This is something I wrote in the autumn of last year:
Rain was threatened but we chanced it and went somewhere different for a walk. I think the last time I was anywhere near Rowberrow and Dolebury Warren was when I was about seventeen. When we first moved to the west country when I was sixteen we did go out and explorer these phenomenons known as hills, coming from Cambridge we weren’t very familiar with the concept! Later when I moved back with my own family we had occasional forays but we were busy working and looking after the children and exploring closer to home.
So today we drove inland and found our way to the small village of Rowberrow, once the home of Terry Pratchett. It’s name apparently comes from the fact there is a barrow or burial mound nearby. Like many villages in the area there was mining in the past, and Rowberrow was one of the places were calamine could be found and excavated. We parked, and having no idea where we were going we decided to walk uphill so on our return, tired and weary, we would be coming back downhill. This plan went slightly awry when we followed a secluded track and began to descend, and ended up in a steep sided valley with a stream running along the bottom. There were various trails in different directions but we decided to cross the stream and head along the other side of the wooded valley.
We came to a sign which said Dolebury Warren and I remembered going there when we first lived in Somerset that many years ago. It was a lovely track, though very muddy, through broadleaved and deciduous trees in all their autumn splendour. Dolebury Warren is also known as Dolebury Camp and i think way back when we were first here that’s what we called it. The camp art comes from the fact there was an iron age encampment or hill fort, later taken over by the Roman conquerors. The name maybe means the hill of the idols, but definitely the warren part is because there was a rabbit warren developed here. Wikipedia explains: “A warren is a network of wild rabbit burrows. Domestic warrens are artificial, enclosed establishment of animal husbandry dedicated to the raising of rabbits for meat and fur.”
I just felt history all around me as we wandered along, stepping carefully through the mud and over the little streams which ran across the path. It was warm in the valley and very pleasant, and apart from water, birds and the rustle of leaves and branches, silent. We chatted intermittently about this and that but mostly wandered along trying not to slip over just enjoying the peace.
We didn’t exactly go the wrong way but instead of going in a loop and coming back along the other side of the stream and back up the track to the village of Rowberrow, we somehow continued along the little valley, past Dolebury and ended up on the A38, a major road, more so in former times when it was known as the Leeds-Exeter trunk road. 292 miles long and the longest 2-digit A road in England. We had been walking down hill without realising it, now we had to follow the A38, back up hill, until we reached the turning to Rowberrow village, and wearily we tramped up to where we had parked the car. I say wearily, but in actual fact we were still walking well although somewhat slower, and compared to the distances some walkers cover out for a jaunt it was nought but a cock-stride, as we used to say in the north!