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Friday 11 september 1992
Robert Vermaat

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A Visit to Wansdyke - Shaw House

Your author in 1992 - where's the hair gone?My second visit to Wansdyke after 1989 went Philippine in Oxford, 1992by almost as quick as the first one. This time, my girlfriend and I were better prepared, we had Ordnance Survey Landranger maps and we brought some good guides of the region along. Not only is the cycling much easier using these, when you prepare properly there's no monument that's not on the map!

In fact, this trip was meant to make up for some of the stupid mistakes of three years back. But alas, this september was not to be compared to that fine August three years ago!

Starting in Oxford, we soon found this trip much harder than the first. August had been wet already, but by september it was even colder - no reprive as we had hoped for! We did not actually ditch our tent (but we came close),

Philippine at the White Horse, Uffington, 1992
click to enlarge

but struggling from one B&B to another in heavy traffic we vowed early on that this would be the last cycling holiday we'd ever make.. But is wasn't all bad. Though stranded in Uffington (no B&B) we were rescued (thanks Sue!)

This was as close to Wansdyke as we'd ever been before. Near Shaw House, 1992Robert at Avebury, 1992and the afternoon turned out to be one of the best when we visited the Uffinton White Horse and its beautiful views of the Thames Valley.

This time though we did at least find Avebury, which we liked better than Stonehenge (in fact we still do), and we had a lot of fun roaming this ancient site (click here to enlarge), which is so large but accessible and mysterious. This time, we actually sought out where to cross the Downs for the best view of Wansdyke. Which was at this point (left).

Unfortunately, the bank of Wansdyke is beset with large trees which obscure the view of Dyke from Marlborough Man - 1992view from a point only about a mile west.The road, which crosses the Downs from the Kenneth Valley to the Vale of Pewsey uses the only original crossing-point, also used by the Ridgeway, a very ancient road that runs from Salisbury plain towards the north east until it reaches the North sea in Norfolk.

But at this point the soil changes, and because of that the forest starts here. Anyway, the Downs are very beautiful here so we carried on cheerfully, despite this setback. So, this little sign along the small road was all we saw of Wansdyke...

Milk Hill after a good downpour - Alton Barnes White Horse, 1992That is, apart from a quick look back on our way to shelter in a pub! Robert, 1992Hardly had we survived the very steep descent towards Alton Barnes, when the weather took a turn for the worse, and the rain hit us as soon as the hills were behind us (click here to enlarge). This picture of the Alton Barnes White Horse shows both the vengeance from the skies and the difference with the pleasant ride three years back.

Luckily, there was a great pub ('The Barge Inn') situated next to the Kenneth & Avon Canal, which served great food and drink to get over such setbacks.

Made it! - Glastonbury Tor, 1992Yes, this year we did make it to Glastonbury, and wouldn't have missed it for the world! , but we were raiRobert at King Arthur's 'Grave', 1992n-soaked a little too often for comfort. Yes, I know that sounds like we have the endurance of wet towels, but I like to enjoy the views on a trip, not the sweat.. The much heavier traffic made us seek out the back roads, and these tend to be a lot steeper. Although the views were beautiful, coming down from the Mendips escarpment following a small road from Shepton Mallet into the Somerset Levels, we were glad to have reached our goal. Glastonbury was a real refreshment, with so much Arthurian going on - real or not, who cares? The Abbey with the gravesite (right, click here to enlarPhilippine at Glastonbury Tor, 1992ge) is beautiful, the Tor (left and below right, click here and here to enlarge) mysterious and blessed with such good views all around you'd want to visit Glastonbury just for that.

After a short stay we made it to South Cadbury (Camelot?) after which we struggled on to Salisbury, but from there we took the bus to Stonehenge and then the train back to London. Indeed no more bikes! Better luck next time? We'd see about that, two years on, and by car.


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