Thursday, 28 January 2016

Goring and South Stoke

The first walk of a new year, and thankfully I am still fit enough to do an eleven mile trek. This walk passes a milestone, in the walks posted here, I have now climbed up a total of 100,094 feet (30,516m) that's over three times the total height of Mount Everest and would take me up into Ozone layer of the atmosphere. This is all thanks to Google Earth's elevation profile and analysis. It shows the average climb (and descent) of my walks is 780 feet, the lowest was 26 feet on the Maidenhead to Windsor tow path and the highest 1,560 feet.

Back to ground level, the choice of walk in January is difficult to make because it is often muddy and the low sun means north facing slopes should be avoided. I chose to re-walk a portion of the ‘Ridgeway’ that I last walked way back in June and July 2003, so it was certainly due for re-visit. Here is a map of the eleven mile route:

I started at Lardon Chase on the Streatley side of the River Thames so as to get a good view over to the Oxfordshire side.

Lardon Chase

I walked down the steep hill that marks the 'Goring Gap' to where the Thames broke through the Chilterns. The weeping willows are starting to show the colour of new spring growth.

Thames,boats

I crossed over and continued on the footpath laughably called the 'Ridgeway'. The route bears no relation to an ancient trackway, more on this later. It cuts through the backs of fine houses overlooking the river and there only one or two places where you get a view across to Lardon Chase on the other side.

Thames,Lardon Chase

There was blossom on some trees, very early, I think this could be a Cherry Plum tree.

cherry plum, blossom

Along the way a robin was having a very close look at me.

I took a detour down to the Letherne Bottel at Cleeve, a posh restaurant. In the garden, irises by the car park were in full bloom .

iris

I continued on the Ridgeway passed Withymead nature reserve to South Stoke. The village has some attractive houses including the local pub the Perch and Pike.

Perch and Pike,South Stoke,pub

The church at South Stoke looks good but has lost many of its original features in an 1857 restoration.

south stoke,church

Inside I was surprised to find a Christmas crib still on display, but modern tradition allows it in the church until Candlemas (Feb 2nd in 2016).

south stoke,crib

Continuing on the Ridgeway the path goes down Ferry Lane to an old ferry point over to Moulsford. There were fine views over to the houses at Moulsford.

Moulsford

And to where I was on 23rd December last year at Moulsford Church.

Moulsford,church

Along the river Thames there was the noise of loud hailers as boat crews were in a boat race.

thames,boat race

All the noise had disturbed the geese who moved onto fields beside the river. These Greylag Geese (Anser anser) looked good in the sun.

grey lag geese

I then turned East away from the river at Little Stoke Manor along Swans Way this is an ancient track with a good sized bank on each side. It probably is a path from the Chilterns down to a crossing point on the Thames at Little Stoke that took it across to join the Fair Mile ancient track up to the Western Chilterns near Aldworth. So it confirms my view that this is a possible 'Ridgeway' route (see my ancient trackway musings). This view shows it crossing another ancient road 'the Portway' (Roman and may be earlier) continuing on to Braziers Park and up to Checkendon.

swans way

I turned off Swan's Way onto the 'Icknield Way'. Once again ancient track names seem to be misleading. Generally the Icknield Way runs to the north of the 'Ridgeway' here it is running south of it. The solution to this confusion is that there were many Icknields and Ridgeways. This road that goes back to Goring could actually be 'the' Ridgeway it is certainly a lot more sensible than suggesting it should follow the river. Anyway on a small flat area was a mini-runway and in the car park were some very small helicopters .

helicopters

And in the field on the other side of the road a pilot was running through the final checks before taking off.

airplane,light aircraft

Further on, near Catsbrain Hill, a farmer seems to have mistaken a field for a lawn!

plough,field

The afternoon sunshine lit up this old barn. In the far distance you can see the Reading-Oxford railway in process of electrification and further on the remnants of the Didcot power station.

farm view

Finally a reminder of the reason for the walk - to explore more ancient trackways. The road down to Goring named Icknield Road is indeed convincing as an old track; it has banks on either side, and a steady slope. If the Ridgeway crossed the Thames at Goring this is the most likely route it would have taken on this side of the River.

Icknield Way

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