Who can ever be tired of Bath? Yet some do long to go east from this great Augustine city of northern Somerset, some even as far as Downing Street. What sort of a walk would it be then?
The walk below runs through six counties, from Somerset, through the waist of Wiltshire, along the Hampshire-Berkshire border and into Berkshire at last, through the edge of Surrey and finally across the Thames into Middlesex for the last stretch.
There are two alternative starting points here for which is best for the walker: Tickenham in the very north of Somerset, in the lee of a narrow ridge hills, and West Harptree, gentler on the more rounded slopes of north-east Somerset.
Tickenham is a village with an eye westward to the gaping Severn and the Bristol Channel from where ships seek their ventures across the globe, and though the village is a mere whelp in comparison to the seaboard towns and the vast bulk of Bristol above it, it has a keen eye. From here are a string of little, disconnected paths, which we need to take in place of the ‘Gordano Round’ which directs us towards Bristol, but by following the right paths, and borrowing a section of the Monarch's Way, we reach the Avon and thence Bath.
West Harptree is more settled, purring amongst the fields and flocks in the rich limestone hills. By the village runs a settled trail called the Limestone Way, which takes us all the way, south of Bath, to the viaduct above the city and at the edge of the county where our route looks east; though if you have a yearning for the Georgian Age you might wish to make a northward turn before then to wash yourself in Bath.
From Bath then we begin, an ancient city, grown more content than rich these days, hewn first by Rome then by Nash; a crowning place of kings and a resting place for weary bodies.
It may be objected that the obvious route to take would be along the Kennet and Avon Canal to Reading then along the Thames Path all the way to Westminster, and that would work, but there are so many gorgeous paths to be seen along the ‘North Wessex Downs’ between here and there it would be shocking to take that way.
The route mapped below takes in six counties and three county tops. It crosses the Avon into Wiltshire first to visit ancient Bradford on Avon, then does follow the Kennet and Avon for some miles, only as far as Alton Barnes, where it climbs the flank of Milk Hill, Wiltshire’s highest point (do divert and see the top), then to run east down Wansdyke, a huge earthwork of unknown date, possibly built by the ancient Welsh to keep out the invading English.
A loop down to the Vale of Pewsey, then east to the complex border of three counties, where a ridgeway (marked as parts of the Test Way and the Wayfarer’s Path) follows the ridge of the downs over Walbury Hill, where the highest points of Berkshire and of Hampshire are to be found (the latter in a field south of the path) all within a huge hill fort.
As the ridge finally peters out, we find the Brenda Parker Way. It is a loopy path, and we can cut a section out of it for the sake of sanity, but otherwise it takes us all through the north of Hampshire to the Forest of Eversely, whence north on the Three Castles Way and into eastern Berkshire and to the greatest castle of them all: Windsor.
If we pick our way through Windsor Great Park and emerge into the edge of Surrey, there is the great meadow of Runnymede, preserved for the nation and a memorial of the freedoms won in Magna Carta (just don’t ask a historian – it is best to know it from the legend).
Through the meadow, to the Thames bank, and across at Staines Bridge into Middlesex. Staines was a Roman settlement with a Roman bridge where the modern one stands, and there is a long, straight Roman road from the bridge all the way to London. The first section out of Staines is a horrid road, unless you are in a car, so it is best to find a way round it, perhaps through Ashford Common and the country park here. Then at East Bedfont it is a long, straight road until you reach Hyde Park, and there you may see green fields again and walk the length of the park, and Green Park after it to the gates of Downing Street. Once there; you are on your own.
- Landranger 172: Bristol and Bath
- Landranger 173: Swindon and Devizes
- Landranger 174: Newbury and Wantage
- Landranger 175: Reading and Windsor
- Landranger 176: West London
- Explorer 154: Bristol and Bath
- Explorer 156 :Chippenham & Bradford-on-Avon
- Explorer 157: Marlborough and Savernake Forest
- Explorer 130: Salisbury and Stonehenge
- Explorer 159: Reading, Wokingham and Pangbourne
- Explorer 160: Windsor, Weybridge and Bracknell
- Explorer 161: London South