Plane trip into England: not terribly bad but my neck hurt quite a lot. Probably stress a big factor. Reached London about 5pm their time, hopped in car, drove on wrong side of road to Devizes. Not too bad a trip — nervewracking to a degree, of course. But I made it. Stopped in Marlborough for a bit, stopped at The Barge and met Ted as soon as I parked the car, an ex-British Marine who owns a canal boat (aka narrowboat) moored next to the Honeystreet bridge. He gave me a tour of his boat — very nice — met his wife, and then he even bought me a Croppie beer at The Barge. Talked of politics and such. Then crop circles came up, and I put forth my theory about them being part hoaxed, part paranormal in origin, and said most researchers agreed with me, disagreeing more about the percentages of each part. Not sure what Ted made of that statement, but at any rate he begged off a hike to the white horse with me, which was okay by me — not that I didn’t like him, but I was ready for some alone hiking time, some serious alone hiking time. And I got it this week believe me! So my first real hike came when I, impromptu, decided to park the car at the Stanton St. Bernard exit off the main road between Devizes and Honeystreet, and headed almost straight up Milk Hill to the north, the highest peak in all of Wiltshire at just under 1000 feet, I believe. Milk Hill article at wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milk_Hill. Exiting a rough hiking trail up, rather skirted the famed Alton Barnes white horse on its side to reach the top, then walked down on very narrow (“C”) road back down to the main highway. Wow, is it beautiful up there — a quick hike, since I needed to get to Devizes certainly before nightfall. So reached Devizes, and Tim was there already. Talked of general stuff and then crop circles; told him about the Barbara Lamb book I wanted to give him (unfortunately never did!). Scouted out downtown afterwards, and had beer in his landlord’s pub (Hare and Hound). 6x draft was my choice, a local brew made by Wadworth Brewery in Devizes itself. Very local, then.
Next day got up *very* early and headed toward Oliver’s Hill and the Devizes White Horse, another in a series of about 9 within Wiltshire County and perhaps the one of most recent design, only dating from the late 1990s. More on Wiltshire white horses here: http://www.wiltshirewhitehorses.org.uk/. I was up and out by about 4:30am I believe — it started to get light during my stay around *3:30*. Amazing. Will miss that. The trail up to the white horse got worse and worse until it just became a line through the weeds and up a hill. Luckily I brought my deluge kit in my daypack (the *amazing* Gregory pack — don’t leave home without it!), ’cause it was raining by the time I reached the horse figure. It’s really amazing at the top of this hill, with a highlight for sure being a small woods called Roundway Hill Covert. Tim later also mentioned the beauty of these woods. Site here: http://www.wiltshire-web.co.uk/oldwildlife/reserves/roundway/roundway.htm. Notable for me was the natural boxwood type plants (they may have been boxwoods themselves) that sprinkled the forest; very un-American seeming. Neck was starting to hurt before reaching Oliver’s Castle, and probably didn’t get to explore to the degree I had hoped for. Worried about neck for rest of trip, but turned out it was fairly okay. Main problem was *parking and driving*. More on that in a moment-o.
Next hike involved Cherhill white horse, after resting at Devizes Costa for a bit. Let me speak of Devizes: I had the idea before staying there that we, B and I, could live in Devizes after retiring, at least for months at a time. Don’t think this is the case now, but let me explain in parts. First, the library was very disappointing. I was expecting an old building full of ancient tomes and manuscripts, and the reality was that it made Blue Mountain’s public library look very good. Computer time for the public was limited, and though no fault of the library, the *keyboard* was a little different in Britain. All this made internet surfing considerably more problematic than I anticipated. A second problem was Costa — I expected an equal to America’s Starbucks, and, sorry Britain, got a flimsy substitute. Lattes weren’t nearly as strong even with extra shots, and they actually sweeten them a bit for some reason. Costa itself was pretty neat as far as stores go, and I had a great location in which to sit and people watch, it being located at a busy walking corner of downtown. Devizes’ downtown, overall, was quite interesting, with three old churches and covering a large area — several alleyways. Got a mocha latte at Costa on day 02, and vowed off sugar thereafter, sensing a cold coming on. Eventually the sugar and stress caught up with me in week 2, when I actually contracted a cold. But during the Devizes part I was okay on that. Had trouble with Tim’s shower in the morning — Britain’s showers are quite different than ours, requiring pulling a chord hung from the ceiling to turn on the hot water, and then adjusting the water temperature on a dial in the tub. And the curtain didn’t pull all the way around. Nowhere to really hang your towel when done. Strange. Back to the big problems: *parking*. I never solved the riddle of parking in Devizes, and ended up, for the last several days there, of parking at a Sports Complex almost a mile from Tim’s apt. One day I even parked at The Barge and walked all the way back to Devizes, a distance of maybe 6 miles, and then trekked back a different route of about 7 miles to The Barge the next morning. But those were some of my favorite hikes, if not my favorites of the trip, at least while I was alone.
The hike up to the Cherhill white horse was amazing as well, especially the earthworks and hill to its south. Later that week I was able to pull off a hike that partially linked this Cherhill horse hike with the Devizes horse hike, taking place around Morgan Hill. More on that in a later post. Should also mention that the oilseed rape field (yellow flowers!) below Cherhill’s horse figure contained a small crop circle, one of the earliest of the very late starting season, and probably man-made. I had actually forgotten it was there when hiking up to the horse figure. The farmer who owns the field didn’t allow access. But — my first spied crop circle! Pretty exciting, and then more would be on their way, or at least 2 more. To the south of Cherhill, one had a fantastic view into what I’ve been calling The Hole on this blog. A picture of it from the soon-to-be-expired Liquor camera can be found in this earlier post.
So now we start with one of the major incidents of our journey: on the way back to The Barge from Cherhill had a *flat tire*! Luckily — *luckily* — I was very near a designated parking lot along the quite narrow road to Honeystreet, or else I would have had to stay in the road to fix the tire, if I could even fix it. Turned out I had a lot of working room in the parking lot, and a man helped me located the thingamajig that enables one to remove the 5th, *safety* nut, which we don’t have in America I don’t believe. It was in the glove compartment, which I probably would have eventually found but the person saved me some time for sure. I had help from quite a number of Brits in this manner — as B. said, they seem to be more helpful over there than us Americans over here. Tried to call B and, to add to my problem, the phone needed recharging, and actually died while I *just* had enough information to locate the place in Marlborough where I needed to take the car and order a new tire. What timing — and that was another leitmotif of the trip. Time seemed different over there, and greater stress and problems strangely juxtaposed with greater joy and synchronicity. So went to Marlborough and ordered the tire, and then I just decided to head to The Barge, small spare tire be damned. Again, a nervewracking time, but once again I’m here to tell the tale and made it back. Even this night I was tempted to park my car there and walk back to Devizes. The next day I decided to do just this. But for this day, I drove back on with the small tire to Devizes. Stopped at Hound and Hare again, attempting to read books each night there.