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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.

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Sunday, 16 April 2017

Easter Day Walk - Salisbury Plain: Westbury to Warminster (via Imber Range) [New Walk!]

...this slot is a swap with Chris L against my Saturday 27 May slot...

This walk had an aborted ‘outing’ on April Fools’ Day, when the Imber Range was shut to the public anyway, but this is the real thing… 
It is a long and expensive outing, but – and I’ve said this before about one or two of my other walks – a walk like no other.

Westbury to Warminster
Length:  30.4 km (18.9 mi)
Ascent/Descent:  494/436 m
Net Walking Time: ca. 7 hours
Toughness:  9 out of 10 
start from Bratton or Edington, and/or finish in Heytesbury, from as little as 16.5 km/10.3 mi (rated 3/10) 
[due to the buses not running on Sundays, these options require a taxi journey from Westbury or to Warminster today]

Take the 08.57 Plymouth train from Paddington (09.32 Reading), arriving Westbury at 10.21.

Return trains: Ticketing is complicated, as both stations are served by different train companies and outside the Network Southeast area, here are the options, ranked by level of expense (the general rule – of course – is: the more you spend, the more options you have!): 
(A) Split Tickets (London-Newbury return + Newbury-Warminster return) - £41.20 Full Price (£27.30 with Senior, Two Together etc. Railcards, £33.05 with a Network Railcard), your only eligible returns are the 17.36, 18.44, 19.44 and 20.44 trains from Warminster, connecting to the 17.56, 19.55, 20.28 and 21.44 trains from Westbury respectively, as your train has to have a stop at Newbury (i.e.: you have a long wait at Westbury for the latter three trains, and I can’t guarantee that the excellent waiting room with café will be open on the evening of Easter Day, but there is a pub 2 mins away).
(B) GWR-only Off-Peak Warminster Return - £52.50 Full Price (£34.60 with Senior, Two Together etc. Railcards), you have to return to Paddington (and change at Westbury or Swindon), your options are: the 17.36, then hourly 17.44 to 21.44.
(C) Off-Peak Warminster Return - £57.50 Full Price (£37.95 with Senior, Two Together etc. Railcards), valid on all returns into Waterloo (16.53, 17.08, 18.23, 19.08, 20.10 or 21.46) and Paddington (as above under (B)).

Little Imber on the Downe, 7 miles from any towne.
Bookended by indifferent, tarmac-heavy urban stretches through Westbury and Warminster, this walk is a fascinating journey across the Imber Live Firing Range on Salisbury Plain, an accidental wilderness due to having been MoD property since 1898, and out-of-bounds for most of the year, apart from short stand downs over Christmas and Easter and for some weeks in August (most years). Imber village itself was abandoned in 1943 at five weeks’ notice to be used for training house-to-house combat in preparation for the invasion of Continental Europe and is one of the most haunting and evocative places visited on any SWC walk. Imber Church will be open 11.00-16.00 hours today, an Easter Egg Hunt is scheduled for noon (i.e. before we arrive, unfortunately).
Either side of the Plain the route conquers five hills, three of which with notable remnants of Iron Age hillfort sites: Bratton Camp, Scratchbury Camp and Battlesbury Camp, and also passes Wiltshire’s largest White Horse, at Westbury. You get superb views across Salisbury Plain and of the surrounding countryside of Wiltshire and Somerset.
Shorter walks, starting from Bratton or Edington, or finishing in Heytesbury, involve short taxi journeys, due to the buses not running on Sundays.

Note 1: Before embarking on this walk, please read the chapters on Public Safety and Access Rights on Salisbury Plain/Imber Range and on General Health & Safety Rules for military areas and ranges on page 2 in the walk directions pdf.
Note 2: These rare Open Days on the Imber Range are very popular; we may be the only walkers in Imber when we get there, but there will be lots of other people coming by car or bike.

Picnic lunch (although there will be hot drinks and biscuits sold at Imber Church (14.4 km/9.0 mi)).
For the tea options in Heytesbury and Warminster check page 2 of the walk directions pdf. T=swc.286

For the walk directions, a map, a height profile, gpx/kml files and photos click here.


Thomas G said...

Intend going.

Stargazer said...

After scratching my head on this for a while this morning, I concluded that perhaps the optimal mix of flexibility and cost would be to do a groupsave GWR return to Warminster. A groupsave allows groups of 3-9 to travel off-peak with a 1/3 discount and is not limited to the SE network. The only hitch being that you would need to coordinate and return together on the same train.... I will plan to be at the ticket window around 8:40ish on Sunday for anyone who would like to join together for a groupsave ticket....Happy Easter....

Stargazer said...

A select group of n=2 assembled at the ticket office to purchase groupsave tickets (ending up with Newbury split tickets instead) and ultimately emerged into w=blazing-bright-sunshine at Westbury. Quickly leaving Westbury behind we soon launched up a steep hill towards a very handsome white horse and the ramparts and barrows of an iron age hill fort. Atop the hill, we were rewarded with stunning views far and wide and briefly parted company to explore different routes, regrouping to commence our traverse across the high rolling landscape of Salisbury Plain -- rich with grasses, flowers (loads of dandelions) and birds. Eventually, we reached the perimeter of the Imber Range which we initially skirted around before infiltrating. The terrain within the range was mainly wild rolling grasslands marked with the occasional tank track (and tank), archaeological site, grove of trees and military training structure. Nestled in a crease of the landscape and comprised of a combination of haunting remains and newer purpose built training structures, Imber Village presented a poignant reminder of the cost of military conflict. The church offered a small array of much welcomed refreshments (personally, I think a pop-up pub in the remains of the village pub would be a great (and lucrative) addition to the range open days) and had a very interesting and informative exhibition on the history of the village with a number of fascinating photos of the original village. Some clouds gathered on the horizon as we set off to complete our journey across the range towards 4 small hills in the distance (thankfully the near/middle distance). Leaving the range we passed by a cow and calf nursery with many new arrivals and several expectant mothers and descended into the valley bottom before gently ascending and following a ridge along the 4 little hilltops seen from afar (two of which had impressive remains of iron age hill forts). The route along this ridge offered further fantastic views across the countryside both near and far (including glimpses of the Isle of Wight) and back towards Imber Range before eventually descending from the fort ramparts into Warminster. We grabbed a quick bite from one of the various options available and caught the 19:44, arriving back in London just before 22:00.

All in all a rich and rewarding day out!