Battlefields, White Horses and Milestones

At the end of last year I became a recommended route provider for the Ordnance Survey.  It was something a friend had suggested I pursue and it was an honour when the OS confirmed my blog and walking routes met their required standards.  It has been great to have the opportunity to share my walks with a wider audience, the whole idea of the blog is to encourage others to get out and enjoy the countryside.

My week away at Charlton Manor CL is almost over, I head home tomorrow so before leaving I have one last chance to get out and enjoy this cracking bit of Wiltshire countryside.  So far my walks this week have been from the caravan site in Charlton St Peter but today I drive a few miles to the car park on Roundway Hill, just outside of Devizes. (Grid Ref: SU014641).

From here I head off along a wide track heading in a northerly direction with the aerials on Morgan’s Hill in the distance in front of me.

It was in this area on the 13th July 1643 that the Battle of Roundway Down was fought between the Royalists, led by Lord Wilmot, and the Parliamentarians, led by Sir William Waller.  The day ended in a resounding victory for the Royalists. The fleeing Parliamentarians inadvertently rode their horses over the steep edge of the hillfort at Roundway Hill which is now known as Oliver’s Castle.

After one and a quarter miles I reach a junction of tracks and turn right to head east towards a minor road.  After crossing the road I continue in the same direction with Furze Knoll on top of Morgan’s Hill to my left.

Apparently in 1913 a Marconi Imperial Wireless Chain receiving station was built on Morgan’s Hill, this was converted to military use in 1916.  From 1920 to 1929 it was the base for the first British long-range maritime communications station.  More recently it was used by the Wiltshire Constabulary for radio communications and in recent years has been used for mobile phone telecommunications.

It is a cracking day and there is little shade from the sunshine as I head along the track, a welcome change from the wet, grey weather that seems to have been with us forever.

Nearing Baltic Farm the track goes through the route of the Wansdyke. This is an impressive early medieval earthwork which covered a 34 mile section of southern England.  There are two main parts remaining, the east and west sections.  This is the east section and goes from Savernake Forest to the other side of Morgan’s Hill.

After passing the entrance to Baltic Farm I continue along the track until I reach a track on the left which heads north and goes beside a copse before crossing the route of an old Roman Road.  Here I go straight over to join the Wessex Ridgeway and White Horse Trail. In front is a good view of the Cherhill Monument.

The path ascends steadily.  After passing through a gate I enter access land and continue uphill.  

To my left is the impressive bowl in Calstone Down.

The path continues uphill to another gate which leads up to the Iron Age hillfort of Oldbury Castle.  I ignore a path that goes through the ramparts and continue straight ahead until I reach a fork in the path, here I go left and this path leads to the top of the escarpment above the Cherhill White Horse chalk carving.  This is not a great place to view the horse, but the view along the edge of the hill is stunning.

I now follow the path towards the Lansdowne Monument. This monument is also known as the Cherhill Monument and stands at 125 feet high and is a clear landmark.  It was erected in 1845 by the 3rd Marquis of Lansdowne to commemorate his ancestor Sir William Petty (1623-1687). It was designed by Sir Charles Barry, the architect of the Houses of Parliament.  Petty was the son of a cloth maker and studied to become Professor of Anatomy at Oxford.  He served as Physician General in Oliver Cromwell’s Army in Ireland and whilst there reportedly conducted the first land survey of the Country.  After the restoration of the Monarchy he was appointed a Commissioner of the Royal Navy by Charles II.  He was a founding member of the Royal Society and attained great wealth.  

The lower parts of the monument are clad in timber with a rubble guard, this was first erected in 2013.  The National Trust, who now own the site, recently sought a further five-year extension to retain this protective structure.  Apparently, they need this extra time to raise the £2.7m required to restore the monument. It is reported in local newspapers that the National Trust said they might close the entire site if the permission for the protective structure was not granted.  It is a pity that between the National Trust and the current Marquises of Lansdowne they cannot find the funds required to ensure continued safe public access to the site without the need for the unsightly cladding.

From the monument I take a path heading west to reach a gate.  

Before reaching the gate I turn around and look back to get a good view of the white horse.

Through the gate I quickly take a second gate and continue along the top of the down heading west with the path gradually descending.  At the edge of the access land I go through a gate and join a hedge lined path.

On reaching a cross way of paths I turn left and head beside a field edge heading south towards the aptly named South Farm.  On the horizon are the communication masts on Morgan’s Hill.

At a junction of paths I go straight on and follow the path that winds its way down to cross the River Marden.  After crossing the river I keep with the track as it goes gradually uphill and on reaching a footpath on my left I leave the track.  This path goes through a metal gate and continues along the edge of a field to two gates. I take the one on the right.

After going through a gate I continue straight on to reach another gate in the fence line.  Here the map shows I should be following the fence line on the left, however I recall that the last time I walked here the stile for the path was in the far right hand corner.  It is one of those occasions when the route on the ground differs from the map.

After crossing the stile the path goes to the right and follows the hedge line as it goes up hill.  The map shows the footpath going through the field, but I assume it has been diverted to the edge.  It is a steady ascent to reach a stile which I cross and join a track. In front of me is the open access land of Morgan’s Hill, but I turn right and follow the track for 450 metres to reach a gate on the left which I go through and join the open access land.

The route now steadily ascends the hill to reach the Wansdyke.

After going through the dyke I go through a gate and take a path leading through North Wilts Golf Course.  

Following the way-markers through the course I reach a B road and cross to join a track which is the route of the Wessex Ridgeway.  This part of the prehistoric route is sometimes referred to as the Great Ridgeway which goes from the Wash to Lyme Regis.  The Wessex Ridgeway goes from near Avebury to the coast at Lyme Regis and is an extension of the Ridgeway National Trail.

At a crossing of tracks I have a choice to make, from here I can continue straight on and return to my starting point or turn right and extend my walk by visiting Oliver’s Castle.  There is no reason for me to rush back and it is a cracking afternoon so I decide on the longer route. This also provides opportunities to seek out a couple of old milestones the first of which I reach after 400 metres .

This track was the Old Bath Road which went from London to Bath, I cannot make out any inscription on this milestone, apparently it marked 86 miles from London and dates from the 1700’s when it was erected by the Calne turnpike trust.

Continuing along, the track becomes tarmac the map shows it as a C road which forks at Hill Cottage, I go left to stay with the Old Bath Road and then after 700 metres I spot another milestone.  This one is even more weathered than the previous.

After 150 metres I reach a path on the left and take this to walk along a fence lined path and then at a gate on my right I enter open access land where I follow a path towards Oliver’s Castle. 

It was here the Parliamentarians fled during their defeat at the battle of Roundway, with Royalist’s in pursuit they unwittingly rode over the edge of the hill into the numerous steep drops.  The contours along the edge of this escarpment are amazing and it is easy to see why this became known as bloody ditch. This section of landscape along Beacon Hill will have changed very little since 1643.

I follow a path around the ramparts of the Bronze Age and Iron Age hillfort and then after going through a gate stay with the Mid Wilts Way long distance path to join a wide track.  After about 800 metres on the track I reach a parking area on the left and turn here and follow a path which soon enters woodland.

Following the clear path through the trees I soon reach the car park where I started. 

I decide not to visit the Devizes White Horse as I have been there a few times already. To see it turn right at the car park and follow the track for a couple of hundred metres to reach the site.

I have covered twelve miles and have enjoyed stunning views all the way around.  This really is a cracking area to walk.

You can view this 14 mile walk on OS Maps and download the GPX File Here

To follow my walk you will need Ordnance Survey Explorer Map OL157 Marlborough & Savernake Forest

10th May 2024

© Two Dogs and an Awning (2024)

All information on this site is provided free of charge and in good faith and no liability is accepted in respect of damage, loss or injury which might result from it.  To the best of my knowledge the routes are entirely on public rights of way or within areas that are open for public access.
Walking can be hazardous and is done entirely at your own risk.  It is your responsibility to check your route and navigate using a map and compass.

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