Walking The Avon Valley Footpath
Ann saw the forecast on Sunday and sprang it on me. “How about walking the Avon Valley footpath on Tuesday?” So, on Tuesday morning, we bussed to Bournemouth and then to Salisbury. The market was in full swing and I bought a Tilley hat for £40.00, a full £35.00 cheaper than anywhere else. That was to avoid sun damage to my skin. After coffee and cake, to the cathedral where Antiques Roadshow was in full swing on their lawns. The path starts at the cathedral and goes through the Harnham gate, over the old bridge and up the Harnham ridge. There were two amazing views of the cathedral down through the trees.
We soon joined an old drove road. Wildflowers, brimstone and orange tipped butterflies abounded. They abruptly ceased as soon as we turned off into fields. More fields, a big farm; no swallows, no sparrows, no insect life. We crossed the River Ebble, a sparkling chalk stream, and then pasture and cows for miles, but no butterflies and few birds.
The crossing of the A338 was about the quick and the dead. Almost permanent speeding traffic and awkward corners made it dire. A few swallows at Matrimony Farm and swans on the Avon were a compensation. The fields were mainly composed of flint, smashed up by the plough. The village of Downton was interesting, with the river split between four bridges. Our B & B was next to one of two noisy rookeries and we ate well at The Wooden Spoon Inn. Ten miles of the thirty four completed.
The next day a wonderful 17 mile route starting on the New Forest side. Hale Park, with its lime avenue, White Park cattle and church was exceptional. Then Castle Hill and across the water meadows to Fordingbridge. We sat on the terrace, beside the river, at The George Inn for lunch. The afternoon was through miles of remote water meadow to Turmer. Every field with horses was grossly overgrazed. Then back over Ibsley Bridge to the New Forest side and a small herd of mokes joined us. A rambling route to Ringwood past lakes but unfortunately viewless due to high hedges and fences. Moortown Lodge, a boutique B & B in Ringwood proved very comfortable.
Walking the Avon Valley Footpath
The final stretch is water meadow, fords and overgrazed commons. All this is demeaned by a one mile stretch of the B3347 past Bisterne Manor. No roadside path and speeding cars make this really dangerous and unpleasant. The path should be closed for this reason alone. Also, the stretch into Christchurch is scruffy, as I record in my book published in July 2019. My pagan ancestor Zuri would hate to see her Neolithic paradise in such a state.
The walk is 34 miles. We did 43 miles over the three days with the extra due to finding accommodation and places to eat. For certain, it was a carbon free holiday but I cannot say I felt at ease being in the countryside. I expected to see more wildlife but the farmland was dire. Many of the streams looked polluted and I saw no kingfishers and rarely any fish. In contrast, as soon as we walked into villages, with their chemical free gardens, sparrows and other birds started twittering. Consequently, modern farming, and traffic, are a curse put upon us!