The Tuesday Walks group keeps me fit, with most of our walks being around 10 miles long and with hills and dales thrown in. So far, all of our walks have been circular; I don’t know if any have ever been end-to-end. The last three walks have definitely stretched me – each has included a hill-fort.
The first started at Uley in Gloucestershire, immediately climbing to the hill-fort at Uley Bury. We were heading straight up a steep footpath from the start. It’s a large flat site on a plateau high above the village, and a photo from the ground simply wouldn’t do it justice. As it happened, a work-party was busy trimming trees around its edge, with a large bonfire starting at the other side, and we were told that one of the work-party had a stock of free ‘Cotswold Lion’ magazines from Autumn-Winter 2016/7 featuring an aerial photo of Uley Bury. Sure enough, when we’d walked all around the edge, we were greeted with a large handful of the magazines.
There are great views from the top of the hill, and we stopped for our usual picnic lunch at Coaley Peak facing the Severn Estuary with Wales in the distance – at least, so I was assured. Unfortunately, it was a dull day, but we could just make out the Malvern Hills in the far distance, off to the right of the viewpoint seen below.
We returned via Woodchester, a grand mansion never fully completed. I plan to return to this walk in early May, fore-warned that it involves ascents of 2,300 feet – that’s nearly half a mile – and the promise of tea-rooms open for the summer season at Woodchester.
The second walk was far closer to home; I can see the White Horse at Broad Town from my back window. Conversely, there are great views northwards from the top of the White Horse hill of Lyneham, Royal Wootton Bassett and towards Swindon. Lunch was at another hill-fort known as Bincknoll Castle (pronounced ‘Bynol’ – and spelt that way on a map from the 1700s).
RAF Lyneham has long since closed as an airfield, but two Hercules transport aircraft passed over us just above the treetops at Bincknoll Castle heading for a fly-past over their former base. Later in the day, their planned replacement the military Airbus A400M also passed at low level as it often does. One day the teething problems will be solved and the peculiar sound of the A400M’s turbo-props will replace the whisper of the decades-old Hercules.
The White Horse is difficult to see in full because trees obscure the view in summer time. This time, however, we tried a different footpath a little further north on our return and found just the right spot to show all the limbs.
This week’s walk was to Oliver’s Castle overlooking Devizes, rather mis-named: Roundhay Hill was the site of a Civil War battle, but it’s claimed that Oliver Cromwell wasn’t around at the time of the battle. Around a thousand years before, however, this was the site of another hill-fort. What a belligerent past!
We shared our lunch at Oliver’s Castle with a group of men flying radio-controlled gliders. Impressive though they were, they couldn’t out-class a family of Red Kites who soared effortlessly to great heights. Once again, we also shared our lunch with the military Airbus A400M flying over towards a simulated landing at the former RAF Keevil.
Where will next Tuesday’s walk take us?