Uffington Walk – 31st July 2013
The weather wasn’t promising but eleven doughty souls from (only!) three U3As met to undertake the third Historic Pathways walk. The day began with a visit to the Tom Brown’s School Museum, where Thomas Hughes, author of “Tom Brown’s Schooldays”, began his own education. We are doubly indebted to Sharon Smith, the curator, as she not only opened up especially for us – the museum is normally only open at the weekend – but she also gave us a very informative talk on the building’s history and the great variety of exhibits contained therein.
We then went to church – St Mary’s, known because of its size and Early English splendour as “the Cathedral of the Vale. We learned of the Saunders family, one of whom set up the endowment for the school, of the missing steeple and clock face, and of the links to John Betjeman and Denis Thatcher.
As we began our circular walk so the rain began, but fortunately it didn’t last long – just time in fact for the doubters to don waterproofs. The paths of the Parish Trail took us across the middle of fields, with the Uffington White Horse clearly visible in the distance,
by babbling streams, over some decidedly dodgy stiles and eventually into the lovely village of Woolstone, with its 17th century oak-beamed and thatched White Horse Inn. There was no planned stop here as the intention was to visit another church. All Saints is a tiny early Norman church which provided a fascinating contrast to St Marys. It should be said that one of the group chose to sample the delights of the pub instead, thinking that it was the lunch stop, despite hearing the lunch order being telephoned through five minutes earlier!
The final part of the morning walk took us along a newer path through some recently created woodland and eventually to the road into Uffington. We took this instead of the planned route as we could then pass John Betjeman’s blue-plaqued former residence and arrive at The Fox and Hound in time for a lunch that was enjoyed by one and all.
In the afternoon a smaller group of six drove to the NT Car Park on White Horse Hill and undertook a shorter two mile circular walk that included a section of the Ridgeway, an examination of the Iron Age Uffington Castle and a close up view of the White Horse. This was a great way to end a good day. My thanks to all those who came along, but particularly to Chris French who took a number of splendid photographs that can be seen at http://www.frogslegs.org/walks/U3A_Uffington_Walk/