The Lansdowne has a bright and fresh appearance, with an open-plan bar and dining areas which…
Nestling on the upper slopes of Wick Hill, surrounded by lush pastureland, isolated farmsteads and leafy lanes, tiny Bremhill is a timeless downland village complete with an ancient church, a fine stepped medieval cross and a single street lined with pretty ragstone cottages. Surprisingly, for such a pastoral area, there is much to interest the casual rambler undertaking this short walk, in addition to the absorbing views across the north Wiltshire plain to the Cotswold hills from the mile-long (1.6km) stretch of bridle path across Wick Hill.
William Lisle Bowles – rector and poet
The Reverend William Lisle Bowles (1762–1850), rector of St Martin's Church in Bremhill from 1803 to 1844, lived in the vicarage, now Bremhill Court, adjacent to the church. Bowles was not only an eccentric, filling his garden with grottoes, urns and hermitages and keeping sheep in the churchyard with their bells tuned in thirds and fifths, he was also a poet. His literary friends, such as Wordsworth, Coleridge, Southey and Charles Lamb, were all part of the considerable literary circle centred upon Bowood House. Although much of his poetry was derided, it was his now forgotten sonnets, published in nine editions, that influenced the whole school of poetry and gained admiration from Coleridge and Wordsworth. Scour the churchyard and you will find some examples of Bowles' poetry, as this eccentric vicar was unable to resist breaking into verse on tombstones, monuments and even a sundial!
One of Bowles' less impressive verses is inscribed on the monument you will pass on top of Wick Hill. Erected by Bowles and the Marquis of Lansdowne in 1838, it commemorates Maud Heath, a local widow, who in 1474 made a bequest of land and property in Chippenham to provide an income to build and maintain a causeway from Wick Hill through the Avon marshes to Chippenham, a distance of around 4.5 miles (7.2km). Although starting from the top of a hill, much of the land along the route was low lying and prone to flooding in winter, so her aim was to provide a dry pathway for country people to walk to market.
For much of its route the Causeway is little more than a raised path, but the most interesting section can be found at Kellaways, where the way is elevated some 6ft (1.8m) on stone arches as it crosses the River Avon, a remarkable feat of engineering for its time.
On top of the monument on Wick Hill, Maud is depicted in a shawl and bonnet with her basket by her side. Although she has been described as a market woman, it seems unlikely that a lady wealthy enough to provide land and property on this scale would have been walking to market herself. You will see the beginning of the Causeway as you cross the hilltop road where a tablet states 'From this Wick Hill begins the praise of Maud Heath's gift to these highways'.
With your back to the church, turn right and walk downhill through the village of Bremhill. Begin to climb and take the arrowed path left to go through a gate. Proceed straight on below the bank along the field-edge to a stile in the corner. Bear diagonally right, heading uphill over two stiles to a lane.
Cross the stile opposite and cross a paddock to a further stile. Bear slightly left to a stile in the field corner and walk along the left-hand edge to a stile. In the next field look out for and pass over a stile on your left and head straight across the field to a gate and lane.
Turn left, then immediately bear right to a gate. Join the waymarked bridle path along the right-hand field-edge to a gate. Maintain direction through several fields and gates to reach the monument to Maud Heath on top of Wick Hill.
Continue to cross a lane via gates, passing the stone tablet and inscription identifying the beginning of Maud Heath's Causeway. Follow the bridle path along the crest of the hill through seven fields via gates and bear left before woodland to reach a gate and lane at the top of Bencroft Hill.
Turn left, pass Bencroft Farm and a bungalow, continue on the lane, then take the waymarked path right, through woodland, bearing left on nearing a gate to cross a stile. Proceed straight across the field on a defined path, cross a stile and remain on the path, keeping to the right of the pasture to reach a stile to the left of a bungalow.
Turn left along the lane, heading uphill to a junction beside the Dumb Post Inn. Turn right, then left along the drive to a thatched cottage. Go through a squeeze stile and keep to the left-hand edge of the field through a gate and stile to reach a stile in the field corner. Walk in front of Manor Farm to reach a gate leading into Bremhill churchyard. Bear right along the path back to your car.
Field paths, bridle paths, metalled roads, many stiles
Gently rolling farmland, downland escarpment
Keep dogs on leads at all times
AA Leisure Map 15 Swindon & Devizes
None on route
WALKING IN SAFETY
Read our tips to look after yourself and the environment when following this walk.
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About the area
A land shrouded in mystery, myth and legend, Wiltshire evokes images of ancient stone circles, white chalk horses carved into hillsides, crop circles and the forbidden, empty landscape of Salisbury Plain. To many M4 and A303 drivers heading out of London through the clutter of the Thames Valley, Wiltshire is where the landscape opens out and rural England begins.
Wiltshire’s charm lies in the beauty of its countryside. The expansive chalk landscapes of the Marlborough and Pewsey downs and Cranborne Chase inspire a sense of space and freedom, offering miles of uninterrupted views deep into Dorset, Somerset and the Cotswolds. Wiltshire’s thriving market towns and picturesque villages provide worthwhile visits and welcome diversions. Stroll through quaint timbered and thatched villages in the southern Woodford and Avon valleys and explore the historic streets of the stone villages of Lacock, Castle Combe and Sherston. Walk around Salisbury and discover architectural styles from the 13th century to the present and take time to visit the city’s elegant cathedral and fascinating museums. And if all of that isn’t enough, the county is also richly endowed with manor houses, mansions and beautiful gardens.
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