This morning our latest walking holiday itinerary went ‘live’ on our website. Putting together Walking Through the Ancient Landscape of Wessex has been something of a ‘labour of love’. The area is our adopted home.
Where is Wessex then? You certainly won’t see it on a modern map. It came into being after the Romans quit ‘Britannia’ and the Angles and Saxons colonised England, so around 450 AD which certainly justifies the ‘Ancient’ tag. Wessex is short for the ‘Kingdom of the West Saxons’. Wessex covered an area of central southern and western England and took in some or all of the modern day English counties of Berkshire, Hampshire, Oxfordshire, Wiltshire, Dorset, Somerset and Devon.
Wessex disappeared as an entity in 1066 when the Normans defeated King Harold at the Battle of Hastings. The name of Wessex was kept alive by the local Saxons as a symbol of defiance against the new Norman overlords and the name sprung to prominence again in the novels of Thomas Hardy and Wessex still retains a strong regional identity today.
The Saxons were, of course, late comers to this landscape. The region was the cradle of humanity in England. Visible remains such as West Kennett Long Barrow, Avebury and Wayland’s Smithy date back over 7500 years to the Neolithic period. By some distance the most famous of the local standing stones is Stonehenge, dating back over 3500 years to the Bronze Age. The area is well known for its tradition of carved white horse figures on its hillsides; some ancient some less so. Latterly the area has become a mecca for people chasing ‘crop circles’ – that sense of Wessex mystique just won’t go away! I won’t even start on the subject Ley Lines!
I was born and bred in the South West of England and I regard the whole of the ‘West Country’ as a very special place. Within the West Country there are a few places that I regard as ‘especially special’.
West of St Ives, that last bit of Cornwall before you reach Land’s End (the most westerly point of mainland Britain) has that very special quality. Spectacular cliffs, white sandy beaches and, inland, wild moorland dotted with an incredible number of ‘quoits’, stone circles and standing stones, some dating back to the Neolithic ( a couple of millennia earlier than Stonehenge)!
With its strong heritage of Cornish language and folklore and a rich tradition of mining West Penwith is a ‘must’ to visit. Walk around, there’s something more to the place, a unique atmosphere that’s hard to define. One visit is never enough (you may, of course, end up staying).
Sometimes you can get a real buzz from just looking beyond the obvious and discovering something wonderful. One such place is ‘my part of Cornwall’. The Rame peninsula is the south easternmost part of Britain’s most westerly county. It lies on Cornwall’s south coast to the east of the little resort town of Looe and is bounded by the west shore of Plymouth Sound and the magnificent Tamar Estuary. The coast is dotted with secluded coves, occasional small villages and rugged cliffs. Inland lies lush farmland giving way to the southern edge of mysterious Bodmin Moor.
Access to this beautiful, lonely coast is most easily achieved by ferry from the maritime city of Plymouth. The main arteries, the A38 and A30 whisk the masses down to the surf beaches around Newquay and Perranporth and leave this gem for the discerning and those prepared to make the effort!
Welcome to our shiny new WordPress blog. Springtime has arrived here in the UK so we’ve launched at just the right time for getting active in the outdoors. Last weekend we were walking in the Chiltern Hills and beside the River Thames, the spring flowers were at their best and the sun was shining brightly.