Monday, 3 January 2011

Egg and the Quest to Find Milk Hill

Avebury just before sunrise
As part of the '12 Days of Christmas Challenge', the very imaginative Sarah B set me a challenge to walk from Avebury to Stonehenge - stone circle to stone circle.

I worked out that it would be around 25 miles, just about do-able with nine hours of sunlight. A bit of googling revealed that I could take in the highest point in Wiltshire on the journey too: Milk Hill.

It was just getting light when I arrived at Avebury. I took a few moments to soak up the mysterious atmosphere and then set about locating the White Horse Trail; which I was going to follow for the first part of my journey. The trail took me past Silbury Hill - effectively just an enormous man-made mound - and onwards over the delightfully unspoilt Pewsey Downs. 

The track started to ascend, and I started to get excited about getting up on the roof of Wiltshire. Over the valley I could see Tan Hill, Milk Hill's marginally smaller sibling (by a whole 26cm). Tan Hill is topped with a trig point and it's fairly obvious where it is. Milk Hill, on the other hand, is an elusive beast. The map shows it just as a spot height but you'd think being the highest point in the county would warrant some sort of signage or monument?! I wandered about for a bit, got a bit lost and stuck in between barbed-wire fences whilst committing minor trespassing crimes and eventually found only one thing that could maybe have been the 'summit' (see video).

A white horse in front of
the White Horse
Feeling a bit disappointed with Milk Hill, I cheered myself up by munching on a cereal bar and went on with my walk. I passed the White Horse of Pewsey (just above which was another knobbly bit of hill that could have been Milk Hill) and then ambled through the lovely villages of Alton Priors and Alton Barnes.

The completely frozen
Kennet and Avon Canal
A swift turn off at The Barge Inn (and I almost felt compelled to, with a name like that) led me down to the very iced over Kennet and Avon Canal. The canal is beautiful with a range of barges and boats moored up along the bank.

After I'd meandered along the canal for a couple of miles, I went through another village or two, passed a couple of churches and cautiously crossed through fields with mean looking cows. After all that, I hit Salisbury Plains and I knew I was on the home stretch.

Unfortunately the path I had intended to take off the Plains and towards Stonehenge had been blocked off, so I had to take a diversion which had me finishing my hike at Woodhenge instead. Woodhenge sadly, is nowhere near as spectacular as Stonehenge and really just looks like a giant boy has dropped his building blocks. I'm not entirely convinced that it is a neolithic monument whatsoever! Nonetheless is was a very pleasant spot to finish my walk.

8 hours, 24.19 miles. Challenge complete.

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