Here in the South of England, Spring is springing. It’s glorious, not to mention long awaited and much appreciated. Spring flowers everywhere, washing on the line most days and the perfect weather to get out and do a bit of walking.
For me, walking pretty much always involves company in the form of the dog. He’s getting a little bit of extra walking time this week because he’s been indulging in some home baking from our Vet Chef treat box. If I were only so disciplined about my own biscuit-to-exercise ratio.
Wiltshire is a top place to be posted for a woman who loves walking. Let me share the walks I’ve discovered over the past few years that have made it to my favourites list. In no particular order…
Black Dog Halt, Nr. Calne
Not just a dog friendly walk, but a perfect walk if you actually have a black dog.
Starting from Castle Park the Wiltshire market town of Calne, this walk follows the remains of old canal ways and rail roads and picks up part of the Sustrans National Cycle Route 403 along the way. Although the walk feels very rural once you leave the park behind, it doesn’t actually take you far out of town and is very flat and easy going.
The ‘Halt’ refers to the private rail station which used to serve the Bowood Estate. You can still pick out the structure of the stop; the long goods platform remains in place as does a small section of the passenger platform. The station house is still there, but is now a private residence. The garden gates are a tribute to the history of the place.
A gentle walk to a relic of England past. Full post on this walk here.
The Bulford Kiwi, Bulford
The Bulford area is not the Wiltshire that is promoted to tourists. It’s a military heavy area, home to Bulford camp and the vast, adjacent training area. It’s the area’s military history that makes it keeper of a historical gem. The Bulford Kiwi.
With a body covering about 1.5 acres and a 46m beak, the kiwi is an amazing bit of Kiwiana carved and chalked into a Wiltshire hillside. It was dug out by NZ soldiers who were stationed in the area post WW1. Creating the Kiwi was part discipline, part national pride and partly a make-work task. I blogged about the story behind it here.
A slight hill to walk on this one but not too strenuous. This is a walk that needs two viewpoints to get the best of it. The top of Beacon Hill for the views across the countryside and a close up of the Kiwi itself, and from one of the viewing points to see the Kiwi in its entirety.
Now a listed monument and point of pride for the local community, the Kiwi is something different in an area better known for hill side white horses. Use post code SP4 9BG to find it, look out for the brown signage for the viewing points.
The Devils Den, Nr. Marlborough
The one for those who fancy a bit more than a stroll, but want to be able to go and have some nice coffee and cake afterwards. And honestly, who doesn’t?
The Devils Den is a bit of a hidden treasure Getting there involves hiking across private land. It’s not sign posted and it’s not accessible by car. And, despite being part of the Avebury World Heritage site, it’s not that well known.
The Den is a dolmen burial chamber, comprised of two standing stones and a capstone to the top. It looks legitimately ancient, but look closely and you’ll see some suspiciously modern looking cement. Story goes that these stones are from the original burial site , but that this was constructed in the 1920s when the site was investigated. Whatever the truth, an intriguing monument in a beautiful setting.
I’m glad someone thought to cement the old stones together, because I couldn’t resist climbing up there. Needed some help to get down, it wasn’t very dignified. I’ll just stick with the walking next time. Post walk, Marlborough is just a short drive away with lots of lovely coffee shops and pubs.
To find the Devils Den , park at the Gravel Hill car park, Downs Lane, Wilts SN8 1PL (OS ref SU 159700).
Wooton Rivers Circular Walk, Wooton Rivers.
Couldn’t post about walking in Wiltshire without including something about canals, this county is home to miles of waterways. Built for heavy industry, they are peaceful places now and great for gentle walking.
A circular walk from the village of Wooton Rivers has a little bit of everything. It begins in a pretty village, follows a good stretch of the Kennet & Avon canal , takes you past a grand Elizabethan house and finishes right next to a dog friendly, traditional country pub. What more could you ask?
This walk also takes you along Mud Lane ( true to name- sturdy, waterproof footwear essential) where, if you look carefully, you might spot the Pewsey Green Man. Nobody knows who carved him or why. Or why he was carved there. But there he is.
I can heartily recommend The Royal Oak as a pre/post walk stop. A historic pub offering a warm welcome, plus the prettiest garden for summer sitting. A truly lovely local business.
Full details of the route we walked can be found here.
Wilton Windmill & Village, Wilton nr. Marlborough
Starting at the only operating windmill in Wessex and then skirting through some gorgeous country side into the picturesque village of Wilton, this is the perfect walk for those seeking the quintessential English countryside experience.
Unluckily for me, I’ve never yet managed to visit the windmill when it’s open, but it’s worth a look even when it’s closed for the chance to get up close with a lovely piece of industrial heritage and for the views across the surrounding countryside.
The village of Wilton itself is postcard-pretty with a duck pond, thatched cottages and a pub. If you wanted to extend this walk, it’s an easy diversion out of the village onto the riverside and the canal beyond.
Find full details of the circular walk route here, and my full blog post about the walk and village here. For clarity, the village of Wilton as pictured here is not so far from Marlborough. Not to be confused with the other Wilton, found closer to Salisbury.
To find this Wilton, use postcode SN8 3SW. This gets you onto Wilton Hill. Look out for the lay by. The windmill can’t be seen from here, but there is a track through the trees and hedges and beyond that the entrance to the site.