North Wessex Downs
Interactive Map

The boundary of the AONB area shown is approximate and not the definitive boundary.

FILTER

Places to visit

Things to do

boundary

white horses

Westbury White Horse

The perfect white horse, on a steep west-facing escarpment overlooking Westbury. The current horse, cut over an older one is now concreted over and white washed. It sits below the ancient Bratton hill fort, one of a series of earthworks along the chalk downs. Find Westbury White Horse circular walk, map and apps on the White Horse Walk website.

white horses

Uffington Hillfort and White Horse

This Bronze-Age white horse can be seen from miles around leaping across the head of a dramatic dry valley in the Ridgeway escarpment. The horse is part of the unique complex of ancient remains that are found at White Horse Hill and beyond.  Crowning the hill is an Iron Age hillfort known as Uffington Castle – the highest point in Oxfordshire at 262m, with views over six counties.  Burial mounds are scattered across the site dating from the Neolithic period but have been reused up to the Saxon age. The largest contained 47 skeletons and can be seen as you walk up to the Horse from the car park – if you look carefully.

white horses

Pewsey white horse

The new horse is on Pewsey Hill about a mile south of Pewsey, to the east of the minor road that leads from the A345 on the edge of Pewsey to the village of Everleigh.

It is a little above and a little to the left of the site of the old horse. It was cut in 1937.

For walks to the White Horse, and photos, please see the Walking the Wessex White Horses website.

white horses

Marlborough white horse

Small but well-maintained, the Marlborough white horse is on a relatively shallow slope on Granham Hill, above the village of Preshute, just southwest of Marlborough.  This white horse was cut in 1804.

For walks to the White Horse, and photos, please see the Walking the Wessex White Horses website.

white horses

Hackpen white horse

The Hackpen white horse is near The Ridgeway on the edge of the Marlborough Downs, two miles south east of Broad Hinton village, on Hackpen Hill where the Wootton Bassett to Marlborough road zigzags up the hill.

Its origin is uncertain. It may have been cut in 1838.

For walks to the White Horse, and photos, please see the Walking  the Wessex White Horses website.

white horses

Devizes white horse

This is the newest of the Wiltshire white horses.  Designed by Peter Greed, it was cut by around two hundred local people in 1999 to mark the millennium.

For walks to the White Horse, and photos, please see the Walking the Wessex White Horses website.

white horses

Cherhill white horse

This horse is situated on the edge of Cherhill Down, off the A4 Calne to Marlborough road just east of the village of Cherhill. It was cut in 1780.

For walks to the White Horse, and photos, please see the Walking the Wessex White Horses website.

white horses

Broad Town white horse

Broad Town is three miles south of Wootton Bassett on the Marlborough road, and the white horse is in a depression on a steep slope half a mile north east of the village.  It was cut in 1864.

For walks to the White Horse, and photos, please see the Walking the Wessex White Horses website.

white horses

Alton Barnes white horse

The Alton Barnes white horse looks out over Pewsey Vale. It dates to 1812.

From the high downs, on a clear day the views south and west are truly awesome. The horse lies below a number of ancient features including a hill fort just to the east and a huge long barrow, Adam’s Grave, overlooking the valley.

For walks to the White Horse, and photos, please see the Walking Wiltshire’s White Horses website.

walking

Liddington Hill Circular

Medium (4-6 miles)

A lovely walk on chalk hills with stunning views. Less than 5 miles from Swindon it includes the option of visiting the site of Liddington Castle Iron Age hillfort.

walking

Leckhamstead Circular

Medium (4-6 miles)

A lovely varied walk in the Berkshire Downs with great views, especially beautiful in the spring with fields of wildflowers, and butterflies and bees flitting about.

walking

White Horse Trail

Long (7 miles +)

This 90-mile route takes you through Pewsey, Marlborough, Broad Town, Cherhill, Devizes, Steeple Ashton, and Bratton providing great views of the eight white horses which are cut into the turf of the chalk hillsides of Wiltshire. Along the way the trail visits many other historic and prehistoric locations such as in and around Avebury. Why not do the walk in stages, ticking off the white horses one-by-one?

walking

Wayfarers Walk (start)

Long (7 miles +)

This 70-mile, long-distance walking route is one of contrasts with a dramatic start, high on the chalk downs at Inkpen and finishing at sea-level at Emsworth Harbour. The route takes you over some of the finest chalk turf in Hampshire including Walbury Hill which, at 297m, is not only the highest chalk hill in the North Wessex Downs but also in England.

walking

Thames Path (northern end in the AONB)

Long (7 miles +)

The Thames Path follows England’s best-known river for 184 miles as it meanders from its source in the Cotswolds through several rural counties and on into the heart of London. It snakes its way along the north-eastern edge of the North Wessex Downs dipping in and out of neighbouring Chilterns AONB and it is easily accessible by public transport as the Great Western Rail line also takes a similar route. It is a gentle Trail, able to be walked by people of all ages and abilities and very well way-marked.

walking

Test Way (start)

Long (7 miles +)

Linking to the Wayfarers Walk, the Test Way also starts at the high point of Combe Gibbet and finishes at sea-level, this time at Eling on Southampton Water. It follows the course of the River Test, Hampshire’s longest and finest chalk stream which is world-famous for trout fishing.

walking

Pewsey Vale, The Kennet & Avon Canal and the White Horse Trail Circular

Long (7 miles +)

A walk with a steep ascent rewarded by miles of stunning views across the Vale of Pewsey; contrasted with stretches of tranquil canal and ancient woodlands full of bluebells in the spring.

walking

Lambourn Valley Way (southern end)

Long (7 miles +)

Starting from the Berkshire Downs where The Ridgeway passes near the Uffington White Horse, the Way follows the valley of the River Lambourn for just over 20 miles to Newbury. The route is well sign posted with waymark discs and fingerposts and takes in the picturesque villages of East Garston, Great Shefford and Boxford. Generally, this is an easy-going walk and well-connected by a bus route along much of it.

walking

Lambourn Valley Way (northern end)

Long (7 miles +)

Starting from the Berkshire Downs where The Ridgeway passes near the Uffington White Horse, the Way follows the valley of the River Lambourn for just over 20 miles to Newbury. The route is well sign posted with waymark discs and fingerposts and takes in the picturesque villages of East Garston, Great Shefford and Boxford. Generally, this is an easy-going walk and well-connected by a bus route along much of it.

walking

Woolton Hill Circular

Short (<3 miles)

A varied gentle walk on footpaths and minor roads through woodland and open fields near Woolton Hill, West Berkshire

walking

Coate Water to Chiseldon

Short (<3 miles)

This walk has good views of the lake at Coate Water and features woodland good for spotting bluebells.  Coate Water Country Park is a 56 acre reservoir built in the 1820’s.  There is a rich variety of birdlife – great crested grebe, grey herons, Canada geese and kingfishers.

walking

Ramsbury to Littlecote

Medium (4-6 miles)

This walk starts at the historic settlement of Ramsbury and takes you upwards through woodland and along the ridge before heading back down to Littlecote House and returns along the side of the Kennet River.

walking

Ogbourne St George to Marlborough

Medium (4-6 miles)

The Chiseldon and Marlborough Railway Path was originally constructed in 1881, and the majority of this walk takes you along it’s length. The track is intermittently lined with trees and hedgerows, and is a good area for spotting wildlife, including buzzards and kites.

walking

Chalk Hills and Landscapes around East Garston

Medium (4-6 miles)

Walk from the pretty village of East Garston through farmland and the Berkshire Downs with stunning views and fascinating geology.

walking

Bishops Cannings, The Kennet & Avon Canal and Wansdyke

Medium (4-6 miles)

A delightful, varied walk taking in the village, the canal towpath, downland and the mysterious Wansdyke with a fantastic view across to the Lansdowne Monument.

walking

Avebury, West Kennet & Silbury Hill

MEDIUM (4-6 MILES)

This walk starts in the village of Avebury and takes in Silbury Hill and West Kennet Long Barrow.

walking

Ridgeway Long Distance Path

Long (7 miles +)

Walkers can enjoy the whole of The Ridgeway and cyclists and horse riders considerable lengths – all of the 43 miles (69km) of the western half from Overton Hill to the River Thames at Streatley and some stretches east of the river in the Chilterns.

Discover the Ridgeway on the National Trail Website

stargazing

Wittenham Clumps car park

Grid Ref:  SU567923

For more information on stargazing see our dark skies leaflet

stargazing

Wilton Windmill

Grid Ref: SU276617

For more information on stargazing see our Dark Skies leaflet

stargazing

White Hill car park

Grid Ref: SU516565

For more information on stargazing please see our Dark Skies leaflet

stargazing

Uffcott

Grid Ref: SU117771
On road between Uffcott and Broad Hinton

For more information about stargazing see our dark skies leaflet

stargazing

Pewsey Downs car park

Grid Ref: SU115638

For more information on stargazing see our Dark Skies leaflet

stargazing

Hackpen White Horse car park

Grid Ref: SU129747

For more information on stargazing see our Dark Skies leaflet

stargazing

East Kennett

Grid Ref: SU132663

For more details on star gazing see our dark skies leaflet

stargazing

Combe Gibbet & Walbury hill car park

Grid Ref: SU369620

For more information on stargazing please see our Dark Skies leaflet

stargazing

Bury Down car park

Grid Ref: SU479840

For more information on stargazing see our dark skies leaflet

stargazing

Barbury Castle

Grid Ref: SU157761
Main car park is shut at night.

For more information on stargazing see our dark skies leaflet

stargazing

Ashbury Hill parking area

Grid Ref: SU273843

For more information on stargazing see our Dark Skies leaflet

riding

Three Downs Link

This is a riding, walking and cycling path following bridleways through Hampshire, Berkshire, Wiltshire and Oxfordshire.

The trail runs from Exton, in Hampshire, to Dean Hill, near Hungerford. You will pass through open chalk downland, along rivers and canals and through some pretty villages.

The route passes through or near Basingstoke, New Arlesford, Malborough, Winchester, Newbury and Hungerford. It uses the South Downs Way National Trail for part of the route and also links with the Ridgeway National Trail. It is waymarked with a light blue arrow.
For cyclists a mountain bike is advisable as most of the route takes place on off road tracks.

Three Downs Link Leaflet – British Horse Society

Below are PDF documents which are broken down into sections of the route, courtesy of the British Horse Society.

Use the map on the right to guide you to the PDF for the part of the route you are interested in:

PDF1 – Woolstone, Bishopstone & Ogbourne St George

PDF2 – Axford, Great Bedwyn & Buttermere

PDF3 – Letcombe Bassett, Peasemore & Chieveley

PDF4 – Donnington, Ball Hill & Ashmansworth

PDF5 – Ashmansworth, Lichfield & Hannington

PDF6 – Oakley, North Waltham & Brown Candover

PDF7 – New Alresford, Beauworth & Exton.

riding

Ridgeway Long Distance Path

Long (7 miles +)

Walkers can enjoy the whole of The Ridgeway and cyclists and horse riders considerable lengths – all of the 43 miles (69km) of the western half from Overton Hill to the River Thames at Streatley and some stretches east of the river in the Chilterns.

Discover the Ridgeway on the National Trail Website

picnic sites

Uffington Hillfort and White Horse

The internationally-renowned Bronze-Age Uffington White Horse can be seen for miles away leaping across the head of a dramatic dry valley in the Ridgeway escarpment.

The horse is only part of the unique complex of ancient remains that are found at White Horse Hill and beyond, spreading out across the high chalk downland.

The Manger, a dramatic dry valley has steep rippled sides left from the retreating permafrost during the last Ice Age. These ripples are known as the Giant’s Steps.To the east of the Manger lies Dragon Hill, a small roundish hill with a flattened top. It is said to be the site where St. George, England’s patron saint, slew the dragon. The blood poisoned the ground and left a white chalk scar for all to see.

Crowning White Horse Hill is an Iron Age hillfort known as Uffington Castle. A simple design of one rampart and ditch, the castle at 860 feet (262m) above sea level forms the highest point in Oxfordshire, with views for miles around over six counties. Across the property Burial Mounds can be spotted. These date from the Neolithic period and have been reused up to the Saxon age. The largest contained 47 skeletons and this can be seen as you walk up to the Horse from the car park, if you look carefully.

picnic sites

Snelsmore Common

Managed by BBOWT. Plenty of room to run & play. A paved walk (3/4 mile) and longer nature walks. Surfaces may be uneven. Dogs allowed on leads. It can be very busy at weekends: please park responsibly. Facilities: Picnic tables & BBQ sites. Takeaway café. Accessible toilets. Parking (suggested donation to BBOWT Wildlife Trust).

picnic sites

Savernake Forest

A wonderful very large ancient forest run by the Forestry Commission. Made up of several woodlands, the main being an SSSI predominantly of oak. Excellent for wildlife all year round. Picnic sites at Postern Hill on the south west side along the A346.

picnic sites

Hungerford Common

Dogs allowed on leads. Facilities & refreshments available in Hungerford (two minutes’ drive). Bring your own picnic furniture. Room to run & play. Kite flying.  Parking (no charge). Be aware that cattle graze the Common April-October. Car parking and grass are very uneven.  Managed by Hungerford Town and Manor.

Getting there: 10 mins south of M4 Junction14
Nearest postcode: RG17 0DY (entrance to Common) continue to centre of Common for car parking

picnic sites

Canalside at Kintbury

Managed by Canal & River Trust. Canalside walk. Dogs allowed. The canal towpath can be busy at weekends. Be aware of the deep lock – may not be suitable for small children.Facilities: Toilets. One picnic table near to canal towpath. Nearest postcode: RG17 9UT

picnic sites

Barbury Castle Country Park

Overlooking the town of Swindon, this 60 hectare site is notable for its chalk grassland and Iron Age archaeology. The iron-age hillfort is the best example of this habitat, as part of it has remained undisturbed since ancient times. The thin soil with good drainage allows only specialist plants to grow.

picnic sites

Avebury

Ancient monument of standing stones. Can be busy. Arrive early to get into the car park for summer holidays/ summer weekends. Facilities: Toilets (10 mins walk from car park). Check website for café details. Picnic benches. Parking charge – check website for details. Free for NT/English Heritage members. Blue badge holders can park on High Street.

Nature & Wildlife

Wittenham Clumps

Two distinctive round hills topped with 18th century beech trees give a panoramic view of the surrounding countryside and the nearby historic town of Dorchester on Thames. There is a hillfort on Castle Hill, with earthworks dating to the Bronze and Iron Ages. The hills can be seen from miles around and are popular with local people for kite flying and weekend walks. Just a short walk away are Days Lock on the river Thames and Dorchester Abbey.

Nature & Wildlife

Snelsmore Common

Managed by BBOWT. Just north of Newbury on the very edge of the AONB lies Snelsmore Common which contains a range of habitats including heathland, wet mires and woodland making it home to nationally rare bird species including nightjar, woodlark and tree pipit.

Nature & Wildlife

Savernake Forest

A wonderful very large ancient forest run by the Forestry Commission. Made up of several woodlands, the main being an SSSI predominantly of oak. Excellent for wildlife all year round. Picnic sites at Postern Hill on the south west side along the A346.

Nature & Wildlife

Pewsey Downs NNR

Pewsey Downs is one of the finest examples of chalk downland in southern England. It is a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) under the European Habitats and Species Directive.

The flower-rich grasslands which occur on the Downs have developed over the Upper Chalk due mainly to the low level of plant nutrients in the soil. This nutrient-poor soil prevents more vigorous plant species dominating the finer herbs.

While the lack of nutrients is important, the localised climate, steepness of slope, aspect and amount of – or even the lack of – soil also creates a variety of conditions ideal for a wide range of plants.

Plant species found in the reserve include common spotted, frog and fragrant orchids, field fleawort, early gentian, round-headed rampion and bastard toadflax. Butterflies include marble white, skipper, green hairstreak, wall brown and chalkhill blue.

Nature & Wildlife

Morgans Hill

Managed by Wiltshire Wildlife Trust. Lying between Devizes and Calne this fine stretch of chalk grassland offers incredible views of Cherhill Down and the plains of north Wiltshire. The reserve is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest for its orchids, butterflies and for the general quality of chalk grassland and wildflowers. Morgans Hill is home to numerous wildflowers including early purple orchids and round-headed rampion, cowslips, primroses and violets and in summer wild thyme, horseshoe vetch, common rock rose and marsh helleborine. Where there are flowers, butterflies follow and you can find the Adonis, chalkhill, common and small blues. Further down the slopes look for the marsh fritillary – one of the UK’s most endangered species of butterfly, which feeds on devil’s-bit scabious. Birds found at the reserve include kestrel, buzzard, yellowhammer and skylark.

Nature & Wildlife

Letcombe Valley

The Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust works with volunteers living nearby to care for this precious habitat, where kingfishers hunt across the water flashing blue as their sharp call pierces the stillness of the valley. Streamside, heron and little egret can be seen prowling the shallows for a tasty fish morsel.  At dusk, Daubenton‚ bats swoop low across the lake gorging on insects at the water‚ surface. Numerous springs create flushes along the streams and these habitats support an interesting range of insects, particularly rare flies.

Small remnants of ancient woodland include old coppice stools around which wild flowers, such as bluebell, common dog violet and wood avens, grow. Running along the eastern edge of the reserve is a steep bank with a flat top (the Old Bassett Road) where fragments of chalk grassland remain among the scrub. Large ant hills survive among bird-foot trefoil, field scabious, cowslips and meadow grasses. Barn owls hunt for small mammals in this area.

Nature & Wildlife

Freemans Marsh

Freemans Marsh is a rich mix of water meadows, reedbeds, damp scrubland and patches of woodland. A lovely place to visit at any time of year, it affords delightful views towards the picturesque town of Hungerford, which dates from Saxon times.

Colourful wetland wild flowers include yellow iris, ragged-robbin, southern marsh-orchid and fen bedstraw. Marsh-marigolds, a familiar sight in England until widespread field drainage in recent times, adorn the ground here in spring.

The Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust has recorded 120 different bird species on this reserve including heron, kingfisher, yellow wagtail, water rail, little grebe and grasshoper warbler. In winter, look out for siskins on the alder trees. River birds include mute swans, mallard, moorhen and coot.

Nature & Wildlife

Fyfield Down

Situated on a high plateau of chalk grassland, Fyfield Down displays the best collection of sarsen stones in Britain. Sarsen stones are large boulders of siliceous sandstone that were transported to the area through glacial action during the ice age. Ancient peoples used these stones for building purposes and today they support rare lichen and moss communities.

The site is internationally important for its archaeological interest and is part of a World Heritage Site.

Nature & Wildlife

Bucklebury Common

The common is privately owned by Bucklebury Estate but there is public access for walkers, horse riders and cyclists on an extensive network of public rights of way. The common is mainly broadleaved woodland of oak, ash and beech with younger areas of birch and large areas of heathland. There is also an old avenue of oaks at Chapel Row which are over 400 years old and planted in the late 16th century to commemorate a visit by Queen Elizabeth I.

Nature & Wildlife

Beacon Hill

One of the best know hillforts in England, this was a site for one of the beacons that formed a network across Hampshire. The ditch and banks are still prominent and well preserved, but the grassland that covers this historic site is species-rich chalk downland, having been maintained by centuries of sheep grazing – apparent from its ‘stepped’ appearance. The chalk grassland supports a variety of wildflowers, such as rock rose, wild thyme, kidney vetch and clustered bellflower. These delightful plants support a diversity of insects – one species of interest being the two-coloured mason-bee, one of the first solitary bees to appear in spring and which nests in empty snail shells. The site is also important for its stands of juniper. Skylarks and meadow-pipits can be seen and heard – though these are easily disturbed by dogs. The north-west flank of the hill can be a good place to see ring ouzels as they migrate northwards. On top of the Beacon look out for soaring red kites, treating you to their aerobatic displays.

Historic Places

Wilton Windmill

Set high above the village of Wilton, about 9 miles south east of Marlborough in Wiltshire, Wilton Windmill is the only working windmill in Wessex and still produces wholemeal, stone-ground flour.

Open to visitors from Easter to September.

Historic Places

Uffington Hillfort and White Horse

The internationally-renowned Bronze-Age Uffington White Horse can be seen for miles away leaping across the head of a dramatic dry valley in the Ridgeway escarpment.

The horse is only part of the unique complex of ancient remains that are found at White Horse Hill and beyond, spreading out across the high chalk downland.

The Manger, a dramatic dry valley has steep rippled sides left from the retreating permafrost during the last Ice Age. These ripples are known as the Giant’s Steps.To the east of the Manger lies Dragon Hill, a small roundish hill with a flattened top. It is said to be the site where St. George, England’s patron saint, slew the dragon. The blood poisoned the ground and left a white chalk scar for all to see.

Crowning White Horse Hill is an Iron Age hillfort known as Uffington Castle. A simple design of one rampart and ditch, the castle at 860 feet (262m) above sea level forms the highest point in Oxfordshire, with views for miles around over six counties. Across the property Burial Mounds can be spotted. These date from the Neolithic period and have been reused up to the Saxon age. The largest contained 47 skeletons and this can be seen as you walk up to the Horse from the car park, if you look carefully.

Historic Places

Seven Barrows, Lambourn

Lambourn Seven Barrows is the name given to a large group of burial mounds (over 40) scattered over a dry chalk valley north of the village of Lambourn. At the core of the cemetery are at least ten Bronze Age barrows arranged in two parallel rows. A range of barrow types are represented, named for their shapes bell, bowl, disc and saucer, and they are well preserved as Scheduled Monuments within a small chalk grassland nature reserve which is open to the public.

Many of the Seven Barrows mounds were opened by antiquarians in the 19th century and numerous finds were recorded including cremation burials (some in urns), animal bones, jewelry and bronze artefacts. It is likely that this valley was a focus for ritual funerary activity for thousands of years, from the Neolithic when a long barrow was constructed through to the pagan Saxon period when round barrows were used as burial sites.

Historic Places

Sandham Memorial Chapel

This modest red-brick building tucked away in a quiet corner of Hampshire houses an unexpected treasure  –  an epic series of large-scale murals, by the acclaimed war artist Sir Stanley Spencer.

Built to honour the ‘forgotten dead’ of the First World War, who were not remembered on any official memorials, the series was inspired by Spencer’s own experiences as a medical orderly and soldier on the Salonika front, and is peppered with personal and unexpected details. The paintings took six years to complete in all, and are considered by many to be the artist, finest achievement, drawing such praise as ‘Britain’s answer to the Sistine Chapel’.

The chapel still holds services three to four times a year, the most important of these being the annual Remembrance Day event.

Historic Places

Littlecote Roman Villa

The famed Roman Orpheus Mosaic and the remains of a Roman Villa.  You can see this mosaic on our circular walk from Ramsbury.  Click the link for more details.

Historic Places

Liddington Castle

Sited on a commanding high point close to The Ridgeway, Liddington Castle was one of the earliest hill forts in Britain, with first occupation dating to the seventh century BC.  The earthworks consist of a relatively simple oval bank of timber and earth fronted by a ditch, with opposing causewayed entrances on the east and west sides. The western entrance was later blocked off and the eastern one may have been lined with sarsen stones. A palisade of wooden posts may have lined the top of the bank. During a later phase the bank and ditch were improved and a rampart of dumped chalk, excavated from the enlarged ditch, increased the height of the bank.

Unlike the neighbouring castles of Uffington and Barbury, Liddington Castle is relatively unvisited in spite of being a clearly visible landmark to the millions who pass along the M4 motorway south of Swindon. While accessible by a permissive footpath and less than a mile from The Ridgeway it is not served by a car park, hence any visitor will usually find themselves quite alone to enjoy its secluded atmosphere.

Historic Places

Knap Hill

Knap Hill is an extremely steep hill just north of Alton Barnes offering great views into the Pewsey Vale.  Knap Hill is surmounted by a neolithic causewayed camp. Various finds such as a Medieval hearth and 17th century pottery suggests that Knap Hill has been used extensively over the centuries.
Car parking is available at the bottom of Knap Hill

Historic Places

Fyfield Down

Situated on a high plateau of chalk grassland, Fyfield Down displays the best collection of sarsen stones in Britain.  Ancient peoples used these stones for building purposes and today they support rare lichen and moss communities.  The site is internationally important for its archaeological interest and is part of a World Heritage Site.

 

Historic Places

Crofton Beam Engines

These are the oldest working steam engines in the world. There are two beam engines, one of which is an original 200-year-old Boulton & Watt. Both are fed by a hand-stoked, coal-fired Lancashire boiler. These are magnificent pieces of industrial archaeology appealing both to families and steam enthusiasts.  The engine house is set in unspoiled Wiltshire countryside close to the old market town of Marlborough.  Visit the website for opening times.

Historic Places

Combe Gibbet Long Barrow

Combe Gibbet is the replica wooden post of a structure erected in 1676 and linked to the capital punishment of a murderous couple. A local man George Broomham and his mistress Dorothy Newman were hanged for killing George’s wife and son – the gibbet was used to display the criminals’ bodies are a dire warning to all. Despite this gory association, the site is a popular and accessible viewpoint, being on a chalk ridge with stunning views both north across the Kennet Valley and south over the Hampshire Downs. There is no evidence that the gibbet has ever been used on other occasions, but it is such a local landmark that it has been replaced several times.

What is also fascinating is that it was erected on the top of a Neolithic long barrow. This well preserved earthern mound is about 65m long, with ditches on either side, and is a Scheduled Monument in recognition of its national importance. There are no records of any archaeological excavations opening up the barrow, but it would have been built in about 3400-2400 BC as a depository for the bones of several individuals, perhaps after initial rituals such as excarnation outside the burial chambers. The size and prominence of this ancient monument indicates its importance in the lives of our earliest farming communities. It played a role in the landscape of later societies, being used to mark the former county boundary between Hampshire and Berkshire (changed in the Victorian era to the parish boundary between Combe and Inkpen).

Historic Places

Beacon Hill

One of the best known hill forts in England and the site of the most famous beacon in Hampshire, though in fact the Beacon at Burghclere was called the Berkshire Beacon.  The firing of beacons kept on prominent hill tops was for many years an integral part of the defence system of this country and the last chain of beacons were lit on 2 June 1977 to commemorate the Queen’s Silver Jubilee.

Historic Places

Basildon House and Park

Basildon Park is an impressive Georgian mansion, surrounded by glorious parkland, which was lovingly rescued from ruin by Lord and Lady Iliffe in the mid 1950s. The house you see today is a re-creation and restoration of the 18th-century mansion. They restored the elegant interior and scoured the country salvaging 18th-century architectural fixtures and fittings. They filled their comfortable new home with fine paintings, fabrics and furniture, which can still be enjoyed by visitors today.

Historic Places

Barbury Castle Country Park

Overlooking the town of Swindon, this 60 hectare site is notable for its chalk grassland and Iron Age archaeology. The iron-age hillfort is the best example of this habitat, as part of it has remained undisturbed since ancient times. The thin soil with good drainage allows only specialist plants to grow.

Historic Places

Avebury

In the 1930s, the pretty village of Avebury, partially encompassed by the stone circle of this World Heritage Site, was witness to the excavations of archaeologist Alexander Keiller. Keiller opened the museum here to display his findings in 1938 in the old stable building of Avebury Manor where he lived.

In re-erecting many of the stones, Keiller uncovered the true wonder of one of the most important megalithic monuments in Europe. You can see his fascinating finds on display in the museum, still housed in the stables but now also in the 17th-century threshing barn, where interactive displays and activities for children bring the landscape to life.

Historic Places

Ashdown House

This extraordinary building with a dolls’-house appearance nestles in a beautiful valley on the Berkshire Downs, surrounded by woodland.  It was built by an Earl, William Craven, as a house fit for the queen he loved, Queen Elizabeth of Bohemia in 1662.

For visiting details please click the link below to go to the National Trust website.  The grounds can be visited when the house is open and the woodland open all year round, Sunday to Thursday.

cycling

Whitchurch/Ashmansworth Circular Cycle Route

A 23 mile challenging trail (14 of which are off-road) covering many of the places that were an inspiration for Richard Adams’ Watership Down. Stunning views from Woodcott Down and Ladle Hill contrast with the picturesque Hampshire villages of St. Mary Bourne and Binley.

cycling

Watership Down Off-Road

Distance: 18 miles (9 of which are off-road)
Start: Car park in Anchor Road, Kingsclere. (Grid ref. 527586).
Summary: The Watership Down Trail is an invigorating cycle ride which takes in some of Hampshire’s finest scenery.

The route begins on a quiet country lane out of Kingsclere followed by a challenging off-road climb to the top of Ladle Hill. The route continues along the ridge of Watership Down, south past North Oakley, through Ibworth and off road back to Kingsclere. Go to Hampshire County Council website for details and route map.

cycling

Three Downs Link

This is a riding, walking and cycling path following bridleways through Hampshire, Berkshire, Wiltshire and Oxfordshire.

The trail runs from Exton, in Hampshire, to Dean Hill, near Hungerford. You will pass through open chalk downland, along rivers and canals and through some pretty villages.

The route passes through or near Basingstoke, New Arlesford, Malborough, Winchester, Newbury and Hungerford. It uses the South Downs Way National Trail for part of the route and also links with the Ridgeway National Trail. It is waymarked with a light blue arrow.
For cyclists a mountain bike is advisable as most of the route takes place on off road tracks.

Three Downs Link Leaflet – British Horse Society

Below are PDF documents which are broken down into sections of the route, courtesy of the British Horse Society.

Use the map on the right to guide you to the PDF for the part of the route you are interested in:

PDF1 – Woolstone, Bishopstone & Ogbourne St George

PDF2 – Axford, Great Bedwyn & Buttermere

PDF3 – Letcombe Bassett, Peasemore & Chieveley

PDF4 – Donnington, Ball Hill & Ashmansworth

PDF5 – Ashmansworth, Lichfield & Hannington

PDF6 – Oakley, North Waltham & Brown Candover

PDF7 – New Alresford, Beauworth & Exton.

cycling

Ridgeway National Trail

Walkers can enjoy the whole of The Ridgeway and cyclists and horse riders considerable lengths – all of the 43 miles (69km) of the western half from Overton Hill to the River Thames at Streatley and some stretches east of the river in the Chilterns.

Discover the Ridgeway on the National Trail Website

cycling

Wiltshire Cycleway

For more information about Wiltshire Cycleway visit the Wiltshire Council website

cycling

NCN 482 Chiseldon & Marlborough Railway Path

Easy cycling route along the now disused Chiseldon and Marlborough Railway.

viewpoints & chalk downs

Windmill Hill, Avebury

The classic Neolithic ’causewayed enclosure’, with three concentric but intermittent ditches. Large quantities of animal bones found here indicate feasting, animal trading or rituals, or perhaps all three. Part of the Avebury World Heritage Site.

Windmill Hill is in the freehold ownership of The National Trust and in English Heritage guardianship. It is managed by The National Trust on behalf of English Heritage, and the two organisations share the cost of managing and maintaining the property.

viewpoints & chalk downs

Watership Down

Richard Adams classic book about rabbit families living on Watership Down drew on his memories of living near the real Watership Down in northern Hampshire, on the south-eastern edge of the AONB.  The area is now a popular destination for cyclists and walkers‚ a bridleway, the Wayfarer’s Walk cross county footpath, runs along the ridge of the Down.

viewpoints & chalk downs

Walbury Hill

Walbury Hill is the highest chalk down in England, and also the site of the largest hillfort in Berkshire, Walbury Camp.

It is designated as a Scheduled Monument in recognition of its national importance. The banks and ditches of this early Iron Age enclosure are best viewed at the north-western entrance by the car park; once inside the camp, its area is so extensive that the ramparts cannot be readily be seen from the bridleway.

The south-east gap in the earthworks is probably also original, and there are reports of a dew pond and flint mines within the hillfort. However, a recent geophysical survey of the interior found few archaeological features and it seems that Walbury was not intensively occupied in the past. It is likely that this hill-top enclosure was mainly for the protection of cattle.

Other evidence of prehistoric farming around Walbury Hill survives in the lynchets of ancient fields, which can be seen particularly well in low light on slopes to the west and south.

Free car parking on the north-western side of Walbury Hill, accessed from Upper Green, Inkpen or Combe. There is also a car park on the south-east side of the hill

viewpoints & chalk downs

Uffington Hillfort and White Horse

The internationally-renowned Bronze-Age Uffington White Horse can be seen for miles away leaping across the head of a dramatic dry valley in the Ridgeway escarpment.

The horse is only part of the unique complex of ancient remains that are found at White Horse Hill and beyond, spreading out across the high chalk downland.

The Manger, a dramatic dry valley has steep rippled sides left from the retreating permafrost during the last Ice Age. These ripples are known as the Giant’s Steps.To the east of the Manger lies Dragon Hill, a small roundish hill with a flattened top. It is said to be the site where St. George, England’s patron saint, slew the dragon. The blood poisoned the ground and left a white chalk scar for all to see.

Crowning White Horse Hill is an Iron Age hillfort known as Uffington Castle. A simple design of one rampart and ditch, the castle at 860 feet (262m) above sea level forms the highest point in Oxfordshire, with views for miles around over six counties. Across the property Burial Mounds can be spotted. These date from the Neolithic period and have been reused up to the Saxon age. The largest contained 47 skeletons and this can be seen as you walk up to the Horse from the car park, if you look carefully.

viewpoints & chalk downs

Seven Barrows, Lambourn

Lambourn Seven Barrows is the name given to a large group of burial mounds (over 40) scattered over a dry chalk valley north of the village of Lambourn. At the core of the cemetery are at least ten Bronze Age barrows arranged in two parallel rows. A range of barrow types are represented, named for their shapes‚ bell, bowl, disc and saucer, and they are well preserved as Scheduled Monuments within a small chalk grassland nature reserve which is open to the public.

Many of the Seven Barrows mounds were opened by antiquarians in the 19th century and numerous finds were recorded including cremation burials (some in urns), animal bones, jewelry and bronze artefacts. It is likely that this valley was a focus for ritual funerary activity for thousands of years, from the Neolithic when a long barrow was constructed through to the pagan Saxon period when round barrows were used as burial sites.

viewpoints & chalk downs

Pewsey Downs NNR

Pewsey Downs is one of the finest examples of chalk downland in southern England. It is a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) under the European Habitats and Species Directive.

The flower-rich grasslands which occur on the Downs have developed over the Upper Chalk due mainly to the low level of plant nutrients in the soil. This nutrient-poor soil prevents more vigorous plant species dominating the finer herbs.

While the lack of nutrients is important, the localised climate, steepness of slope, aspect and amount of – or even the lack of – soil also creates a variety of conditions ideal for a wide range of plants.

Plant species found in the reserve include common spotted, frog and fragrant orchids, field fleawort, early gentian, round-headed rampion and bastard toadflax. Butterflies include marble white, skipper, green hairstreak, wall brown and chalkhill blue.

viewpoints & chalk downs

Liddington Castle

Sited on a commanding high point close to The Ridgeway, Liddington Castle was one of the earliest hill forts in Britain, with first occupation dating to the seventh century BC. The earthworks consist of a relatively simple oval bank of timber and earth fronted by a ditch, with opposing causewayed entrances on the east and west sides. The western entrance was later blocked off and the eastern one may have been lined with sarsen stones. A palisade of wooden posts may have lined the top of the bank. During a later phase the bank and ditch were improved and a rampart of dumped chalk, excavated from the enlarged ditch, increased the height of the bank.

Unlike the neighbouring castles of Uffington and Barbury, Liddington Castle is relatively unvisited in spite of being a clearly visible landmark to the millions who pass along the M4 motorway south of Swindon. While accessible by a permissive footpath and less than a mile from The Ridgeway it is not served by a car park, hence any visitor will usually find themselves quite alone to enjoy its secluded atmosphere.

viewpoints & chalk downs

Knap Hill

Knap Hill is an extremely steep hill just north of Alton Barnes offering great views into the Pewsey Vale.  Knap Hill is surmounted by a neolithic causewayed camp. Various finds such as a Medieval hearth and 17th century pottery suggests that Knap Hill has been used extensively over the centuries.
Car parking is available at the bottom of Knap Hill

viewpoints & chalk downs

Fyfield Down

Situated on a high plateau of chalk grassland, Fyfield Down displays the best collection of sarsen stones in Britain. Ancient peoples used these stones for building purposes and today they support rare lichen and moss communities.  The site is internationally important for its archaeological interest and is part of a World Heritage Site.

viewpoints & chalk downs

Calstone and Cherhill Downs

Far-reaching views of rolling valleys and hills. Cherhill Down is well known for its White Horse and views of the Lansdowne Monument, which can be seen for miles around.  Walk to the top of the Down and be rewarded with great views. In the summer enjoy carpets of chalk grassland flowers and the sound of sky larks. Take time to explore the impressive landmark of Oldbury Castle Iron Age hill fort, which also provides shelter for butterflies flitting from flower to flower. Or simply enjoy the feeling of peace and tranquillity in the Calstone Coombes, a haven for some of the rarest butterfly species in Wiltshire and the Wart-biter Bush Cricket.

viewpoints & chalk downs

Beacon Hill

One of the best known hill forts in England and the site of the most famous beacon in Hampshire, though in fact the Beacon at Burghclere was called the Berkshire Beacon.  The firing of beacons kept on prominent hill tops was for many years an integral part of the defence system of this country and the last chain of beacons were lit on 2 June 1977 to commemorate the Queen’s Silver Jubilee.

viewpoints & chalk downs

Barbury Castle Country Park

Overlooking the town of Swindon, this 60 hectare site is notable for its chalk grassland and Iron Age archaeology. The iron-age hillfort is the best example of this habitat, as part of it has remained undisturbed since ancient times. The thin soil with good drainage allows only specialist plants to grow.

AONB Office

North Wessex Downs AONB Office
Units 3-4
Denford Manor
Lower Denford
Hungerford
Berkshire
RG17 0UN

Telephone: 01488 685440

E-mail us at info@northwessexdowns.org.uk

North Wessex Downs AONB Office

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AONB Boundary