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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.

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Sunday, 18 August 2019

Sunday Walk - A White Horse, three Iron Age Hillforts & the Imber Live Firing Range on Salisbury Plain: Westbury to Warminster

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 today]

Take the 09.00 Penzance train from Paddington (09.34 Reading, 09.49 Newbury), arriving Westbury at 10.22.
Return trains: fast walkers may get the 17.44 from Warminster, but realistically the 18.23  or subsequent trains are the most likely return trains.

Ticketing is somewhat complicated, as both stations are outside the Network Southeast area, here are the options, ranked by expense:
(A) Cheapest will be Advance Tickets (currently £25.50 for the outbound train from Paddington and £14.20 for the 18.23 return to Waterloo, at full price, lower still with Railcards).
(B) Split Tickets (London-Newbury return + Newbury-Warminster return) are an option, but you will have to travel back via Westbury to Paddington, and on a train that stops at Newbury! The Network Railcard is valid to Newbury. The same logic applies to tickets split at Reading.
(C) GWR-only Off-Peak Warminster Return - you have to return to Paddington  (and change at Westbury or Swindon).
(D) Off-Peak Warminster Return - valid on all returns into Waterloo and Paddington.

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 days 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 11.00-15.30 hours today.
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. Please stay out of the cordoned off areas, even if others don’t! The MOD have threatened to stop Open Days completely if people keep straying into those areas.

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. T=swc.286

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


Stargazer said...

For those of a more spontaneous nature who did not book advance tickets....I will flag that we can use groupsave tickets on these trains....with a savings of 34%, it makes the return to Warminster roughly 37 pounds...We can take any of the return trains on offer (as long as "our group" takes the same one)….I plan to be at the Paddington ticket office or in the ticket line at 8:40 AM on Sunday for anyone interested in buying a groupsave together (we need 3 minimum)….

branchline said...

I'll be coming along on this walk and hope to join in the group saver ticket group.

Stargazer said...

Great! See you at the ticket office...

Thomas G said...

The forecast was spot on: the morning rain had stopped when we stepped off the train, the rest of the day was either sunny or overcast, until we had half an hour of on-and-off rain near the end. The train was (of course) delayed and the decision by the MOD to only allow 4 Open Days this year meant that Imber and the roads/tracks leading to it were much busier than in past years. (Imber is now offering an audioguided tour as well...!]
The morning rain and subsequent strong-ish winds meant that the far views were superb today, so much so that for the first time over the various recce and group walks I have done, from the White Horse Hill above Westbury I could see the ridge on the other side of the Vale of Pewsey in full detail: Tan Hill/Milk Hill, Alton Barnes White Horse, Pewsey Downs to Martinsell Hill...
Some felt that the long tracks and some tarmac on the Plain en route and away from Imber were too long for comfort, but - it is what it is, and the beauty of hills, coombes, ridges and hillfort sites either side of the Plain surely made up for any hardship? On the Plain: plenty of wildflowers, poppies, flowering thistles...
The front 4 got to Warminster with time to spare for a swift one at The Old Bell Inn, the others went straight to the station, all making the 18.23 to W'loo.
3 with Advance Tickets, 4 on the GroupSave Ticket, 1 other with an Advance missed the train (that much we know), but we don't know what she did next, so n=7, w=half-sunny-half-overcast-with-some-rain

Frankie said...

The one who missed the train by 10 minutes ended up at Westbury at 13.00, just 2 hours 40 minutes later than the rest of the group. Sunday travel. She did the full walk with all the extensions and amazing views, got drenched after failing to visit Imber Church (closed for a concert) but was rewarded with some lovely evening sunshine on the last three hills. Home at 23.30.

Anonymous said...