the gift shop before collapsing on a bench to drink water. Adelle went in and I admire her determination – because the last bus from Stonehenge back to Salisbury was leaving at 7, she had a very fast tour! She did promise to send me some of the beautiful photos she took, with the slowly setting July sun, the stones looked fantastic.
We got the bus back into Salisbury and found a pub with a river beer garden and gin. Then onto a Strada for a massive steak and potato dinner. Life was good.