The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Thursday, 29 January 2015

A Curtailment

Our trip became curtailed yesterday morning when an intermittent fault on Colin’s engine returned again, causing us to decide to head home to get it fixed, rather than ploughing on and potentially finding ourselves stranded even further away from home. We only needed two more days to visit our final five Marilyns which fall within the South Downs, and it’s going to be a big old journey now to go back just to walk them. The other two hills which were on the agenda aren’t such an issue, as they’re in locations where we know we will find ourselves nearby at some point in the not-too-distant future anyway.

As I wasn’t able to post any photos as I went along (I did finally get a good 3G signal one day, whereupon I discovered that I hadn’t got enough credit to buy any data (and no, I can’t top up the dongle from the dongle)), here’s a selection now, in order of the hills visited:

Walbury Hill, by Newbury

It was a cold, sunny day when we went up Walbury Hill, but not one of those crisp winter days with great air clarity. Even with the haze, we could still appreciate the views as we walked along the escarpment, past Pilot Hill and over to our objective:


From the top the only features we could see were the nearby lumps:IMG_8158-001

In the directions where flatness lay below us, all that was visible from the top was haze:IMG_8157

Conrad has video evidence on his blog that you can, on a clearer day, see out over the flat plains below, but we can’t complain about the conditions we had. Better curtailed views than liquid mud! (For us, the extensive muddy wallows on our path were frozen solid.)

Swyre Head, Isle of Purbeck

Another gorgeous sunny day, although not as cold as the previous day. Having arrived at the Isle of Purbeck in the dark, I had no idea what our surroundings would be like. Twenty minutes after leaving Colin on Saturday morning, this was the view we were enjoying, looking west along the coast from atop Swyre Head:


I’m intrigued as to when a man-made feature becomes so accepted in its surroundings that it becomes the recognised top of a hill. The stated top of this hill is the tumulus clearly visible in the snap below. I’ll come back to this point in respect of Butser Hill.


Nine Barrow Down, Isle of Purbeck

Corfe Castle turned out to be an excellent choice of start point for our next hill. As well as the prominent feature of the castle, the village centre is as picturesque as they come (and the cakes from the baker weren’t too shoddy either!). This was my snap of the castle, in which it’s a pity about the blue tank in the foreground:


Mick went all out to get modern stuff in front of the historic feature:


The gorgeousness of the day gave far better views (including over to the Isle of Wight) than this snap of Poole Harbour suggests:


I do acknowledge that whilst the approach and the views were superb, the summit itself was a little lacking in the wow-factor, being a completely-ordinary grazing field, containing an oil tank:


Brighstone Down

Sunday saw us travel over to the Isle of Wight, where the morning was lovely and sunny. By the time we had drunk tea and chatted with Mick’s brother and sister-in-law, and found somewhere to park in the vicinity of Brighstone Down, the afternoon was marching on, and clouding in with it. The top wasn’t dreadfully interesting, and the surrounding woodland was okay, but nothing special:


However, once out of the trees and walking along the ridge of the down, the views opened up and it was all prettiness:


The lump on the left of this photo is Brighstone Down; the lump on the far right is the other Marilyn, St Boniface Down.

St Boniface Down, Isle of Wight

What a murky morning this was, but with a lunch date with Mick’s brother, we could only wait for so long for it to clear … and it didn’t. Here I am, in the murk, standing atop the highest grassy point I could find, albeit it was clearly man-made:


This is that grassy mound from a different angle:


There was plenty of man-made stuff up there, although the masts were trying very hard to hide in the cloud:


The weather did clear as we descended, giving us a better feel for our surroundings:


And as we made our final descent the air clarity had improved so much that we could clearly see the east side of the island, and Portsmouth across the water:


It was on this walk that we came across something I’ve not seen anywhere else, and which I thought was an excellent idea:



Butser Hill, by Petersfield

This one was a popular rounded grassy lump, with fine 360 degree views, but one which had me confused as to when a man-made feature becomes acceptable to be considered the summit. The ground I’m standing on in the snap below is a linear mound, which has clearly been placed there (rather than occurring naturally) and is equally clearly a few feet higher than the trig point. However, the trig point is stated to be the summit feature of this top. I’d love to know what distinction is made between this mound, and the tumulus atop Swyre Head (to take just one example); is it purely a matter of age or historic importance?


It’s pretty irrelevant, really, and (of course) I did visit the trig point too:


I seem to be lacking in photos of the view from this top, although I do have a 360 degree video snippet.

Black Down, by Haslemere

I really liked this one, even if the walk-in was ridiculously muddy. It’s a wooded top, which obscures the views, but it’s a lovely bit of woodland (and here’s some evidence that Mick was with me on this trip!):


There were some views to be had, particularly from the Temple of the Winds, which was worth the few paces of detour from our approach path:


Did I mention the mud, though? Handily, just after the last bit of deep mud, we were able to scamper down to this stream, where the water was deep enough for a clean-up:



  1. Some cracking photos, Gromit!

  2. Very interesting comparing accounts.

    Blue tank eliminated:

    1. That's better!

      If I'd had my camera with me when I walked back into the village for the second time, then I would have taken a photo across the cemetry, which gave a much better view of the castle.