Yesterday I travelled to the tundra wastelands of the Marlborough Downs, or the "Maulbarra Downs", as the people in Marlborough would say. I had grown a little tired of the Cherhill white horse so I thought I’d treat myself to a trip up the Hackpen white horse near the village of Broad Hinton.
There was a hint of anticlimax about the white horsing about today as my walk started in the car park right next to the most recent object of my simple study of leucippotomy, so there was no chance of seeing it come into view slowly and mystically from a distance. My morning was spent walking away from it and then walking back to it, already knowing what to expect. Mind you, I don’t suppose there is ever all that much surprise when you encounter a white horse for the first time unless, of course, the white horse happened to be Desert Orchid or a bottle of whisky. The experience was also dulled a tad by the fact that the frosty hillsides were as white as the white horse itself so there could have been a myriad of white horses about and no one would have been any the wiser.
Hackpen White Horse - taken from the region of its left shoulder.
In fact, I wonder about these mysterious chalk outlines of horses on hillsides in the West Country. Were they really carved by primitive people centuries ago, or by the Victorians, or were they simply marked out by the police investigating the murder of very large horses? Or, on such a bitter day, was it just horse shaped frost?
I left home dead early because of the forecast of snow in the afternoon. Brilliant sunshine illuminated my way for the first ten minutes until I had nicely donned my sunglasses and then the sun went in but I couldn’t be arsed changing back to the normal glasses so I just stomped along looking like a prat, or Bono, or both. Actually, Bono probably wouldn't have had the bottoms of his trousers tucked into his socks so I may have looked more of a prat than him. But on second thoughts, he would have no doubt tucked his trousers into his boots in a failed attempt to look cool.
Last week’s claggy mud was thankfully frozen. A magnificent seven and a half miles in some pretty remote places with outstanding views, and the sheep and gorse which somehow pump up that feeling of remoteness, and all without getting bogged down and soggy. Sheer heaven! And it was my first time on a new bit of my trusty Ordnance Survey map. This was the first step in my attempt to become as familiar with this new bit of landscape as I am with Cherhill because, let’s be honest; I think we’re all getting a bit weary of Cherhill, aren’t we? My walk wasn’t as long or as hilly as it appeared to be on the map so my pre-Andean training didn’t benefit much but I did scratch the surface of a place where I hope to do many more walks in the next three months.
Actually, I’m getting a bit worried about this Peruvian trip that I’m training for and saving up for, and banging on about to anybody who’ll listen to me for five minutes. Reading other people’s travel blogs it seems apparent to me that it is going to be really bloody hard and I’m not engaging the services of a personal trainer before I go, as they all seem to be. I’m quite happy with what I’ve done the last few weekends but the fitness stuff during the week (apart from a couple of long swims this week) has been a bit thin on the ground, unlike my own self which is a bit fat on the ground.
After my walk, feeling cold but invigorated, I went and had a look round the town of Marlborough which I hadn’t previously done properly despite having lived only a few miles away for the last fifteen years. It had some excellent charity shops (as is the norm in small but posh towns) where I bought a selection of books, CDs and a ‘Fields of Athenry’ china mug. I went to the Costa Café and had the most delicious but small hot egg and mushroom butty and a coffee so strong you could use it to smear the walls of your prison cell if ever you decided to take part in a dirty protest. Remembering I was in Marlborough, I decided that a dirty protest might not go down too well so I did a rose scented fart for them to remember me by and drove back to Chippenham as the first snowflakes of the 2011/12 winter started to flutter about.
In chirpy Chippers I bought some dry roasted insects for the poor starving birds, a hot roasted chicken for poor starving me (not much help towards my Fat Boy Peru campaign but you’ve got to have something a bit tasty to eat on the coldest of days) and some much needed dishcloths. I can have dishcloths in the house now that all my kids have moved out. I’ve bought them before in the past and they’ve just disappeared, along with the teaspoons, the glasses and the packets of crisps. Mmmmh . . . suspicious!
Today I didn’t do much in the way of exercise except use one of my new dishcloths to clean all the muck off the kitchen radiator that Eddie, my mucky cat sleeps on in what appears to be the most uncomfortable of ways to sleep. I had visitors in the afternoon so it was only manners to eat hefty chunks of fruit cake and drink coffee with them. But by the time they had gone the deposits from last night’s blizzard had completely gone too and the sun had appeared, so I went out in my new boots (first time . . . nice and comfy . . . sad to see them muddy though) to do a three mile circumnavigation of Chippers. There was still some daylight at 5.30 p.m. Oh February, how I do love thee!
The strange thing about today’s walk was that, in the sort of out in the country bits, people I met walking the other way nodded their heads at me, smiled or said, “hello” but in the townier bits there was no nod, facial movement, spoken word or even eye contact. How do these people decide at which point rural friendliness gives way to urban ignorance?
When I got home I had every intention of washing up with one of my new dishcloths but I had run out of washing up liquid. The basis of next weekend’s shopping expedition was already in place.