Climbing Up Solsbury Hill

With the weekend very nearly upon us, it’s about time I share with you the experience of my most recent walk from almost a fortnight ago. I also get to show off my brand-new walking boots, before they set off on their debut adventure! They’re made by Karrimor and I think the model name was Kalahari – perhaps unfitting given the way in which British weather can be perceived but on this occasion, it was dry and very desert like for an early weekend in March.

New boots, ready to get wet!!

My goal for this one was to reach the long-anticipated Solsbury Hill – it’s actually Little Solsbury Hill, to be pedantic, but then you might feel as though perhaps it had a lot less in common with one of Peter Gabriel’s best-known solo hits.

Beginning in Marshfield, on the southern Cotswolds.

This is another route that can be found within the Walk West eBooks. At just over 10 miles long, it was one of the more enduring routes in that particular issue. It’s now barely two-months until the 30-miler (or 31, if your name’s Jodie…) and from here, I really need to start upping the duration of my walks, or else I fear it’s going to be a greater struggle than I could ever anticipate.

This walk begins in the Cotswold-esque town of Marshfield, which lies on the southern edge of the acclaimed westcountry hills. Geoff recommends you park along the western end of the High Street but I decided to use a large parking bay to the west and just off the A420 – which has become a very familiar road for me and many of these recent walks!

As I reflect over some of the photos I uploaded last night, I’m pleased to secretly reveal that this is almost certainly going to remain the last walk illustrated by my smart phone’s camera, as I have today received delivery of a brand-new compact! 🙂

In fairness, the images I have here are quite impressive, if I do say so myself. What a difference a spot of sunshine and blue sky can make!

It was an almost-perfect day for walking and this was highlighted, early on, as a trailed two other walkers who practically led the way along my intended path and I also crossed presence with a humble dog walker. But, in spite of the glorious sunshine, mud on the ground was prevalent.

Heading towards Cold Ashton, this walk leads you downhill at a gentle rate, heating deeper in to a valley with a stream of water as your guide.

As the gradient begins to rise, your eyes set upon the discovery of several small hills.

It was at this point, I think, that I took the above photo after joyfully running down a hill only to land face-first on the ground before reaching the bottom! I blame my un-worn-in and brand-new walking boots… That grass was so soft that it didn’t hurt at all. I think a nettle stung my skin and I did notice a scar just beneath my right wrist but I dropped my phone, my map, I think even my glasses came off and I was largely unscathed and very able to carry on. Best of all though, I’d overtaken that pair of walkers minutes earlier and I think (and hope) they did not see me tumble… 😉

I was only 2 miles in to the walk and, heading southwards, I knew I was marching ever closer to the city of Bath… But these hills, valleys and the landscape; it just kept on coming. Urbanisation was a myth in these parts.

“You must be no taller than this branch to pass through the kissing gate…”

I remember taking a wrong turn a moments further ahead by following a path too close to the hill’s side and descending to the side of a bogged-up field and stream, which eventually forced me around the lower perimeter of a hill I should’ve crossed.

After a little back-tracking and again crossing paths with the loved-up two who appeared to be walking a similar route, I made amends for my mistake and proceeded to find a stile with a ‘reminder’ tied on top.

After continuing briefly down a lane and crossing over, I found myself following the Limestone Link footpath, which is recognisable from walks further south across the Mendips.

Discovering the Limestone Link, many miles north of my only previous sighting.

I don’t plan on walking the complete north-to-south of that one, erm, ever!

This was where I began to encounter signs of civilisation and not to mention more walkers.

Skipping ahead and as I began to climb one hill on the approach to Charmy Down (site of a former airfield), I spotted a trail of older walkers ahead of me.

The old airfield site at Charmy Down.

As I trailed and then caught up with them upon entering the airfield, I realised that they weren’t from the 20s and 30s division of The Ramblers that I’m a member of! But hats off to them; for their age and for being so active, because I’m sure I know of people much younger than them who would rather stay indoors.

I trailed these ramblers for some distance; keeping back by a safe amount and using the allowance I’d created to translate the local scenery in to still images using my phone.

Cows, yes, but this was in a field to my right and away from the intended footpath.

Reaching a lane and turning left to follow a road sat on a cliff edge, you get your first view of Little Solsbury Hill, from the north.

Little Solsbury Hill.

From there, it was a steep decent downhill and then following an endless flight of steps that began to wind near the bottom.

Those ramblers were kind enough to let me pass as one of their tireless crew had stopped behind a tree to answer a call from nature…

It wasn’t far ahead of the steps before my short ascent to the top began – this time, on the tail of two new walkers who I’d not passed previously! One of them (the male) even had the cheek to run up the last few metres to the summit – a trick that irritated one of my co-walkers during the Circuit of Bath Walk back in September! 😉

Climbing up on Solsbury Hill…

To the west, I could spy the line of beech trees in Lansdown, that I highlighted on my previous walk.

South of the trig point and there was Bath.

It was just about time to stop for lunch, with a view overlooking the south-eastern point, away from the Georgian city.

Lunchtime view.

To be up there again, on such a glorious day and with time to take it all in, was a welcome experience indeed. Plus, my boots were looking fairly clean and dry!

There isn’t much to see on top of the hill itself. It was another popular site on this day and, clearly, not for the terrain.

At around the halfway point but now, my return route was about to begin, in an ‘anti-clockwise’ direction heading north. The north-eastern point of Solsbury Hill was far muddier than the route I arrived along. In fact, it was quite possibly the worst stretch of the walk thus far.

Can you spot the frog who paused as our paths came to cross?

But it was soon back to the surrounds of the rural Westcountry at its finest.

Spring was definitely in bloom.

I remember receiving a text message from a friend at this point and a conversation began to grow. I don’t really have anything more to say about these photos as I trust the images do enough.

Are the cows just getting read for summertime madness?…

Then came that ever-anticipated point in the walk where I found myself lost and lacking in both direction and an understanding as to where Geoff’s words were supposed to be leading me.

Reaching the fallen tress above, I should’ve turned back; I could’ve saved a lot of time.

I couldn’t see where I was going wrong and so I continued to follow the stream, eventually embarking on the Limestone Link (again) and to the scene you see above!

It was time to turn back; time to dig out my OS map and to establish my bearings.

Back-tracking all the way to the start of the stream, I soon realised there was no waymark sign indicating a right-turn and ascent up along a permissive footpath to a stile I’d passed twice already while wandering; looking for another stile, higher up the hill, which I believed I’d crossed but I could no longer clarify its existence outside of my own mind.

At the top of the hill that nearly finished me off.

Anyway, I got myself out of there and when I came to the next hill – short but pretty steep – I found myself pausing with almost every other footstep. I wasn’t out of breath. My heart was pumping but my legs felt like lead. Maybe it was the boots; perhaps it was all the aimless wandering but, for the second time within a month, it scared me, with thoughts of what is to come in June.

Maybe I’m exhausted generally? A lack of decent sleep? Changes to my diet and regular intake? Whatever, I’d just never experienced such a sense of fatigue on a walk before.

Down to the last couple of miles and I made my first bovine encounter; instantly scanning the lifeforms for any indication that a bull may lurk amongst the herd… But they kept to their own just as I did with mine.

Marshfield coming back in to view.

A couple of fields north and Marshfield was returning to my view. Legs heavy and just wanting to give way; my mind defiant that there really wasn’t much of a journey left at all.

After a good 6½ hours of walking (almost 2 hours more than I’d anticipated), my car seat was welcome, even though I’d chosen to park about as far south along the bay as you can get – and yet, the rest of the space was almost deserted!

This was when I noticed a sign of damage and chipping to the paintwork on my bonnet. I wouldn’t usually look twice at something like this but, because of where it is, I feel like I’ll have to get my paintbrush out, soon.

I’ve already submitted this was a walk to lead for an already-forgotten date in July. I look forward to returning with a better camera and hopefully, the weather will be equally as pleasant and kind.

Thanks for reading. You’re never too old to start walking!

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