I established early during my trip that public transportation costs in England were too high. It was great being able to turn any corner, even in small town England, and have the possibility of catching a bus. But, rather than blow my bank account, I chose to walk from destination to destination as often as possible. There were of coarse times I regretted the decision instantly, usually when I was walking somewhere that fell outside of the range of my map. One of these occasions of regret came as I chose to walk from Salisbury to Old Sarum.
The walk itself isn’t that long, but it is all uphill. Unfortunately it also isn’t that interesting of a walk. Once you’re outside of the center of Salisbury with its pretty medieval designed streets and markets, you’re walking on a sidewalk next to a highway looking at modern houses with red tiled roofs. It probably didn’t help that I chose to make the ascent on an empty stomach (the one time Rick Steves fails me and tells me there’s a grocery store along the way when there isn’t).
The walk gave me plenty of time to think. When am I going to find a grocery store? Why does it currently feel like I’m somewhere in California? When am I going to experience the cloudy cool rainy day I anticipated in England? Why do the English have an obsession with palm trees, don’t they know they’re ugly? Gosh I’m hungry. Maybe it would have been easier to take the bus.
I did make it up the hill though. And it was beautiful.
Old Sarum is an old fort that was once the location of Salisbury. Today it isn’t much more than a series of ruins and stones sticking up from the grass. But, let’s be honest, stone that is thousands of years old is cool no matter how much of it you can actually see. The fort is upon the highest point in the area. From the top I could see for miles. For once on my trip I was actually thankful for the bright sunny skies. The fact that anything still remains from the old city is remarkable considering it dates to before the 1200’s.
There is something refreshing about spending time wandering around a site that is entirely outside. It makes the experience feel less institutionalized and more realistic. It seemed very natural to be wandering around this old fort. There were people sitting around the eating lunch. There were people with their dogs. There were people there just to take a walk.
I found it interesting how the types of tourists I saw at Old Sarum differed from the types of tourists I saw in Salisbury. Salisbury tourists were more button-up. They were conservatively dressed, white collar working class. The people at Old Sarum though were either granola eating hikers or not even tourists at all, they were locals slipping in for the day and a nice walk. One would think an older location, even if the structure is not as well intact, would draw members of academia, but I didn’t see any academics when I was there.
I spent about 45 minutes wandering around Old Sarum, in the ruins, sitting and looking at the view, watching the other tourists. There might not be much left of the structures that once made up the city, but I’m in awe that any remnants could remain at all. That something so old can survive so long is impressive. And, at this point in my trip, it was the oldest thing I had ever seen. Being in a city, that was once lost to the landscape, it makes you want to step back in time and see, not to sound cliché, what life was like back then.
After taking in the history and the view, I made my way out of the site and caught a bus back Salisbury, rather than making the trek back past the many houses with acrid palm tree gardens. Then hopped on my train and went back to Whitchurch and Overton.
Even with my long walk and high transportation costs, I loved the ease of which I could get from historic site to historic site and city to city. I wonder, if there will ever be a time in the United States when we will have a public transportation and train system that is large enough and efficient enough to take people so easily between different historic sites.