My friends and I agreed to a day out around Chippenham. This is the story of getting lost on footpaths to Lacock, though it’s pretty straight on the map (Wiltshire rights of way are online at http://www.wiltshire.gov.uk/communityandliving/rightsofway/publicrightsofwaymapping.htm).
First, we needed to get out of town. Like many towns, Chippenham has interesting buildings if you look up.
It was good to find a path off the A4 and head away from the traffic, although we were on an unsigned bridleway (called CHIP2A on the map).
We had many OS map consultations: I should have taken my Garmin GPS. The first of several people reassured us that we were on the path to Lacock, although, she said, it could be a bit marshy.
We also found a sign, but couldn’t see a defined path and ended up in a new housing area. Friendly people living there obviously drove everywhere, though they thought there might be a path. And I spotted one through two houses and their cars. We escaped back into a field.
After the minor excitement of a dead motorbike in long grass, we found a track.
That petered out, but then we found a tarmac track and a real excitement, a stile with a waymark. We were now safely on LAC09 (we didn’t know the numbers, of course, I’ve checked them out since).
Chatting away on a warmish June day was delightful, and the marshy bit turned out to have a good wooden walkway.
The next bridge (not easy to spot), was gated and wheelchair friendly: impressive.
The trees made a great skyline as we tried to keep on the path using the OS map. There were some gun shots in the distance.
The next stile was broken, though Linda managed to push it back for Kath to climb over.
A small adventure was the weird black things in a field as we walked across to another stile. I thought they were dead crows, and, sure enough, someone carrying a rifle emerged from the trees and explained that he was indeed shooting crows for the farmer. I’m not fond of crows, having seen what they can do to poorly animals. Yes, it was the path to Lacock, he said, and turned back to his trees. We carried on, over another sunlit bridge.
As we climbed out from the bridge, we saw a stile and steps to our right. This took us into a field, and we realised that we were on the wrong path having missed a fork further back. There was a big nursery and Showell Cottages across the field.
A broad swathe had been cut and, although the path should have been crossfield, we followed the mown track to a building where straw was burning.
After that, we had a crossfield nightmare. No path, not even a naughty “alternative” strip round the edge with which some councils allow though they shouldn’t. More naughtiness: this sign “Please keep to the footpaths. The public have no right of access to any other part of this land” came before a ploughed and planted field with no reinstated path. (If a landowner obstructs a path, of course you can go round the obstruction on his or her land.)
Further on, we gave up. As Kath said “We are hardy, but not stupid” when faced with a barrier of nettles and brambles. Sod the definitive map route: Kath had given a thirst warning and it was past two. I have sent off an email to Wiltshire County Council pointing out their duty to keep paths unobstructed quoting Open Spaces Society.
We headed over to the A4 new roundabout and off through Lackham College, with its cute calves and beautiful trees. Another amused workman assured us that Lacock was only 30 minutes away.
We did find our path, too, running across the road and through the dairy cows.
I hadn’t heard of Lacock. We came in from the north and past this bridge and a rose-festooned cottage. The rose in the tree was spectacular.
The view from the bridge was lovely too, and then we went through some chocolate-box cottages.
The village proper is across a meadow – the sheep grazing looked like dairy sheep – and down a lane through a ford. People have a narrow bridge to use.
Lacock, a Domesday Book village, is popular for filming including Downton Abbey. It has large groups of sightseers and many houses sell plants or jam on their doorsteps. No television aerials or satellite dishes. It was three and we were hungry and thirsty, but the George only did pre-booked coach parties. Their “sister” pub Red Lion provided a good Waterloo ale and food and then we left to get the bus back from this unusual shelter.
Chippenham station is a fine example of old-fashioned cream and green weather boarding and has a grade II listed building in Bath Stone designed by J H Bertram in 1856 to 1858. Kath and I were catching the same train, but Linda stayed on the platform by the main entrance until we pointed out that there were no rails and it was out of use.
Another fun day out getting lost: we are very good at that, foiled by the paths despite our excellent map-reading skills.
For an alternative view please see Linda’s at http://swindonopenstudios.blogspot.co.uk/2015/06/a-day-out-in-june-starting-at.html