Walkers Hill from Pewsey

Last year with  three walking buddies I walked the Sarsen Trail, the 26-mile walk between Avebury and Stonehenge.  The route took us over Walkers Hill near the Alton Barnes White Horse and the views were absolutely stunning.  Today Lynnie and I are going there, we could start our walk from the car park on Walkers Hill, but I always think part of the enjoyment of visiting somewhere is the journey involved so we are starting nine miles away in Pewsey.

We park 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 the road to a mini roundabout then 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 line 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 Kennet and Avon Canal at Pains Bridge. 

The path is now a farm track still heading north.  After passing the entrance to Inlands Farm we continue on the farm track. 

Reaching a minor road, Sunnyhill Lane, we turn left and then soon turn right to pick up the White Horse Trail again until we reach a track.  Here we leave the White Horse Trail and turn left along the track, we are now on the route of the Mid Wilts Way.  This long distance path is a 68-mile route crossing the County from its boundary with Berkshire to Somerset.  We follow the lane, Pound Lane into the village of Oare.

Reaching the A345 we turn right and pass The White Hart pub, sadly this pub closed in 2014 and it looks like it is a long way from re-opening.  Such pubs are key to retaining village life and it is surprising that one so close to so many good walks is not worthy of brewery investment to keep it going.  Apparently the local community had plans to try and operate the pub as a community venture, but that doesn’t seem to have progressed.

Soon after passing the pub we take a lane on the left leading past the school and then turn right to follow a footpath heading steadily uphill on the edge of a field. We are still on the Mid Wilts Way. 

The path enters access land on Huish Hill and then climbs steeply.  It is a hot day and this ascent is a good challenge but the views make it worthwhile.

We follow the footpath to reach a driveway to Huish Hill House and then turn left to follow the path through the grounds of the property and into a copse.  The path now continues in a northwesterly direction across fields.

We have now joined the White Horse Trail and Tan Hill Way; the latter is a 12-mile route from Clench Common to the Wansdyke Path.  I often wonder how walks such as this end up being named on the Ordnance Survey Map. 

We stay with this route to reach a gate leading into a field of cattle.  I am wary of cattle, especially when Crosby is with me, there is something about him that seems to attract them.  This herd are in a frisky mood so we make a quick decision to re-plot our route.   Back at the gate we turn and follow a footpath along a grassy track heading east.

In just under a mile we take a footpath on the left to head north towards Bayardo Farm. After passing farm buildings the track takes us to the farmhouse with a Caravan and Motorhome Club CL in the field to our right.

We turn left and briefly follow a road, but as this sweeps sharply to the right we continue straight on along a track into Broom Copse.

This is a cracking bit of woodland.  We stay with the track along the southern edge of the woods.

At a junction of tracks we turn left and continue along the edge of trees now on the route of the Wansdyke and White Horse Trail, this passes Strawberry Ground and Heath Plantation to reach another crossing of paths.  We go left following the White Horse Trail way-markers south.

The track reaches a junction of seven footpaths, we turn right into a field and head steadily uphill besides Gopher Wood to reach the top of Draycott Hill.

We now head west along the top of the hill.  The views from here are stunning.

A few times this year Lynnie has asked why we have not walked more in Wiltshire, she had not appreciated it was so beautiful.  The answer if that we usually head off to walk in the Yorkshire Dales, Scotland, Exmoor or the Brecon Beacons, but the views from here compare with anywhere we have been on our travels.

The path passes through fields abundant with a wide array of wildflowers.  Despite all the challenges of the year so far being here surrounded by nature is great therapy.

Our route descends to skirt north of the Neolithic hill fort on Knap Hill.

We then continues through a car park.  We cross the road and turn to the left to follow a path up Walkers Hill.

The views from the top are panoramic. 

It is a clear day and we can see for miles.

We head south down Walkers Hill getting a good view of the Alton Barnes White Horse.  This horse was first cut in 1812 when Robert Pile of Manor Farm in Alton Barnes paid twenty pounds to John Thorne, known as Jack the Painter, to design and cut the horse.  The figure stands on Milk Hill which is the highest hill in Wiltshire at 295metres and is reported to be the second highest chalk hill in the UK.

On the 10th May 2011 a chap named Neville Almond recorded the longest hang gliding flight in the UK after taking off from Milk Hill.  He flew an amazing 167 miles to the Norfolk coast in less than five hours.  His record stood for a year until Carl Wallbank flew from Llangollen in Wales to Weymouth a distance of 171 miles.

After going through a gate we continue downhill crossing the road and joining a permissive path besides paddocks.  As we near a road we turn left and follow the path along the edge of the field and then join the road and soon turn right by a fine old thatched barn in Alton Priors.

At the back of the barn I spot a collection of old farm machinery and we wander over to have a look.

Resuming our walk down the lane in front of the barn we see that it is full of old farm machinery.  I particularly like the seed drill.  When I was a nipper working on a farm I used to ride on the back of one of these to make sure the seed was distributed evenly.

Now we continue down the lane, Village Street, and follow this to a gate with an interesting turnstile besides it.

We enter the field and walk the short distance to All Saints church.  This church dates from the 12th century but it was declared redundant by the Church of England in 1972 and is now in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust.  

It is used as a meeting place, but retains the feel of a place of worship.

In the churchyard there is a Yew Tree which has been dated as 1,700 years old.  Faced with a tree with a hole in it Lynnie belies her years and cannot resist sticking her head through it!

From the church we follow the footpath to another set of turnstiles on either side of a footbridge.

From here we follow the paved footpath across a field of pasture and head towards St Mary’s Church in Alton Barnes.  

The two churches are only a few hundred yards apart.  It would appear that the two congregations of Alton Barnes and Alton Priors were separated in 1660.  I had hoped this church would be open, when I walked by here last summer restoration work was in progress and we managed a brief peek inside and it was full of scaffolding, however a notice on the door says the church has been permanently closed.

From the church we head along the lane to reach a minor road where we turn left and follow it into Honeystreet where we join the towpath of the Kennet and Avon Canal and head east.

We walk along the towpath for four and a half miles, it is a cracking section of the canal going through open countryside with the occasional barge moored on the bank.  

We pass under the ornate Ladies Bridge, built by John Rennie in 1808.  The design was at the insistence of Susannah Wroughton who owned the land the canal passed through and the name refers to her and her daughter, also Susannah.

Just after the bridge we reach a section where the canal widens, this was also at the behest of Susannah Wroughton and her family, they would only allow the canal to pass through if an ornamental lake was created.

From here we pass Wilcot bridge and then go under the Stowell Park suspension bridge which spans the canal.  This was built in 1845 as a bridge for a private path across the canal. It was designed and built by the noted bridge builder James Dredge (senior).  Apparently he was a brewer who later became an inventor of suspension bridges unfortunately only a few now remain. 

We continue on, passing Pewsey Wharf, now the location for the Waterfront a pub and cafe but in the past it would have been key to local trade with goods being loaded and unloaded.  There are a few people about so conscious of the need to social distance we decide to keep going and not explore the site.

Staying on the towpath we pass more barges, these look like they are permenantly moored.  We soon reach Pains Bridge where we leave the canal and turn right to retrace our earlier route back towards Pewsey.  As we reach houses we have the option of following our earlier route back to the car or continuing along Hollybush Lane.  We opt for the latter and take this lane along the edge of the village.  We stay with this road as it becomes more built up and then at a junction with the B3087 turn right and soon reach a guide post with a lamp at the junction with Ball Road.  The base and cast iron post date from 1880 with the lamp being added later.

We stay with the B3087 and walk along the pavement to reach the centre of Pewsey where we turn right at the statue of King Alfred and return to our starting point.  Our walk has covered close to 16.5 miles and has had some absolutely stunning views.  

We are heading home tomorrow.  Our first trip away since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic has been really enjoyable and there have been times when we have forgotten about all the challenges going on in the world.  Hopefully it won’t be too long before we are off in the Coachman again.

To follow this walk you will need Ordnance Survey Explorer Map OL157 Marlborough & Savernake Forest

You can view this 16.5 mile walk on OS Maps and download the GPX File Here (Subscription to OS Maps Required)

16th July 2020

© Two Dogs and an Awning (2020)

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