Madonna and the Ramblers

Always looking for ways to improve the walking holiday experience.

Posted by Mark Armstrong 7th June 2014

One of the downsides of creating unique walking holiday experiences, is the effort required to check that the chosen footpaths are still relevant and are the most appropriate for the conditions or time of year. Where routes follow well used national trails this is a lot simpler, but where we criss-cross fields and multitudes of short linking footpaths it is more difficult and we need to check as much as we can and react quickly to any feedback from customers on the paths and our walking notes.

Sometimes, we just feel we can improve the walk by changing the path or routes to create a better experience.

So what's this got to do with Madonna, you might ask? Well with her then husband, Guy Ritchie, she bought the Ashcombe Estate on the Wiltshire-Dorset border in 2001. British press speculated about how the new CROW Act could see some of the Ashcombe downland classified as 'open access' and could result in ramblers picnicking on her front lawn. The Daily Mail quoted her as describing ramblers as 'satan's children,' although in a Q interview she said she hadn't got anything bad to say about ramblers. 17 parcels of the estate were marked as proposed open access, which the Ritchie's appealed against and in the end 15 remained private. According to the Times, Independent & Daily Mail Madonna won, whilst according to the Guardian she lost, while the BBC & Telegraph called it a partial victory.

In all of this, the public rights of way across the estate were never closed.

In an interview in Vogue, Madonna tells of a weekend at Ashcombe to celebrate their wedding anniversary, where they set out to create a Beatonesque weekend of folly and frolics with A list friends obliged to do a turn. You can read more about Cecil Beaton and Ashcombe on our Tollard Royal page. Gwyneth Paltrow, Chris Martin and Stella McCartney sang a spoof of American Life, rebranded 'American Wife' and Sting played the lute, while Trudie read some sonnets.

"We just fell in love with it" said Madonna about the first visit to Ashcombe. "In the summertime it's the most beautiful place in the world. It just stayed with us, haunted us for a really long time."

Mike Parker in his book "The Wild Rover" says on looking into the bad press surrounding Madonna's supposed fear of open access at Ashcombe, he decided to see what all the fuss was about. So he took the path down into it from Win Green, the highest point in the Cranborne Chase. Parker describes it as the single most idyllic walk that he had all year. "I felt sorry for Madonna for what she'd had and then lost - and not even the image of Sting plucking his lute could make me hate her"

When we created the Wonders of Wessex walking holiday, we had 3 paths we could have used to descend from Win Green to Tollard Royal. Based on Mike's comments in his book it would be amiss of us not to investigate the option of going through the Ashcombe Estate as a new route to reach Tollard Royal.

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