Thursday, 19 December 2013

Froxfield and Little Bedwyn

Somerset Hospital, Froxfield

A clear day after some indifferent weather and I decided to construct a walk starting from the village of Froxfield, just west of Hungerford where there are some fine almshouses I wanted to see.

I parked by the church of All Saints which dates back to the 12th century, with alteration in succeeding centuries and a reasonably restrained restoration in 1891-92 (the wooden bell turret is the most evident change).

From here I walked down to the Hospital which is on the main road, the A4. It was founded in 1694 by Sarah, Duchess of Somerset for 20 clergy and 30 lay widows. She was the wife of the 4th Duke and was a noted philanthropist, being buried in Westminster Abbey.

The hospital was enlarged in 1775 and in 1813 the imposing Gothick gateway was added.

Inside there is a vast and spacious rectangular quadrangle with a chapel, also of 1813, in line with the gate.

I carried on along the road and turned right to cross the railway bridge and the Kennet and Avon Canal, which here follows the valley of the small river Dun. I now followed the towpath to Little Bedwyn.

The first thing of note was the canal bridge I had just crossed reflected in the still water of the canal.

The second lock I encountered involved a massive change in the water level.

In Little Bedwyn the 12th church of St Michael looms on the other side of both canal and railway.

I walked up to the pub and then took a field path to begin the return loop. This took me across several fields to reach  road which I followed past Stype Stud to climb a hill and then turn into the grounds and  park of Stype Grange. I can't find anything out about it other than that it seems to be a listed building.

Behind the house the OS map shows the Long Walk, a very pleasant avenue, lined initially with silver birch. There are some nice glimpses of the Dun valley through the trees.

At the end of the Walk I exited the park and followed a very minor road back down to the A4 and Froxfield.

Conditions: blue sky and sunshine for the most part, just clouding over towards the end.

Distance: about 6.5 miles.

Map: Explorer 158 (Hungerford and Newbury).

Rating: three and a half stars.

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