Thursday, 18 January 2018

Limping through the countryside

Yes - I've done myself a mischief. I'm not quite sure how, but I think I've given myself bursitis of the heel - very painful to walk. I therefore should not be going for long, exploratory country walks. I should listen to my own advice...

On Saturday we headed up to Pepperbox Hill - the high chalk escarpment with the old folly owned and managed by the National Trust. It's the high point on the Southampton road south of Salisbury, with sometimes clear views across to Fawley Oil Refinery on the New Forest coast and, if you squint a bit, perhaps the Isle of Wight. However, this murky, misty day was not one for spectacular views. Instead, after paying our respects at the folly, we dodged the traffic to cross the main road to talk the paths towards the River Avon. This was a part of the countryside I had grown up with viewing from afar, but had never actually walked.

We barely encountered anyone on our walk, which took in more chalk grassland grazed by various rare breeds of cattle, old droveways, and part of a dismantled railway. We skirted the grounds of Trafalgar Park, just north of Downton, with its magnificent lime trees festooned with the parasitic mistletoe, towards the Avon, via a walled garden and old mill. So many old structures to control the water here, which was a torrent following all the rain we'd had. The little chapel for the Park was also rather pretty. The most amazing thing, however, was the enormous bracket fungus in the bankside willow - obviously it had been there a while, it having its own ecosystem on top of it! We looped back via a stretch of path following more of the railway line, before retracing our steps, with me hobbling at this point.

The following day I was due to meet a friend for a walk along the Kennet and Avon Canal near Seend in the middle of Wiltshire. Due to my hobbling, the pace was slow along this ancient towpath, taking in the industrial history but much in the way of wildlife. There were many info boards along the way saying how much they had done for various species such as water voles, but none spotted. It was certainly a more peaceful spot than the hustle and bustle of stretches through towns such as Devizes, where I've only ever seen rats!

I've taken it a bit easy this week to try and protect the poorly heel, but with a weekend nearly upon us, will I heed my advice? I fear the call of the countryside will be too strong...

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