Walking in Wiltshire
is perhaps the best way to enjoy the pleasures of fresh air, breathtaking scenery and the solitude for which the county is famed.salisbury
Whether you enjoy poking around museums, visiting ancient monuments are just relaxing by the river Wiltshire has so much to offer.Canalside - Walking the Kennet and Avon Canal towpath
Easy level walks can be joined at many points along the canal from the village of Little Bedwyn in the east where the canal enters Wiltshire westwards to Bradford on Avon, the last town before the Avon finally reaches the Bristol Channel and the open sea.
The The Kennet and Avon Canal,
completed in 1762 to link London and the east coast with Bristol on the west coast, enjoyed only a few years commercial success before Brunel and his Great Western Railway quickly led to the canal falling into disuse. The canal was drained, renovated and made navigable again by volunteers of the Kennet and Avon Canal Trust in the 1970’s.
The section linking the river Kennet and the Avon through the heart of the Wiltshire countryside is full of interest. It passes through an ancient landscape, Pewsey Vale with its famous White horses carved into the hillside, past the Crofton Beam Engine, open to the public in summer and possessing the oldest working beam engine in the world, past the Wilton windmill. Then under the southern edge of the Royal Savernake Forest where the then owner of the land insisted a 450m tunnel be constructed. The canal continues up the Caen hill where you can marvel at the spectacular flight of 29 locks, a world record and into the medieval town of Devizes.
There is plenty of accommodation with easy access to the canal at the towns of Devizes - Marlborough - Pewsey
and at villages surrounding and alongside the canal, some of them converted lock-keepers cottage on the banks of the canal. The towpaths can be cycled or walked and there are plenty of village and canal side pubs to visit at your leisure. Riverside Walks – walking the Avon Valley footpath
There are riverside walks available passing through the many villages too numerous to mention. One notable riverside walk in the south of the county is the Avon Valley Path.
This takes you along the banks of the Avon from Stonehenge through the medieval city of Salisbury
where there is much to distract you.
In particular the magnificent Salisbury Cathedral
with its spectacular spire which at 123 metres or 404ft is the highest spire in England. The walk continues southwards through Downton just south of Salisbury into Hampshire, passing through Christchurch in Dorset on the south coast of England where it finally enters the English Channel. Woodland Walks – Savernake Forest and Grovely Wood
There are many areas of woodland accessible on foot, perhaps the most well known being the ancient Savernake Forest
. Close to the medieval town of Marlborough
and not far from the Kennet Avon Canal this area of woodland is easy walking in a beautiful and natural environment. Although the forest is privately owned the Forestry Commission manages the forest and public access is permitted and notices stress that this is not a right of way.
The main access points to a metalled trackway open to the public, known as the Grand Avenue runs from the A4, the Old Bath route just to the east of Marlborough southwards to the village of Durley. This is a private road and but it is possible to park in the many clearings inside the forest.
The forest is an ideal area for walking and cycling along the many level routes through the forest. These are maintained as access routes by Forestry vehicles. However dogs must be kept on leads and you are advised to ensure that no valuables are left in your vehicle. You are also advised to drive very slowly along this Grand Avenue route as apart from the safety aspect of being very narrow with little space available for passing space you are likely to damage your vehicle on one of the cunningly concealed tarmac traffic calming humps if you are silly enough to speed. You have been warned. Once out of your car and on your bike or feet you will enjoy every minute of this enchanting forest.
There are a wide variety of mammals, birds, insects and reptiles and some less common ones. Butterflies such as White Admiral and Purple Emperor are to be found but the Purple Emperors tend to be well out of view amongst upper reaches of the trees. Crossbills, hawfinches, redstarts, woodpeckers and nightjars are also present. As are nightingales and most British birds of prey. The nightjar is a particularly scarce bird and migrates to England for the summer from Africa. As the name suggests they are rarely seen during the day but can be heard high up in the branches of solitary trees by night.
Another woodland walk in Wiltshire well worth doing is at Grovely Wood, just off the A36 Salisbury to Devizes in south Wiltshire.
Owned by the Earl of Pembroke and forms part of the Wilton Estate, Grovely Wood is accessible to the public. The wood is in many respects similar to Savernake and is also home to a wide variety of rare species of birds, butterflies and mammals. Although it is not as well known the woods are every bit as delightful to walk through. You will meet few people except the occasional dog walkers or cyclists. Even at weekends and public holidays it is never busy.
Vehicles cannot be driven into this private woodland but there is cyclist and walking access from the village of Ditchampton which lies within the environs of Wilton
. This is Broad Drive which is a fairly level easy metalled avenue on the original Roman road from Bath past Old Sarum Castle near Salisbury. About half way along the avenue Grovely Wood can also be accessed from the village of Great Wishford, on the banks of the River Wylye close to the busy A36. An easy circular 2-3 hour walk can be made from the village into the woods and back.
The simplest route into the wood from the village of Great Wishford is to park at the southern end of the village close to the fork in South Road. There are two railway bridges at either end of the village. Walk under the most southerly bridge at the fork in the road and make the steady climb up into the wood where you will eventually meet the unmistakable main avenue of trees, Broad Drive.
Turn right along the avenue where you will enjoy a quiet and peaceful walk in beautiful woods along what was the Old Roman road. After a 30-40 minute walk you reach a barrier. Turn right just beyond the barrier and head back towards the village on a potholed metalled road. You will enter the village under the second, the most northerly, railway bridge passing the pub, The Royal Oak (why not stop for a much earned drink). At the church turn right back into South Street towards your starting point.
Along which you will pass a very comfortable B&B, The Old Post House
, whose owner is Pauline Patient, a keen and knowledgeable cyclist. Town Walks - Salisbury, Devizes and Lacock
There are several circular walks
around the city of Salisbury
taking in such landmarks as the meadows where Constable painted his famous views of the cathedral in the south of the county and useful maps are available at the Tourist Information Office in Butcher Row.
Walking in Wiltshire around one of the many small towns is always interesting. The town of Devizes
has the county’s Wiltshire Heritage Museum, full of archaeological finds dating from the Palaeolithic times. Or make a circular walk around Lacock
which is about the nearest you will get to a living museum. It is very much on the tourist map but you cannot fail but be delighted by the fact that although it has been completely preserved, to the extent that there are no television aerials or telephone wires, it is a bustling busy working village with a thriving school. Circular Walk around Lacock
- An easy level walk and you should allow one and a half hours to include dawdling time. Just a warning that the fields can become wet especially after heavy rain. More so in winter but nothing too arduous. Simple to follow and should you stray the friendly locals will help you out but I stress it is an easy and uncomplicated walk, well marked and signposted. Starting from the carpark and going clockwise around the route.
The visitors carpark is a very short walk from the centre of the village. It is well signposted and very soon you will find yourself outside the Fox Talbot Museum and close to the entrance to Lacock Abbey. From there continue into the village where you will take a step back into the 18th century. There is plenty of interest to investigate. The village is small but there are plenty of maps available to find your way around the attractions. Continue north through the High Street and then take East Street on your right (surprisingly heads east!) on to the Village Hall passing the ancient Tithe Barn on the way.
At the top you will find a kissing gate and walking along the tarmac path takes you into the tiny hamlet of Reybridge then through another kissing gate where you will see the River Avon on your right. Head for the bridge passing a very pretty cottage on your left and once across the bridge and river take the riverside path immediately on your right and on the south side of the Avon. The path continues along the riverbank
After the next bend in the river the path leaves the bank and takes you across the middle of the field. You will see Lacock Abbey ahead and to the right of you. The path meets the road at a stone stile next to the bridge. Then turn right on the road and you are heading back to the village with the carpark to your left.
Lacock has several pubs and the one we chose to stop for lunch is The George Inn, a very cosy and friendly family run pub, which dates back to medieval times. The George Inn has in fact had a continuous licence dating back to the days of Cromwell and the English Civil War in 1642. You too can be sure of good food, good service and on the occasion we visited, plenty of entertainment from the locals.
These are just a few of the many and varied walks you can enjoy. The World Heritage site of Avebury Stone Circle
comprises a circular walk in itself as the village is enclosed within the massive stone ring of the monument. Other walks, such as The Ridgeway (the ancient 87 mile trackway, designated a National Trail, which crosses the Berkshire Downs and links Wiltshire with East Anglia), radiate from Avebury as well as footpaths to West Kennet Barrow and the Sarsen Trail linking Avebury with the stone circle of Stonehenge
in the south of the county. In May of each year Wiltshire Wildlife Trust sponsor a 27mile Stonehenge to Avebury Walk
Another popular trail linking the not so ancient White Horses of Wiltshire carved into the county’s hillsides is The White Horse Trail
Wiltshire also has a fine network of Roman roads which form the basis of many well used walks, bridleways and cycle routes. Walking in Wiltshire