My friends from Exeter University days, Mary Alexander and Drusilla Belfield, and I like to walk together twice a year. We generally choose somewhere between our homes at Bodicote (Oxfordshire), Winchester (Hampshire) and Turville (Bucks). Drusilla had seen Christopher Somerville’s eight-mile walk from Walbury Hill in West Berkshire in The Times, and so we did this on 19 May. Chris helpfully puts the walks on his website for those of us who do not subscribe to The Times.
We started from the Walbury Hill car-park, south of Inkpen, in the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Soon we crossed a stile into a field which was broken and dangerous. I reported it to West Berkshire Council on 27 May, and on 4 June received a reply that it had been repaired and was in the queue to be replaced with a kissing-gate. What service!
The path took us down the field and onto a hollow way leading to the hamlet of Combe.
Here I saw a seat in memory of Mary Louise Brewster.
This rang a bell and I later confirmed that she was indeed the wife of former American ambassador (1977-81) Kingman Brewster; she lived in Combe after he died. (I drove with them both across Dartmoor on the glorious autumn day of 26 September 1980: I was running the Devon American Fortnight festival, and they were visiting it. We had a delightful trip and I felt I had known them for ever.)
We bore left from Combe across a field of wheat with an exemplary, wide path cut through it.
Beyond is a strip of access land, Sugglestone Hill, where we stopped for lunch with an expansive view.
We climbed to the highest point of the walk and then down to join the Test Way following a long valley.
At the head of this we bore right up a steep hill.
The path took us back to the ridge of Walbury Hill and we could look south to where we had walked.
We followed the byway back to the car park, passing the Iron Age fort on our left. Unfortunately this is not access land but part of a field. It could do with more recognition and opportunities for people to explore it.
We arrived back at the car park after an extremely enjoyable and varied walk.