Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Ogbourne St Andrew; Marlborough and Rockley

Summer is here at last! On the day that most state schools begin their autumn term. Indeed the forecast is for mounting temperature so I chose the coolest of the predicted hot days to explore more of Wiltshire. I have previously walked the Ridgeway through Ogbourne St. George and also the Kennet Valley into Marlborough. This walk (as I usually aim to do) links together these two walks. Here is a map of the 15.5 mile walk:


View Ogbourne St Gorge and Marlborough in a larger map

The downs round about reach up to similar height than at Coombe Hill or Inkpen Hill, up to 265m typically, although I didn't climb to any of the high spots this time. I set off down the valley of the river Og along the course of the old, dismantled Swindon-Marlborough railway. Here is a typical view towards the busy A346 road.

railway path,swindon-marlborough

The first few miles had a good range of wild flowers and attracted a number of Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria) butterflies.

Speckled Wood,Pararge aegeria,butterfly

I also caught this bee on a perilous quest for nectar in the wind on a teasel flower (Dipsacus fullonum). It has a very spiny flower and the florets mature in distinct rings around it. I am not sure which bumble bee it might be.

Teasel,Dipsacus fullonum

The railway skirts the east side of Marlborough and I then followed the Mildenhall Road into central Marlborough. There are a number of streets with old houses along them.

Marlborough,silverless street

The Town Hall stands in the market square with the church of St. Mary's behind it.

Marlborough town hall

The main A4 (Bath - London road) runs straight through the centre.

Marlborough high street

At the west end of the High Street stands the church of St. Peter, but no longer a church, it is 'redundant', and now has a gift shop; a cafe and toilets in the nave. The altar and monuments around the walls now look out of place. While I was there a toddler was crawling around the chancel. Marlborough is famous for its public school, rich in traditions, here is a distant view through the trees of one of its 'houses'. It has the ruins of Marlborough Castle in its grounds

Marlborough college

I then had the task of leaving Marlborough without walking along busy, main roads. I chose to walk through a housing estate which proved difficult to navigate as my map was produced before it was built. However I did spot a buddleia with several Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock butterflies on it (and a Brimstone waiting nearby). On a piece of municipal grass there was among 'normal' Hawkbits a few with strong orange tints. I now think it is 'Fox and cubs' (Pilosella aurantiaca).

Orange hawkbit

I was soon out in the farmland again, along the path was a good number of Red Bartsias, a semi-parasitic plant. This is the first time I have caught the flowers in reasonable focus. They hang downwards so this is the underside view.

Red Bartsia

To the East of Marlborough is Avebury with its impressive stone circle, there are also areas strewn with sarcen stones not too far away. At the start of a ridgeway which I followed was an evocative reminder of this with this solitary standing stone.

Standing Stone

The path follows the Ridgeway over Barton Down for three miles with a gallop for horses running alongside for most of the way.

Barton Down View

Turning off north towards Rockley there was a stand of beech trees that had shed some of their distinctive nuts.

Beech nuts

Rockley has a small pond, complete with duck houses. They swam and then marched over towards me begging for food.

duck

The footpath now headed up a steep slope to yet more gallops.

horse gallops

The slope had a good range of wild flowers, and a lot of wild carrot now forming seed heads. Close up they look rather curious.

wild carrot

At the bottom of the slope was this idyllic looking country thatched cottage.

thatched cottage

One of the highlights of walking the Great Ridgeway is the section between Barbury Castle and Ogbourne St. George, because you follow Smeathe's Ridge with grand views to either side. From Ogbourne St. Andrew you are able to view the ridge from below. I managed to catch some pigeons in flight on this shot.

Smeathes ridge

Ogbourne St. Andrew is smaller than St. George and retains much more of a village feel. It has quite a few attractive houses too.

Ogbourne St Andrew,thatched cottage

It has a fine small church.

Ogbourne St Andrew,church

Over the fields back to Ogbourne St. George I saw a windmill. I couldn't stop myself including this one, who knows whether our current dash for installing these things will lead to similar sights of dereliction in the not too distant future.

Windmill

At Ogbourne St. George there are some fine houses, but they are strung out along the road rather than forming a neat central village.

Ogbourne St George,thatch cottage