The second bank holiday weekend in May and time for another microadventure.
What was our planned Microadventure for May?
This was to be more of a challenge than just a straight wild camp. We had decided to walk the Clarendon Way from Salisbury to Winchester, wild camping somewhere along the way. This is a 24 mile walk, starting at Salisbury Cathedral and finishing at Winchester Cathedral. As we were wild camping we were carrying 65 litre rucksacks, with bivvy bags, food, water, sleeping bags, waterproofs, sleeping mats and maps.
How did we get on?
We caught the train from our home in Bracknell to Salisbury and set off from the Cathedral in the early afternoon.
The walk starts by climbing out of the city, quickly leaving behind the crowds of tourists and heading across farm fields, all the time able to glance back to see the spire of the cathedral marking where we’d come from.
After a steep climb up the hill we reached the ruins of Clarendon Palace, where Henry II made merry, and the court gathered to hunt. There was stabling here for 120 horses, in a two storey stable, but nowadays there is just one wall left of the palace and the area around it is grazed by friendly llamas.
The land you pass through on this walk is very pretty, through woodland in places but mostly across open downland, under the hot sun that beat down on us. We were glad of a stop at a pub to top up on fluids, and rest our legs briefly.
We passed pretty church at West Winterslow and walked along field margins alive with wild flowers towards Middle Winterslow.
At one point we were accompanied for a stretch by a very friendly cat, who walked with us for a while and then watched as we made our way out of his territory.
We carried on walking until, shortly before a farm, we popped around a copse and settled at a field edge by a large badger sett to have a drink and rest for a while. I was too exhausted to eat and spent the time enjoying the bird song and the view from where we sat, while my husband munched trough the packed food we had brought with us. We considered spending the night in this spot in the hope of seeing the badgers, but after a rather unsettling experience with a tractor stopping on the lane on the other side of the hedge and hearing footsteps in the copse next to us, feeling rather exposed, we carried on walking.
On we trudged, through the deepening twilight, next to sadly fenced off woodland and between huge fields full of oil seed rape, until we found ourselves turning into the wide track leading down to Broughton and the welcome site of a gap in the hedge and a field with expansive views down the hills, with a trig point in the centre of the field and a grassy margin with a sheltering hedge, next to which we settled down for the night.
Almost dark and late in the evening we had settled into our sleeping bags and bivvies for the night when we were disturbed again by a dog walker, calling his inquisitive dog away from us. Startled out of my descent into somnolence by the calls of Bella, Bella, come away and an apology for disturbing us, I was relieved by the friendly encounter. The night was warm, with gentle rain falling at some point in the early hours, followed by the stars coming out overhead. We did not sleep well, but managed a few hours of sleep and woke up somewhat refreshed, in the pre dawn light. Somewhere down in the valley a cuckoo called, woodpigeons cooed, and the hedge stirred into melodious life.
The day dawned, misty pinks and purples turning to dusty orange as the sun rose and the sky turned blue. I headed along the field to take a better look at the view from slightly higher on the hill and looked back to find my husband gesturing at me, with his hands either side of his head like large ears sticking out. I walked slowly back and soon saw what had his attention, a beautiful doe fallow deer, silvery in the dawn light, like a patronus, with her two young fawns, grazing in the field. Before I had chance to lift my camera and take a shot she issued a barking warning and they were off, graceful synchronicity as they bound across the verdant green field.
We took some time to take in the beautiful morning, ate an apple and were off, striding down the yew lined track to Broughton. We passed through the village not long after 6am, the houses closed up and the inhabitants asleep, the roads empty. We passed over the Wallop Brook and continued along a track. As we walked, the track stretched long and straight ahead of us and above us, as we walked uphill a creature slipped under a gate and started down the track towards us. Unsure at first what it was I quickly realised to my delight that it was a hare, up early like us and about its business. The best part about our microadventures is the wildlife we are lucky enough to spy, and this adventure was no exception.
We walked on into Houghton, where early dog walkers and runners were up and about. We stopped as we crossed the Test to take in the beauty of the water meadows and the clear rippling water, with fat trout flashing amongst the weeds. My husband was even lucky enough to spot a kingfisher fly past while I was looking the other way. A cuckoo was again calling and it was a very relaxing place to spend a few minutes.
Heavy bags back on our backs, and increasingly thirsty, we continued on our way, eventually reaching King’s Somborne….where this story ends.
Did we complete the challenge?
No, we didn’t complete the Clarendon Way.. We walked from Salisbury to King’s Somborne, with a wild camp overnight above Broughton. We’d run out of water on the Saturday evening and the first place we reached a shop on Saturday morning, was King’s Somborne. By this time we’d been walking for a couple of hours and were very hot and thirsty. Seeing the shop closed and realising that the next place we could maybe pick up a drink was at Farley Mount Country Park, several miles distant over hills, we decided not to carry on. It was only later that we realised there was another shop in King’s Somborne, not very much further into the village, but off the route of the Clarendon Way. Had we realised that shop was there and been able to rehydrate, we would have finished the walk. We definitely learnt a lesson about how much water we need to carry when taking on a longer walk challenge.
What you should know about the walk:
The route is waymarked, but in places it is not clearly marked so we were very glad to have the relevant OS maps with us, handily borrowed from a local library.
Take plenty of water with you, there are not many places where it is possible to get a drink, and the walk is open and gets very hot on a sunny day.
There are few opportunities for wild camping- the route passes mostly through open fields, where we would have felt very exposed, or fenced off woodland. The spot we eventually settled in was great, with wide ranging views, but we were getting worried that we weren’t going to find anywhere!
What lessons did we learn from this microadventure?
We need to carry more water, we can’t let another challenge be stymied by thirst!
It’s slower going with a heavy pack, and more tiring, especially on a hot day. This was the first time I’ve walked with a heavy pack since I completed Duke Of Edinburgh awards half a lifetime ago, and I found it pretty hardgoing. Hopefully as we get fitter and more used to walking longer distances this will get easier, but we need to bear it in mind when planning a longer walk again.
Always check for another shop, even in a small village, there may be a second option!
We still enjoyed this microadventure, finishing it slightly earlier than planned worked well as we were able to spend more time with my lovely in-laws, who we were visiting in Winchester for the rest of the Sunday, without being too exhausted to enjoy their company. We had a lift from them from King’s Somborne into Winchester for a wander around the allotment and a pub lunch. We spent our journey home on the train discussing what to do for our next microadventure- roll on the summer solstice!