A summer holiday adventure with my little walking buddy...
The summer holidays were fast approaching, and the thought of not being able to clock up any more miles on the Ridgeway until autumn was annoying me. My seven-year-old is an excellent little walker, lockdowns led to us completing the Walk 100 miles in lockdown challenge, and he regularly walks 3-5 miles on a weekend or holidays. A particularly undulating section of the South West Coast Path in less than favourable conditions helped me conclude that he could come along.
The next planned section was back to Lewknor and onwards to Nuffield, an 8-mile section - a decent walk for me on my own. I needed to break this down into easy sections. After a bit of research, I found the wonderful White Mark Glamping site at Watlington and split the walk into a 3-miler and a 5-miler. Both in keeping with the using public transport ethos of the walk. I suggested the idea to the small one, and he agreed!
We set off during the first week of the summer holidays for my son’s first linear overnight trek! We did cheat to get to the bus, a connection was required in High Wycombe to get to Lewknor, instead, my husband dropped us on bus 2’s route. An excited 7-year-old waiting for the bus meant I was already questioning bringing him as in the 10 minutes it took for the bus to come along, he had asked approximately 50,000 when the bus would arrive. Finally, it came!
About half an hour later, we arrived in Lewknor. For those reading along, we were surprisingly dropped at the bus stop I thought I would depart from last time. We had about half a mile on the road to get to the trail, and it was pretty warm, so a water stop was needed as soon as we spotted the Ridgeway signs. Today’s walk was relatively flat and hot, and we chatted about things small children talk about, stopped to admire bugs and flowers and ate lots of snacks and Haribo. We very quickly got to our campsite, and it seemed mad after just over an hour we were there already.
The campsite had beautiful bell tents, I had booked the cheapest ‘backpacker’ tent as we only needed a bed, but on arrival, the owners had upgraded us as we were the only guests staying that night! As a solo female arriving with the most precious thing in my life, I had all sorts of crazy thoughts about being alone in a field.
After a few hours of relaxing whilst watching red kites swoop overhead and bunny rabbits enjoy the field, my faith in humanity was restored. As I was carrying everything, we headed into town and got our lunch for the next day and pizza from The Spire and Spoke - teach them young that the best bit about walking is the pint and the pub at the end. There was also an emergency trip to a charity shop and a purchase of a Harry Potter Card game as I realised we had nothing to do before bedtime! Lesson no 1 learnt! We played games and watched the wildlife until night fell and went to bed in a pretty cosy bell tent.
We were up early (who isn’t with a child in a tent in midsummer!). The campsite had organised a local cafe to deliver us breakfast and I had my decent coffee fix! By 9 am, we were on the trail and heading towards Nuffield. The route was pretty undulating with woodlands, exposed paths and tracks through or around farmers' fields. And it was hot, sweltering hot, and I hadn’t packed shorts - lesson no two. Lesson number three - not watching as my son slugged ¾ of his water at the first water stop, so I had to ration what I was carrying for both of us.
We passed many others on the trail today with a smile and a slightly curious ‘How far are you walking?’ look on their faces. We had a few strops at each other - mainly aimed at me but with nature all around, chats about what we were seeing and H being in charge of the navigation, all was well. He soon learnt that navigating on a straight trail with the Acorns to follow was straightforward.
The hills got a little steeper than expected. We hunted for decent natural walking sticks and took each hill at a slower pace with longer stints admiring the views than I would typically do. These extra breathers allowed me to slow down my journey and see it through the eyes of a child.
We came across a pretty-looking church and our first real bench of the walk! We lingered here for a while and ate the last of the sweets. I wondered how many weary travellers had sat and admired the tranquil setting of a churchyard. The final push to Nuffield took us up on final hill and undulated over two farmers' fields with the hard clear paths marked diagonally across them, and finally found the main road.
A short walk along the road was a National Trust house. I had planned to go there to eat our picnic and head back to the bus. It was further along the path than expected. We gave up and sat on the grass and ate our soggy sandwiches. I wanted to be back at the bus stop early as my experience of them so far was timings were fluid at best. Twenty minutes later and still no bus. The tracker showed it was on its way and then suddenly ‘departed’ - it seems we missed an invisible bus. We waited and waited, gave up and headed across the road to a coffee shop.
Thank goodness for The Maker Space, ice creams, cakes and coffee and a staff member who knew little about the bus except that they weren’t reliable! (I'm quite looking forward to this being the start point on my next walk). I was all prepared to run to the road if I saw the bus coming, but it didn’t. We headed back to the bus stop for the next scheduled departure, and it finally turned up. The bus was straight into Henley, a 5-minute wait for our connection to High Wycombe, a dash through the bus station, and our final leg home. A whole hour later than expected, thanks to the one bus!
I thoroughly enjoyed having my walking buddy with me, even if overshadowed by bus stress. On our walk to school at the start of the new term, he told me he loved our hike and wanted to do something like it again.
Distance walked: 8 miles (3 miles day 1, 5 miles day 2)
Time on feet: Day 1: 1 hour 30 Day 2: 3 hours (plus lots stood still at the bus stop)
Buses: One outbound, three inbound
Cost: £14.90 (not including the child fare as he was a tag-along)
Accumulated miles: 35.5 miles