Time to Walk
The Wayfarer’s Walk runs high across the downland a mile to the south of the Castle. It is an ancient way or “drove” which, in totality, is about 70 to 80 miles long. The track or walk by us is referred to in the Anglo-Saxon charters of 749AD but probably predated that by centuries.
Striding along the Wayfarers, you are walking in the steps of others who have walked for centuries along this same track, whether in company or on their own. Pilgrims have walked through this landscape on their way to Winchester alongside drovers heading to market, urging their livestock forwards before it became dark. Thus these paths carry memories as they wind though the chalk downland and, as long as we keep walking the paths, they will not disappear nor become overgrown.
Today, needless to say, most of us do not walk nearly enough. It is not merely good for our physical wellbeing but also our mental health. Jean Jacques Rousseau wrote “I can only meditate when I am walking, when I stop I cease to think, my mind only works with my legs.”
As I start to climb the track, there are open fields of flints and stones as much as soil and a brown hare flattens itself into an invisible shape in the stubble ready to jink and run. Scatters of sheep graze in the fields falling away from the heights while brightly plumaged pheasants boldly cross the track just in front. There is a point where I have to make a choice whether to look left towards the woods, or right down through a grove towards the foot of Beacon Hill. Robert Frost wrote:
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
I decide to take the track leading past oak and mixed woodland to the groves of beech trees. Walking through the rutted tracks, the woods have their own peace. Perhaps it is the sense of continuity as we pass underneath or perhaps it is the oxygen and water they give us: they create their own atmosphere. Walk in the woods for your health – clean, cool air and fewer pollutants. The trees have their own communities: their root structures are twice as large as the canopies that we see and they too have their own communities.
Fungi filaments tap into the roots, absorbing nutrients. They transmit information through chemical compounds and electrical impulses preparing, as far as they are able, for times of stress. Perhaps counter intuitively, trees growing together with less light work better for the long term. They grow more slowly and live longer producing thicker, more impenetrable bark. Furthermore ,older trees grow faster than young trees – they are more productive. Hope for us all!
Walking through a glade of beeches planted about 1730, the fungi disappear and there is just a thick carpet of leaves underfoot. These trees cast off all their leaves in order to survive the winter winds: by reducing their surface area the trees are more able to absorb the winter gusts and by standing together they are better able to bend and rebound.The life span of a tree is so much longer than ours – a different perspective and still coping with challenges.
I used to ride up here with my friend Camilla and others will walk it long after all of us have gone. So I chose the track travelled by friends and that makes all the difference.
MY DEAR LADY CARNARVON,
LOVELY TIME . LOVELY WALK. VERY INTERESTING, I LIVE IN A OPEN ÁREA , SURROUNDED BY GARDENS ET FLOWERS. YOUR BLOGS ARE A COLORFUL DEPICTION OF YOUR LIFE AND HOME . CONGRATS. ENJOY THE WEEK.
RIO CLARO SÃO PAULO BRASIL
Such a lovely post. I especially love what you have said about trees: “Older trees grow faster than young trees — they are more productive. Hope for us all!” I’m holding on to that and pushing forward, too, as a few twinges of maturing bones show up. My husband and I often quote Winston Churchill: “Never give up”! This entire walk along the ancient track was just enchanting. I loved envisioning with you the Pilgrims walking to Winchester and the drovers heading to market, and my mind went back at once to The Canterbury Tales! I had the extreme privilege of viewing one of the surviving original illuminated manuscripts in the Huntington Library in San Marino, CA when we lived in Southern California. Thank you so much for such an inspiration, on a late winter day.
I think it lovely to think of the strength of older trees, and for us the wonder of age is experience!
MY DEAR LADY CARNARVON,
Why does the older trees grow faster than young trees?
Normally the young trees are more eager to absorb nutrients, the sunshine, the oxygen, the soil,etc.
Is it because in this competent world, the older trees are more capable to get such nutrients than the young trees?
Or are there any other explanations for such an phenomenon?
And how to protect the young trees (vulnerable ones)in such cases?
Waiting for your reply.
Older trees roots spread further and are further supported by networks of fungi thus they are better resourced underground as well as by now taller than young trees. In some ways I think the experiences I have enjoyed, the knowledge and challenges means that like others growing ever older – the decisions and actions are more grounded and can reach further.
Young trees are best left in a group given the time to grow slowly. You cannot easily replace the value and strength of older trees.
The phrase “I can only meditate when I walk” HOW TRUE.
As I get older, walking and fresh air gets the memory cells between our ears working, clearing out all the cob webs and allows me to bring back memories that I longed to remember,, and thought that I would never see again.
God Bless those long walks, and my youth full memories.
John L. Roberts
Amherst, N.Y. U.S.A
Thank you for today’s lesson on the trail and the trees. Very interesting.
Amazing place to walk.
Congrats and enjoy.
I can imagine so many stories – myths and legends even! – arising from and along the Wayfarer’s Walk. These photos are particularly spectacular, but the pictures you’ve painted in my mind through words are just as grand. Wish I were there!
It is very peaceful and I love riding along it
My ancestors could have trod this path you’ve taken. My 20th Great Grandmother was Eleanor of Aquitaine, Queen of England. I’m a student of genealogy, but only these past 4 years since retirement – time to read and time to discover those whose ancient lives are intertwined with mine today. I enjoy hearing from you – my youngest granddaughter was born in Inverness and now lives in Edderton, way up there in the Scottish Highlands, so I have a current connection with my homeland!
I feel like I’ve been there.
I love your view…starting with your pony’s ears and beyond.
Enjoy all that God have put there for you to behold this day!
I do enjoy watching and seeing through their ears. It is always a slightly precarious photo as I hang on to the reins and phone!!!
But I thought you were WALKING!
Sounds lovely and invigorating, wish we had woods here in America, but thats thats the advantage of living in the country. When I visited Cumbria last year, my friend and I did a lot of walking and talking. Leaves you feeling refreshed and renewed, not to mention the excellent physical exercise.
A lovely sentiment. Places absorb the energy those gone before and I am sure you will always have presence of your friend with you in your wanders. I love to walk, although most of my hiking is done when I go out west (Wyoming, South Dakota and Arizona) since I don’t find walking around my subdvision in Iowa particularly inspiring. I would love to do a walking tour in England someday. I had the priviledge of visiting Highclere for a private tour with a group from Iowa Public Television in May of 2016. The tour inside was exciting and it was wondeful to walk in the places I had only seen on TV. However, the biggest disappointment was that it poured down rain, and one of the things I has wanted to do most was walk around the grounds, if only for a short while. ( I consoled myself with time in the shop). I would have been happy to slog around outside, but the tour director did not understand that some of us would have gladly gotten wet, and did not give us the time. Hope to revisit someday in good weather.
You will have to come back!!!
A very nice report from some of the roads and old tracks around your home, Lady Carnarvon – the very best part of it, though, came in the last sentence, and gives me associations to some of the texts from the old Islandic & Nordic sagas, also quite old, like the traveling routes around Highclerc Castle, & which describes well, how easily you will find – & also use ( often ) – the ways to your friends – and which, from the same reason – regular use – never will disappear – physically – or be forgotten :
” So I used the track travelled by friends and that made all the difference ”
Kind Regards, Rune R. – Denmark – ( & Norway )
Friendship – trees survive best through growing together so do we. Separation, isolation is not splendid, by contrast it limits life
That sounds like a walk for me! I live in the country with many choices of paths to explore and walk as often as weather permits. Thank you for sharing the Wayfarer’s Walk with us!
We are coming to Highclere castle on 5/8…………we arrive that day from the US. I will be exhausted but my husband could only get us in on that day. We would love to take part of that walk. Our first visit to Highclere was in September of 2014 and we loved the grounds, the trees, the sheep………..everything. This time we are bringing friends with us and hope they will love it as much as we did. They may have to park me on a bench to recover from jet lag!
North Carolina, USA
On a sunny day the grassy lawns are very comfortable – no bench needed!!!
Such a lovely post.
Walking on paths that you have shared with loved ones that you have lost is a comfort. Seems like part of them is still with you.
Thank you for this post.
What lovely vistas to see and historic paths you can travel.
It brings me such peace, sense of calm, reading this from my office, with my crazy hectic city life here near Boston, USA.
Going to be there in July. Ant wait!
Will be there in July. Can’t wait!
Again, I love your writing style! J.R.R. Tolkien could not have described the “walk” better. Thank you for your blog; it is quite inspirational.
Wonderful Peace and Tranquility! Thanks for sharing.
Being in a Midwest state in the US, I see your posts first thing in the morning when I look at my phone…..and I smile! Your descriptive writing is just wonderful! I was fortunate to visit your beautiful Castle with my husband in 2013. We toured the Castle then sat down under a Cedar tree and ate a cheese sandwich from the Cafe. When I read your stories you bring me right back to that special day! Thank you for sharing!
I just read this in the midst of a busy day and it brought me back to center and reminded me to take a deep breath and appreciate that which is around me. I love your writing style and so enjoy your posts. Now if it would just quit snowing in Upstate New York so I could go for a walk in the woods…ahh, I know, be patient, spring will be here soon!
I am looking forward to Spring!!!
Absolutely gorgeous pictures!!! Cannot wait to share my own April 3rd. Highclere is really why I’m visiting. However, I must admit, I have found other things to tic off the list on my two weeks in the U.K.
Last summer I walked a part of the Oregon Trail in Montana on a trip to the Little Bighorn – or massacre. The ghosts of all those pioneers were erie in their imagined presence. You could still see the wagon tracks. Another trail I’ve seen in Alaska was the Klondike Trail which is still in evidence(https://www.bing.com/images/search?q=Klondike+Gold+Rush+Alaska&FORM=RESTAB). Those thousands of hopefuls had to carry a year’s supply of provisions to get into Canada. And of course the rejuvinated Appalachian trail. Trails are a big part of history. Your Wayfarer’s Trial is probably centuries older than these but the effect is indubitability the same. Some wonder how they persevered without cell phones (little levity).
Your photo “through the ears” reminded me of rides and photos from my youth on horseback in the mountains near the coast in California. Such lovely times riding with my friends and family. Your property looks like an ideal place to ride with hills, woods and fields to suit your fancy. Thank you for this post.
Dearest Lady Carnarvon, How very lucky and blessed you are to live in such a historical part of the world. What a thrill it must be to walk where other feet have trod for centuries. Thank you for sharing this experience with all of us. You are definitely an asset to the estate and England.
Still hoping to plant my feet on British soil this summer and going on to Scotland.
I hope you will pass by Highclere…
I had hip surgery back in August. I’ve fought the urge to return to my yoga class, but I finally did so on Saturday. Your post has reminded me that I need to “walk” as well. As you have demonstrated, there are more benefits than I can count. Thank you for inserting this nudge into my recovery journey. Looking forward to a Highclere Castle visit in the next year or so. Blessings to you.
I do some yoga as well – not enough but I enjoy it
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
It does make all the difference, to walk with treasured memories, to walk in ancient paths, to walk to start anew. I come from a family that treasured walking, together and alone, and I in-turn, treasure the time with my own family and friends. My brothers embraced difficult climbing (Mt. Cook), but alas, as a girl, I was not encouraged to do the same. I am climbing Ben Nevis this summer, as a tribute to my brother who was lost in a tragic climbing accident. More of an “endurance” hike, but as he did the same decades ago, I can pay homage to his memory in doing it now in advanced “middle age”. I hope to return to Highclere in the future, and would love to do some walking along the Wayfarer’s Walk, if guests are allowed to do that. Walking clears the cobwebs and allows us time to reflect and connect on many levels. Meditating, praying, listening, remembering, learning, sharing, laughing, crying….all .these and more are possible on a good walk.
Thank you for another beautiful post.
New Jersey, USA
Everyone can walk along it we could gather together and elect a couple of walking days ?
I think some walking days would be wonderful…for fundraising, in memory of your dear friend Camilla, for the opportunity to share in the steps of ancient and current times. Please share any information that might develop.
Thank you so much.
Lady Carnarvon, I envy you the opportunity to walk in such historic and picturesque locations.
I try to average 20 miles per week here in upstate NY. My son and I traveled to England 2 years ago and in addition to visiting your home we went to Uffington White Horse and walked a mile or so to Wayland’s Smithy along The Ridgeway. I find that hiking is good for peace of mind and body. Enjoy your walks!!
Twenty miles a week sounds most impressive!
This made me cry. Moving and beautiful.
What a beautiful picture you have painted on your walk today.
Thankyou for sharing!
Dear Lady Carnarvon;
Such a moving, lovely post. I too love to walk, and I am deeply envious of your beautiful walks you have access to. I live in Colorado and while we have mountains, I am in a suburb of Denver so can’t get up there often as I wish to! But I do have a city path that winds it’s way around a past used farm ditch which has it’s moments of beauty. I also can only meditate while walking and I agree with the thought about aging and doing things better! Much love,
The US has some spectacular landscapes – sometimes I think that UK landscapes are smaller and we can feel part of them not just in awe of them, would that seem so to you?
Such a picturesque countryside. I can only imagine all that have trod the same pathway and and all the stories that could be told. .Thank you for sharing!
A wonderful post. My friends and I are very fortunate to have woods and a gorge just down the street here in Western New York to walk in. I am looking forward to spring now and looking for trilums along with all the new growth.
Dear Lady Carnavon,
Your blog is one of the highlights of my life. You are so grounded in the glories of life. Thank you for taking the time to share your gift with us all.
What a lovely description of the walk around and near Highclere, and it is true that we can “clear the cobwebs” of our minds with a nice walk. I find that by roamin’-the-ruins around here I also feel the presence of those who walked these ways centuries before. It would be a grand idea to organize group walks along the Wayfarer’s way, and around the grounds of Highclere. For those who of us who don’t ride or go on-the-hunts, “walkers’ weekend” parties would be such fantastic events!
FANTASTIC EVENTES “WALKERS’ WEEKEND” VERY GOOD.
I have spent many wonderful hours on walking on Wayfarer’s Walk that goes thought the Highclere Estate to me its like a History Time Line, everything I see has a story to tell, the countryside has change very little of the years since the Anglo-Saxons walked alone this little track. There is a part of the track I love & its seen in one of your photos Lady Carnarvon it one with the Beech Tree, the views from there are just breath as you look out over Hampshire towards the Isle of Wight, as well as the valley below holds a secret that not many people know as they walk past that help us in World War II with low level flying with the RAF..
ooooo – You write so descriptively I can feel the wind and smell the air. I live in the same environment in upstate New York. Beech, pine, oak, apple, cherry, peach, walnut, black walnut trees all around. The breathtaking feeling of God’s majesty and yes, peaceful grace of meditation. I love to walk but have not in years due to arthritis. How I loved to hike for hours thinking – praying, doing as Jean Jacques Rousseau – hence my name “Jean” ? I love your quotes from the old masters. Enjoy!!
Thank you always for your beautiful, descriptive stories. You bring us in to your home with each one of your writings. I thank you again and send you well wishes always.
Thank you for sharing. And….any view through a horses ears is beautiful!
Another beautiful blog post. I savor it as it is the calm after what was an emotional event–the passing of Camille. Some places just have that effect of being a “spiritual” experience – quite like yours Lady Carnarvon, as expressed in this blog post.
My childhood in Ohio taught me to appreciate seasonal change. Seeing the bones of trees and landscapes in winter is as delightful as spring’s growth, summer’s lush foliage and autumn’s riotous color. Thank you for sharing your home and history.
Do you ever stand and gaze out the windows of the castle and have to take a deep breath as you soak in all of the breathtakingly beautiful land with all of its magnificence surrounding you?
I never don’t ! Whether it is fog eddying around the building or rain .. it is land from God but also made by man
What a whimsical sense of humor
Beautiful. My teen daughter is enamoured with all things Highclere, and we will be visiting the castle in July. Thank you for sharing a bit of your lives with us. We are very excited to tour the estate this summer.
Cheers from Atlanta, GA
I loved this post. It had some messages I needed to hear today, thank you!
My daughter, Amy and I were at Highclere a week ago for the very special tour and Mother’s Day Tea. We ended the afternoon in the gift shop with your signing a book and chatting. The entire afternoon was sheer delight and we’ve talked this week about several topics you broached, among them eating the foods we grow and avoiding unnecessary additives, and walking as a means of therapy. We loved meeting you and seeing your gorgeous home. I hope you’ll consider my daughter’s invitation to speak (made through your speaker’s website) at her conference in New Orleans, Louisiana in February 2019. She was the redhead in the green jacket – I believe you mentioned that the color was perfect on her.)
Our thanks to you and your staff again for a once-in-a-lifetime experience we will treasure always,
Fairhope, Alabama USA
Thank you – I will – i will regroup with my diary and thoughts this coming week!