Continuing our training towards the Pilgrims Walk next year, Chris and I organised to do a walk after Church. Our start was slightly compromised by a Church meeting to review the after service tea and coffee provision which took place as I finished washing and drying duties at St Paul’s. Chris sensibly took his family home, so we agreed to start from his house which is not far from our Church, in Chippenham.
We set off from Chris’s home in steady rain and headed down an alley and under a railway bridge towards the Bridge Centre roundabout. From here we headed down Lover’s lane, across the weir and skirting the town centre headed towards Wood Lane and up into the Pewsham Estate. It continued to steadily rain but I don’t like having my hood up, so I was continually putting it on, then taking it off again trying to find the ideal balance between shelter and being able to converse with Chris. I was wearing a baseball cap (essential to keep the rain off my glasses) so not getting entirely soaked when sans hood.
We felt our way through Pewsham and reached the bypass at about the right place to cross-over onto the footpath to Lacock. The first part of the footpath follows the bypass so not entirely peaceful, but soon it tucks behind a hedge and becomes properly rural. The path edges a large field before opening out along a section of the Kennet and Avon Canal which is the subject of long term restoration by a mainly volunteer workforce. There was no work being done today, but it is always interesting to see if anything new has emerged since I was last there. The restoration is putting back the various structures which manage the water levels as well as dredging sections of the main waterway. It looks like there is a lock to be restored which will clearly be a major undertaking, but there was little sign of much progress there today.
We continued alongside the canal for a mile or so until we spotted that under the sole bridge structure there was a dry spot suitable for lunch. I confessed to Chris that I was starving and in the absence of any firm plan for a dry spot in the miles ahead I voted that we stopped here. We had both brought along packed lunches which were rapidly consumed while Chris and I sat on the edge of the canal, legs dangling casually above the water.
Its worth recording here that our conversations are a highlight of our walks, and I hope the main event, when that happens. Chris and I have created a safe space in which we can share things quite openly and without fear of judgement. I really appreciate Chris’s reflections and his perspective on questions which we jointly raise. Invariably, we discuss matters of faith, amongst more secular topics, and its a joy to apply our Christian beliefs to situations of life we find ourselves facing. I think that other people have observed that walking creates an environment conducive for conversation. There is something in the pace, the need to keep background concentration on the route, the gradually unfolding landscape and the steady rhythm of the step which allows conversation to flow easily. A great blessing.
I was feeling the cold a bit, having stopped for the break, so we set off again, and followed the path as it diverged from the canal and followed again a hedged field edge. We could now see Lacock in the near distance, the spire of the Church a particular giveaway that our destination was in sight. The path led down a narrow path between two hedges and then emerged onto a road and into a lush green field edging the river. We walked diagonally across the field aiming for the wrought iron fence and stile in the corner of the field. The stile gave access to a road which crosses the river via a beautiful ancient stone bridge comprising two broad flat arches and supports which protrude elegantly into the river. As we looked ahead, a pair of ‘chocolate box’ thatched cottages welcomed us to Reybridge, near Lacock.
Heading left towards Lacock we entered a field of cows and calves – I didn’t recognise the breed but they were an attractive speckled brown and seemed docile enough. The path was tarmac and took us to a kissing gate from where we followed a single track road down the hill to the Ford at the edge of Lacock village itself. I recounted to Chris that I used to drive through the Ford in my Land Rover Discovery because Ellie had a friend that lived up that road. Noting the water level today, it perhaps would not have been advisable fording the stream right now in the Discovery as its deepest point was probably around 2′ and potentially a bit deeper. Certainly, I would not risk my current Honda CR-V at such depth.
On arrival in Lacock, our immediate uncertainly at where to procure a warm drink was solved with the appearance of a welcoming looking pub. We went inside to warm up and had a refreshing cup of coffee.
Conscious that we should not get too comfortable, we headed back following our tracks. By now the weather had dried up and we progressively removed layers as the weather became surprisingly warm. At the turnaround point we had covered 5 miles, so we knew that we were up for a 10 mile overall distance. The return leg was entirely pleasant with a few more people now venturing out, but by no means crowded.
I enjoyed a lovely walk. I didn’t take any photos (too wet), but I was snapped by Helen, when I was ‘resting my eyes’ later that day….