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Evening Expedition Walks

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An intrepid team of three, Lexxie, Ryan and Rhys, left school with Mrs Alderman soon after lessons to complete a circular six mile walk around some of the footpaths in the Cotswold Water Park near Ashton Keynes.

We encountered a variety of wildlife, ducks, coots, grebes and other wildfowl on the various lakes we walked round. We saw a heron in flight and a swan sitting peacefully on her nest of eggs. We also met some horses through whose field the footpath led us.

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We followed the old Railway track for a while and passed the fishermen in their little tents and shelters at the Carp society lake. When hunger overcame us we stopped at the seats around Cleveland lakes to fire up the gas stoves to cook bacon and eggs to fill our rolls and boil the kettle to enjoy a cup of tea.

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Then it was a quick trot back to the car to return to school just in time to go to bed. Well done to all for completing the first expedition there may be more to look forward to.

Expedition Walk Number Two

On Wednesday evening the intrepid group, Lexxie, Lauren, Chris and Mrs Alderman were dropped off in Cirencester, just outside Lister Wilder in the industrial estate, where we hunted through the undergrowth until we discovered the old canal. We followed the tow path along this, often through cow parsley that was as high as the proverbial elephant's eye.

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We followed it to Siddington where we saw the remains of two locks and a lagoon for the barges to turn around in. From here we crossed the road and followed the disused canal to South Cerney. We passed more locks and some lock houses that were still lived in but not used for the lock keepers anymore. We saw some tiny cygnets with their Mum and a heron as well as the more usual ducks. A more unusual sight, when we stopped for a quick bite to eat, were some Alpacas in the field next to the tow path. We continued along the path passed the round tower lock house at Cerney Wick until we reached Latton basin. It was here that the goods were transferred from the large barges that operated on the larger Thames Severn canal to the smaller ones that fitted down the smaller canal that went to Swindon. We too turned off and followed the smaller canal to the edge of the 114 acre field that makes up the North Meadow nature reserve at Cricklade, home of the largest natural population of fritillaries in the country. We skipped swiftly across this through the buttercups to the road where we met our lift to take us back to school. Well done to all for completing our Cirencester to Cricklade trek.

Expedition Walk Number Two

Bibury's Hidden Valley.

For our third Expedition, Lexxie, Lauren, Ryan, Ben and Mrs Alderman left school and started in the lovely village of Bibury. We parked by Rack Isle and in the pouring rain walked up Cirencester Road and then turned right to join a footpath.

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We walked through fields and saw lots of sheep and their lambs before dropping down into Ablington. Here we passed the Manor house and crossed the river pausing to play Pooh sticks on the bridge.

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We walked up the track next to the river and on past the Kennels where we saw a Red Kite flying, stooping and wheeling in the air above us. We saw young cattle and walked into the hidden valley that was populated with race horses. They followed us for a little way before becoming bored with our company and returning to their own thing. The hidden valley, a remnant of glacial erosion from the last ice age, wound its way through the fields heading ever upwards and we followed to the road. Ryan took a great photo of a stunted tree.

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At the road we walked onto the Salt Way, which is a remnant of the prehistoric and historical trade routes by which essential salt was transported to regions that lacked it. These roads were usually fairly straight and ran from one ancient settlement to another, they can still be seen and travelled on as By Ways and Salt Roads. We stopped along here to boil the kettle and have a hot drink with our packed tea which was very welcome especially as it had stopped raining. From here it was a simple step back down into the valley where Bibury was to be seen nestling peacefully by the river. We had a quick look at Arlington row, a famous Cotswold stone row of old weaver's cottages that run up the far side of Rack Isle from where we had parked the car. Thus our little stroll was done and the crew had completed a little walk of 6.3 miles.

Expedition to Avebury

This week the expedition walk took place on a Tuesday and went back 5000 years in time as we visited the Henge monument at Avebury. Lexxie, Lauren and Ryan had not been before and were intrigued by the bank and ditch and the large sarsen stones that are placed around the circular structure.

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There was much debate and contemplation as to why the stones and the other structures were there, how they had been placed there and just how heavy the stones might be. Ryan was particularly impressed when he realised that all this work had been done without the aid of machines, the wheel or even metal tools. We walked around the stones crossing the roads that bisect this enormous henge, so large it has a village including a pub inside the earthen walls, and climbed the bank under the Beech trees that have prayers, favours and good wishes attached to them.

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As we walked along the high earth banks we could see cows peacefully grazing and amongst the stones themselves were the old fashioned breed of Wiltshire Horned sheep with their lambs. We left the stone circle and walked down the avenue of sarsen stones that leads up from the River Kennet and the Sanctuary, which is the start of the Ridgeway long distance footpath, to Avebury. It is believed to be the remnants of the ceremonial approach to the Henge at Avebury and part of the surrounding prehistoric landscape.

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At the end of the stones forming the avenue we turned up the hill walking straight up to see Silbury Hill appear over the horizon. This is a man made Neolithic structure that was also built round about the same time as Avebury 5000 years ago, it is as big as one of the pyramids and is older. This too was built without the aid of machines or metal tools. Again Ryan was amazed especially when we went closer to the view point and he could more easily judge its actual size.

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We followed the young river Kennet as it looped round the base of Silbury hill and back to the car park at Avebury before embarking on the drive back to school. Lots discovered on this expedition.

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Waterhay Expedition walk.

We parked the car at the Waterhay car park and set off on a circular walk taking in the delights of the back streets of Ashton Keynes and several lakes.

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The usual crew were augmented by Chay and the welcome presence of Miss Molsher. We walked past a herd of young cattle and were dazzled by the clouds of bright blue damselflies drifting amongst the grasses on the edges of the lakes.

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We stopped briefly for a snack before tackling the stinging nettle trail which was not the challenging prospect that it has been in the past as it had been strimmed! But Ryan did manage to find a few.

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Round the edge of the fishing lake and across the hay meadow which had a few orchids flowering in it amongst the clover, daisies and cow parsley. Down the old railway line until we reached the turn off for Cleveland lake where we stopped at the first seat for our picnic and a well deserved cup of tea. We admired the lovely evening with the sun setting across the lake and the numerous beautiful swans serenely paddling around, before making our way back to the car and returning to school.

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Chedworth in the Woods.

The latest evening expedition walk started out from Chedworth, there was a compliment of three, Scott, Josh and James. Once we had negotiated the rather steep and narrow road back down into the village we came upon a very clear stream running down the side of the road the boys spent time here debating as to whether the water was drinkable and how it came to be there. We then walked up through the church yard and over the stone stile into a track-way passing a small cricket ground with one of the nicest views in the country.

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We came to the edge of an old airfield and followed one of the runways down towards the trees and then went into the wood. It was cool and peaceful here and we followed the steep path down through the old tunnel under the old railway line emerging next to the Roman Villa. Those old Romans certainly knew a thing or two about picking a beautiful spot to live. The boys were surprised as to how big an area the villa took up and tried to imagine how tall it might have been.

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We turned right at the edge of the wood and followed a lovely tree lined track that ran beside a sun dappled stream. This looked so cool and inviting that Miss Molsher and the lads went for a paddle to cool their hot feet.

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On we walked looking for the remains of a suspected Roman temple along the edge of the wood. We did not find this in the undergrowth but we could see the evidence of the small depressions in the bank where they had quarried the stone for building the temple and the villa and for making the roads. We stopped in an idyllic spot to eat our tea before turning up through the wood again to begin the climb back up to where we had left the car. At the edge of the wood the path carried on through fields of Oilseed rape, the lads were interested to look at how tall this crop became and looked at the pods that were ripening ready for harvesting the oil bearing seeds within. When we reached the road we had an amazing view right across to the five wind turbines at West Mill wind farm near Shrivenham. We turned right and soon were back at the car and returned to school in time for a quick shower and bed.