by Eric T
First road trip on the Triumph
Roads: London(A406)(M40), Oxford(M40)(A40), Woodstock(A44), Chipping Norton(A44), Rollright Stones(B4026), Burford(A361), Kelmscott(A417), Faringdon(A417), Uffington 9B4507), Wantage(A417), Reading(A329), Maidenhead(A4), Slough(A4), London(M25)(M40)(A406) 216 miles.
Started later than I wanted (you will see this statement often) and then first thing, missed where I wanted to eat breakfast. I wanted to eat at the Ace Cafe so I could see a lot of other bikers who were going out for rides today. By the time I figured out that I was passing the exit, it was too late to turn around, and there was not another one for a very long way. By the time I a got turned around I was seeing signs for Oxford and decided I would eat when I get there.
Got on the M40 and once the speed cameras were behind me I gave the throttle a nice twist, WHOOOOAAAA what a RIDE!!!! Had to pee rather bad before getting in to Oxford but I am a bit driven about getting to my destination, no matter how miserable it makes me and the trip. Something I have noticed about English towns and villages is how unwelcoming and confusing they can be. After riding around Oxford for a little while looking for an inviting place to park my bike I finally found where another motorcycle was parked and pulled next to it. As luck may have it, I parked near Brown’s Bar and Brasserie, a Oxford institution. Had a marvelous breakfast of Egg’s Benedict and coffee with fantastic service.
After leaving Oxford I headed NW on the A44, the first large village I came was Woodstock.
Woodstock appears to be charming, however there isn’t much to see from the road running through it so perhaps next time I will take a side road and investigate what there is to offer in in Woodstock.
Continuing up the A44 I was heading to Chipping Norton so that I could visit the Rollright Stones. The Rollright Stones are three Bronze Age monuments. They compose a stone circle known as the King’s Men, the remains of a burial chamber known as the Whispering Knights and then there is the solitary King Stone. When I say disappointed, it just doesn’t meet the emotion I had when I finally found the Rollright Stones. My lack of historical knowledge leads me down dangerous paths. I sort of cobbled this ride together and spent no time planning or researching what I might see. So, instead of being totally open to the experience I got extremely driven about ticking off a list of places I visited. It really ruined my attitude and put unnecessary pressure on my ride.
I will however have one more go at monuments and sites of interest. It must be a Great Britain national philosophy that makes finding ancient artifacts and tourist attractions so unbelievable difficult. The extent that England goes through to make it as hard as possible to find anything of interest is completely without equal, never has a country been so thoroughly under promoted. The fact that there isn’t an obvious sign pointing in the right direction on either end of the road that the Rollright Stones is on. It is a big enough attraction that it is listed in the Eyewitness Travel Great Britain, how is it that there are no clear signs directing anyone to it. Now that I have that off of my chest, lets get on to why this is such a cool location.
Here is what Wikipedia has to say about Rollright Stones
”The Rollright Stones are a complex of megalithic oolitic limestone monuments near the villages of Long Compton, Great Rollright and Little Rollright in England, lying across the present county border between the counties of Oxfordshire and Warwickshire (grid reference SP2930). The complex consists of three separate sites: The King’s Men, The King’s Stone and The Whispering Knights. According to local folklore the stones are the petrified remains of a king and his knights, however, each set of stones has been found to date from a different period. the name is thought to derive from “Hrolla-landriht” meaning the land of Hrolla.”
The King’s Men
“The King’s Men dates to around 2500-2000 BC and consists of 77 closely-spaced stones forming a stone circle 33 metres in diameter. The stones are set on top of a circular bank with an entrance to the southeast marked by two portal stones. There were originally as many as 105 stones but many have been removed. Approximately a third of the stones were put back in place when the monument was restored in 1882.”
The King Stone
“The King Stone is a single, weathered monolith, 2.4 metres high by 1.5 metres wide, standing 76 metres east of the King’s Men. The stone was erected between 1800-1500 BC and is believed to have been a marker stone for an early Bronze Age cemetery.”
The Whispering Knights
“The Whispering Knights date to around 4000 – 3500 BC and are the remains of the burial chamber of an early or middle Neolithic portal dolmen lying 400 metres east of the King’s Men. Four standing stones survive, forming a chamber about 2 square metres in area around a fifth recumbent stone, probably the collapsed roof capstone. In 1764, William Stukeley visited the site and saw the remains of a round barrow, now ploughed or eroded away.”
The King Stone
“Numerous folktales are associated with the stones, including the tale that a king was riding across the county with his army when he was accosted by a local witch called Mother Shipton, who said to him:
“Seven long strides thou shalt take, And if Long Compton thou canst see, King of England thou shalt be!“
“His troops gathered in a circle to discuss the challenge and his knights muttered amongst themselves– but the king boldy took seven steps forward. Rising ground blocked his view of Long Compton in the valley and the witch cackled:
“As Long Compton thou canst not see, King of England thou shalt not be! Rise up stick and stand still stone, For King of England thou shalt be none; Thou and thy men hoar stones shall be, And I myself an elder tree!“”
“The king became the solitary King Stone, while nearby his soldiers formed a cromlech, or circle, called the King’s Men. As the witch prepared to turn herself into an elder tree, she backtracked into four of the king’s knights, who had lagged behind and were whispering plots against the king. She turned them to stone as well, and today they are called the Whispering Knights.”
“Legend holds that at midnight, the stones come alive and return the king and his men back to flesh and bone that they can dance. Anyone who gazes upon their midnight glee either turns to stone or dies. According to 18th century lore, village maids would sneak out to the Whispering Knights on Midsummer’s Eve and listen carefully, hoping to be whispered their future and fate. It is said that you cannot accurately count the stones and a different tally will result each time an attempt is made. The Kingstone was fenced off between the two World wars as conscripted troops would chip a slice of stone away to carry with them. Legend has it that this gives protection in battle. It is considered unlucky to touch the King’s men.”
Leaving the Chipping Norton area to Kelmscott, to see the Kelmscott Manor. The ride to Kelmscott was really nice. A narrow straight road with large fields on both sides. When I turned onto the road leading into the village it kind of goes through a wooded area. Coming out of that you start to see thatched roofs of houses/cottages people are living in. I don’t think I will ever see a thatch roof and not feel excitiment about it. It is something that we just don’t grow up with in the States. Arriving at the Manor a was greeted by a very handsome gate with a sign saying closed on Sundays. Oh,well. It gives me something to come back for on another day.
From Wikipedia, below is a description.
“Kelmscott Manor is a limestone house in the Cotswold village of Kelmscott, Oxfordshire, England. The handsome manor house is situated close to the river Thames, and it is frequently flooded. It dates from around 1570, with a late 17th-century wing, and was the country home of the writer, designer and socialist William Morris from 1871 until his death in 1896. Today it is owned by the Society of Antiquaries of London, and is open to the public on Wednesdays during the summer. The nearest town is Faringdon in the Vale of the White Horse.”
Off to Uffington to see the Vale of the White Horse. Once again, finding the way proves to be more labourous than the attraction is worth, it seems a bit harsh and probably says more about me or the state of mind I was in. As it turns out, if I would have spent the time to climb to the top I would have seen the old Roman ruin. So my impatients cost me the opportunity to experience a cool sight.
Attached is what Wikipedia has to say about it.
Vale of White Horse
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
“The Vale of White Horse is a local government district of Oxfordshire in England. The main town is Abingdon, other places include Faringdon and Wantage. There are 68 parishes within the district.”
“It is a geographically distinct region, lying between the Berkshire Downs and the River Thames, named after the prehistoric Uffington White Horse. The district was formed on 1 April 1974, under the Local Government Act 1972, from the Municipal Borough of Abingdon, Wantage Urban District, Abingdon Rural District, Faringdon Rural District and part of the Wantage Rural District of Berkshire. The southern border of the district roughly approximates the Ridgeway Path. The area is often referred to as the ‘Vale of the White Horse’.”
“It is the valley of the Ock, a stream which joins the Thames from the West at Abingdon. The Vale is almost flat and well-wooded; its green meadows and foliage contrasting richly with the bald summits of the White Horse Hills, which flank it on the south. The numerous elm trees, that once were a major feature of the Vale, were lost to Dutch Elm Disease. To the North, a low ridge separates it from the upper Thames Valley, holding back the soft Jurassic sedimentary deposits (Greensand, Gault and Kimmeridge Clay) behind a hard corallian limestone escarpment ridge, in what is technically a hanging valley; but local usage sometimes extends the vale to cover all the ground between the Cotswolds (on the north) and the White Horse Hills. According to the geographical definition, however, the Vale is from two to five miles wide, and the distance by road from Abingdon to Shrivenham at its head is 18 miles.”
“Wantage is the only town in the heart of the Vale (although Faringdon, on the northwestern rim, is also a “Vale” town), lying in a sheltered hollow at the foot of the hills, along which, moreover, villages are more numerous than elsewhere in the vale. There are numerous springs emanating from the chalk hills, which allowed these settlements to thrive in former times.”
“Towards the West, above Uffington, the hills reach a culminating point of 261 m (856 ft) in White Horse Hill. In its northern flank, just below the summit, a gigantic figure of a horse is cut, the turf being removed to show the white chalky soil beneath. This figure gives name to the hill, the range and the vale. It is 114 m (374 ft) long and highly stylised, the neck, body and tail varying little in width.”"
A panoramic view into the Vale; the White Horse is on the right and Dragon Hill centre right
“The origin of the figure is unknown. Tradition asserted it to be the monument of a victory over the Danes by King Alfred, who was born at Wantage, but the site of the Battle of Ashdown (871 CE), has been variously located. Moreover, the figure has been dated to the Bronze Age, so it pre-dates the battle by many centuries. Many ancient remains occur in the vicinity of the Horse.”
Vale scene, with White Horse Hill on the horizon
“On the summit of the hill there is an extensive and well preserved circular camp, apparently used by the Romans but of much earlier origin. It is an Iron Age hill fort. It is named Uffington Castle from the village in the vale below. Within a short distance are Hardwell Castle, a near-square work and, on the southern slope of the hills near Ashdown House, a small camp traditionally called Alfred’s Castle. Further to the West, there is Liddington Castle.”
The Uffington White Horse, as seen from an altitude of about 600 m (2000 ft), from the cockpit of a glider
“A smooth, steep gully on the north flank of White Horse Hill is called the Manger, and to the west of it rises a bald mound named Dragon Hill, the traditional scene of St George‘s victory over the dragon, the blood of which made the ground bare of grass for ever. But the name may derive from Celtic Pendragon (“dragon’s head”), which was a title for a king, and may point to an early place of burial.”
“To the West of White Horse Hill lies a long barrow called Wayland’s Smithy, said to be the home of a smith who was never seen, but who shod the horses of travellers if they were left at the place with payment. The legend is elaborated, and the smith appears as a character, in Sir Walter Scott‘s novel Kenilworth, and in Rudyard Kipling‘s Puck of Pook’s Hill. The Vale as a whole appears at the beginning of Tom Brown’s Schooldays, as the scene of innocent Saxon boyhood adventures, before the eponymous hero is sent away to school at Rugby.”
“The White Horse has been carefully cleared of vegetation from time to time. The figure has remained clear of turf throughout its long existence, except for being covered as a precaution during the Second World War. The cleaning process, known as the Scouring of the White Horse, was formerly made the occasion of a festival. Sports of all kinds were held, and keen rivalry was maintained, not only between the inhabitants of the local villages, but between local champions and those from distant parts of England. The first of such festivals known took place in 1755 and they died out only subsequently to 1857.”
“A grassy track represents the Ridgeway, claimed as the oldest road in Europe, perhaps five thousand years old. It travels along the crest of the hills, far above what would then have been marshy lowlands or dangerous forests, continuing Icknield Street, from the Chilterns to the River Thames.”
“Other earthworks, in addition to those near the White Horse, overlook the Vale, such as Letcombe Castle (also known as Segsbury Camp) above Wantage. At the foot of the hills, not far East of the Horse, is preserved the so-called Blowing Stone of Kingston Lisle, a mass of sandstone (a sarsen) pierced with holes in such a way that, when blown like a trumpet, it produces a loud note. It is believed that, in earlier times, the stone served the purpose of a bugle.”
So after all this, I still hadn’t eaten and I wanted to see the oldest bridge over the Thames river. I couldn’t find it on the map but hoped if I headed toward Wantage I would find signs or be able to get directions to it.
I did eventually come to a bridge and there was a nice pub sitting beside it, I couldn’t be certain it was the one I was looking for. I didn’t stop, but regretted it soon after.
Decided to head to Reading. I was expecting a famous town in similar style to York. Reading couldn’t be farther from York in appearence. I was very disappointed! Reading is dirty and run down. I eventually found a place to park and walked to McDonalds to eat. What a treat it was to eat at a fast food restaurtant after passing so many nicer options. After Reading I headed home, had an uneventful ride to the house. The total milage for the day was 227 miles, not too bad everything considered.