With Niraj’s departure to India imminent, this would be the last of our epic odysseys for some time (except of course for the one Niraj was going on). It was doubly important therefore that this walk was befitting of the occasion.
Not to their detriment, the North Wessex Downs have escaped the limelight of other, more popular walking destinations in the South – fading somewhat into obscurity behind the Cotswolds, Chilterns and the like. But in spite of this little injustice, one cannot help secretly wish they would stay that way. The quiet anonymity of these glorious hills and sleepy villages, add to their unique charm.
Our walk began at the village of Kintbury, perched on the River Kennet. It is not hard to imagine why this little known tributary of the Thames was the inspiration behind Kenneth Grahame’s classic Wind in the Willows. Down the road from Kintbury Station and before the turning for the start of the trail, was the splendid Blue Ball pub – perhaps one of the few places in the country that can boast on its menu, wood fired pizza. A short way into the walk, crossing some fields we caught our first glimpse of the red kites common to the region – soaring under the mid-morning sun. These majestic birds glided effortlessly, barely flapping a wing.
Beyond, emerging through a small pocket of woodland, we were greeted by the sight of newly born lambs. We paused for a while, taking in this simplest of nature’s spectacles. Further down we stopped for lunch at the Swan – an organic gastropub sourcing almost all of its produce locally from its own land and neighbouring farms.
Back up the road we stopped over at Inkpen Church – I have long believed that no walk is complete without a village church stop, preferably one with a graveyard too. This church was among the nicest we have seen in all our walks. Around halfway point we began the short, steep climb up Inkpen Hill. The views from the hill were nothing short of spectacular, with a panorama over five counties (though one could not really tell which was which). We continued on to the gibbet, a 17th Century hanging mast sited on top of the hill. The route took us back, completing a circular trail through the hillsides, patches of woodland and back to Kintbury.
Technical details: Sony a850 with Sigma 50-500mm (Bigma) lens.