18.6 miles – Rolling, billowing grey clouds, which released a single golden egg of sunshine
I was once given a birthday card with a cartoon depiction of Marie Antoinette being led away to the guillotine, and in a last-ditch attempt to save her neck she cried out to her captors: “And ice cream. I said: ” Let them eat cake and ice cream!” and so totally missing the point.
I mention this simply because when I stopped for my second breakfast at Milcote Station, I had both cake and ice cream; and all I can say is that it was great, and if Marie Antoinette had been given a chance, and the peasants had been able to feast on those sweet meats, my guess is that the revolution would have been off and the whole course of history would have been different.
And I was in need of something uplifting. Very tired after 50 miles and Richard III in two days, the tourists in Stratford, buzzing around the trinket shops had made me so flustered that I posted my map of the area home and had to buy another one. But surely the reason to come to Stratford as a tourist has something to do with shakespeare; and if so, why are there so many of the milling around the streets when the theatre last night was more than half empty?
It occurred to me that I hadn’t climbed any sort of a hill for a whole week, which is quite extraordinary on a walk like this. The next one I encountered was admittedly quite small, but it did feel odd after all that time.
I believe there is an invisible line which can be drawn across England, north of which can generally be referred to as ‘The North’ and south of which is ‘The South’; my guess is that the change is often quite abrupt. That’s what I my impression was today. Quinton was still, for me, just in The North; I think the people there orient themselves towards Stratford, which itself looks towards Birmingham. But as soon as I had crossed that hill I knew I had arrived in The South. The first thing I noticed was that the almost all the buildings were made of the gorgeous, yellow, Cotswold sandstone. The houses of Chipping Camden were entirely of that yellow stone. I noticed it in the pub too. All the beers had a gentle, sweetish ‘Southern flavour’ contrasting hugely with the more austere, dry beers of Burton and further north. I was feeling more at home.