I was supposed to go and skate a new ramp at my old works, so I had booked half a day off work but sadly the ramp was not finished. I could have cancelled the half day but thought there must be something else that i'd rather do than go to work! With a bit of planning I come up with the idea of running the Clarendon way, or at least, try to. I wrote down the names of places I should pass through on route and took an old guide book I have. It's not much of a guide book though, just sort of tells you about the history of the route with a few little maps.
So I finished work at midday, cycled home, got my stuff ready and walked to the train station and caught the train to Salisbury. By 2pm I was in Salisbury at the cathedral. I was trying to work out where the official start of the Clarendon way was when I saw an RSPB tent. I went over and before I knew it 30 minutes had elapsed. I was luckily enough to watch the Peregrine falcons nesting on the cathedral during this time. They had telescopes outside for public viewing.
Anyway, I decided to start near the start of the Avon valley path in the end which is the far end of the cathedral. Off I ran towards the crowds of people in the city centre, where I took a right turn and realised I had turned right a street too soon. Great, wrong route already but it did mean less people. After nearly getting hit by a bus I ran through the arty subway of Milford.
I had written down some milestones that would hopefully help me out:
Salisbury to Clarendon palace = 3 miles.
Clarendon palace to Broughton = 8 miles.
Broughton to Oliver's battery = 7.5 miles.
Oliver's battery to Winchester = 3.5 miles
So the route should only be 24 miles. It starts at Salisbury cathedral and ends at Winchester cathedral or vice versa.
The Clarendon way signs were pretty much non-existent. I had done part of the Clarendon way before from Houghton to Salisbury and had been lost a few times then. I wasn't sure if I was going the right way at some points but then some things had looked familiar too. Luckily it was the right way and I was soon running through a field on the way to Clarendon palace.
It was pretty warm and I was sweating so much already, even though it looked like it could rain. I stopped at the top of Clarendon palace to take a photo at the viewing point where you could still see the cathedral from 3 miles away. Further on up at the top of this climb was the old ruin of Clarendon palace and last time I was here there were Llamas here, but not today.
Still not sure of the route, I went straight on, instead of left. I followed the perimeter of a field for a while and then it seemed to go on forever until I saw a clearing in the woods. At least I could get my bearings there as I thought I had gone the wrong way. Nothing was looking at all familiar here.
I came to a road and tried to study my guide book but it was pretty useless and then I tried google maps on my phone but it just showed a field and nothing else. There was a sign saying private property on the road and then a Land Rover went by me. I decided to run left in the same direction and thought that this should get me back on course.
As I started running up the hill the red lights of the Land rover lit up. The driver had stopped. Oh dear, I thought, he is not going to be happy with me.
"You need to be on the grass paths, this road is private property" said the man as I approached his vehicle. I explained that I had taken the wrong turn and was trying to get on the Clarendon way. He told me I had run a fair way off course and offered me a lift. My instincts were to refuse as I liked to get the extra miles in, but I didn't want to annoy him or seem ungrateful, plus I was on his private land. We drove for about a mile and he told me he was a farmer and often put some of the Clarendon signs up as no-one else bothers but some people kick the signs off or break them for some reason. On the way I pointed out a few buzzards to him, but he didn't seem as interested in them as I did. He told me he had walked the Clarendon way himself once as well. He turned out to be a really nice guy and dropped me off at his farmhouse where the Clarendon way path continued.
(Somewhere after Pitton on the way to Winterslow)
After some fields with beautiful scenery, I came into the village of Pitton. I had got lost here before but this bit was easier to navigate from this way. There were signs, and I managed to follow them! Again the route climbs and then more fields and then yet another climb towards Winterslow. I got to West Winterslow and was lost again. I had looped around a field until I found the right way. Again, no signs. I then recognised where I was and not too long after I realised that on my previous walk here, I had gone the wrong way without even realising it.
It now started to rain and I was actually getting cold. I took shelter under a tree and put on my rain coat. I was quite well organised really, just no good with directions. I then came into Middle Winterslow and passed the village shop. I was fine for food and fluids so far, so didn't bother stopping off.
It seemed like ages until I reached Buckholt farm where I saw a hare and managed to walk stealthily until I was within 4ft away until he turned, noticed me and sped off like Usian bolt, but faster. That is probably the closest I will ever get to a hare I reckon. Anyway, I made it to Buckholt farm but didn't bother going into the village to explore as I was a good 11 miles or so in already. I was supposed to be at Broughton by now. I remembered Broughton from the big hill I had to climb before but this time I was doing it the other way around. I was looking forward to running down those steep hills in the woods.
I ran down them excitedly knowing that I would soon be in Broughton. Was there a shop in Broughton? I was starting to get low on fluids now and the sun was now out and shining brightly in between the trees of the dark woods as I raced downhill. Then onto a road to a T-junction and hello Broughton. Should have been 11 miles here but it was closer to 14. Oh well, not problem. I was more worried about time rather than miles. As long as I made it to Winchester train station before it got dark I would be happy.
Broughton to Houghton was up next and I had done this before. No chance of getting lost along this section, it was easy and pretty straight forward. Lots of open land and a gravel trail. It was really hot now though. Off came the coat and t-shirt and then I applied suntan lotion and enjoyed the cool breeze as I ran topless along the ridge in pure isolation. There was no-one around for miles.
I was soon in Houghton. I hadn't been any further than this on the Clarendon way, so it was going to be even more of an adventure now. King somborne was my next milestone. There I was hoping to get more fluids as I was sweating a lot and nearly out of water. I wanted coca cola though. I needed the sugar and my hamstrings were really aching now. I swear I was a lot fitter last summer!
I didn't realise that the Clarendon way and the Testway crossed paths! How many times had I been on this part of the testway? Lots. I had run, cycled and walked past this crossroads and never knew that the Clarendon way went through it. The lower part of Houghton was beautiful too. There was a nice walkway of bridges going over the river Test. There was also a Eastern European family swimming in that part of the Test. It looked lovely and very inviting. The daddy of the family said it was still very cold though but his kids seemed to be enjoying it. Wow, some other people on the Clarendon way! It really is strange that you hardly see anyone apart from in the villages. The Testway is pretty much the same too. I guess I wouldn't like it if I saw too many people anyway. That's part of the attraction for me I think. When you do meet someone, you often end up stopping and chatting about your journeys and share your experiences and knowledge.
The bloody route climbs again, but when you get to the top, you can see for miles. Field after field and lots of houses. I decided to put my vest back on as the backpack was rubbing and making my back a bit sore with all the lovely sweat.
Some nice downhill into King Somborne was to follow where I manage to find a shop and buy some drinks and food and chill out on a bench for 10 minutes so I can stop sweating for a bit. This little rest was definitely needed and I was half tempted to visit the pub across the road but again, time was the issue here. After King Somborne... guess what? It climbs again. This time through a field with poppies and skylarks singing as loudly and contently as they possibly could. It was wonderful to be amongst it.
It was then onto Parnholt woods which had the most stunning views of all. You looked down across the fields, ran in the fields of long grass through narrow pathways and then you climbed again to take in the view and could again see for miles around. This then went onto Farley mount. There were quite a few people here, probably the most i'd seen all day. I ran through various fields and opened and closed many gates until I came to a sign. Clarendon way straight on. The problem was that the sign was in between two paths. A cycle route and the wooded path. I choose the wooded path into Crab wood and then West wood. I spoke to a runner and he didn't know the Clarendon way but said I could get to Winchester pretty much from any route I took. Then came a woman who also asked us for directions for the car park. Seems like I wasn't the only person getting lost today.
I continued straight on and then came to a road. There was a bridle way straight ahead. In my experience, these are usually bad things and often lead you nowhere in particular. Usually angry barking dogs or face high stinging nettles. I could also see a road sign but it was facing the away from me. I walked up to it and read it from the other side and it said "Sparsholt". I was definitely lost again. I tried to google maps my location and then decided to run/walk down the main road towards the way I had kind of come from or where I thought the other road would lead to. My legs were feeling very tired now and I was already 22 miles in.
I got to a crossroads and again looked at google maps. No sign of the signs for the Clarendon way. I just followed the road sign for Winchester. I ran on and a friendly group of cyclists passed me and said hello. I then came to another crossroads with Clarendon way signs. One pointed left and one pointed towards the way I had just come from. Which one was the right way to Oliver's battery though? I tried to make sense of this. If I went left I was pretty sure I would be heading towards Sparsholt again and if I went back the way I came where would I go as there were no more signs?
Just then a lady was running by and I asked her. She said Oliver's battery was right but I showed her the Clarendon way signs and she seemed as confused as me. "Right is definitely Oliver's battery but straight on will take you to Winchester" she said. She was pretty hot too, so she was bound to be right.
I decided to head towards Winchester. Ok, I had been defeated. I was no longer running the Clarendon way but was still loving it even if I was a little tired by now.
Later when I checked a website map of the Clarendon way the lady was right. I should have gone right. The sign wasn't making any sense! How annoying. Before long though, I knew where I was in Winchester and was running down Romsey road past Hillier's, the prison and the hospital. This was all downhill now and I was loving it. I couldn't remember the last time I had run a mile on a nice road surface. No thinking involved. Just switch off and blast. No thinking about where to place each foot with every step. This was a much welcomed change.
Well, I had made it. 28.5 miles. Only an extra 4.5 miles in the end and it was still light and before 8pm. I sat there until stopped sweating. Changed my socks, t-shirt, put on some clean shorts and sprayed myself with deodorant. It was then time to walk to the Wetherspoons for a nice pint of coke, then a pint of Cider and a chicken burger with chips. Then the train back to Southampton where I ended up going for more beers, watching a band play and getting home at 2.30am. I then had 4 hours sleep and went to work with a hangover. What an adventure though! Can't wait to do it again but maybe walk it from Winchester to Salisbury and take some decent photos as these pics really don't do it justice.
Another thing I remember is running on a narrow path next to a horse racing course although I can't remember where this was. But it was very memorable because I was running among so many Meadow brown butterflies. I have never seen so many butterflies in such a short space of time. I reckon there were at least 500 within a quarter of a mile of this race track! Totally surreal and unbelievable.
Next up, the Avon Valley Path which runs from Salisbury to Christchurch. It is 34 miles long and starts in Wiltshire, goes into Hampshire and finishes in Dorset. 3 counties in one run! I tired it last summer but of course, got lost and ended in Ringwood with 36 miles already done. I have recently bought a decent map though ;)