Day 8 – Wickwar to Malmesbury
I said goodbye to John and Annie, my hosts for the past two nights who had looked after me splendidly. John had again prepared lunch for me and Annie drove me to the Butnay Inn in Wickwar in order to hand over my luggage to the next host. On our way, I stopped briefly to take a photograph of a Wales and West Utilities’ gas facility which I had noted yesterday. I mentioned this to a few local residents and none of them were aware of – yet again a small local detail that one would be highly unlikely to notice if one was driving rather than walking.
At the Butnay Inn car park there was a small group of about a dozen people from GloStays (a member of Best for Britain which is the umbrella group for several smaller local groups of residents of Gloucestershire) assembling to see me off. After sorting out luggage transfers, we assembled for some photographs of the group followed by a few short speeches. Robert Whitfield, my host this evening and one of my walking companions during the day, welcomed me to Wickwar and gave some of his views on the current parliamentary activities also noting that he sensed that the mood in the country was turning. This was followed by a speech by Tony Sheppard, a local businessman, who explained how the business he had set up in the area had benefited greatly from the UK’s membership of the EU. His family owned company, which provides specialist services and equipment for the oil and gas industry, had been set up in the early days of the development of the North Sea oil and gas industry and had since developed an international market. I later heard about one or two other local specialist manufacturing industries based in Gloucestershire which surprised me a bit as I would not have associated such activities with this part of the country.
At 9:00 we got underway on the next leg. Today Dorry, then Tim and finally Alwyn provided car support. I started off the day accompanied by four other walkers, Robert, Karen, Christian and Tim, and we headed east on a path out of the village which Robert has suggested as a suitable off-road option. This was a bit muddy at the start and I slipped at one point and bent the pole of the flag I have been carrying all the way from Swansea plus got a small graze on the palm of my hand which required a plaster. Luckily, I had a replacement flagpole and I changed this later, but I decided that we would stick to roads as much as possible for the rest of the day as I could not afford to sprain an ankle at this stage of my adventure. We continued along the path by the river and then crossed a bridge and set off cross country. At a gate to one of the next fields, we had a brief encounter with a group from the Wickwar Wunners out for an early morning run. We then came out on a minor road and walked along a flat stretch followed by a climb up the Cotswold escarpment. At the top, we found ourselves at the foot of the Somerset Monument which had been erected in 1846 to commemorate the life of Lord Edward Somerset. As a geologist, I noted that I had now crossed a significant geological divide, having moved from the older Palaeozoic rocks which make up most of Wales to the Mesozoic rocks which dominate in southeast England. Continuing on our way, we passed through the village of Hawkesbury-Upton, where we stopped briefly for a discussion with the local postman and a shopper at the village shop.
Shortly after this, we arrived at the Bodkin Inn in Petty France where I had arranged to meet with Anne Laure and Maike, two of the founding members of the3million. This is the main EU citizens’ group in the UK, formed after the Brexit referendum to protect the lives of EU citizens who made the UK their home. It takes its name from the estimated number of EU citizens who moved from another member state to live and work, and have established their life in the UK, many for a very long time. As I wanted to talk with them about some of the concerns and issues faced by the 3 million since the referendum, we went into the Bodkin Inn to have a coffee and a chat. Unfortunately, we caught the landlord at a bad time when he was cleaning out the fires to get ready for another day’s business. Nevertheless, we managed to have our coffee and some very interesting discussions on issues facing EU citizens who have been living in the UK for a long time. Finishing our coffee break around 12:30, with Dorry replacing Tim as a walker, we headed north again, stopping to take photographs of the road sign for “Dunkirk” a hamlet of two buildings on a crossroads. Being aware of the situation faced by the 3 million, when I was planning this walk, I could not resist taking advantage of the photo opportunity offered by the village name.
Turning right shortly after Dunkirk cross, we headed east across the Badminton estate. Unfortunately, we did not get a view of Badminton House, since the minor road we were on was in a dip at the point where it crossed “Worcester Avenue” which provides a direct line of sight from one of the entrance gates to the estate to the house. After a pleasant walk along a minor, mainly flat road, we arrived in the village of Sherston and stopped for a late lunch in the Rattlebone Inn. They had stopped serving lunch just before we arrived but allowed us to eat our sandwiches in the pub. I treated myself to a pint of Elmers from the Flying Monk Breweries in Malmesbury. At this point, Karen, Christian and Dorry decided that they had had enough walking for the day, so it was down to myself and Robert to walk the last stretch together. We continued along quiet roads in a very agricultural area before eventually arriving on the outskirts of Malmesbury. Our final challenge was the ascent of the hill into Malmesbury, passing the Old Bell Hotel, Malmesbury Abbey and eventually arriving at our end destination the Market Cross. Although I had been to the town before, I had not realised that it had such an interesting town centre and must return sometime in the future to explore it in more detail.
A few interesting facts which I learned today:
- The Wiltshire village of Sherston has an annual boules (petanque) competition held on the Saturday closest to Bastille Day (https://en-gb.facebook.com/SherstonBoulesAndCarnival/). We were informed that it was supposed to be one of the largest such competitions outside of France.
- One of the earliest documented example of human flight was by the 11th century monk Elmer, who launched himself off one of the towers of Malmesbury and flew a furlong (about 200 m) before crashing and breaking both of his legs (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eilmer_of_Malmesbury). If I had been told this story before I order a pint of Elmers at lunchtime I might have thought twice about drinking it, but hopefully it will put wind in my sails for the rest of the trip!
- Malmesbury is reported to be the oldest borough in England and has one of the oldest and best preserved market crosses in the country. Nicknamed the “Birdcage” by local residents, this was the end point for today’s and the start point for tomorrow’ leg of my walk. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malmesbury_Market_Cross)
Today we covered 18.2 miles (29.3 km), starting from the Butnay Inn in Wickwar at 9:00 and finishing at the Market Cross in Malmesbury at 17:25.
The3million – EU citizens residents in the UK
After the long walk yesterday, I have not yet had time to write up my comments on my discussions with members of the 3million, but will return to this at a later time.