Rapeseed Blooms on the Ridgeway Path, UK
by Bill Meyer
Long distance paths are a wonderful way to appreciate the landscape, wildlife and historical richness of a country.
Like fans of the ever more popular slow-food movement, the slow-travel brigade have discovered that walking across the country from place to place also makes 'getting there' much more tasty.
Rather than hammering down the fast lane of a motorway on multiple wheels.
Or breathing in a recycled fart-cocktail while stuck on a long-haul aircraft for 10 hours.
Walking down the Ridgeway Path, one gets a hazy though tangible feel for the lives and journeys made by those who have used this rural trail for over 5,000 years.
Some say its the oldest road in Europe. Its been used by ancient herdsmen/drovers, traders, soldiers and travellers since prehistoric times. It was there before the Vikings, Saxons and Romans who all found and used it.
In most parts it overlooks the surrounding country and gives a wonderful view of villages, towns and now, cities. In ancient times it must have helped when one could see hostility approaching.
Half and hour's early-warning could make the difference between life, death, keeping one's herd or losing it to marauders.
This 90 miles of walker's delight runs roughly north-east to south-west from the Ivinghoe Beacon in Buckinghamshire, across the bottom of the Chilterns, crosses the Thames at Goring (roughly the halfway mark), and continues across the North Wessex Downs to Overton Hill near Avebury in Wiltshire.
It links up with other long distance paths along the way that lead to diverse parts of the country. With time on hand, one can walk at leisure to virtually anywhere in Britain and hardly see a crowded street along the way.
At this time of the year, the fields of yellow rapeseed flowers turn a walk in the countryside into a special treat. We were overwhelmed by the beauty of the patchwork fields and how the few colours out there helped to describe the topography.
Last season's plough-marks were just about visible, peeping through the yellow wash of blooms, curving up gentle gradients, and showing where the contours flatten off towards the ridges of dark trees and copses of woods that mark the edge of a pasture.
This part of the Ridgeway Path is just above Streatley in the Goring Gap where the path crosses the Thames, and we are very lucky to live barely an hour's drive from it.
With the current changes in summer weather patterns, we can choose a single rare day when the sun shines for a few hours and be there before the clouds regroup. This was one such day.