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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, 20 June 2020

Saturday Walk - Stonehenge without the Tourists, a day before the Summer Solstice (Salisbury - Amesbury)

Length: 25.1 km (15.6 mi) [shorter and longer options possible]
Ascent/Descent: 330 m
Net Walking Time: ca. 5 ½ hours
Toughness: 6 out of 10

Take the 09.20 Salisbury train from Waterloo (09.27 Clapham J., 09.46 Woking), arriving at 10.50.
Meet outside the station building in the car park, to the right as you come out (and in small groups).

Return buses from Amesbury (outside Library) to Salisbury Blue Boar Row (from 19 mins journey time): Line 8 on xx.10 hourly to 18.10, then 19.15; line X4 on  (basically) xx.01 half-hourly to 18.30, then 19.00; line X5 on xx.20 hourly to 18.20
Return trains from Salisbury: 18.21, 19.26, 20.26 and 21.42

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. [Stonehenge is closed to 4 July, so we should get excellent views of it from the right of way circling the site; Old Sarum is open for visitors, but you have to book in advance online, even if a member of English Heritage]. The ancient city of Salisbury has a fascinating history and the Visit Wiltshire website provides information about it. If you wish to visit Salisbury Cathedral this is slightly off route.

For walk directions and all options to shorten or lengthen the walk, a map, a height profile, gpx/kml files, and photos click here.

Lunch: Picnic, although some of the pubs passed may sell takeout wares.
Tea: the pubs in Amesbury may or may not sell takeout drinks and snacks, but definitely some of the cafes and pubs in Salisbury at the central square on Blue Boar Row should offer takeout drinks, hot and cold, and the Indian restaurants by the station may also sell takeout food.


Thomas G said...

Potential pinchpoints for path congestion: A - along the river in Salisbury, if Wiltshire folk have taken to shopping again in large numbers (I doubt it); B - the tracks leading up to Stonehenge by the A303, they could be full of druids and assorted other folk awaiting the solstice. In previous years Wiltshire police have done a good job in blocking those tracks to vehicles and avoiding bunch ups of campers etc. I trust they do the same even more so this year, and may even use the currently unused car park at Stonehenge for some of those folk. In the worst case, we'll have to make our way through the meadows to the side of the tracks.

Thomas G said...

14 off the train who - as requested - shuffled at distance into the space outside the station to form into subgroups. Later we were joined by another walker who had driven across from Sevenoaks to Amesbury and had taken the bus into S'bury, so n=15. The train ahd been very unbusy (I was alone in my carriage, others reported up to 7 people in their carriage), the facemask wearing ratio amongst the public was pretty high but not quite 100%. No ticket check whatsoever, same as on all other journeys I have had since lockdown started...

The faster group (all long walk regulars) set off first and were only seen again when departing from the picnic meadow outside Upper Woodford that the slowest of the three groups arrived at at that same time. The riverside path in Salisbury was kind of busy but less than usual and everyone (incl. even the cyclists!) made efforts to give way, step aside and leave space where needed. Most of the other 5 in my subgroup had never been to Old Sarum or Stonehenge, never mind on this walk, and were not long walk regulars anyway, so we ambled at the sites, I gave them my spiel about this and that sight, we enjoyed the views and in the end finished more than an hour behind the other walkers. I think/hope they all enjoyed it, although one suffered blisters, and one other had problems with a thigh muscle, slowing her down a bit. The weather was w=warm-and-humid and we thus did take several breaks, both to admire the landscape and to catch some breath. The second pub en route in Upper Woodford was indeed selling drinks but we had to take them with us straightaway, no ambling please as they had been ticked off (in a more than page long letter) by Wiltshire CC about tolerating people consuming their drinks on the benches by the river. Cue 'leading' a walk group with a bottle of Ale in hand, very stylish!

Onto Stonehenge then. As expected, the tracks leading towards it were blocked off to vehicles (as far away as Lake Bottom) and apart from a group of about 10 who were camping in a field (and having a fire going on the parched meadow!) there were no hippies, no druids, no hangouts, just no one. 2 of us here took the shortcut, and the other 4 enjoyed the very special view of Stonehenge without tourists. 2 security guards in high viz jackets were ambling in the fenced area, and several families and local daytrippers were hanging around near the fence and that was it, so it was practically deserted. Result! Very special indeed. We studied the info panels and made our way, in glorious late afternoon sunshine, up to the New Kings Barrows and - with a last view back to the stones - beyond the ridge and back down across the Avon one last time to catch the 18.20 bus.

Only one outlet on the central square in Salisbury was selling wares, but they were quite useful for the occasion: Napolitanian pizze from a diverse menu and any Italian drink you can wish for (that's a Negroni for me, pleae). 19.26 train then, on which some of the faster walkers were encountered.

Lots of skylarks in the fields, rolling verdant green landscapes with swaying cereal fields or pretty meadows, plenty of wildflowers and 3 cyclists who were halfway into their Richmond - Stonehenge - Richmond daytrip (they had left at 5.30 in the morning and expected to be back by 1.00 in the morning on Sunday).

A jolly good day out in my book.

Maggie said...

Excellent walk, great to get out in the countryside after months of lockdown. Trains and tube were very quiet so felt perfectly safe. Many thanks to Thomas for his descriptions of the sights we met on route and to my walking companions. Lovely to see Stonehenge without the masses. Lovely weather, great scenery, skylarks and wild flowers. Great day out.

Anonymous said...

Yes this was an excellent walk. Many thanks to Thomas for his explanations. We all enjoyed it and all got to see Stonehenge in the end, some at a slower pace than others, but we got there in the end! And with a little obstacle course in the dip below the lone stone (don't let the sheep out...) We didn't run into Sting, but it seems the landscape may have inspired this video, check out where it's filmed..:

PeteB said...

Given the exciting new excavations near Durrington where archaeologists have discovered Britains largest prehistoric structure comprising vast pit shafts there looks to be the future potential for developing the end of this walk or as this would make a long walk even longer developing a new walk from Amesbury incorporating both Stonehenge and this new find. Sadly around 40% of a huge ring of shafts is lost because of residential developments. Article in on-line Guardian if you want to find out more.

Liz said...

What a great day out! Apart from a little congestion on narrow paths near Salisbury, it was no problem maintaining social distance. Fascinating walk, beautiful, gently-rolling countryside, no steep inclines (apart from Old Sarum)- as mentioned above, plenty of wild life and wild flowers in an ancient landscape. Wonderful for a first visit to see Stonehenge without people. Thanks to Thomas G for his informative and assured guidance and advice on avoiding blisters in the future (liner socks). Thoroughly enjoyed the company of my fellow walkers and hope we meet again sometime.