Now that the lock down restrictions have been lifted I am starting to undertake some walks a bit further from home. I am not driving far, but within twenty miles of home there are numerous places I haven’t walked. Earlier in the year I made plans with my walking buddy Mandy to visit all the Wiltshire White Horses in 2020. We ticked off Cherhill and Devizes before the lockdown and today plan to “bag” the Pewsey White Horse.
Despite living very close to Mandy we drive in separate cars to our starting point in the free car park in the centre of Pewsey, off Goddard Road (Grid Ref: SU162601). Leaving the car park we walk back to the A345 the main road through Pewsey. We turn left and follow this road, at a mini roundabout we continue besides the A345, now North Street. We stay on the main road until we reach Buckleaze Lane on the right. This lane goes under a railway bridge and then turns right to run parallel to the lane before becoming a footpath besides an old mill.
After crossing the River Avon we continue on the narrow path besides the railway line, when the path opens out we fork left keeping a fence on our left and soon pass gardens. Reaching a tarmac lane we continue to a junction and turn left to head north on a bridleway, this is the route of the White Horse Trail. The path heads downhill and crosses the River Avon.
Soon after we cross the Kennett and Avon Canal at Pains Bridge. The path is now a farm track still heading north. After passing the entrance to Inlands Farm we take a footpath on the left which crosses a stile into a field. In a second field we continue on the well-worn path to cross a minor road, Sunnyhill Lane remaining on the White Horse Trail. In the distance in front of us is the hill we will soon be ascending to reach Giants Grave.
We cross a track and go through a kissing gate then head across a field of pasture to reach another kissing gate. The path now climbs steeply. This is a stiff ascent, but the views across the Vale of Pewsey are stunning. Near the summit we see an Ordnance Survey rivet in a solid concrete block.
A little further on just over a fence is an Ordnance Survey trig point, this is the 202nd I have bagged.
The path now follows the fence line and passes through the promontory hill fort known as Giants Grave.
The White Horse trail continues along the ridge. After passing through a gate we continue following the way markers. At a fork in the path we go right leaving the White Horse Trail to join the Mid Wilts Way. This runs along the edge of a field of pasture and then joins a path into woodland.
We are now on Martinsell Hill and emerging from the trees we have stunning views.
After going through a gate we make a brief diversion into the woodland on the left to reach my 203rd Ordnance Survey trig point.
Continuing along the top of the hill we stay with the way markers for the Mid Wilts Way to pass around a copse and then at a junction of footpaths go right in an easterly direction, still on the Mid Wilts Way. Turning around we get some stunning views of this impressive hill.
The path continues to a car park and after crossing a minor road joins Mud Lane. The first fifty yards along this lane demonstrates why it is so named, but then thankfully the ground becomes firmer.
We stay with this track for two miles heading east. There are paths leading off to the left and right, nearing a minor road we walk besides the route of the disused Midland and South Western Junction Railway. This section linked Marlborough to Swindon and was completed in 1883, it closed to passengers in 1961 and freight in 1970. At the minor road we turn right and gradually descend downhill until we reach a driveway on our left to Brimslade. This tarmac drive continues steadily downhill to cross the Kennet and Avon Canal. After crossing the canal bridge we turn left on the towpath to immediately pass Cadley Lock.
This is a section of the Kennet & Avon I have not walked and we are soon at the attractive Burbage Wharf. This wharf was built in 1831 by the Earl of Ailesbury who owned Savernake Forest. The wharf was a key point for loading and unloading barges with timber, coal and farm produce. To enable this a large wooden crane was built. In 1970 it was discovered that the crane was unsafe and needed replacement. The original ironwork was saved and the wood replaced to recreate the original.
I have passed the wharf numerous times on the road, but this is the first time that I have been able to really appreciate the buildings. We continue along the towpath and find ourselves at the western end of the Bruce Tunnel.
Construction on this 502 yard tunnel started in 1803 and was completed in 1809. It stands at the highest point on the canal. It is named after the Earl of Ailsebury, Thomas Brundenell-Bruse. He would not allow a cutting through his land and insisted that a tunnel was built. There is no towpath through the tunnel so in the days of horse drawn barges, the horses were walked over the hill and the barges were hand pulled through the tunnel on chains on the inside walls.
Our route follows the path across the top of the hill. The main Paddington to Penzance railway line also runs across the top of this hill and as we go over a train flashes by. On the far side of the tunnel the path descends steeply to rejoin the towpath. Above the entrance on this eastern side is an inscription which reads “The Kennet and Avon Canal Company Inscribe this tunnel with the Name of Bruce In Testimony of the Gratitude for the uniform and effectual Support of the Right honourable THOMAS BRUCE EARL of AILESBURY and CHARLES LORD BRUCE his Son throughout the whole Progress of this great National Work by which direct communication by Water was opened between the Cities of London and Bristol ANNO DOMINI 1810.”
We now continue along the canal for just over half a mile to reach Wolfhall Bridge. We leave the towpath here and follow a track up to Wolfhall Farm and then turn right along the minor road in front of Wolfhall Manor. This house has a long history dating back to the 11th century, but it was here in the 16th century that the then owner Sir John Seymour invited King Henry VIII to stay in 1535. A year later Seymour’s daughter Jane became Henry’s third wife, just a year later she died in childbirth.
The building has had many additions over the years and is a combination of Tudor, Georgian and Victorian architecture. Apparently, it has one of the best preserved Tudor sewers in Britain. Walking by this interesting house there is no sign of its historical significance.
Reaching a footpath on the left we leave the road and head south besides a field to reach a five way junction of paths, we continue along a made-up track opposite passing cottages and then reaching the edge of a playing field on the outskirts of Burbage. We stop here on a bench for our lunch, this playing field is used by Burbage and Easton Royal Cricket Club, it looks like they have used the opportunity of no cricket to reseed the outfield, but as things stand I would not want to be playing on it anytime soon.
After lunch we resume our walk by returning to the track and taking a footpath heading south easterly towards the A338. This path crosses a stream and then goes through a copse to reach the main road where we turn left and walk along the broad verge for a hundred yards and then take a footpath on the right to head south east besides an arable field.
At a junction of paths we turn right, heading south to reach the edge of Southgrove Copse, we turn right and follow a path along the edge of the woodland. At a junction with another path we turn left to follow it through the copse.
After passing farm buildings we join a farm track and head towards the A338. Near the main road we pass discarded a discarded set of spring harrows in a field gateway.
At the A338 we turn left and walk a couple of hundred yards besides this busy road and are grateful when we reach a drove on our right besides a small car park. This heads steadily uphill away from the main road and we are soon out in open countryside again. I have driven along the A338 numerous times but never really appreciated the countryside around here. It is a cracking place to walk.
The drove continues upwards passing Crowdown Clump and on to Falstone Pond where we continue heading in a southerly direction to reach the edge of Ministry of Defence land. We turn right and follow a drove along the edge of the MOD land. The rutted track is not the easiest of walking terrains, however, the views compensate for this.
At a junction of tracks close to a minor road and the ruins of an old pump house we turn left and go south west to a junction of paths where we turn right and head north to Milton Hill.
We carry on at a crossing with a permissive path to reach the edge of access land. Now we turn left and head along the top of Fifield Down. There is a stunning example of a medieval field system known as Strip Lynchets below us.
Staying on the top of the downs we reach a gate on the left and make a slight diversion here to visit the Ordnance Survey trig point in Milton Clump.
Having bagged the trig we retrace our steps to the gate on the downs and after going through turn left to continue along the top of the downs, soon passing Giants Grave long barrow.
We continue along the ridge with its stunning views across the vale to reach Victory Clump. The path now descends gradually down the Pewsey Hill to reach a crossing of paths.
Going over a stile we follow a path along the foot of Pewsey Hill until we are below the Pewsey White Horse chalk carving. Our planned route is to take a right turn back towards Pewsey, but before doing so we decide to walk up to the edge of the White Horse to take a closer look. I am never sure whether ascending or descending is most demanding on these steep chalk downs. Going up is tough on the calf and thigh muscles whereas heading down is hard on the knees. But the trip up this hill is well worth it.
The Pewsey White Horse dates back to 1937 when it was cut to commemorate the coronation of King George VI. There was an older white horse close to this site which was cut in 1785, but by the mid 1800’s it was said to be in bad repair.
Back down the hill we continue on a path to reach a gate and then carry on along a track, Green Drove, until we almost reach the A345. Here we turn right and walk through a residential area and then take a footpath on the left that leads to the River Avon. After crossing a bridge we pass the Old School House and then turn right to head back through the village to reach the Post Office and turn left to the car park and our starting point.
Our walk has covered 21 miles through some stunning scenery. Hopefully it will not be too long before I am walking around here again.
To follow my walk, you will need Ordnance Survey Explorer Map OL157 Marlborough & Savernake Forest; OL131 Romsey, Andover & Test Valley; OL130 – Salisbury and Stonehenge
You can view this 21 mile walk on OS Maps and download the GPX File Here (Subscription to OS Maps Required)
20th May 2020
© Two Dogs and an Awning (2020)