Let’s go back to January; a fresh month at the beginning of a brand-new year. On that very first weekend, I went out for a walk and, as I had done two-weeks earlier with the trip to Slaughterford, I continued my exploration of western Wiltshire with a few hours spent in an area famed for one Peter Gabriel (among other things, I’m sure).
My previous trip to Box, (as some of you may remember) came last April when I visited Oscar Windbank’s timber yard to collect a van-load of walnut and maple boards that would be transformed in to a set of end-grain cutting boards (and the rest is history). I heard a rumour a few years ago that ‘The Gabe‘ owns that yard but this is where all talk of the Prog God ends within my writing as I didn’t (at least knowingly) come face to face with him during my 8 mile pursuit.
Welcome to Box!
Following along with the guide featured in Walk West 3, this one begins at the Selwyn Hall car park, just off the A4 cutting through the centre of the town (or is it a village?). Following the high street, it wasn’t long before I passed that recognisable turning for Windebank. It also reminded me of a drive out deeper in to Wiltshire a few years ago, when I was afraid of motorways and less assured of my own sense of direction, clinging to the A4 for as long as I could hold on.
That timber yard lies down a lane known as The Wharf and my path was headed down The Bassetts, which I once mistook for ‘the right way‘ when I attended a job interview in 2009. Just before leaving the main road, you can look right to see a tunnel apparently designed and built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel (perhaps the second most famous ma….).
Looking all over the internet and having read several blogs covering the subject, it’s clear to see that the world is suffering from an horrendous winter. Here in the south of the UK, we’ve not seen even a single snow flake, while some of our ‘cousins’ across the Atlantic are looking at nothing but the white stuff. We’ve had one of the mildest Januarys on record and February has pretty much begun along the same line. But this walk took place on a crisp and frosty morning.
The earlier you can get up and going on days like this; the better, in my opinion. You can often leave your wellies in the boot as much of the wet land will be frozen. At least, until it’s blessed by the warmth of the rising sun.
It was such a rare and valuable opportunity to experience that I feel as though I could continue to share nothing but photos of the frost. I can’t recall having seen much like it since. Certainly, it’s been weeks since I had to remove any ice from my car’s windscreen at 6.30am.
But in all the refreshment of a mild winter’s coating, I was quickly on the trail of something all-too-familiar within this landscape…
Not only did I find myself retracing footsteps of the past but it was as recent as two weeks prior – I’d already walked a section of this route during the Slaughterford walk!
That familiar site of the church in Colerne.
But that’s not to raise even an ounce of a complaint because for one, I enjoyed walking this part of the British countryside and secondly, I was granted the opportunity to experience the surroundings on a clearer day and painted under a different pallet.
Unlike last time, the electric fence was absent. Had I wanted to, I probably could’ve marched on over the frost.
Where my previous path took me left, uphill along the bridleway (below), on this walk, I was heading straight ahead, over the stile to follow the contour of a hill.
Going straight ahead, this time.
In his book, Geoff Mullett titles this one as ‘Box Hill’ but, even after an 8 mile circuit in its surrounding, I remain clueless as to where this specific hill is.
Are these the contours of the ‘mysterious’ Box Hill?
My best guess implies that it is the hill I crossed in the two photos above. Google isn’t providing the answers I’m looking for and, gazing upwards from the designated footpath, I couldn’t see a Trig Point or anything to indicate this as any kind of landmark or point of distinction.
I remember the path getting muddier from this point on. I greeted and passed a few friendly dog walkers.
Then, it was time to climb uphill through a woodland setting that appeared to resemble the surroundings of an area I’d explored 14 days previously…
Before I knew it, I was walking out on to the same road but this time presenting me with clear views over the surrounding hills and villages.
Rudloe Manor; again but still.
Rudloe Manor remained closed as before. There was a very definite security presence as well.
On my previous visit, I was greeted by a dog-walking woman outside the manor who informed curious to know of my adventure and informed me that there was a footpath ‘down there‘ that leads in to Box… Little did I know that I’d be walking it only a couple of weeks after!
Where, on my previous visit, I turned right, climbed a stile and proceeded downhill between a valley; this time, I continued straight, until leaving the last field to join another country road.
I soon found myself ascending a road known as Barnetts Hill (no apostrophe, there) and it’s recommended that you visit a pub (on passing) within the locale.
Looking down while climbing Barnetts Hill.
If not for Geoff’s description, I’d not have been aware that the ‘extended garden with private tennis court‘ used to house a quarry which, apparently, provided the stone that became the railway tunnel I showed you at the beginning.
What was once a quarry.
After crossing an icy road and then a field that felt as though I was walking across melted ice cream, I came to a crossroads of paths where I decided to stop and sit for lunch.
With the sun warming the back of my neck, I wasn’t at all bothered by the rocks sticking in to my backside. Nor was I deterred by the regular passing of other walkers – not to mention one cheeky canine, unashamed to leap towards my lap… Well, my sandwiches are pretty good! 😉
Hazelbury Manor – ‘occasionally’ open to the public but certainly not on my day.
You’ve no idea how fortunate you are to be able to see this photo, as moments before capturing the image of Hazelbury Manor above, I sent my camera for an ungainly drop, roll and tumble towards the locked gates, directly under the gaze of two silent spectators!
A Guernsey goat!!
Just around the corner and you’ll lay your eyes on a small number of Guernsey goats! This was the first recollection I had of ever having seen them. There were only two on my visit but Geoff’s published photo illustrates more. That isn’t the sunlight making their hair glow warm and orange. Not the breed of goat you’d expect to see on the Mendip Hills, that’s for sure!
I then went downhill without completely losing my balance; then uphill to complete the soggy sensation between my toes. After crossing another road, it was up and out through more woodland to hilltop view, with a direct descent emerging towards the centre of Box.
Sneaking back in to civilisation.
Unquestionable evidence of hungry horses!
Returning to the car park felt a lot like the end of The Snowman… Everything had changed. All that bright, white was now lost. It was all over too soon and there was no guarantee of when or if the winter picture might return.
Before returning to the seat of my car, my camera caught a glimpse of what might have been a miniature stone circle… I hold on to my doubts, along with the regret in not taking just a couple of minutes to head over and take a definitive look for myself.
Another stone circle, perhaps?
This has been one of my favourite walks for a while and, if I do say so, I feel as though I’ve also captured some of my finest photographs. Thank you for reading!
Please click here to see my entire set of photos from this walk.