The Ridgeway National Trail Day Three

Setting off on day three the fog was thick once again as i followed the Thames north towards Wallington ,passing through North Stoke church yard.

One of the most interesting historical features – is a 13th century oak chest, usually considered to be a Crusader’s chest. Earl Richard is known to have gone on Crusade to the Holy Land from 1236-1242, and that the Earl had a close association with North Stoke, it does not stretch imagination too much to suggest that the chest belonged to Earl Richard. 

St Mary’s, North Stoke

The main historical interest at North Stoke is a quite wonderful array of 14th century wall paintings covering much of the nave. The quality of the painting is exceptional, and though many scenes are now fading, you can clearly make out most of the individual figures. It must have been an astonishing sight when first painted.

On the north nave wall (on the top tier) is a scene depicting the Martyrdom of St Stephen. Look for the figure with crossed legs; this is the High Priest of the Temple in Jerusalem, who sits in judgement of Stephen when he is brought to trial for blasphemy. The crossed legs are symbolic of a tyrant. Stephen is guarded by a soldier with the face of a dog, indicating brutality. On the right is the scene of Stephen’s stoning, with three figures holding stones.

Leaving the church behind ,a few miles further upstream i found myself in Mongewell Park part of the trail through here is paved.

Mongewell Park was once home to Shute Barrington, Bishop of Llandaff (1769-1782).

Replacing the original Georgian Mongewell House of Barrington, a large brick mansion in William and Mary style was built in 1890 for Alexander Frazer whose initials can be seen on the lodge gates (Pedgley and Pedgley, 1990). After Fraser died in 1916, the house became a hospital for wounded officers in World War I. In 1918, it was sold to the American millionaire Howard Gould. Because he was an atheist, he had the lane to the now ruined Mongewell church sunk so that he would not see the parishioners attending service .He sold the house in 1939 and the Royal Air Force occupied it until 1945. In January 1944 it became the Headquarters for No 2 Group RAF of Bomber Command led by Air Vice Marshal Basil Embry. On the Staff there for six months before his capture as a POW was the World War II night fighter ace, Wing Commander Bob Braham (Braham, 1984).

Crossing the A4074 i was back into the countryside walking along Grims Ditch a raised earthwork, it starts as a narrow path lined with trees and open fields both sides beyond the thin wooded area, because it is raised it is like walking along a old railway line.

Resting for a coffee halfway along Grims Ditch i studied the map realising that the second half would be a climb to Grims Dyke Cottage, bergen back on off I went.
It was a climb but luckily at the top the cottage has a drinking tap to replenish water bottles.

From this point on it was the start of the Chiltern hills. Crossing Huntercombe golf Course was rather amusing but with the fog still swirling around it suddenly dawned on me these golfers wont be able to see me crossing and i could get clobbered with a golf ball, the pace was quickened.

The next interesting place was Ewelme Park the entrance gate is stunning.

From here the going got muddy and slippery and walking down a step hill with exposed tree roots I went over with a thud injuring my ankle, i picked myself up and continued it wasn’t good my ankle got worse.

I struggled on to Watlington…….and this was the end of my journey i was gutted just 29 miles short. I will be trying again.

The pocket Map book i used was excellent and splits the walk into sections if you fancy giving just little chunks a go its worth.