Day 3 - Uffington to Avebury - 30 miles

The next day started - for Caroline at least - with some more of Mrs Reid's bacon. We had farm-laid eggs as well.

We hit the track as the farm helpers arrived for the day, and the dogs played with the cats as we cycled off. The weather had turned overcast with a sprinkling of rain as we got back on the ridge and headed west.

The first stop of the day was at Uffington Castle, a Bronze Age hill fort. I wandered through its ramparts and then headed down the hill to try and find the more famous artefact of Uffington - the White Horse. My first view of it was from the road, galloping high on the skyline, as it had done for maybe four thousand years.

I climbed up the hill towards the horse and taking care not to damage it, took some closer pictures. Its almost impossible to see it as a horse from ground level this close.

The surrounding scenery looks almost sculptured. There is a deep, flat bottomed hollow with ridged sides called The Manger, and a flat-topped mound called Dragon Hill. Although these are mostly natural features, there are many legends associated with them.

We pedalled onwards to the neolithic burial mound of Wayland's Smithy. The giant stones cap the end of the mound, and the surrounding trees add to the atmosphere.

The mood of the place is quite magical. I thought I photographed a pixie hiding behind one of the stones.

But it turned out to just be Caroline. She tried to climb one of the trees but instead decided to climb the stones instead.

As we had entered Wayland's Smithy an american tourist greeted us. "Have you seen the crop circle?" he asked, and then told us it was across the path and through the woods into the fields. After our visit to the Smithy we headed for it. It wasn't visible from the field edge, but Caroline found it and waved to me.

Apparently this formation was getting quite some publicity due to its 3-d nature. From the ground it just looked like a sunburst pattern. Many National Newspapers and TV reports mentioned it. We stood in the middle of it and wondered how much it would cost the farmer in lost wheat.

We set off again into the pleasant green lanes. The day was brightening up and the clouds lifting.

There was another point of interest in our morning. The only pub on the western section of The Ridgeway. Of course there are pubs close by in villages, but this is the only one you actually walk or cycle past. It was a bit early for beer, but the couple at the farm last night told us they had coffee and cakes. Elevenses was calling us, so coffee and cake it was.

The sky was now blue and the way became a single-track between fields. Occasionally it would be double-ruts from tractors, making the going slightly tricky. Sometimes the stinging nettles or thistles on the margins would be unavoidable.

After passing this picturesque cottage we stopped for lunch and siesta beneath the shade of some trees. The peace of the countryside was shattered by a low-flying helicopter, but it sooned disappeared over the horizon. The local flies demonstrated their vertical take-off technique.

A few miles further on we were back into history again. At one of the hill forts a full-size reconstruction of an iron-age roundhouse was in progress.

We were soon on the final leg of the journey, which ended in a two-mile downhill section of the roughest, narrowest ruts so far. By the time the main road at the end was in sight, my hands had taken a pummelling even with front suspension. We passed one fully laden cyclist coming up the hill, having just started his Ridgeway ride. He seemed happy to be going uphill.

The Ridgeway ends disappointingly at a main road. We set off along it to find Tony, who was showing the countryside to his 'rellies' who had popped over from Australia. He was currently in Avebury, sitting at the pub. The first turning for Avebury is unsignposted, in order to minimise the motor traffic heading down it, so we ended up at Silbury Hill.

So, a quick U-turn and back down the hill and off to Avebury. This road is lined with standing stones forming what is supposed to be a processional way to the circle at the village. Once there we had a quick drink with Tony and his family at the pub, and then set off to explore the stones.

The central circle was very busy on this sunny afternoon.

The stones are all sorts of shapes, and there are various theories as to whether the shape is important.

The sheep keep the grass neatly trimmed.

The surface of the stones makes you want to touch them. Here, unlike at Stonehenge where you are fenced off, you can.

At Avebury you can even sit on the stones. Caroline is sitting on The Devil's Chair. Had it been Beltane (May Day Eve), Caroline could have made a wish. Maybe she did anyway.

Magical powers and stone circles go hand in hand. We witnessed a tour group being instructed in the art of dowsing between the stones.

Eventually it was time to head off to our pub B+B a mile north of Avebury. At first things didn't look good. The pub hadn't had its gas delivery and so the menu was restricted to pie and chips, and breakfast wouldn't be a cooked one. Ah. We'd already been told that the food in the pub in Avebury wasn't worth it, so we didn't seem to have much choice. Pie and chips, probably cooked in a microwave, we thought.

After thinking about it over a drink, Caroline decided she was hungry enough to eat any old pie and chips. But it wasn't any old pie and chips. There was a choice on the blackboard, including a veggie and cheese offering. And when the barmaid said it would be a while because she had to get everything heated up, we wondered what kind of steam-powered microwave they were using. A while later we were presented with two wonderfully cooked pies, with crumbly pastry and packed with filling, and chips fried crisp and hot, and a generous salad, not just a token lettuce leaf and slice of cucumber.

After dinner we played dominoes for a while and then went for a walk around Winterbourne Monkton as the sun set.

Day 4