Westbury White Horse

I am out again today with my walking buddy Mandy as we continue our quest to walk to all eight of the Wiltshire White Horses in 2020.  The Covid-19 pandemic restrictions have made it difficult for us to plan our walks, but we have so far managed to visit the chalk equine carvings at Cherhill, Devizes, Pewsey, Hackpen and Marlborough, so we still have three to go.  The plan for today is to visit the Westbury White Horse,

In bagging the White Horses we have decided not to go for the easy option of parking nearby and having a short walk.  All our walks and over fifteen miles, we take the view that a bit of effort makes reaching the white horses even more enjoyable.  So today, rather than park at Bratton Camp on Westbury Hill and go to the horse, we are starting at Warminster and having a good walk along the downs to get there.

Despite living close to each other in the in the same village we are travelling in separate cars to our starting point in the Western Car park outside the Civic Centre in Warminster.  Leaving the car park we wander into the High Street and turn left.  On reaching a mini roundabout we go left into George Street and then at the next roundabout about continue into Silver Street.  After twenty yards we turn right into Ash Walk .  Where this road meets Manor Gardens we continue straight on along a footpath, still on Ash Walk, to reach St Deny’s Church.

We turn right on a footpath besides the church graveyard to reach playing fields. The path crosses the field besides trees and on reaching Portway Lane we turn right and then almost immediately left to follow a path through a housing estate to reach Hollybush Lane.  We turn left and then within a hundred yards take a footpath between garages to reach a bridge across the railway line.

After crossing the railway line we follow the fenced path between houses to reach Westbury Road where we turn right.  Within a hundred yards we take a footpath on the left leading up the tarmac driveway of Southdown House.

The footpath soon leaves the driveway heading west through trees at the foot of Arn Hill.  Later I discover the route is known as the Lime Kiln Way and in these woods lie the remains of an old lime kiln.  I am keen on old lime kilns so will have to return sometime to see if I can locate it.  

The path leads to a minor road where we turn left and take the driveway to West Wilts Golf Club.  Very soon a footpath veers to the right leaving the driveway and starts to ascend around the edge of Kidnappers Hole.  Apparently this was a site of the chalk pit that was used in the lime kilns.  I have been unable to find out why it is called Kidnappers Hole, but in researching I did find reports of UFO sightings here in the 1960’s.

The path continues along the fence line, across the valley is the impressive Battlesbury Hillfort.  It is a spot I have not visited so make a mental note to ensure that it features in my future walking plans.

To our left is the West Wilts Golf Course,  this is a course I have never played.  Its hilly terrain suggests it would be a challenging walk round.  Perhaps if I decide to dust the clubs off one day I will venture up here to knock a ball about.

We have now joined the route of the Imber Range Perimeter Path.  This is a route Mandy and I have discussed walking.  It is a good day out and as the name suggests runs for 30 miles around the edge of the military firing range.  Time is running out for us to do this walk in 2020 so perhaps it will be on our list for 2021.

As well as being the route of the Imber Range Perimeter Path, this is also the route of the Wessex Ridgeway which is a long distance path travelling 138 miles between Marlborough and Lyme Regis.

At a junction of tracks we  turn to the left and head north to stay with the Imber Range Perimeter Path.  There are cracking views in front of us and we can clearly see the path on the horizon a mile away.  There is a good stretch of downland walking before we get there.

After passing a barn in a hollow we leave the track we are on and go through a gate on the right to follow the Imber Range path signs.  The path drops into a hollow and then ascends steeply up a chalk escarpment.  It is a warm day so as we near the top we stop to admire the view behind and look back to where we were twenty minutes ago.

After going through a kissing gate we turn right along a well-made track following the Imber Range Path signs.  The route has now joined the Mids Wilts Way, a sixty-eight mile long distance path crossing Wiltshire between the village of Ham, on the Berkshire border, and Mere on the Somerset border.

We are now going along the top of Upton Cow Down and at a gate we take a brief diversion from the footpath to visit the trig point on the edge of a field.  This is the 213th Ordnance Survey trig pillar I have bagged.

Back on the path we continue heading in a  northerly direction  passing the massive chalk quarry.  Permission for this quarry was granted following a ministerial decision in 1947, over the years it has expanded massively.  The chalk extracted fed the nearby cement works in Westbury.

We pass the perimeter of the quarry and join a path besides the road leading to  a car park.  As we go along we get our first glimpse of the Westbury White Horse.

Nearing the car park we turn right still with the Imber Range Path and follow this to reach  White Horse Farm where we bag my 214th trig point, which is located in undergrowth behind a barn.

Our route is now on a track, The Portway, heading north, we have departed from the Imber Range path.  At  a junction of tarmac tracks we go left to walk through Bratton Hillfort.  We are above the White Horse and cannot really get much of a view of it.  

What I had not appreciated until this point was that despite being originally a chalk carving the horse is now a painted concrete structure.  There has been a White Horse on this hill for over 300 years and it is the oldest White Horse in Wiltshire.

We descend Bratton Hill a little to see if there is a better view, but the full majesty of this carving cannot really be appreciated close up.  The original shape of the horse is very different from that seen today, but in 1778 a Mr George Gee had it recut to much the shape it is today. In 1873 it was restored and the in the 1950’s it was concreted for the first time.  This concrete was repainted in 1995.

The views along the escarpment from here are stunning.

We return to the ramparts of Bratton Hillfort and follow this in a clockwise direction to reach a gate where we enter downland and  find a suitable spot for lunch.  There are cracking views across the plain below us.

Resuming our walk we follow a path down to reach a gate besides a pull in area just off the Portway.  We go through the gate and then  turn left to take a bridlepath heading north.  This descends towards the B3098 Westbury Road.

On reaching the road we cross and continue north on a tarmac lane, The Hollow.  At a T-junction we turn left along a track, Lower Westbury Road and pass small holdings.  One of which has an old Denning Root Drill besides a barn.  

As the track continues we pass the end of Westbury Golf Club and get an impressive view of the White Horse.

We pass a car park and then reach the B3098 and turn right to soon join the pavement.  After a couple of hundred yards we reach Westbury Cemetery on the left and leave the busy road to walk through the cemetery towards a footpath. We pass the impressive Lopes Mausoleum, built in 1909 to house George Lopes (1836-1909) and his wife Georgina (died 1912).

We then look at the Phipps Mausoleum, built in a gothic style in 1874 to house the wealthy local landowner John Lewis Phipps.

Heading south through the cemetery we join a footpath and turn right.  The path leads to a road which we cross and join a road “The Butts”.  Walking along this road we notice some interesting houses on the right and take a look to see their origins. This is Prospect Square.  The land was given by Abraham Laverton, a local mill owner, and 32 houses were built to provide rental income which would be used to support the seven almshouses at the top of the square.

Interestingly Abraham Laverton had stood for Parliament in 1868 against John Lewis Phipps, whose Mausoleum we had just looked at, Phipps won the vote which was by a show of hands.  There were allegations of intimidation of the voters and at a subsequent trial Phipps lost his seat.  Laverton contested the re-election against Phipps’ brother and again lost.  But as a result of the original trial the 1872 Ballot Act came into being which introduced secret ballots at elections.

Resuming our walk we continue along The Butts to reach a footpath where we turn left and go between houses to cross a road and continue uphill on the path to reach arable fields.  At a junction of paths we turn right and follow a track to reach a pumping station where we join Wellhead Lane and follow this to reach the A350 Warminster Road.  We cross and join the Old Dilton Road with a signpost to Old Dilton and St Mary’s Church.  We follow this lane until we reach the stunning church.

St Mary’s Church was built in the 14th century  and has a stunning interior with box pews.

Inside the church there is also a small room which apparently was once used as a school room.

The font is said to date from the 15th century.  I am not a religious man, but I can appreciate the splendour of this building.  Over the years it will have seen many christenings, marriages and funerals of local people.

After exploring the church we continue our walk by heading back along the Old Dilton Road for a couple of hundred yards and then pick up a footpath on the right crossing fields to Biss Bottom.  The path leads through trees and then joins a track which we follow to reach Upton Scudumore.  In the village we turn right at the Angel Inn and follow the road through the village to reach St Mary’s Church.

Passing the church we turn right on a minor road leading to the A350.  We cross the main road with care and join another minor road.  After a couple of hundred yards, just as the road starts to bend to the left we take a footpaths on the right across fields.

After crossing four fields we reach a railway line, we cross and then turn left to follow a path to the edge of a housing estate.  We then skirt around the houses to eventually reach Portway Lane and pass the playing fields we crossed earlier.  We have the option of retracing our steps, but decide to continue along Portway Lane.  On reaching a junction we turn right and soon pass Portway House.  A blue plaque explains that this house was built for the clothier Edward Middleton in 1722, then housed the agents for Longleat, the Urban District Council 1955-74, and public library 1957-82.

At a mini roundabout we turn left to join the High Street and from here we wander through the town back to our starting point.  The walk has covered fifteen and a half miles and we have seen some really interesting things along the way.  We now have only two White Horses left to visit this year, Alton Barnes and Broad Town so should be able to get them in before too long.

You can view this 15.5mile walk on OS Maps and download the GPX File Here (Subscription to OS Maps Required)

To follow my walk you will need Ordnance Survey Explorer Map 143 Warminster & Trowbridge

31st August 2020

© Two Dogs and an Awning (2020)

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