Walking in the North Wessex Downs
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30 walking routes exploring the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). The routes are between 7 and 20km through this peaceful rolling chalk landscape covering parts of four counties: Berkshire, Hampshire, Wiltshire and Oxfordshire, with descriptions to reach the highest points in each one.
- All year round. Spring and early summer are best for wild flowers, butterflies and birds; in autumn the trees are splashed in golden-brown autumnal colours, while a frosty winter's day can give impressive clear views
- Marlborough, Lambourn, Great Bedwyn, Dorchester on Thames, Hungerford, Pewsey, Kingsclere The walks are accessible from the following towns outside of the area: Didcot, Wantage, Swindon, Calne, Devizes, Andover, Basingstoke, Newbury and Reading
- Walks to suit most ages and abilities; no difficulties apart from some short steep uphill and downhill sections; can be muddy in winter
- Must See
- Panoramic views, the highest points in Berkshire, Hampshire, Wiltshire and Oxfordshire; the rivers Thames, Kennet, Pang and Lambourn; picturesque villages with thatched cottages, historic churches and cosy pubs. Prehistoric sites; Avebury, the Uffington White Horse, Neolithic and Bronze Age long barrows and Iron Age hill forts.
This guidebook to 30 walks in the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) explore walking routes between 7 and 20km in length, through Berkshire, Hampshire, Wiltshire and Oxfordshire.
The name 'Wessex' brings to mind Alfred the Great, Saxon hordes and chalk downs sculpted into ancient forts. And while that is all true, the North Wessex Downs are also accessible hills that rise above the towns and rural plains of southern England and roll gently west from Reading and Basingstoke to Swindon and down past Malborough to Andover.
From chalk white horses, to Avebury hill fort, neolithic barrows, ancient villages tucked next to babbling rivers in the shadow of the Downs and long panoramic views from county high-points; the walks in this guidebook offer fantastic half and full days for walkers of all abilities. Alongside detailed route descriptions and OS maps, is a wealth of detail on points of interest along the way, as well as practical information on the area from public transport links, to ideal refreshment stops on each walk. The result is an ideal companion to exploring both the popular and untouched corners of the North Wessex Downs.
Plants and wildlife
Where to stay
Food and drink
Walking in the North Wessex Downs
Waymarking, access and rights of way
Protecting the countryside
Using this guide
Berkshire Downs East
Walk 1 Chapel Row, Bucklebury and Stanford Dingley
Walk 2 Ashampstead and Yattendon
Walk 3 Aldworth
Walk 4 Shillingford, Wittenham Clumps and Dorchester on Thames
Walk 5 Blewbury and the Astons
Walk 6 West Ilsley and Farnborough
Walk 7 Ardington and the Hendreds
Walk 8 Great Shefford, Chaddleworth and East Garston
Walk 9 Lambourn and Eastbury
Walk 10 The Ridgeway and the Letcombe villages
Walk 11 Compton Beauchamp, Woolstone and the Uffington White Horse
Walk 12 Ashbury and Bishopstone
Walk 13 Ramsbury and Littlecote
Walk 14 Mildenhall and the River Kennet
Walk 15 Marlborough and Savernake Forest
Walk 16 Ogbourne St Andrew, Rockley and Barbury Castle
Walk 17 Fyfield Down and the Devil’s Den
Walk 18 Avebury
Vale of Pewsey
Walk 19 Cherhill and Oldbury Castle
Walk 20 Heddington, Oliver’s Castle, Roundway Down and Morgan’s Hill
Walk 21 Alton Barnes and the Wansdyke
Walk 22 Knap Hill and Oare
Walk 23 Martinsell Hill and Wootton Rivers
Walk 24 Great Bedwyn and Wilton
North Hampshire Downs
Walk 25 Tidcombe and Hippenscombe Bottom
Walk 26 Inkpen and Walbury Hill
Walk 27 Ashmansworth and Faccombe
Walk 28 St Mary Bourne and the Bourne Valley
Walk 29 Ecchinswell and Ladle Hill
Walk 30 Kingsclere and Hannington
Appendix A Route summary table
Appendix B Useful contacts
Appendix C Further reading
The Ordnance Survey (OS) offer two series of maps – the 1:50,000 (2cm to 1km) Landranger series and the more detailed 1:25,000 (4cm to 1km) Explorer series. The OS maps covering the North Wessex Downs AONB are:
- Landranger: 173, 174, 175 and 185
- Explorer: 130, 131, 144, 157, 158, 159 and 170
This guide features extracts of the OS 1:50,000 Landranger series of maps with overlays showing the route, along with any detours or short-cuts. It is advisable to always carry the relevant Explorer map with you when walking.
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"I have a fondness for the format of Cicerone guide books. They are clearly written, a handy size to drop
into a map pocket and, best of all for me, they use Ordnance Survey mapping. I also have a fondness
for Steve Davison’s books. He enriches the essential practicalities of the walking routes with numerous
interesting digressions on the villages, the churches, the wildlife, the geology and the history through
which you pass. I was already familiar with a number of the 30 walks in the book but was inspired to
try a few new ones. In every case they proved enjoyable and the descriptions in the book proved
accurate and informative.
In any book review it is usual to find fault with something. Praise is usually followed by a “but…….”.
Here I have no reservations.
I recommend this book to those familiar and unfamiliar with the North
Wessex Downs. The walks are between just over 4 miles to 12 miles in length, with varying degrees of
severity. There is something for everyone. Beg, borrow or steal a copy, put your boots on and get out
into this wonderful countryside.”
Ian Ritchie, Friends of the Ridgeway, October 2015
Steve Davison is a writer and photographer who has lived in Berkshire for over 25 years. He has written a number of books as well as articles for magazines and national and local newspapers, specialising in hill-walking and UK and European travel, and counts nature, geology and the countryside among his particular interests. A keen hill-walker for many years, and a Mountain Leader, Steve has also worked as a part-time outdoor education instructor. He is also a member of the Outdoor Writers and Photographers Guild.View Articles and Books by Steve Davison
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