The Smallest Village in Wiltshire

After a couple of weeks away I am back walking on my own again on Cranborne Chase.  Over the last year I have done a number of walks from Broadchalke, but I am still trying to link the local footpath network.  So today whilst some of my walk will be on previously walked tracks, I intend exploring as well.

The start point for my walk is the car park of All Saints Church in Broad Chalke (Grid reference SU040253).  As I arrive at the car park a large group of Ramblers are gathering and I hear the group leader say they are heading towards the Punchbowl, this is my intended route so I get sorted quickly and head off to avoid getting caught up with them.

Leaving the car park by the entrance gateway I turn left and walk along The Causeway soon crossing the River Ebble.  At the road junction close to the Queens Head pub I turn right and pass the United Reform Chapel that now also houses the village community shop and café. 

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 when the lane ends. I am now heading northeasterly uphill, with good views of the valley.

I can hear the voices of the ramblers behind me so don’t hang about for too long admiring the views.  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 a long 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 and soon reaches a driveway where I turn left following it to reach the Old Shaftesbury Drove.  I turn left and follow the drove for 2.2 miles to reach a track on the right. 

Here I turn and follow this track as it descends steadily on Compton Down. 

The track continues to the A30 where I cross and follow a track up to Naishes Farm.

After passing the farm buildings the track heads between fields and then descends on a sunken track through woodland continuing on to Compton Chamberlayne.  I turn left and wander through the village to visit the cemetery which has a number of Commonwealth War Graves from World War I.  

During World War I Army Camps were located in the fields below Compton and Fovant Down, here troops prepared to fight in the conflict.  Amongst the men stationed here were troops from Australia and many of these war graves are for Australian service men. Some of whom, just boys, had joined up to fight and then spent months on an arduous sea crossing leaving the Australian summer to arrive in a British winter, sadly their lives were ended by respiratory disease.

Leaving the cemetery I turn and left continue through this attractive village to reach St Michael’s Church. This church was originally built in the 13th century with additions in later years, in 1877 a major restoration was paid for by the villagers.  

I briefly pop inside to admire an impressive interior.

Leaving the Church I turn right and then almost immediately take a footpath on a track on the left going steadily uphill and becoming a fine sunken track.

As the path levels out it continues besides woodland to reach Home Farm.  I keep heading west along a farm track, passing barns and then continuing between fields.  There are good views of the Fovant Regimental Badges.   

These were created by soldiers garrisoned in the valley below the Downs during World War I.  The first badge was cut in 1916 and a further nineteen badges were created.  Of the originals nine remain and further badges have been added to the surrounding Downs.  

The path leads along the edge of woodland with a steep slope to the right. 

I reach a track, Green Drove, and cross it to join a footpath going along the edge of a field on Fir Hill.  In the field of Barley to my right is an Ordnance Survey trig point, I have previously bagged this one, so I content myself with just seeing the top of it as I pass by.

I follow the path around the edge of a field and then ignore a kissing gate on the right, instead continuing for a few hundred yards to take a footpath going downhill through woodland.

On reaching a lane in Fovant I turn right and then very quickly take a left into Mill Lane and follow this through the village to meet the Tisbury Road.  I turn right through the village and at a fork in the road go right into Church Lane and follow this to St George’s Church.

The churchyard is another poignant reminder of the World War I camps in this area with 63 Commonwealth War Graves.

From the church I retrace my steps down Church Lane to the junction and turn right along Moor Hill heading out of the village.  I stay with this lane past Long’s Farm and then at a junction turn left into Panter’s Road gradually climbing towards Sutton Mandeville.  At a footpath on the right I leave the road to walk up to All Saints church. 

The church dates from the 13th century with the tower added in the 15th century and restoration work carried out in 1862.  The churchyard has an unusual sundial.

From the church I continue into the village and then turn left passing the Old Rectory.  At a fork in the road I go right and join Glass’s Lane heading south towards the A30.  After crossing the main road I join a footpath going south along the side of an arable field.  

The path joins access land on Sutton Down, I follow way-markers across a stile aiming to keep to a footpath heading up the hill.  This is not a well walked path, but I roughly follow the fence line to reach a stile in the top corner. 

From here I head west along the top of access land before turning south to walk besides a fence to a gate where I rejoin the Old Shaftesbury Drove and turn left.

After a quarter of a mile I take a footpath on the right leaving the drove.  I stay with the track through arable fields ignoring a footpath on the right. The track takes me across the top of Fifield Down which has some splendid contours.

It is then a long steady descent across the downs whilst enjoying some stunning views.

On reaching a gate I join a minor road and turn left to walk into Fifield Bavant.  This is the smallest village in Wiltshire with just two houses, the Manor House and former rectory, and ten cottages. 

I stay with the road to a footpath leading through a farmyard to reach the small 13th Century St Martin’s Church.  Recent restoration on this church was completed in 2011, funded in part by a location fee paid for the use of the village for scenes in the filming of Pride and Prejudice.

After visiting the church I return through the farmyard and then take a footpath through a gate on the left heading downhill to cross a footbridge over a stream, it is dry at the moment.  I continue south in the field to reach a footpath heading east and follow this through the valley.

I reach a minor road besides watercress beds.  According to the website for Chalke Valley watercress these beds date back to 1880 when John Hutchings chose the site to build them.  Production started in 1889 and has continued, the beds have been run by the same family ever since.

After passing the watercress beds I stay on the lane to a junction with South Street, I turn left and wander along the road into Broad Chalke passing attractive cottages.

At the church I take a path to the left returning to my starting point in the car park.  My walk has covered the best part of 17 miles and has been thoroughly enjoyable.

To follow my walk you will need Ordnance Survey Explorer Map OL118 – Shaftesbury & Cranborne Chase and OL130 – Salisbury & Stonehenge

For more detailed walking directions and GPX download visit my associated Walking Moonraker website.

24th July 2020

© Two Dogs and an Awning (2020)

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