At 15:00 on a Wednesday afternoon I joined up with a bunch of around 30 Met Walkers in Pimlico, for a weekend away to Wiltshire, being held almost exactly 4 years after the first trip to stay in the grounds of Marlborough College. Even the weather forecast was identical to that for our previous visit, being 'HOT, HOT, HOT!!'.
The coach journey from central London to Marlborough took 2 hours, so it was early evening when we arrived at the college and staff were waiting to transport us and and our bags to our 'home' for the next few days; we had sole use of Summerfield House a few minutes' walk from the main parts of the college and town.
After settling in to our single rooms, it was time to sample one of the highlights of the trip, the restaurant where most of our meals would be served. Breakfast and dinner was to be served here, in a buffet style and the hardest choice was to decide what option(s) looked most appetising.
There was a choice of 2 walk options on the Thursday, a Marlborough circular to Avebury, or a shorter but similar version that used a coach to omit the first few miles of the walk. I chose the longer walk which was at a brisk pace that unexpectedly got us to meet the shorter walks as they were arriving at the lunch stop in Avebury.
My choice of walk on Friday was the shorter option; this time the walks started at the same spot and then split after seeing Sidbury Hill (the tallest prehistoric man-made mound in Europe) and the West Kennet Long Barrow (a burial mound built around 3650BC). In the afternoon a diversion to the walk was made so that we passed through the forest and some more than welcome shade to escape from the worst of the heat. It was because of this we found a couple of patches of soft mud, not a common sight in the UK at the moment.
On Saturday, both the longer and shorter walk started near Avebury, having a coach to the various start points. The moderate walk (which came in at 20 miles) went via Cherhill Downs and the site of Olivers Castle for lunch before passing the Caen Hill Locks (29 locks over 2 miles with a rise in the water level of almost 250 feet) and entering Devizes. We had a few hours to spare before being picked up by the bus at 21:00 so small groups of Met Walkers could be found in eating and drinking establishments around the town (although the local Wetherspoons couldn't serve food due to electrical issues and the main fish & chip shop was closed for refurbishment). On returning to Marlborough a large section of the group made there way to the games room to play pool, table tennis and/or darts.
With only a few hours spare on Sunday morning the options were to go on a walk to the forest, go to a car boot sale, have a wander around the town or relax. It was then time to get the return coach to London when everyone was surprised to find that the official Swindon Town FC coach was going to bring us back to London.
Then, a short while before 15:00, exactly 4 days after leaving we all arrived back in Pimlico for a drink (or two) before dispersing in our separate directions.
On the first visit to Marlborough one of my concerns was that the whole group would be in such close proximity for the whole weekend, with everyone walking, eating and socialising together, but the atmosphere has been relaxed and there is enough room for people to do their own thing if they wanted and I believe that everyone enjoyed themselves. The staff at the college were fantastic, wanting everything to go smoothly for us (even when my water leaked over my duvet whilst I was at breakfast one morning).
Thanks to Orson for organising and the others that helped in making last minute changes to bookings and for leading leading walks. Without this we wouldn't have had the chance to see one of the less visited areas of our beautiful country as part of a Met Walkers trip. Additionally, sharing the food, travel and accommodation costs made it cheaper than trips where travel and accommodation are arranged individually.