Pewsey Downs - Avebury loop

We had no real firm plans for this hike except to park at the Pewsey Down Car Park and we thought we’d head north towards Avebury. We expected to do about six miles. It was a beautiful morning, chilly but bright with sunshine.

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For the first mile, we walked near a group of women all walking their dogs – about ten dogs bounded around us, having the time of their lives. (I seriously give it a year before we are dog-owners, everyone has a dog in Marlborough). At the top of the hill, we turned west along the Mid-Wilts Way which followed a very interesting earthwork called Wansdyke. We knew nothing about it so googled it when we got back – it was a medieval defense mechanism, a man-made ditch and ‘wall’ meant to keep the marauding West Saxons away. It gave wonderful views to the north across the downs.

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A marauding West Saxon?
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You can see the scale of the ditch really well here
At the top of the hill, we turned north and descended for a couple of miles along bridlepaths past farmland before coming into the tiny village of Beckhamstead. We’d hoped to get a drink at the lovely old pub but we were early and it was closed.

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So we pressed on a mile or so further to Avebury. We sat on a bench, drank our tea, ate our sandwiches and enjoyed the warmth of the sunshine. Basically we were just like an old couple!! Our picnic view was over Silbury Hill, the largest man-made mound in Europe, finished in 2400 BC but with no obvious purpose. It’s really striking. This part of the world is literally riddled with ancient earthworks and monuments.

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Silbury Hill in the mid-ground


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Maybe the most battered thatch I’ve ever seen!
Avebury is a truly remarkable place – the site of a massive neolithic stone circle, probably used for ritual or religious purposes. I went on a school trip when I was 12, I hadn’t been since. We walked on through the village, which really requires a proper visit so we kept walking north-east to Manor Farm where we came out onto a by-way and started hiking up the hill, finally heading south. After climbing some way, we turned onto the Ridgeway, the 87-mile footpath that starts in Oxfordshire and is the venue for the UK’s biggest ultra, Race to the Stones. We didn’t race, we just kept walking.

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Obsessed with the clouds
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Watching a kestrel hover – he got so low, we got so close
We crossed the busy A4 and descended into East Kennet village before joining another footpath and climbing up again for a few miles, crossing back over the original ridge-line with Wansdyke.

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A secret green valley you only see if you hike!
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As we came out of the trees, Pewsey Downs spread out before us and we could see the car-park in the distance.

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We ended up covering just under 12 miles today, much more than we intended, but it was a wonderful day. It was good to get the cobwebs blown away. It was a perfect day, weather-wise!

Practicalities

  • Here’s a map of today’s hike
  • Parking was free
  • No loos at the start/finish and very few en route. Only spotted some in Avebury.
  • Pubs at Beckhampton and Avebury, which also had a cafe and a little community shop.
  • Surfaces were grass/farm-track. Hiking boots recommended, our running shoes were fine but got wet!
  • Probably brutal in bad weather along Wansdyke.
 
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