September 7 – Warminster to Salisbury
The magic days just keep coming. Another absolute pearler. We’ve had a few detours to contend with over the last few months and we had another one today. Today’s though, was entirely of our own choosing and it was worth it.
We pedalled out of Warminster, along a path and then we were on the road, but in contrast to yesterday’s busy highway, today’s roads were those quiet, country roads, with fabulous scenery and rolling countryside around us. I swept my arm around me. “I love it!” I declared.
We rode through village after village, full of stone and thatch and they were simply gorgeous. In one we were reminded of the age of the places we are riding, when we passed a church on a corner, with a sign telling us it was founded prior to 1083 and was endowed by the Empress Mathilda, mother of King Henry II in 1140. I’m not really sure what that means, but I just know that’s a very old little building right there!
Then, in another village we passed a cemetery with Commonwealth war graves and I stopped for a look. There was one that caught my eye. I saw a headstone for Katie Bolger, a nurse who served and died in 1916. I think it was the name that got me. On so many war graves we see Private…or Corporal… but this was just simply, Katie Bolger. The name made her sound so young, which she was, only 30 when she died. It was a reminder of what women did and sacrificed during the World Wars and I could picture her in the horror of a casualty clearing station right behind the front line, doing what she could. It was just a name on a headstone, but it was a touching thing to see.
Along more quiet roads and seeing more sights of the countryside. As we passed one field, I could almost hear the conversation:
“There’s always one, isn’t there Pat. There’s always one that has to start a conga line and of course it would be Roger. Off he goes and starts it and then we all have to follow along behind like sheep and join in. I mean, a conga line, what is this, 1957! I tell you Pat, next time Roger does this, I’m not doing it, I’m going to protest and start my own Nutbush instead! I’m putting the kibosh on the conga!”
We pedalled over a stone bridge and down a hill, where we saw another sign on the side of the road. This one caught our eye and was of particular interest. This is what it said:
That sent us on a hunt to find that carving in the hillside. We rode back down the street and continued on, then realised we weren’t going to be able to see it from that direction. We turned around. We stopped to look at the photo on the camera, of the sign, trying to see the map. That didn’t help.
“We’ll just have to ride back,” I said.
Steve looked on his phone to see if there was some clue on a map. At this point a man walked out of his house and saw us.
“Y’oright? Do you need any water or anything?” These wonderful, lovely people! I let him know we were OK, but he was just another of the many friendly people we encounter.
We pedalled back the way we came, looking across at hills that were obscured by trees, in the vain hope that we might spot something. Back up the hill we went, then back down. I tell you, it was a wonder Neighbourhood Watch didn’t get onto us, we must have looked like we were casing the joint!
We went back up the hill and stopped behind a man who was parked on the side of the road. We’d ridden past him at least four times. He now got out of his car.
“Do you need help looking for something?” I told him what we were looking for. He knew it and said it was huge and very clearly seen, so he began pointing across to the direction we’d find it. Then he got back in his car to retrieve his phone and brought up maps, to show us how to get there and where we’d find it. Then he told us about another place that has six regimental badges carved into a hillside. “They’re huge,” he said, “well worth a look.” He stayed there for ages, helping us, showing us where to go and showing us on a map to help us too. I just smiled and smiled at this lovely man, taking the time to help us. He was a small man, bald head and neatly clipped black moustache, wearing a crisp white shirt and black trousers. After we’d thanked him profusely, he went back to his car and said, “I’m an undertaker and I have to put some remains in the ground, but not until twelve o’clock so I’m hiding out here.”
We rode off and I beamed. I turned to Steve. “That was priceless! How gorgeous was that!”
We backtracked, took a side road and headed for the village of Codford, where our very kind undertaker had told us we would find the hill carving. We headed up a road with a very, very steep hill and with a sign telling us it was a private road, with no public access. We weren’t sure if we should be there or not.
“Wait here and I’ll go up and have a look,” I said, thinking I’d spare us the slog up a hill if we were in the wrong place or getting into trouble for riding up a private road. Feet, I thought, were a little more discreet than wheels. So I did my hill run for the day to do a reccie and see what I could find. I ran and puffed and looked across the fields, with the only problem being I wasn’t tall enough to see over the hedge that ran beside me. Then I came to a gate way into a field and looked across and there is was, as clear as could be. Found it!
I pattered back down the steep hill and gave my recognisance report. I took over keeping an eye on the bikes, while Steve walked up to see what I’d seen and after all that searching we’d finally found it.
We rode back towards the village of Codford, where we knew the ANZAC war graves were. In a small cemetery, on a quiet country lane, we found them. We walked in and spent some time walking along the headstones, reading the names on each.
The one I thought was the most moving, was the biggest headstone amongst all the others. The others were all uniform in their appearance but this one stood out.
I thought that was quite special. Others said, “our loving son” or were placed there by a regiment but this one was from a friend, maybe a particularly close friend, who placed that headstone there in memory of Corporal Button and not just any headstone, but the biggest one there. That was quite moving to see.
We rode into the centre of the village and found a table near the village hall where we parked ourselves for a late elevenses.
Back we went, in reverse order, exactly the way we’d come, to pick up our route once again. It had been an 8 km detour but so worth it, for what we’d found and seen and also for meeting the delightful man who helped us find them!
On we pedalled and it continued to be magic. We passed other cyclists and walkers and they added to the friendly people we’d encountered. Every person we passed, whether cyclist or walker or just people in the street, smiled, waved and greeted us. We pedalled along those lovely country roads again and the drivers we came across were brilliant once again. They sat patiently behind us until they could pass or until we could pull over and let them pass and others waited for us along the narrow roads. If we saw a car approaching, we would pull over to let it through, but many of the drivers stopped and gave way to us, waiting for us to come along the narrow lane. The drivers were stars.
We passed through more beautiful countryside and gorgeous little villages. “Beautiful,” was my call again. “I love it!” It was just glorious. Countryside and pretty villages oozing quaint. I mean, when you ride through a village and pass by ‘Nutmeg Cottage’ on Teapot Street, how can that not make the heart sing!
We passed through the historic village of Wilton and then into the outskirts of Salisbury, where things got a little busier. We found our accommodation, had a post-ride cuppa, sat for a while and then set off for a roam. We have been to Salisbury once before, but not on the bikes and we didn’t see much of it when we were here. It was bitterly cold, so we didn’t really roam, we just went to the cathedral, saw the Magna Carta and that was about it. Today, we strolled around the outer city, then into the centre and then stopped for a drink by the river.
Then we followed the river walk, before roaming across to the cathedral. It really is a beautiful city, with lovely historic buildings and cottages in areas that could make you think you’re in a village, particularly around the cathedral and the nearby green. We may have to return again, we liked it so much and we’re glad we’ve been able to come back and see more of it than we did last time. It’s a shame it hit the news for such terrible reasons not so long ago, because it’s a lovely place and shouldn’t be in any way tarnished by that event.
We gathered supplies and that was the day. It was AB-SO-LUTE-LY FAB! It was such a lovely ride, with sunshine, lovely quiet roads, beautiful scenery and gorgeous villages, then another lovely place for a pit stop. It ticked every box again and then some. Finding the ANZAC connection along the way was a bonus experience, to find a small piece of history in such a small village, that we happened to stumble upon. It took quite a detour and quite a bit of faffing about on our part, before we got some help, but it was more than worth it. We continue on tomorrow, hopefully with a Go Slow Sunday. We’re already taking it slow as we make our way towards Southampton where we’ll get the ferry to the Isle of Wight. We could have done it in two days but we’re taking twice that long, just to savour the rides. Slow has been working, because slow has helped us to find gems like today and given us the time to go off course to see and find things that we wouldn’t want to have missed. So…slow we go and on we go, loving every minute of it!
Distance ridden: 43.6 km
Time in the saddle: 2 hours 53 minutes
Squirrels spotted: 1
Weather: mostly sunny and pretty warm, so great! 18C