Walking The Clarendon Way
I struggle with December. I don't know whether its real Seasonal Affective Disorder, but I'm definitely affected by the short, dark days. By the time I finished work on the 20th I was barely clinging on for the break. What I needed was a 1 day microadventure: a whole day outside and to get physically rather than mentally tired. The Clarendon Way solved this.
The route is a 20 mile sign posted trail between Salisbury and Winchester. It has the feel of a Pilgrimage route with a cathedral at either end and long, straight ancient paths. It connects 2 old Royal Palaces, including Clarendon Palace after which it is named. A brief history and guide to the route is in this leaflet.
There's a lot of pleasant countryside and some interesting sections at either end. Much of the middle is unremarkable though. Maybe I've been spoilt by other trails like the Ridgeway that have more to see. That wasn't really the point of today's trip though.
The day started with a head full of unfinished work thoughts, re-mortgaging details and annoyances about dodgy builders. Thoughts came and went over the course of the 8 hour trip. Ideas rumbled around, solutions presented themselves and some things lost their importance. I've read about people finding enlightenment on a Pilgrimage. I wasn't going to get that on a 1-day walk, but I understand where it comes from. For some its a religious experience, for me its the head-clearing power of exercising outdoors.
The Clarendon Way is a good 1-day walk or, in summer, a trail marathon run. Although it can be broken into sections, the completed journey in a day is enormously satisfying. I parked at Basingstoke station and took a 45 minute train to Salisbury, returning from Winchester to Basingstoke. This is the best solution if you're coming from the north and there's a similar option using Southampton station as the connector. The train station in each city is about half a mile from the cathedral.