Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Ramsbury, Mildenhall and the Ridgeway

As November begins, autumn is well advanced, I wanted to capture some autumn colours. I decided to follow the River Kennet along from Ramsbury as this also (more or less) complete the section from Hungerford to Marlborough.
So where better start with than beech leaves in their finest colours.

autumn,beech leaves

Here is a map of the 13 mile walk:

View Ramsbury - Mildenhall in a larger map

As a bit of a link to the previous post on Ivy Bees, ivy flowers were still attracting a range of insects. In this case a wasp and a fly; it's the first wasp I have posted as I haven't dared get quite so close up to now.


The track along the south side of the River Kennet does not pass through any villages.

autumn view

There were occasional good views of the river Kennet.


The track then becomes a path that takes you over the site of the Roman town of Cunetio, the scene of a Time Team excavation a few years ago. Curiously most of the Roman towns around here have been abandoned, with a large town developing nearby. Cunetio is a couple of miles from Marlborough. The Roman road north led to Wanborough just east of Swindon. The Roman road east followed the Kennet to the settlement of Speen - just west of Newbury. In a field near the site a very young calf was sunning itself.


At Mildenhall (contracted to ‘Minal’ by the locals) the banks of the River Kennet look an ideal setting.

river kennet

I had visited the fine old church at Mildenhall/Minal on a walk two years ago. It is well worth a visit as it has impressive Georgian oak panelling. Indeed Sir John Betjeman description “as a church of a Jane Austen novel” bore fruit when ITV filmed scenes from “Emma” here.

Mildenhall church,Minal church

Autumn colours were spectacular in the hedgerows. This was a mixture of hazel and hops giving a vivid colour show.

autumn,beech leaves

I headed north from Mildenhall on the major Roman road towards Ogbourne St. George. The A345 has a very straight section south of the M4 towards Marlborough and this lane/track is a continuation of the traditional straight line.


You can see from the topography why the more sensible route of following the valley bottom was taken in preference, and therefore probably why Marlborough became a town instead of Mildenhall. Here is the view down to Ogbourne St. George and far beyond to the north.

ogbourne st george,view

I then joined the Great Ridgeway, and followed it up to the top of the downs. I did this section seven years ago. It has all the trademarks of an ancient track, a sunken track with both a hedge and a ditch. It is also a good straight gentle slope, ideal for driving livestock. However there are other candidates for the route of the original ‘Great Ridgeway’ and I would suggest the track running straight through Ogbourne St. George onto 'Old Chase Road' is a much more likely route. I then followed farm tracks all the way south east over the downs back to Ramsbury. There is a major meeting of tracks at ‘Oak Sagger’, a very rural sounding place. Here was a view of a derelict old barn worthy of a calendar.


The weather was ideal, warm for November with a gentle wind and broken 'fair weather' cumulus cloud.


From Oak Sagger I followed a path up a valley slope. Curiously as I walked up every step was synchronised with a buzzing of insects. When I investigated further I saw that a low chalk bank was covered in flies, soaking up the warm sun on the south facing hedgerow, moving on each time my shadow fell across them.

autumn,beech leaves

All too soon the sun was beginning to head to the horizon, intensifying the autumn tints with an orange glow. This view to the south is to Inkpen ridge, which I walked a couple of years ago. You may make a tiny line that is the Hannington transmitter at Cottington Hill on the horizon.

autumn,view,inkpen ridge

Flowers were few and far between. This was about the best I could come up with, I think it is a hogweed, an umbellifer of some kind anyway.


I hoped to reach Ramsbury in time for good afternoon light, I left it a little too late as much was in shadow. However I did catch an image of the 'shop front' houses along the main street - along with the shadow of the photographer himself.


Finally a Ramsbury thatched house in the last rays of sunshine.


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