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Walk Bournemouth to Oxford - Week One

Day One
We had a bad journey down to Milford on Sea yesterday as there was an accident on the A34 so we had to make a wide detour so arrived much later than expected, but 
we were staying with old friends who were very forgiving. Cheered up much by the football results!
Today is overcast which is a relief after the past days of hot sunshine so we enjoyed our start to our walk. We are met by 3 ZANE supporters (my husband’s charity) who are local and keen walkers, so we made good progress, starting along the sea front which was very pleasant. One of our companions explained that some of the smarter beech huts we passed were selling for £200 k, incredible for a garden shed with no loo!
At Christchurch we made a short detour to visit the Priory, a stunning church, so light and I gather has one of the longest apses in Europe. Lunch on the sea front and then out of town along the Avon Valley before branching east through farmland and forestry to Hinton. A good varied start to our journey.

Day 2
We have spent the last two nights with good friends which was such a joy, lots of laughter and a good catch up. Today starts badly as the road we are on all morning to Sway, although a B road, has no verge and is incredibly busy with huge lorries coming towards us at great speed. We have been joined by a lovely Scotsman and together we manage to reroute our path away from this horrible road to quieter lanes and bridleways. We are now on the outskirts of the New Forest and we enjoy watching the many mares and foals wandering along the side of the road ignoring the traffic. We wonder if the foals cause accidents, but I suppose they learn to keep away from the traffic at an early age. Lunch at Sway and having said goodbye to our walking companion head into the New Forest proper. The right place to be on a hot sunny day. We finish the day at Brockenhurst beside a charming old Parish Church, St Nicholas, right on the edge of the forest. There is a memorial to the the New Zealanders who had a base and hospital there during the First World War.

Day 3

We spent the night with our charming host who owns a 500-acre farm on the edge of the New Forest where he and his and his wife had designed and built a beautiful house and garden. Very sadly she died two years ago. He was a very generous host and is very committed to sustainability and showed us many of the ways he has made both his farm and his home environmentally friendly
Another beautiful day in front of us but we are glad we will spend most of it the New Forest giving us a certain amount of shade. Today we walk due north and make good progress in the morning as we are on our own today which always means we walk faster. We stop for a coffee at Lyndhurst with the plan to meet up with an old neighbour of ours at Minstead for lunch. We get a message from her that she had been advised not to cross the A31 so we arranged for Markus to meet us and drive us across this road to a pub on the other side. Well, when we got there we understood the problem. Getting across was like playing Russian Roulette with the cars thundering towards us as we had to do a U turn in the middle of a dual carriageway. We were supposed to do this on foot in the afternoon!! The decision was quickly made that this was madness so after lunch we started our walk again on the other side. Another pleasant couple of hours walking where we met our hosts for the night en-route ending at Bramshaw.

Day 4

Another scorching day in store as we meet up with a walking companion who we have not seen for 15 years. We have a plan today to try and finish our walk before the 3pm kick off of the English v Sweden match. We are off road for most of the day which is so much pleasanter. We are leaving the New Forest behind us but we still spend much of the morning in woodland which is a relief from the heat. Moses is lucky as we pass two streams with water in them where he can swim and cool off. We envy him! Only one incident of note was when we found ourselves on the wrong side of an impenetrable hedge to the footpath we should be on. While debating whether to retrace our steps, Moses disappears through a hole at the bottom of a wire fence and we follow him feet first. Not bad for three septuagenarians! Not so good for our friend as the path is very overgrown with nettles and he is in shorts poor man. We learnt the folly of wearing shorts early on in our walking career, and we must remember to warn people in future. We have a quick stop in a pub for a drink and snack and off again. We are now in Wiltshire and are reminded how well maintained the footpaths are in this county with lots of new ‘kissing gates’ and clear signage. Easy walking means we arrive in East Grimstead at 2.50 just under 1 mile from our stopping point and meet up with Markus who drives us back to the pub we stopped at earlier. What a game!! We will complete today’s walk tomorrow as we have a shorter scheduled walk tomorrow anyway.

Day 5

Today we have to complete the distance that we missed due to having stopped early last night to watch the football. This entails a long morning walk again in cloudless skies. I am beginning to wish for a day of cloud and drizzle. As I walk I think about the privilege it has been to be able to walk the length and breadth of England and parts of Wales over the past 8 years on our footpath system. I wonder where else in the world this is possible to do? I know that Scotland has no law of trespass, but this does not mean you can get where you wish to go. We have now left behind the woodland and the patchwork of fields of Hampshire into the large arable fields and big skies of Wiltshire. Suddenly to the West of us we see the spires of Salisbury Cathedral What a beacon of hope this mighty church must have been for many a pilgrim over the past 1000 years! We stop for lunch at Winterbourne Dauntsey and after Moses has enjoyed a time of stick throwing in the River Bourne we head North on the edge of the Salisbury Plain, dropping down to the River Avon at Lower Woodford where Moses again enjoys a swim. This time I am tempted to join him!! Having crossed the river our walk finishes at Middle Woodford.

Day 6

Our walk today starts with a steep climb up from the river on to the Salisbury Plain proper, which means that Markus has no access to us by road so we meet him for a quick coffee at Stapleford collect a picnic from him and then head into M.O.D. country. It’s easy walking today along wide tracks so we make good progress. The hedgerows are alive with butterflies which is lovely and along with the familiar Tortoiseshell and Cabbage Whites etc there are some I do not recognise especially a bright yellow one which I must look up when I get home. It’s lovely to see them thriving in such abundance. I have been worried all morning about having to cross the notorious A 303 which is a dual carriageway at the point of our crossing. Luckily when we get to it, we find one side of it is stationary due to the Stonehenge turnoff further East and the lorries are slower on the West side due to a hill so we get over with ease. What a relief, these major ‘A‘ roads really frighten me! Our track continues but much less evenly, with great ruts which we assume is caused by tank manoeuvres and we are glad at least it is dry. For the next 2 hours we are joined by 2 military helicopters which circle round constantly doing various manoeuvres, noisy but we think what fun the pilots must be having. Our route has been changed as we come across a large notice saying ‘keep out’ so have to make a detour round it. The heat is intense with no shade up here and even Moses is wilting and having to be given water constantly as there is no natural water around. We eventually hit another busy ‘B’ road, 1 mile from our stopping place at Chitterne and we call Markus to come and collect us. We had already walked further due to the M.O.D. rerouting!!

You can read Tom’s much fuller Blog on www.zane.uk.com


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"At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equalityĒ

St Paul,
2nd letter to the Corinthians



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