For someone who walks around the Country so much it is surprising there are places local to home that I have never explored. Today I plan to rectify this a little by walking from the centre of Salisbury whilst my car is in the garage for its annual service and MOT.
My walk starts from the Churchfield’s Industrial Estate, very close to Salisbury’s railway station. I head west along Churchfields Road towards Lower Bemerton and then after passing a VW Garage follow a footpath leading besides an industrial unit but soon reaching the water meadows.
This is a stunning spot and within a few minutes it is an oasis of peace far away from the hustle and bustle of the Industrial Estate. The footpath crosses various streams and then goes over the River Nadder.
At a crossing of paths I go through a kissing gate and walk away from the river following a footpath diagonally across arable fields. Turning around I get a good view of Salisbury Cathedral.
After going across two fields the path turns left to reach the busy A3094, which I cross with care to join the footpath up the driveway of Salisbury and South Wilts Golf Club. As I near the golf club car park the path continues straight on along a track and soon passes the 18thgreen with the Clubhouse close behind it.
The route now follows the track through trees running along the side of fairways. According to the Club’s website the course dates back to 1888 after the then Bishop of Salisbury, Bishop Wordsworth, had holidayed at St Andrews. Originally the course was eight holes and was extended over the years to create the 18 hole Cathedral Course and the nine hole Bibury Course.
In the early 1970’s I was a junior member of this club, with a natural left to right shape to my game I struggled to keep the ball on the course. Since then the course has altered significantly but it is over forty years since I played here.
I continue on the footpath to cross the track of Salisbury Racecourse and then turn right to join the Old Shaftesbury Drove as it goes behind the Grandstand. This racecourse is a flat racing venue and lays claim to being the place where on 7th April 1948 Lester Piggott, aged twelve, rode his first race and also being the course where the famous American jockey Steve Cauthen rode his first race in Britain.
The path now follows the tarmac driveway to the racecourse and after passing stables on the left I reach theremains of Cowper’s Cross on the grass verge. Carved into the north eastern side is a bench mark, these played a significant role in the mapping of the Country. They were used by the Ordnance Survey to ensure that the level rod, used to work on the elevation between two points, were always located in exactly the same position.
I carry on along the driveway and then cross a road to continue along the Old Shaftesbury Drove heading west. In all my years I have never walked along this part of this ancient drove. Initially, as it heads through woodland, it is a well-made roadway.
As I proceed along and pass fields of pigs on my right it becomes a bit more of a track, but it is still easy walking as it is almost level following the ridge along the downs. I stay on the drove ignoring all footpaths leading left and right. The only diversion I make is to pop into a field on my right to visit the Compton Hut trig point. This is my 137th Ordnance Survey trig pillar.
Back on the track I continue along the drove, I do like walking these ancient routes. This one used to be the main coach and turnpike route between Salisbury and Shaftesbury. Even now it is not hard to imagine a stagecoach coming along this route.
On reaching a junction of paths I turn left, leaving the drove, to start a gradual descent.
As I emerge from trees the wind picks up and it gets very blowy there are now stunning views away to my right.
The path now follows a track with trees on my left as I head downhill towards Broad Chalke.
The final section of the track goes down steeply passing through Chalk Pyt Farm.
Amazingly Broad Chalke is a village I cannot recall visiting. I may have come here as a child when my father played village cricket, but I have no memory of it. It is a stunning village with many old cottages in what is known as the Chalke Valley.
Not surprisingly its picturesque nature has attracted some notable residents over the years including the ex Prime Minister Sir Anthony Eden, the photographer and designer Sir Cecil Beaton, the musician Toya Wilcox and the author Sir Terry Pratchett.
I walk through the village to reach All Saints church, parts of which date from the 13thand 14thcentury, the porch is reportedly from the 15thcentury.
Restoration work was undertaken in the 1840’s and is certainly a splendid looking church.
Heading back into the village I pause as I cross the River Ebble, the water is crystal clear but I cannot see any fish.
I pass the United Reform Chapel that now also houses the village community shop and café. I am tempted to pop in for a cup of tea but whilst the sky is blue overhead the weather coming from the west is looking a bit ominous so I press on in the hope of avoiding the rain.
Just after the chapel I take a footpath on the left, this leads to a lane where I turn right and continue along a footpath where the lane ends. I am now heading north easterly uphill. Soon the rain that was threatening sweeps through the valley and I am grateful for the added protection of the trees.
At a junction with a broad track I turn left and continue uphill towards Stoke Down.
After passing a farm I continue on the track, this is along steady haul up the hill, at a way marker I leave the track to fork right and head across arable fields on a clearly defined path.
The route now enters woodland where the bluebells are resplendent. I do like walking this time of year in bluebell woods.
Continuing through the woods I soon reach a driveway and I follow this up to reach a crossing with the Old Shaftesbury Drove. I go straight across on a track between fields housing pigs. On reaching a gateway I had hoped to be able to make a diversion to visit a trig point on my right, but there are notices explaining it is not a public right of way and to keep out to protect the biodiversity of the farm.
I continue in a northerly direction along the track and the disappointment of missing out on a trig point is soon replaced by the pleasure of seeing the stunning views down the Nadder Valley.
I enter a field and at a junction of paths turn right heading back uphill to get another fine view down into the punchbowl towards Burcombe.
Continuing along the path I reach Netton Clump and fork left to follow a path through the trees at the next junction of paths I fork left again. This is a cracking stretch of woodland.
The track soon enters open ground between fields and heads steadily downhill towards Bulbridge.
On reaching a road I turn right and walk on the pavement through the village. At a junction I turn left and walk down into Wilton. This small town was once the administrative centre of Wiltshire, its growth and significance based on its role in the wool industry. In particular, from the 17thcentury weaving, which led in 1741 to the start of a famous carpet industry. The town is therefore rich in history and I make a detour to look at the outside of the magnificent St Mary & St Nicholas’ church.
This church looks like it should be in some Mediterranean town rather than rural Wiltshire; it was built between 1841-44 and was funded by the local landowners the Pembroke’s. As I need to be back in Salisbury to collect the car I decide not to explore the interior, I must bring Lynnie here soon.
I walk back through the market square and then follow the pavement passing the Pembroke Arms pub and the gates to Wilton House. Close to the road is a statue erected to George Robert Charles 13th Earl of Pembroke (1850-1895), from 1874-75 he was Under-Secretary of War in Benjamin Disraeli’s Conservative Government. After that his political life was as an occasional speaker in the House of Lords. Apparently, he preferred to communicate his views through periodicals and speeches around the Country.
On reaching a roundabout I turn right and pass the church of St Peter at Fugglestone apparently parts of this church date back to the 13thcentury. It is another place I will have to visit when I have more time.
I now walk along the pavement besides the busy A36 passing a garden centre and then following the wall of Wilton House at traffic lights I turn right onto the Netherhampton Road and then soon turn left into Lower Road to walk through Quidhampton. At a fork in the road I take the right option, continuing on Lower Road, the route now runs along a path protected from the road by a hedge. As I near Lower Bemerton I see a World War II Pillbox on the left in the grounds of a Bemerton Farm retirement housing complex.
In the grounds of Bemerton Farm is a fine Dovecote, apparently the farm was built for the Dowager Countess of Pembroke in 1863 and the dovecote is an elaborate affair.
I continue to pass the St John’s Church in Bemerton. It was in this church in August 1950 that my parents were married.
Continuing along the road I pass St Andrew’s Church in Lower Bemerton, apparently this tiny 13thcentury church only seats thirty people.
I stay on Lower Road as it passes through Lower Bemerton and then arrive back at the edge of the Industrial Estate, from here it is just a short walk along Churchfields Road to reach my starting point. It has been a grand day’s walking; I have covered twenty miles, visiting for the first time areas that are relatively close to home. It has certainly whetted my appetite to explore more of the Wiltshire Downs!
To follow my walk you will need Ordnance Survey Outdoor Explorer Map 130 – Salisbury & Stonehenge
© Two Dogs and an Awning (2019)