Sunday, 28 June 2015

White horses and crop circles

The rolling landscape of trackways and carvings
We are in the land of ancient tribes and modern myths; of prehistoric burial grounds and crop circle devotees.
We have reached the wide open spaces and rolling chalk downlands of central Wiltshire where we are moored in one of our very favourite spots on the whole K&A – outside the little village of All Cannings, half a dozen miles east of Devizes on a long and lock-free section of the canal.
Up on the hilltops are the trackways and burial sites of ancient man; the long barrows, Wansdyke and Ridge Way. Around the peaks circle brightly coloured paragliders and on a hillside in the distance is one of the many white horses that decorate the downs, this one dating back merely to 1812 not the stone age. Down on the canal are the familiar signs of the modern travellers: from orange lifeboats to massive barges.
And the signs of the modern waterway traveller
It's all an utter change of style and pace from the rocky gorges and limestone villages of the western canal; almost entirely bereft of canalside communities and with a narrow, reed edged waterway.
A local shop for local people at All Cannings
The afternoon was too hot for any lengthy walking so we strolled instead the half mile to the village where a community shop was still thriving, then wandered through the fields on a loop back to the boat.
See that tiny white speck up there
After dinner, though, we decided on a longer stroll in the cool evening – just up to that white horse. Maybe four or five miles? Two and a half hours and seven miles later we were back just as twilight was closing in!
What a glorious walk, though. A steep uphill track, then following the White Horse Trail as it wove along the curvaceous contours of the ridges toward our target. The views in every direction were stunning, even in the hazy evening light.
Well now we are up here and it was quite a walk
In truth, the horse is better seen from below: once you're by it you're too close to take in the shape. But it's an achievement to be there all the same. It's been restored and fenced off; sensibly protected from grazing cattle and picnicking humans.
Then it was all downhill to rejoin the canal at Honeystreet by the famous Barge Inn, legendary headquarters of the 'croppies' and their fellow New Age travellers.
The raucous campsite at the famous Barge Inn
Just like the last time we were here, it was raucous with counter-culture life - the field beside the pub a mass of tents and teepees, full of music and blazing fire pits, just like an old-school Festival. The brightly lit Floating Cinema barge was here too, as a stop on its journey from Brentford to Bath. And, of course, it was showing 'Crop Circles and Other Mysteries'.
Where the Floating Cinema showed a 'Crop Circles' film
After that it was a long trudge back to the boat in time for a beer and bed!

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