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This Week's Walks - Archive

Please see the Saturday Walker's Club This Week's Walks page.

This is an archive of walks done by the Saturday Walker's Club. You should only need to use this page if the SWC website is down.

Blog Archive

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Saturday Third Walk - Neolithic Wiltshire (I): SWC 67 Salisbury to Amesbury (via Stonehenge)

This is for all you Pagans out there...flanking the longest day of the year, two expeditions to the most remarkable Neolithic sites in England

SWC Walk 67 – Salisbury to Amesbury (via Stonehenge World Heritage Site)

Length: 25.1 km (15.6 mi)
Ascent/Descent:  330 m
Net Walking Time: ca. 5 ½ hours
Toughness:  6 out of 10 
Take the 09.20 Exeter St. David's train from Waterloo (09.27 Clapham J., 09.46 Woking), arriving Salisbury at 10.42
Return buses from Amesbury to Salisbury City Centre (Stagecoach line 8, about 20 mins journey time): xx.10 and xx.40 to 18.40, then 19.05, 19.35 and 20.33
Return trains from Salisbury: xx.21 and xx.47 hours (about 90 mins journey time) to 18.47, then 19.26, 19.50, 20.26, 21.26, 22.27 (chg Basingstoke) 
Buy a cheap £16 Off-Peak Day return to Salisbury on the SWT website or at ticket offices (b4 midnight the day before travel).

This superb walk has no major climbs but covers beautiful rolling countryside and farmland and fields of golden barley and wheat. You then have an evocative and magical approach to Stonehenge across Salisbury Plain. After passing close to the site the route takes you down the original approach used by the Druids – The Avenue – as you set off on the final leg to Amesbury and a bus back to Salisbury city centre. There is a lot to see on this walk and what you choose to do depends very much on your interests and how far you want to walk or travel. You get excellent views of Old Sarum hill fort and of Stonehenge  from the walk route. If you wish to visit the sites themselves you have to buy tickets though (for Stonehenge: in advance online). The ancient city of Salisbury  has a fascinating history and the Destination Salisbury website provides information about it. If you wish to visit Salisbury Cathedral this is best done before you start the walk (you may want to take an earlier train).

For the walk directions and all options to shorten the walk, a map, a height profile, gpx/kml files, and some photos click here.
The lunch pub is The Wheatsheaf Inn in Lower Woodford (10.2 km/6.4 mi, a table has been booked for 13.15 hours), or The Bridge Inn further along in Upper Woodford (13.0 km/8.1 mi). The gourmet’s favourite The Black Horse in Great Durnford shuts at 14.00 these days, so should be out of reach for all mere mortals (off-route, 15 km/9.3 mi).


PeteG said...

The cathedral has Evensong at 1730, so if sitting quietly and taking in the building with a service going on is enough, then that is free. You do not have to be at the start or stay to the end, but obviously you can't just wander about.

DAC said...

Intend going.

Marion said...

MARION said...
I should like to do the Salisbury walk on Saturday which you've posted. Pauline tells me that last year she arranged a mini bus for a group of SWC walkers to take them from Salisburystation to Old Sarum to reduce the length of walking. Any takers for viewing the cathedral first and then continuing by mini bus? Is this an option others would like as I need to shorten this walk if I come and would be happy to stay for dinner in Salusbury before taking the train home. Are you walk checking and therefore taking it at a slower pace. If so I might manage the distance!!! Marion X

Thursday, 16 June, 2016

Thomas G said...

In my experience, there's usually some people using that option, taxi or bus from town centre or station to Old Sarum.

Marion said...

Thanks in that case it seems its best to take the bus straightaway if you have a bus pass. A mini bus works out at £2 per head if sufficient numbers then a leisurely pace to the lunch stop and go to evensong for a free visit to the cathedral. Anyone up for supper?

Mike A said...

South west trains Web site is probably not the most intuitive I've seen, but seems to make a good starting point to buy the £16 special offer. Be sure to ensure the "No upgrade" box is filled on the "Choose travel option" page. Unless you really want to upgrade to an Anytime Day Return for an extra £53.30 :-)

Thomas G said...

go to, click on 'buy tickets', enter the details as required, click on any train times (they're all off-peak on saturdays), payment details. done. takes 30 seconds. get email confo within 5 seconds. print out or note down reference number, then pick tickets from machine in the morning.

Thomas G said...

I will aim to walk an extension at the end fron The Avenue to Woodhenge and Durrington Walls, just NE of Stonehenge, with the aim of taking notes for the website write-up. Will add a couple of km... Company welcome.

Marion said...

Thank you guys. Have just booked this ticket online for the first time and Yes all tickets cost £16 from wherever you travel from so no benefit for Boundary zone 6 card holders etc and you don't need to queue at Victoria if you can collect the ticket from your local train station. Needs a 2 hour gap after booking on line before accessing the machine with your receipt code as they won't accept emails and will charge the full fare! Easily forgotten if running late.

Walker said...

N=35 on this walk on a day of w=warm-brightish-cloud. With such a big group, fragmentation was inevitable and so this must inevitably be a partial and prejudiced account (other accounts welcome), but quite a few of us diverted for a peek at Salisbury cathedral grounds (mysteriously peppered with sculptures of rabbits), and of course all true-blooded Englishmen (not to say some of other sexes and nationalities) made the wonderful diversion up onto the flower-bedecked ramparts of Old Sarum.

All of this felt like a pretty good morning's work in itself, but there was then the small matter of another 12 miles of walk to do. This passed very pleasantly, with the walk poster's foresight in booking a table meaning 12 of us got lunch in the Lower (?) Woodford pub. Not alas in the garden - due to staff shortages - but food came quickly and with good portions, so all in all we were happy. Six to eight of us then had a drink in the Upper (?) Woodford pub by the river. This now does food all afternoon on Saturdays, though since the chef had gone home for lack of orders by the time we arrived at 3pm, this may not last long. It was a lovely place for "refreshies" (you know who you are, KG!) in any case.

Then the highlight of the walk - the long climb up onto the Stonehenge plateau when one feels one is going back on time to the Bronze Age - and the lowlight - the truly evil crossing of the relentless A303 (will the government EVER get round to diverting or burying it? They have been talking about it for 30 years). Near Stonehenge, New Agey types were skulking up side lanes in caravans in readiness for the solstice. The removal of the tea kiosk at Stonehenge is a bitter blow, but the erasing of the minor road that used to run past it and the big ugly car park is a revelation, totally transforming the site. I just loved the next bit, slowly walking away from Stonehenge across the immense grassland, a view one felt must have been just the same in the Stone Age.

Three (four?) then accompanied the walk poster in researching a further addition to the route taking in more Neolithic sites, while we ordinary mortals trudged on to Amesbury. Miraculously at this point the clouds cleared to full sunshine, which reigned for the rest of the day. We caught the 6.40pm bus to Salisbury, hooking up with others and later being joined by the extension crowd, and in all around a dozen of us had a nice al fresco dinner in a pub in the Market Square (especially nice for those of us who got the last remaining chickpea and lentil curries....).

The last train to London, the 9.26 was very crowded. C'mon,South West Trains: only THREE carriages? Ours was a "quiet carriage" which didn't stop us wassailing all the way back to The Smoke.

Marion said...

35 on this walk Cloudy but dry all day, A large turnout from a lot of regulars plus ladies from Metropolitan Walkers. Fast pace in the morning with no-one taking the bus or taxis. Old Sarum was confusing to the first group as no-be had been before and its worth noting more detail in the walk directions so that you know that you are only walking a quarter of the ramparts to find the steep slope downhill to rejoin the walk. English Heritage guided some of us in the wrong direction. (The best views are from a distance looking back or from the bus when travelling from Amesbury to Salisbury.)

12 for lunch at the first pub The Wheatsheaf with prompt service and good food enjoyed by all including 6 mini-desserts for a tenner which were shared. The second pub The Bridge Inn after 8 miles is definitely recommended as a gourmet option but the mains are all £15 and the chef goes home after 3pm if there is insufficient trade although the pub stays open all day. The setting by the river and garden look well worth a stop and we enjoyed tea on on the lawns plus free tap water served from a glass dispenser on the bar attractively flavoured with cucumber and watercress.

The Stonehenge Byway was closed to all traffic due to the wild camping from the Summer Solstice Brigade and the Herras fencing was difficult to get around as there was no allowance for pedestrians crossing the A303. Prickly bushes needed to be negotiated but the view of the Henge was a great reward without having to pay to go into the English Heritage enclosure.

The sight of the burial mounds and ancient excavations in the landscape was a good experience which can only be achieved on foot and with minimal signposting so these walk notes are invaluable. A few additions mainly of compass bearings would be a useful addition.

Sadly as the pub lunchers we did not make Evensong. This is a long walk but without any ascents or descents the distance was managed by all without any difficulty. The hard chalk ground would be very slippery in rain and exposure to lightning an issue if caught in a thunderstorm. Is there a bus on the A303 if one needed to cut the walk short?

All in all a very enjoyable day with great company and conversation in several groups keeping the numbers manageable and our group met up with others in the main square for drinks and supper before catching the crowded train home at 9.26.

Walker said...

Some photos of this outing on the Saturday Walkers Club Facebook page

Anonymous said...

I just thought I'd add a few notes in addition to Walker's and Marion's excellent prose.
It was an unexpected treat to see Sophie Ryder's exhibition in the grounds of Salisbury Cathedral and I'm sure I would have dallied longer if I wasn't walking so far.
Well next it was off to Old Sarum and a circuit of the ramparts before setting off northbound to the lunch stops of Lower and Upper Woodford.
In the afternoon section I had an interesting encounter with a farmer just after Springbottom Farm - a real character who told me of his theory that the area was under water in the past (he'd found sea shells to prove it) and the stones for the Henge had been floated on barges from Wales. Hmm.....
Yes, it would be nice to have a way of traversing the A303 - a footbridge at least!
As Marion notes, it looks like English Heritage had cordoned off part of the gravel byway as you approached the Henge. However there was a style to the left just after crossing the A303 and it looked like folks could walk parallel to the byway with another style immediately after the obstruction to rejoin.
I met up with a few walkers around the Henge and we all caught the 5:00 pmish X5 back to Salisbury to catch the 5:47 pm back to the Great Wen - a super day out