A somewhat smaller than usual group of Stratford Ramblers set off for Newbury on the 1st Wednesday in June. Maybe it was the unseasonably cold weather and the forecast of rain which deterred members. Certainly the heavy shower which fell just as the party climbed aboard the coach was not a good portent.
After a brief stop at Chieveley services just north of Newbury, our Dudley`s coach driver, Dave, made his way expertly through the West Berkshire lanes and on to the evocatively named Gallows Down. Our leader for the day assured members that Combe Gibbet, where 2 adulterous murderers were hanged in 1676, was still there but it was invisible through the hilltop mist. Undaunted, the group for the 10 mile walk set off along the top of the Downs on part of the Wayfarers walk - a 71 mile Way Walk which finishes at Chichester Harbour.
The skies lightened a little at coffee time to give a good view across the broad Kennet Valley. The previous night`s heavy rain made the descent down a steep slope more tricky than expected but everyone took great care and felt deservedly proud when all were safely down. Once off the Down the walk followed pleasant paths and lanes through the fields, woods, hamlets and occasional patches of mud before reaching the Kennet and Avon Canal for the final mile into Newbury.
Meanwhile the 6 mile walk group were driven to Boxford to walk along the final stretch of the 20 mile Lambourn Valley Way. This delightful route passes through beautiful countryside with an abundance of wild flowers, birds and nature. After a lunch stop alongside the River Lambourn in the village of Bagnor, where the old mill has been converted into a theatre, the group continued refreshed through the Anglo-Saxon settlement of Speen. Before arriving at Newbury there were hopes of hearing the cuckoo which had been heard on the previous visit but today it was silent.
Although the air was damp at times no rain fell until the group were safely back on the coach to Stratford permitting everyone to feel that they had made the right choice for the day.