There was always going to be some confusion surrounding this walk. That chap on the swing might look settled enough but, given we’d intended to go to Pentridge and are now parked outside the C12 church of St Bartholomew in Shapwick, derived from the words meaning Sheep Village, things have clearly gone amiss. Blame it on the weather forecast: all points in the direction of Salisbury were giving rain. In any case, the air around that city doesn’t seem to be too fresh at present.
Wikipedia excels on the merits of the interior of St Bart’s.The church is shut so we have a wander around its gardens. I’m in the company of those birders once more and they always claim there’s all sorts of birdlife to be spotted in a churchyard. Well, nothing to see here apart from a solitary war grave. Move along please.
The River Stour is close at hand. So close, in fact, that there are flood barricades outside the church. ‘Where are we off to then?’ I ask Sherpa Tony. I’d brought along printed copies of a possible route and emailed an alternative which seemed to be the same walk backwards. Tony has a third option: a map of a not apparently dissimilar path on a nicely coloured printed card. The first two routes suggested a 4 mile meander so Sally and I assumed the one that was chosen would be more or less the same.
Having left the village far behind, trudged the long and winding road and made a left up a muddy track in the direction of Elm Tree Cottage, we arrive at this signpost which is about as useful as a chocolate teapot. No matter, our leader has switched to his iPad and we gaily follow him up a hill and into the open countryside. And when I say ‘open’, I mean ‘open’..
Some hours later, we hit such dizzy heights that the snow that left Dorset four days ago still lingers in these parts. Sally and I are both currently committed to Slimming World so have been content to discuss food for the last couple of miles. Suddenly, she remembers her husband is also on this walk so falls back to keep him company for a while. Actually, she’s really keeping the peace as the Sherpa has two of us questioning his directions.
It hasn’t worked: there’s Tony in another world whilst we two discuss the merits of BBQ chicken without fat; and oil; and anything else that’s ‘bad’. In the far distance, we can see Badbury Rings and remark on how the countryside that falls away from them is so remarkably – well, open. Not a lot to see in these parts.
Suddenly, Sally sees the hare: an apparently enormous specimen bounding away with such speed that none of us manage to capture it on our cameras. It’s a treat, nonetheless. Just as we’re discussing our luck, a small herd of deer magically appears in front of us. There they go.
After we’ve finally escaped the pastureland, which involved a number of detours and the crossing of a barbed wire fence, we head off downhill. Generally, I’m a fan of ‘downhill’ but the way is comprised of slippery mud from last night’s rain. Sherpa Tony informs us that, according to the iPad, we’ve come nearly a mile. The peasants revolt: how can that be so? We’ve been walking for over two hours and lunch beckons. The leader informs us that, to our left, we can see the church of Tarrant Crawford. Well, sorry old bean but the only visible church is to the right and it belongs to the parish of Tarrant Keyneston. Apparently, the iPad stopped recording some eons ago and has about as much of a clue where we are as we do. I’m hungry.
The sun appears in all its full glory as we’re wandering along a stream – the Tarrant. Rounding a corner, we spot the welcoming site of the Church of St Mary, Tarrant Crawford. Listen reader, if you think this weasel is dragging on a bit, what do you think it was like for us? I spotted a handy luncheon bench and we partook of our frugal, Slimming World inspired grub. For some reason, best known to herself, Sally starts harping on about how culinary life changes mean no more pasties. I hadn’t even thought about those Cornish delicacies – too busy grieving over the loss of cheese – but now you come to mention it.
The door to the church is, amazingly, open. And look – they have frescoes. They date from the C13 but look much older to my untrained eye. What a treat. The church interior is, otherwise, a sullen affair but I can’t help but think they could’ve promoted these beauties a bit further afield.
When we emerge from the church it starts raining. Then it starts pouring. And next it begins with the hailstones. And Sherpa Tony turns over the brightly coloured route card and informs us that the walk is 7.5 miles long. And it bloody well feels like it. We decide to omit a field or three and walk along the road; which is just as well because, otherwise, we’d have missed this mediaeval way marker. The bottom and the top cross are later additions but I love it. And it’s stopped raining.
And here am I, looking jolly.