Lets Start at the Beginning.
A bright and breezy walk with a dark historical twist.
Started with a short drive to reach the beginning of this walk, from my base in Wiltshire to Inkpen Hill in Berkshire, also known as Gallows Down. The drive is no hardship at this time of year, the English countryside is glorious.
The post code to find the car park is RG17 9EL. What 3 Words: Weekday. Propelled. Craftsman.
The Actual Walking Bit.
You can’t miss the open track that takes you up to Combe Gibbet itself. It’s a rough sloping path up to the top, but levels out nicely once you’re up there. The area is quite hilly and undulating, but the ground walked on to reach the gibbet isn’t actually a hill at all. It’s a neolithic long barrow. History upon history and knock out views all around.
Once you reach the site of the gibbet itself you can pass through a gate into the field for a close up look, not that there is a great deal to see. The wooden gibbet stands alone. Tall, stark and striking.
We walked the track to the gibbet, had a look and then pushed on another mile or so before turning round and retracing our steps back to the carpark. If you have time, the route past the gibbet is part of some more challenging long distance walks, including the new Pewsey Vale Circular way. All 77 miles of it.
Across the road from the main parking area, stands a memorial the Merville Battery. The surrounding fields and woodland were used as a rehearsal site prior to their 1944 assault upon German forces in Merville, France. I hope many of them returned to tell their tales.
In a place full of fabulous views and country walks, the gibbet itself is what marks this walk out as slightly different. Combe Gibbet is a 7m tall double gibbet, designed to hang two people at once. I suppose it’s grimly efficient; if you’re up there for one…
Only two people ever did hang there, the pair for whom the original gibbet was erected in 1676. George Bromham from the village of Combe and Dorothy Newman from neighbouring Inkpen were found guilty of murder. The story goes that they sparked up an illicit relationship and upon being caught, beat to death Bromham’s wife and son. Caught and convicted, the two were sentenced to hang. Is it romantic to end your days strung up together on the same gibbet? Hmm…
George and Dorothy’s tale might be one of illicit romance and murder but the location of the gibbet is one of politics and practicality. The convicted pair hailed from different parishes, neither wished to foot the bill of dealing with them. The boundary line of both stopped at the foot of the long barrow, making the summit neutral ground. Each parish agreed to pay half and the gibbet would stand at the top. Business concluded, it would remain as a deterrent. Must have worked, the Bromham/Newman hanging was the only one that ever took place.
A Village Wander
Having blown away the cobwebs, we decided to stop en route home for a gentler stroll around the village of Ham. Part of the North Wessex Downs and set in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Ham is a little gem. Set around a little village green, it’s home to a handful of thatched cottages a pub and a pretty church.
The church is all a country church should be. Think historic graveyard, austere exterior, simple and rustic interior. We were the only people about on a mid week morning, but it still felt welcoming.
Mr THL and I wandered about playing , ‘ Could You Live There?’. Couldn’t resist a few property shots ( if you’ve been round here for a while, you’ll know I’m prone to a bit of property lurking. And photography). There’s just something about country cottages, especially older properties with thatch. Very whimsical and charming.
Use postcode SN8 3RB to get you from Combe Gibbet to Ham Village Green.
Dog Friendly ?
More or less. The area around the gibbet and Gallows Down is working farmland and we did spot some escapee sheep on the wrong side of the fences, so The Wolf stayed firmly on lead. There are no bins so if you need to pick up after your dog, you’ll need to take it with you.
Couple of gates, but all fully opening. No stiles. If you have a nippy spaniel or small dog, this won’t mean much to you. If you’ve ever had to assist a big dog over or under anything whilst out walking, you’ll know why this is worth a mention.
Nothing at all beyond parking up by the gibbet walk, and only the Crown & Anchor in the village. It was closed when we were there, but looks like a winner. Dog friendly, too. We’ll pop back for a visit soon… all in the name of research, of course.
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It looks a delightful place for a walk especially in springtime. The gibbet is interesting too. Never heard of double gallows before!
It was a breezy walk, Spring seems to be coming and going down here but lovely views. I’d never considered a double gibbet either but I can see the sense in it. Locals were obviously a practical bunch back in the day!
I have to say, I was a bit charmed by this one, despite the grizzly gibbet. Making the most of English springtime. It will be rather different in Germany?
Mr THL was in Germany last week and said it was lovely, although I do recall having a false Spring followed by snow at the end of April when we were posted out there. I did enjoy this one and reading up on the history- delightfully grim!
The thatched roof cottages are so charming, really hard to resist taking lots of shots and contemplating snatching one up for yourself. What a fascinating and grizzly story the gibbet one is. You have to laugh though at the compromise reached by the two parishes.
I’m forever eyeing up properties at the moment, I’ve become a terrible lurker! The deal between the parishes just made me think local authorities must have always been run by penny pinchers and bean counters. I’m not sure much has changed there! Cynical, I know haha!
I really need to see the gibbet. Postcode duly noted. Thank you,
I hope you make it up there, beautiful place and lots of villages with cosy pubs nearby for post walk refreshments. Perfect!
It looks a beautiful walk, I’m always a sucker for the green fields with lots of sheep along the way 🙂 That gibbet looks utterly terrifying, what an awful way to end your days!
I loved the sheep, they were pretty friendly and curious. The gibbet is pretty grim, even on a bright day. The really sad thing is that over the years, a lot of doubt has been cast on the whole story so the poor pair might have been guilty of nothing more than an affair. Poor souls… gives an interesting edge to a country walk though!
A bit gruesome, but still lovely!
It is a bit grim, a dark back story for what really is a lovely stretch of countryside. Every place has tales to tell, I suppose!
Such a beautiful looking place, with some interesting history behind it. Thank you for sharing, it was a nice read.
Jay | https://eagerbooks.com
I’m glad you enjoyed it Jay, thankyou so much for reading and commenting.
Nothing like an old English country village, especially one with a pub shame it was closed 🙂
It is a shame it was closed. On the plus side, a reason for a return trip! Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment, appreciate it!
We found many pubs closed on our recent visit to the UK, only open for the last half of the week
Such a delightful place to go foe a walk.
It certainly is, makes me really appreciate what I have here on my doorstep.
What a beautiful spot for a springtime walk!
I can’t believe the Gibbet is still there. Still a deterrent! Very eerie. Ham looks a nice village. With a sign saying Buttermere. And not the Lake District one..
Aaah, now these are areas I know very well. Or I did at least, it is over ten years since I moved to London. But my three and half years on the outskirts of Newbury gave me chance to know that countryside very well.
It’s a beautiful part of the world and I’m very much enjoying exploring. We have a bout a year left to go here so hoping to push out a bit further over the Summer. Any recommendations?
So sorry for the late reply too, I very much appreciate you taking the time to read and comment. I’ve just discovered a bunch of comments in ‘waiting moderation’ that I must have somehow missed!
We used to spend a lot of time up at Penwood where we had friends, and visiting HighClere. We loved walking near Burghclere, Sydmonton and Watership Down. Not too far from where I loved was West Woodhey and Inkpen – and I loved walking, especially in the summer. Also we also used to venture up to Lambourne frequently where we had a wonderful friend.
Lovely, it always helps to have nice views and pretty surroundings for a good walk✨
Definitely! A good walk in the right surroundings is therapeutic. Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment, much appreciated.