Today I travelled to the Pewsey White Horse on foot from Avebury. The Pewsey White Horse was my third chalk upland white horse of the year and the Corsham Ramblers were my third walking group of the year. Don’t I get about? What a tart!
But, after living here for almost sixteen years, I think I’m starting to fall in love with Wiltshire. As we sat on the grass above my white horse that came in third, gazing far across the Pewsey Vale towards more chalk uplands and the counterpane pattern of the miles and miles of fields below, in one of which I could see six deer grazing on tender green shoots, I couldn’t help but think what an amazing and captivating view it was. But so was the sky. A huge sky, as if Constable himself had painted it; mostly cornflower blue and punctuated with fluffy white clouds, moving swiftly across it in the brisk February breeze.
I wondered if The Orb (an electronic music group known for spawning the genre of ambient house) perhaps had really lived in Avebury rather than Arizona. I was a bit disappointed to discover that they were English when I looked them up on Wikipedia. So all that bollocks about Arizona was all bollocks. The lyrics of their song (well, song-ish but mostly spoken word) so aptly echoed through my little fluffy head today as I ate my cous-cous and apple al fresco in the company of my new friends the Corsham boys (laced up boots and corduroys).
What were the skies like when you were young?
They went on for ever and they... when I... we lived in Avebury,
And the skies always had little fluffy clouds,
And err... they were long and clear,
And there were lots of stars, at night.
For almost the whole of our walk the vistas from the slopes of Milk Hill were breathtaking. Cherhill Down and the Lansdowne Monument, Silbury Hill, the Wansdyke and a vast landscape turning green as it began to wake up from the winter, all bathed in beautiful sunshine. Although a very cold day, the sun brought warmth to my heart and the inevitability of spring put a spring in my step.
I think it was Ellie Harrison from BBC Television’s Countryfile programme who once said, “You can feel the soul of the countryside through the soles of your boots.” Well I know for certain that she did because it was only about an hour ago on my telly that she said it, and several hours after I had got home from today’s trip to the countryside, but in retrospect I can say she was absolutely spot on with her words.
I wonder if I might just stay in Wiltshire forever . . . mmmmh!
Janet was on our walk again today. Janet cycled in Cuba last year only a month or two after I had done. Janet has just come back from a trip to Israel. Janet is booked up to go on an Exodus cycling trip in Indo-China sometime in the next couple of months. I like Janet. Janet enjoys walking in Wiltshire but, unlike the rest of the guys on the rambling scene, feels the need to go to some of the more remote parts of the world, just as I do. I doubt I’ll ever find a lady in a bowler hat playing Peruvian panpipes like you see in the Latin America holiday brochures to inspire me while I’m walking in the Wiltshire Downs, but Janet’s tales of adventure from distant shores come a close second.
Yesterday I travelled to Bradford-on-Avon to have a belated Burns’ night supper with my very good friend Angela. Angela walked the Inca Trail a year or two before I met her so she is a constant source of information, advice and encouragement. And she likes a drink. And she likes going to good gigs and music festivals. So we’re off to the Larmer Tree Festival in Dorset (or Wiltshire) together again this summer. So that’s another little project for me to look forward to. The way that 2012 is shaping up looks better and better with every passing moment.
Angela’s only fault is that she doesn’t like whisky, but I will forgive her this imperfection as she told me last night that she does have a mother who despairs of her ignorance of the pure and who herself is well educated in such matters to the extent that she has different whiskies for different times of the day. I want to marry Angela’s mum!
Following on from last night’s haggis and raspberry cranachan à la Angela, I had fresh kippers and a small whisky for my tea tonight . . . practising for my forthcoming Islay trip you see!