White Horse Trail – Walk 6 of 7

Sunday 9th July 2017

Effectively, this was the penultimate walk for Jo and Brunel Walking Group in the White Horse Trail series. Personally, I still had one to catch up on [Walk #4 – coming soon] but we’d all come a long way, however many of the full ninety-miles we’d covered.

This walk would, unfortunately, receive one of the lowest turnouts of all seven – possibly because of a conflict with other people’s plans but, maybe, just maybe… Some had endured enough with the horseflies blighting the previous walk.

Fortunately, this was to be a fly-free day!

We were starting from the Caen Hill Locks car park near Devizes. It’s a pay-and-display setup but the details of how to pay for your parking had apparently been scratched off of the signs and, although you can pay at the nearby café, we’d arrived an hour before it would open…

All four of us (plus one dog) had packed neatly in to a single car for the journey. So, if there was to be any excess expense from having not paid the fee, at least we’d be able to share it.

Initially, we were walking west along the canal towpath, following the initial White Horse Trail footpath as it turned south away from the water’s edge.

We followed the waymarks through a caravan park and, before crossing the A361, walked along the driveway of what almost looked like a garden centre.

Across a few fields, a minor road and we made a brief detour to this church in the village of Townsend.

This turned out to be a great idea!

I don’t recall seeing any benches available outside but found the stone seats either side of the archway outside the main doorway to be perfect for a break from the temperature, which must’ve been at least 20°C on this day.

From there, we left the White Horse Trail and we found ourselves entering a well-maintained farm. I think this was Mill Farm Camping.

We accidentally discovered the glamping field, having absently missed a waymark to our left, while searching for the public right of way.

Back on the right track, we crossed a small field and kissing gate to head away from the farm, only for a pair of donkeys to follow in our lead.

One was mostly curious to meet Jo’s dog, Escha, while neither donkey shied away from the attention of us bipedal beings.

Somewhere along the route, we passed this old mill, which appears to have been converted for private housing. Not a bad thing at all. In many rural parts of the country, buildings like this are left to hands of nature.

We continued south along the quiet roads and through Marston, with only the occassional ‘Chelsea Tractor’ to pass us by. In one field, we could see a deer across the way – seemingly aware of our presence but not afraid, unlike so many others I’ve seen.

There were good views towards what I now realise might’ve been the Westbury White Horse, which we would visit on our final walk. I really cannot remember where I was looking when I took this photo.

Just ahead on our walk, we had to pass through an overgrown opening within a hedge, only to find a flattened stile on the other side. Beyond this, we had to wade our way across a field of crops that were up to my armpits (I’m 6ft1in tall).

I remain surprised that so much of the White Horse Trail is so poorly maintained by the landowners. It may not be a National Trail like The Ridgeway but, I’d like to think more people would be encouraged to explore it.

Crossing under the railway line, along another nettle-riddled footpath, we reached a road that would lead us in to Erlestoke. Opposite, I was pleased to see this timber-framed extension underway at Manor Farm.

We’d walk this road again in Walk #7 – by which time, the building was complete.

Erlestoke, on another hot and humid hike around Wiltshire.

We climbed up through the western end of Hill Wood; stopping in the shade at about halfway for our lunch. From the top, we’d join a tarmac ridge walk known as the Imber Range Perimeter Path and, at the same time, reconnect with the White Horse Trail.

All of the red flags and warning signs… It was quite intimidating, as we continued to pass tank crossings. There was a welcome breeze, being over 200m above sea level at this point.

Still, we felt like we were walking many, many miles of tarmac. It was actually following this walk that I decided to invest in yet another pair of walking shoes (as yet, I still haven’t written about them in detail).

We continued this endurance across the A360 near West Lavington, at which point, the route began to climb as we sought to regain height. Large notices warned us of the ‘red flags’ and ‘lanterns’ but didn’t inform us of how to respond to their presence.

There was a memorial somewhere on the right, with the text inscribed in Latin, I think.

Jo presented us with the option to detour from this hard path through the lower regions of Market Lavington… But, we’d all come to walk the White Horse Trail and, as tough as it was, we chose to stick to the way.

It was with great relief when we did leave the Imber Perimeter Path across the north-eastern end of the village. We were now walking downhill and on comforting ground.

I didn’t take any photos of this but, between Eastcott and Potterne, we appeared to lose the right of way we thought we’d been following and arrived at a dead-end near Forest Farm. We end scrambling benath and between barbed wire fences in hope of finding a way out… I managed to get the GPS working on my OS Maps app to confirm where we were and where we needed to be.

While technically trespassing through the private Folly Wood, we soon hopped over a locked gate to join one of three public rights of way that crosses the railway.

Tiredness was beginning to set in as we reached the southern end of Devizes. We paused somewhere in Drew’s Pond Wood before marching on.

Anyone wishing to stay longer can visit ‘The Peace Garden’. This woodland was quite popular with the local dog walkers.

We made a brief detour to find ice cream and cold drinks in a nearby convenience store, before taking a well earned break on the edge of a church yard.

These are the “remains of”… Devizes Castle.

Sadly, it’s strictly private property. Up the road and we were in Devizes:

I’ve driven through here, I’ve now walked through and I even used to know someone who lived here… But, I’ve never actually spent any amount of time in this town.

Soon enough and, still on the trail, we’d descend from the busy roads to rejoin the canal towpath, still following the trail.

There wasn’t long to go before we’d arrived back at the cars. Unfortunately, the café would be closed by this time but, the Kennett and Avon Canal would lead the way.

So, another White Horse walk that had been like many others; fraught with inconvenience but enjoyable, all the same!

Distance of this walk: 23 miles

(It was supposed to be less, but for the diversions.)

Thanks for reading.

Author: Olly Parry-Jones

I live in Weston-super-Mare, close to the Mendip Hills in Somerset and I enjoy time spent outdoors, whether that's walking, camping or backpacking. My day job involved making furniture from recycled wood (I'm a furniture maker and carpenter by trade). I have two blogs: Olly Writes (woodworking, DIY, baking) Walks With Olly (walking, camping and kit) You can also find me on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook. My second YouTube channel is titled 'Walks with Olly'.

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