Jamming About in the Vale of Pewsey

I have spent the last two days on an Outdoor First Aid course, it was really instructive and I have learnt a new range of skills which, should the need arrive, I can deploy to assist someone.  I hope I never need to use the skills, but it is reassuring to know what to do in an emergency situation.  It makes me wonder why basic first aid and instruction on using a defibrillator is not a mandatory part of the school curriculum.

Today I have decided to wander around the Vale of Pewsey, then head over Pewsey Hill before dropping into Upavon and returning to Charlton St Peter.  Along the way I aim to walk some paths I have not previously travelled along.  Leaving the site I turn left to walk up a track following the route of the White Horse Trail. 

I stay with this long distance path ignoring two paths on the left and then at a fork stay with the White Horse Trail towards Falkner’s Farm.

After passing the farmyard I cross a minor road and continue along a tarmac lane passing old barns and following the lane to St James’ Church. Apparently a church has been on this site since 963, part of the current building dates from the 13th century.  The tower dates from the 15th century and the church underwent a restoration in the 1950’s.

From the church I head through trees to pass the lakes of Manningford Trout Fishery. According to this fishery’s website it has some of the best trout fishing in the south of England.

The path rounds Manor Farm and then passes industrial buildings before going besides a cottage and emerging at a minor road.

Crossing the road I go over a stile and fork left at a junction of footpaths and head through horse paddocks.  At a junction of paths in front of Mannigford Manor House I turn left heading towards woodland.

After going through a belt of trees I follow the fenced path through a clearing and then enter Lock Wood and cross one of the many branches of the River Avon that flow through this area.

Leaving the woods I continue along a track to reach a minor road and pass New Barn Farm. I turn right into Primrose Lane and follow this past a couple of houses.

On reaching the end of the lane I turn left at a junction of footpaths and go beside a plantation, soon crossing a railway line.

The path now goes along the edge of an arable field and passes Frith Copse.  Ahead in the distance is Picked Hill and I can see the trig point on the top.  Unfortunately this trig is on private land and I have read that the landowner does not take kindly to people visiting it.  So it is likely to be a Wiltshire trig I fail to bag.

The path reaches a minor road at Swanborough Tump, there is a sarsen stone and a plaque commemorating the history of this site which was the meeting place of the Hundred of Swanborough in Saxon Times.  In 871 King Alfred and his brother Ethelred met here on their way to fight the invading Danes and each swore that if either should die in battle the dead man’s children would inherit the lands of their father King Aelthelwulf.

I cross the road and continue north on the White Horse Trail along a tarmac driveway to Cocklebury Farm.  

After the farm the path reaches the ornate Ladies Bridge over the Kennet and Avon canal.  The bridge was built by the canal’s engineer John Rennie in 1808.  The design was at the behest of Susannah Wroughton who lived at Wilcot Manor and the reference to Ladies refers to her and her daughter, also named Susannah.

I now join the canal towpath and head east towards Pewsey.  

I have walked this tranquil stretch of canal a few times.  I pass under bridge number 199, for Manor Farm and quickly reach the Wilcot Bridge (number 120).  The last time I walked under this bridge the parapet had been damaged but it is now fully repaired.

I stay beside the canal and soon pass Wilcot Cricket Club on the far side.  It looks a cracking spot to play.  The local Parish Council’s website reports the Club’s history dating back to 1890, it moved to this ground in 1990 after the field was donated by Sir Phillip Dunn who lived at Stowell Park.

A bit further along the canal I pass under the Stowell Park Suspension Bridge.  Erected in 1845, this private footbridge was paid for by Colonel Wroughton of Wilcot.  It was designed and built by a Devizes engineer James Dredge, he built fifty other bridges to this design but there are only two remaining, the other is the Victoria suspension bridge in Bath.  The suspension is from wrought iron chains not wire ropes.

As well as being an important transport route the Kennet and Avon Canal was of strategic importance during World War II.  It formed the Blue Section of the General Headquarters (GHQ) Line which stretched across southern England so in the event of an enemy invasion it would, hopefully, be possible to defend London and the Midlands.  To support this defensive line a number of pillboxes were built along the northern side of the canal.

At Bristow Bridge the towpath crosses the bridge and continues on the southern side of the canal.  Approaching Pewsey Wharf there are a number of barges moored.

Pewsey Wharf was once a hive of activity, built in 1806/07 besides a road route between Salisbury and Marlborough, now the A345.  It was a key location for loading and unloading goods from barges.  Now only one of the old warehouses remains and this has been converted into the Waterfront Bar and Bistro.

After the wharf the towpath goes through some attractive countryside, going under Pains Bridge and passing the entrance to the Wiltshire Wildlife’s Vera Jean’s nature reserve at Jones’s Mill.

At the next bridge I leave the canal and head south towards Fairfield Farm.

After crossing a bridge over the railway line the road continues south to a T-junction.  Here I go straight across following a bridleway besides Little Ann Copse to enter a field.  In the distance is Pewsey Hill, my plan is to head over the hill and then drop down into Upavon before returning to Charlton St Peter.

Ignoring paths to the left and right I keep going south to pass Kepnal.  

Then at a crossing of paths my planned route is scuppered, there is a notice saying the footpath is closed for work on the overhead electricity cables.  This is frustrating but looking at the map I opt to re-route through Pewsey and pick up the route I walked between Pewsey and Charlton St Peter a few days ago, but this time in the opposite direction.  So I turn right and follow a path beside a stream.

This path leads through fields to enter the edge of Pewsey at Ball Lane.  I turn right and then almost immediately left and follow this lane until I reach the entrance to Pewsey Football Club. Here I turn right and follow the path alongside the football pitch and continue through recreation grounds to reach a track that soon joins the High Street.  I turn left and walk down to the statue of King Alfred.  This statue was unveiled in June 1913 to commemorate the coronation of George V.

At the statue I turn left and follow the main road through the town, passing St John the Baptist’s church before turning right into The Crescent and I almost immediately take a footpath on the left going between gardens and a field.  After passing what appears to be a disused playing field the footpath continues heading west.

At a minor road I turn left and soon pass the splendid Grade II listed Sharcott Manor House.

At a junction I turn right and follow the lane to West Sharcott where I turn left and head south to cross the River Avon and then take a footpath on the right to head through a meadow towards the church at Manningford Abbots.  

Unusually this small church does not appear to have a recorded dedication, it was rebuilt between 1861-64. 

From the church I follow a footpath across a field then over a stream to head towards Manningford Bruce.

Crossing a minor road I take the route of the White Horse Trail and soon reach the point where I had turned left earlier to go towards Lock Wood.  It is now a case of retracing my steps past the trout farm and St James’ church before passing Falkner’s Farm and rejoining the track that leads back to Charlton St Peter.

Arriving back at Charlton Manor I have completed fourteen and a half miles, the latter part was not my originally planned route and I don’t usually like retracing my steps on a walk, however it has been a thoroughly enjoyable jam in the Vale of Pewsey.

You can view this 14.5 mile walk on OS Maps and download the GPX File Here

To follow my walk, you will need Ordnance Survey Explorer Maps OS130 Salisbury & Stonehenge; and OS157 Marlborough & Savernake Forest

9th 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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