Thursday, 14 April 2016

Morgans Hill to Etchilhampton Hill (Wessex Ridgeway [Wiltshire] 3)

Morgans Hill

We resumed the Wessex Ridgeway at Smallgrain picnic area and followed the road to rejoin the path at North Wilts Golf Club. We were then heading south with Morgans Hill, with its distinctive copse, behind us. We quickly saw a couple of butterflies, a Small Tortoiseshell and a Peacock, but this turned out to be the full set of species spotted on this walk, with just a few solitary examples later on.

We turned right onto a farm track and were delighted to see a Yellowhammer in the hedgerow. After a while, there was a lovely defile to the side of King's Play Hill and a nice view down to the village of Heddington.

As we approached the Iron Age Oliver's Castle, we were surprised by a sign board describing the Civil War battle of Roundway Hill in 1643. A Royalist force coming from Oxford defeated a Parliamentarian one which was besieging Devizes where a defeated Royalist army had taken shelter. It seems that this was a significant engagement in which took the Parliamentary army months to recover from.

The entrance to Oliver's Castle revealed a lovely path descending quite steeply, with Lesser Celandines decorating the slope beside it.

We followed a higher path and emerged onto the Castle with Roundway Hill to the left and the descending path now visible at the bottom. There was a lovely view across the plain to Devizes. We were also pleased to find our first cowslips of the year just coming into bloom

This view became a bit clearer as we got nearer.

Reaching the hamlet of Roundway, we followed a long straight path, over a road leading to Roundway House and past a housing estate. This was Quakers' Walk.

I rather liked this house at the end of the Walk with its projecting doorway and small well.

At the edge of Devizes we turned left along the Kennet and Avon Canal. This is the view to the right towards the canal quay.

Devizes is a lovely town, full of interest, and a full description from when I walked round it and on to the famous Caen Hill Locks can be found here. On the opposite side of the canal we enjoyed an unusual, but effective, way of presenting marigolds.

We followed the towpath as far as Coate Bridge. The canal is in a deep cutting and after a while we could see houses, some quite grand, high above us on the other bank. We had fun critiquing the quality of their rear elevations, gardens and means of handling the steep slope down to the canal. We were impressed by a few and appalled by others.

We headed south for a bit and then east along a muddy path. In a gap in the bushes there was suddenly this great view north past the former Victorian barracks towards a hillside with a hitherto (to us at any rate) White Horse.

I learned from Wikipedia that it was cut in 1999 to celebrate the Millenium and was inspired by an older once which once graced Roundway Hill beneath Oliver's Castle.

Soon after this we turned to the south and walked through an area of vast fields towards Etchilhampton Hill.

As we approached, we met three small parties of schoolkids, two with a teacher in tow. We were struck by how the boys rather sullenly ignored our greetings while the girls volunteered a cheery hello.

Conditions: cloudy with some sunshine.

Distance: 7.5 miles.

Map: Explorer 157 (Marlborough & Savernake Forest) and, just for the last few hundred yards, 130 (Salisbury & Stonehenge)

Rating: four stars.

No comments: