Trigs and Handsel Sisters in Grovely Wood

I am continuing my quest to walk areas close to home I have not previously explored.  So today I am off to Grovely Wood on the west side of Wilton for a walk with my friend Mandy.  There are a number of options for parking around the woods, we choose the small car park on Grovely Road to the south west of Great Wishford.

We start our walk by heading up the forestry track into the woods on the route of the Monarch’s Way.

It is a steady ascent through the trees and we stay with this track until meeting a crossing of tracks close to Grovely Lodge here we turn right along a wide track and soon pass a gate and continue along the track.

After passing Four Sisters Copse we leave the main track and follow a path through the trees heading northwest towards the Little Langford Down Nature Reserve.  Like much of Grovely Wood this is open access land so there are no way markers and we take care to ensure we skirt the top of a valley before turning north through Langford Woods.

This is a stunning section of woodland maintained as a nature reserve by the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust.

We stay with a broad ride through the trees to reach the northern end of Langford Woods where there is a barbed wire fence.  This marks the edge of the access land.  Here we make a brief excursion into the field to bag the Ordnance Survey trig pillar on the ramparts of the Grovely Castle Iron Age hill fort.  

This is the 233rd trig I have bagged and the views from here are stunning.

We spend a few minutes just taking in the far ranging views and once again I am blown away by the beauty of the Wiltshire downland.

Back in the woods we retrace our steps through the nature reserve, this time when we reach the top of the valley we fork right on a ride passing and area marked on the map as Powten Stone.  I had hoped this would mean there was a stone here we could seek out, but whilst planning the route I discovered that despite much searching the location of the stone is unknown.

On reaching a junction with a footpath following the line of a Grim’s Ditch we turn right following the path as it goes along the edge of the woodland besides the ditch.  A Grim’s Ditch is not an uncommon site when walking on chalk downland.  Apparently their exact purpose is unclear, they are not large enough for military purposes it is therefore thought they were used to mark territorial boundaries and date from around 300 BC.  The ditch is to our right and we soon pass a small pond.

Our route is now very straightforward, we stay on the path along the edge of the woodland with the occasional clearing to our right giving stunning views.

We pass a barn and stay with the track until we reach a minor road at Dinton Beeches, here we turn right along the road for a couple of hundred yards to make a brief diversion from our route to visit the Ordnance Survey trig pillar at West Hill, my 234th.

This is another trig with great views across the Wylye Valley. Now we head back along the road to Dinton Beeches and take a track into the trees which heads south.  At a junction of paths we turn left and head along the southern edge of the copse to reach a minor road.

We cross and pass a parking area and head along the drove on the route of the Monarch’s Way.

The Monarch’s Way is a long distance walking route retracing the journey made by Charles II after the battle of Worcester.  The 615-mile route starts from Worcester and after a convoluted route reaches the Dorset coast and then heads east to finally end at Shoreham-on-Sea.  Over recent years I have walked a number of sections of the route, but this is the first time I have walked this stretch.

This track is also an Ox Drove, a common term in this area for a track which was used to drive cattle to market.  This particular route linked Chicklade and Wilton. 

The route is easy to follow we stay with the Monarch’s Way along the Ox Drove passing through farmland to reach a junction of paths with Fir Drove, here we stay with the Monarch’s Way to head uphill heading east.

At a junction of tracks before reaching West Thornhills copse we leave the Monarch’s Way, which forks to the left, and take the right fork staying on the Ox Drove passing the copse and carrying on to reach East Thornhills.  Here we take a diversion from the track to hop into the field to bag the clearly visible trig point on Crouch’s Down, my 235th.

When bagging trig points on arable land I always seek to visit them at a time when there are no crops in the field.  This is perfect, the field is still stubble from last year’s harvest.  This is another trig with cracking views.

Back on the Ox Drove we continue east, ignoring footpaths off the main track to reach a junction at the end of a minor road.  There is a small parking area here and at the crossway of paths there is a milestone with the inscription “VI Miles from Sarum 1750”.

We continue on the Ox Drove heading east and the track now heads uphill with more stunning views.

Then we come across another milestone to the right of the track.  This is a large stone but the inscription has eroded.  We can just make out a “V”, but the rest is too faint to read.  Apparently it said “V Miles to Sarum 1750”.

We come to a crossing of paths, but continue straight on towards Ugford Red Buildings.

At a junction of paths by the farm buildings we turn left and keep left as the path forks, this takes us along a line of attractive beech trees.  

As we near a hedge line of a field we take a diversion to follow the hedge line south to the Ordnance Survey trig pillar on Grovely Hill.  I have previously bagged this trig, but it is worth a revisit.

Leaving our fourth trig of the day we walk back to the footpath and then continue north west through the trees.  At a junction of paths we turn right and then after a couple of hundred yards take a left along the wide track called First Broad Drive.  After 650 yards, just before the Grim’s Ditch joins the drove, we turn left into the trees in search of the Handsel Sisters.  These are ancient beech trees within this section of pine woodland.

The Handsel sisters were born in Denmark and moved to the Wilton area.  Soon after they arrived an outbreak of small pox claimed 136 lives.  Locals were convinced the sisters were responsible for the deaths and they were accused of witchcraft and an alliance with the devil.  Without an official hearing they were taken to Grovely Woods and bludgeoned to death.  They were then buried some distance apart to stop them conspiring against their murderers.

There are conflicting tales about the origins of the beech trees, one is that they were planted to mark the graves as a warning to others who might consider practicing witchcraft.  The other is that the trees grew on top of the unmarked graves as a reminder to locals of their murders.

Of the four original trees three remain.  The largest of the trees is strewn with offerings to the sisters.  There are reported sightings of the ghosts of the sisters in this area of the woods and pages on the internet dedicated to the spooky goings on here.  I am not sure what to believe, but the trees have grown in a very strange way and there is certainly a feel about this area that made me slightly uneasy.  I would definitely not wander up here after dark!

Back on the First Broad Drove we head west to soon pass a permitted bridleway on the right.  

A few hundred yards further on at the next ride we turn right and follow this to a five ways junction of tracks here we go left following a ride going northwest and keep heading in this direction at two further ride junctions.  The path we are on starts to descend steadily towards the forestry track we had started our walk on.

On reaching the track we turn right and walk a couple of hundred yards back to our starting point.  Our walk has covered just over fifteen miles.  It has been a cracking day with sunshine all round and some stunning views.  I am sure I will be returning here again very soon to walk with Lynnie.

You can view this 15 mile walk on OS Maps and download the GPX File Here

To follow our walk you will need Ordnance Survey Outdoor Explorer Map OS 130 Salisbury & Stonehenge 

26th November 2020

© Two Dogs and an Awning (2020)

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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