The Ridgeway, July 16 Day 4, 21 miles
The early morning walk out of Wallingford was one of the best I’ve ever taken. No longer on the ridge, the path simply winds its way between wheat fields and pastures, but it is shaded by huge old beech trees. In places it drops down into old holloways (like those described so beautifully by Robert MacFarlane in his book of the same name). As the heat wave continues and temperatures were rising across the day, I worried a bit that the path would break out of the woods and cross fields or even get back up on the ridge, but apart from a few scattered exposed sections, it largely remained in the shade.
Crossing a farm not that far from Chequers (the Prime Minister’s country residence— supposedly Boris was there), I heard yelling, barking, and bleating. Before long I got to a gate where a man with a pickup truck and a border collie was moving a flock from one field to the next. We stopped and talked for a moment while I helped him secure the gates and then watched his dog turn the flock, round up some stragglers, and send them down a lane, with the man only saying a few words of direction. Proud of his dog, he noted she had been working for 10 years and was showing no sign of slowing down.
The distances and my too soft feet were starting to take a toll, and I had booked accommodations at the 21st mile marker. On arriving at Princes Risborough, I took the opportunity to get some refreshment and prop my feet at the Bird in Hand pub. Then I pressed on to The Plough at Cadsden which had very fine (and reasonable) accommodation as well as a fascinating regular clientele who obviously spent much time together arguing amicably. Today’s distance puts the end point at Ivinghoe Beacon within 16 miles, so tomorrow should be less intense (if even hotter).
T. Hugh Crawford