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This Week's Walks - Archive

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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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Saturday, 10 August 2019

Saturday Walk - Historic Salisbury, The Chalke Valley and some Wiltshire Downs: Salisbury Circular

Length: 32.2 km (20.0 mi) [shorter walk possible, see below]
Ascent/Descent: 460m; Net Walking Time: 7 ¼ hours
Toughness: 9/10
Shorter routes, reducing the length by 5.4 km or 7.2 km respectively, are described.

Take the 09.20 Exeter St David's & Bristol Temple Meads train from Waterloo (09.27 Clapham J, 09.46 Woking), arrives Salisbury 10.42.
Return trains are on xx.21  and xx.47 to 19.47, then 20.26, 20.54, 21.26, 22.26.

This long walk explores the Chalke Valley in the Cranborne Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty to the South West of the quintessentially English Cathedral City of Salisbury. It leads out of town through the Cathedral precinct, past some of England’s finest historic houses and through the Harnham Hill suburb into open fields with far views over the Chalke Valley to distant Downs. The morning route then largely follows the Ebble River upstream in the Chalke Valley through several pretty villages in this picturesque part of Wiltshire, with three good lunch pubs and two community stores conveniently spaced out along the route.
Most of the climbing is left for the afternoon, starting with a steady ascent with splendid views into pretty coombes, from Broad Chalke up to an ancient Ox Drove on top of the Downs. A long stretch with more views from the Down into coombes and valleys follows, largely along the course of a Roman Road, before the descent back into the Chalke Valley, followed by an immediate re-ascent up another Down. A Drove Track with views into the Nadder and Wylye Valleys leads past Salisbury’s Race Course and through the steep Harnham Slope Nature Reserve to tea at Harnham’s charming Old Mill.
From there the route back to the station goes through the town’s Water Meadows and provides ‘Britain’s Best View’ (Country Life magazine): Salisbury Cathedral across the meadows.

Lunch: The White Hart in Bishopstone (11.9 km/7.4 mi, food to 14.30), The Queens Head in Broad Chalke (15.4 km/9.6 mi, food to 14.15 only!).
Tea: The Old Mill at Harnham (1.0 km from the end of the walk), plus a couple of Indian restos by the station and lots of choice in Salisbury’s City Centre (a little off-route).

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

1 comment:

Thomas G said...

And we were lucky!
We were lucky that the route stays in the valley bottom most of the morning, when the wind was/seemed strongest and we were walking into it, but stays on the downs most of the afternoon when the wind came from behind and was/seemed a bit weaker anyway.
We were lucky to have been fast enough to not have to abandon the idea of going on to the third pub in Broad Chalke, despite their website saying they had shortened food service hours and it might have been tight had we walked any much slower.
We were lucky that said pub was under new management and was having its first day of food service after a refurbishment (lucky escape for the walk poster), and that the food was great (6 had food there)! And the people were nice!
So, no rain, a fierce wind that never inhibited us much, no falling branches or other threats. Salisbury Old Town and Cathedral plus the Harnham leafy suburb were passed quickly and we dived into the open countryside after 30 mins or so. Soon enough we were into the Chalke Valley (of the River Ebble) and followed it upstream, with delight. River meanders, mill streams, watercress beds, thatched cottages, quiet hamlets, interesting churches (the cruciform St' John the Baptist, Bishopstone and the Grade I St. Mary & St. Lawrence, Stratford Tony especially), thatched walls! but also the same old over-excited cattle herd just before Bishopstone (although of course it must be different animals than 2 years ago) and - after lunch - shady droves, very pretty coombes, cereal fields swaying in the breeze, Salisbury Racecourse, Harnham Hill and the River Meadows in Salisbury near the end.
Inbetween there had been a longish stretch with the sweet smell of manure present without us being able to point to its cause, very irritating that was, and we had passed the by now familiar stretch near the racecourse which is a fly-tipping heaven.
Some of the 8 Main Walk-punters were getting a bit weary near the end, so the wonderful Old Mill at Harnham, 15 minutes from the end, came just in time to lift the spirits. There we met the shortcutters (1 had done the medium walk, 3 the short walk). All early finishers (the shortcutters plus 2 of the main walkers) ended up on the same train though anyway, due to theirs being terminated at Basingstoke with various faults...
Perefct time of the year for this walk in my view: the cereal fields are either still up in their golden prime or already harvested to stubble but not yet ploughed, pastures are green but not overgrown, the river is clear (it always is, admittedly) and flowing fast but there are no muddy paths anywhere.
And as Dr. Botanicus was on the walk, I can tell you what we saw apart from cows and sheep: kestrel, buzzard, pheasant, red admiral, meadow brown, assorted other butterflies, a large flock of/a murmuration of starlings/birds, clover, toadflax, dodder, hedge woundwort, blackberries, sloes, elderberries, beeches, poplars, willows (pollarded and not), elms, ash, field maple, limes, sycamore and hornbeams.
Did I say it was a nice day out in nice company? 19.21 train for the laggards.
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