Latest world walk updates – from Oxford, England! Back on home turf!
After the vastness of America, I seem to be hiking through Blighty all too fast. That said, the splendour of the Brecon Beacons and the Cotswolds, has reinforced what a soul chargingly beautiful and friendly place Britain can be.
Will now be here for a spell, as the posts below explain.
Day 218 to 220
All Alone, an arresting road sign near Northleach.
The truth is, since I hit England, I’ve hardly been alone at all.
After wrestling my cart, Koko, up a mud slicked but glorious section of Offa’s Dyke Way, I was joined by a lovely old friend, Buffy, who was dropped off by her ex-fighter pilot hubby, Tim, near the English boundary line (she appeared in a car, not a jet!).
After getting a bit lost in a wood thronging with bluebells, we were soon back on track and made it to the edge of Gloucester at a cracking pace.
Buffy returned to Tim and I was kindly put up for the night by Dan and Tina Finchett. Dan is an old friend, and brother to Tom, an even older friend.
One of the last times Dan and I met was at a touch rugby tournament we organised.
It was a blast but complete mayhem with lots of paunchy middle aged players gamely reliving their glory days.
Injuries included a broken shoulder, a cracked nose and mild concussion. Just as well it was only touch rugby, not real, or the poor ref would have needed counselling for years.
Dan joined me for a brilliant 21 mile walk through Gloucester then on rustic byways flanked by clover meadows and acres of vibrant yellow rape to the pretty village of Chedworth, where I bivvied in a field ripe with wild garlic as the moon rose.
Even today I had some brief company, when, out of the blue on a remote road near Northleach my cousin, Mark Fremantle, (he’s about a foot taller than me!) who runs a thriving local events company drove by. He hardly knows me but recognised Koko from my FB updates. We were both equally delighted and stunned to see each other.
Tonight, after a 17 miler, I’m in the village of Idbury, where great friends, Ali, James and Edmund have put me up.
So good to be back in dear old Blighty. Walking along narrow, sun-dappled paths thick with cow parsley, singing along to Castle on the Hill by Ed Sheeran (not a huge fan but this one is a superb paean to home) and catching up with old muckers. Blessed days. The dreaming spires of Oxford beckon…
Day 220 to 221
Deliriously happy to reach Oxford, sparking a flood of memories.
So strange to be back on familiar turf and amongst familiar faces.
Spent a jolly pitstop last night with old friends Bob and Vicky (we chinwagged so much I forgot to take a photo!) near Witney before walking on 16 miles – via a llama farm – to the brow of Oxford’s South Park with its commanding view of the dreaming spires.
Here I was met by long time mucker, Matt, and his lovely lass, Nicky who between them have eight children, two dogs and an allotment.
Matt juggles accountancy with lecturing, rugby coaching (he still plays too, now in 50s), shanty singing, gardening, Aunt Sally (a weird Oxford pub game involving stick throwing and beer), cricket and telling terrible jokes. A true force of nature.
Being in Oxford again was so exciting I snapped photos like a star struck tourist.
The stone faces of the philosophers on Broad Street (now those fellows sport beards to rival Rasputin), the striking Anthony Gormley statue of a man standing on a High Street roof and the peerless Radcliffe Camera, backdrop to a thousand costume dramas.
Koko posed for a shot outside The Eagle and Child pub – known as The Bird and Babe to locals – once the drinking den of literary giants, JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis (the Narnia series author). Along with a few other writers, they dubbed themselves The Inklings.
If you’ve never seen it, I recommend the film, Shadowlands, with a towering Anthony Hopkins as CS Lewis, even though it is very sad.
I noticed my old local, The Angel and Greyhound, had a droll sign exclaiming – ‘Inspector Morse did NOT drink here!’ Almost all other Oxford pubs like to claim the famed detective did sup pints on their premises.
Will be in Oxford for a spell using it as a base to give fundraising talks for the three charities, test run a new hiking trailer, secure a Russian visa (my next country after completing Europe) and write a couple of articles, before the road calls me back again.
Happy May Day everyone, even though there is only 20 minutes left…
Many thanks for reading and hope to catch up during my UK stint before heading off east into the great blue yonder…
PS. If anyone is free to join me for the group fundraising walk for the three charities around Oxford on June 8th, it would be great to see you. Working out 5, 10 and 20 mile walking routes in Oxford this weekend and will post more details next week.
I’ll be walking through the rest of England (Bucks, Swanbourne, MK, London, Kent, Dover) later in May, before returning for the first week in June (while Eliza is here) for a family wedding, more talks and the Oxford group walk on the 8th, then striking off across Europe.