Walking in Wiltshire
When one thinks of Wiltshire the images which spring most readily to mind are the spacious rolling downland of Salisbury Plain and associations with pre-history which are at their most stunning at Avebury and Stonehenge. Whilst Wiltshire is more complex than this a journey northwards to the Marlborough Downs will reinforce this picture of sweeping chalk downland and ancient times. Here, there is also the handiwork of more recent history, in the famous Wiltshire White Horses. There are now eight of them and they have their own long distance path, 'The White Horse Trail'.
The Vale of Pewsey and Savenake Forest, part of the Kennet District, offer a complimentary landscape which also has many enjoyable walking opportunities; and the Kennet and Avon canal, joining the two rivers, provides delightful waterside rambling through peaceful rural countryside. Box is famous for the tunnel cut by Brunel for the Great Western railway’s main line between London and Bristol. The tunnel was built between 1836 and 1841, employing 4,000 men at the height of construction, one hundred of whom were killed in accidents.
South of Salisbury Plain the Wylye and Nadder river valleys offer lovely walks, once again through a quiet rural landscape a million miles away from the hustle of industrial Swindon in the north of the county.
Lacock is a jewel amongst English villages, with its gabled roofs and timber framed buildings lining its ancient streets. Nothing has been built here since 1800 and the architecture spans the centuries from medieval England up to that time. This unique historic village is fortunately under the protection of the National Trust, so its charming fabric is safe. There is much to explore and admire here including the magnificent church of St Cyriac, the restored village cross and the 14th century barn opposite the Red Lion inn which should not be missed. A popular location with film and TV dramas, Lacock featured in ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and the Abbey Cloisters in the Harry Potter films.
Lacock Abbey, close to the village, was founded in 1229 by Ela, Countess of Salisbury. After Dissolution in 1539 it was purchased by Sir William Sharington who converted much of the old abbey into an impressive country house. Later the estate was purchased by the Talbot family a descendent of which was the pioneering photographer William Henry Fox Talbot. Regarded as the ‘father of photography’ he conducted much of his research here and today the Fox Talbot Museum commemorates his life and achievements.
A Walk from Lacock [ST 910680] OS Maps: Explorer™ 156
This delightful route takes you from Lacock through the countryside north east of the village, alongside the old Wiltshire and Berkshire canal up to Pewsham locks and back over Naish Hill. Leave Lacock down a 'no through road' by the church and head for the hamlet of Reybridge where you cross the River Avon via a stone bridge. Immediately take a path on the left which will pick up the old canal route and then eventually take you to a main road and Pewsham. Turn right along the road and after passing the Lysley Arms turn right along a bridleway. The high level return takes you across Nocketts Hill and Naish Hill before descending along a lane back to Lacock. About 6 miles.
Best Pubs for this walk
Red Lion, High Street, Laycock Tel: 01249 730456 (Good Pub Guide)
This imposing Georgian Inn is owned by the National Trust. It has a good 'pubby' atmosphere and has a long airy bar with heavy wooden furniture, partly flag-stoned floor and an old log fire at one end. There is a good choice of excellent bar meals and snacks.
George, West Street, Lacock Tel: 01249 730263 (Good Pub Guide)
Licensed continuously since the 17th century this unspoilt and homely pub is one of the oldest buildings in Lacock. Comforting and warmly welcoming, the low beamed bar has upright timbers in place of knocked-through walls making cosy rambling corners. There is an excellent choice of bar meals including vegetarian dishes and the option to eat in the Barn restaurant.
Rising Sun, Bewley Common Tel: 01249 730363 (Good Pub Guide)
Just outside the village, this cheerily unpretentious stone pub has a delightful garden, its big two-level terrace offering views extending for 25 miles over the Avon valley; it's a marvellous place to enjoy the sunset with a well kept beer. A walk up nearby Bowden Hill gives a magnificent view of Lacock nestling below.
This walk is fully described in the guidebook 'Walks Around Malmesbury and North Wiltshire' by Judy Jones
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