Court Hill to Goring
Goring to Watlington
We spent Night 2 several miles off the Ridgeway because it was half term and I had left it late to book accommodation, so after a full English breakfast that even included fried bread (when did you last eat fried bread?) we took a taxi back to the Ridgeway Trail at Court Hill. This wasn’t exactly where we’d left it, but I don’t feel the need to tread every single step of the trail and instead we’d walked along a pretty byway into Wantage.
We set off in lovely sunshine first passing the monument raised in memory of Baron Wantage and then on to Bury Down. The car parks were busy and for the first time on the Ridgeway we were walking with other people; dog walkers, horse riders, bird watchers and walkers were setting off in both directions. As we approached the A34 we passed a couple relaxing on a rug, though quite why they chose the noisiest place on the trail beats me. We crossed the road by the subway that had murals at one end but was mostly covered with graffiti even though it’s miles from anywhere, and then decided to sit in the shade and have a drink so that the group that was trailing us could overtake and get ahead. As it turned out, that was the last bit of shade for miles on what turned out to be a hot sunny day. The grass path soon gave way to stone and concrete, though quite often it was wide enough to encompass both with yet more horse gallops running alongside.
After a sharp left turn, we followed the path downhill, pausing on the bridge at the bottom to look down on the old railway, complete with dumped fridge and other fly tipped rubbish then back up to the ridge. Tracks joined and crossed the trail, forming a cats cradle of byways and footpaths above the tarmac and villages below until the trail slowly descended to a road that led us past a golf course and finally into the houses and to the River Thames at Streatley.
The Thames, Streatley
We ate lunch on the bank of the Thames at The Swan in Streatley, which was very pleasant until some arrogant boating type in his motor cruiser decided to moor in front of the tables. Luckily he was moved on, but not before his boat had belched out fumes over us all. The original plan had been to catch a train back to Reading but as Jack wasn’t busy we arranged for him to drive over to collect us. Just as we finished lunch, he rang to say he was in the car park and we went out to find him. Unfortunately, he was sitting in the car park of The Swan at Pangbourne. No matter, ten minutes later he found us.
Goring to Watlington
We took the train from Reading to Goring, past the long stretch of tents and bars that will be the Reading festival at the weekend. The last time we were at Goring station we had just walked twenty miles along the Thames and my recollection was that the station was at the top of an enormous hill. Apparently not. Just weary legs.
At North Stoke we sat on the bench just outside the churchyard to eat our sandwiches. Two men emerged with their dog, one declaring to the other that their tractor would fit through the gate and everything would be alright as long as “it” was cut up first. I wonder what “it” was. A particularly large body?
Grim’s Ditch was impressive and slightly oppressive so that after three miles I was glad to get out into the open. We saw sheep with collars, watched a golfer slice the ball while we waited to cross the fairway, walked through acres and acres of uncut wheat and at the end of the day we wandered around Watlington and retired to the Fox and Hounds for beer, food and a good night’s sleep.