Savernake Forest


Savernake Forest


9 miles (14.5kms)

213ft (65m)

About the walk

On a chalk plateau above Marlborough on the northeast edge of Salisbury Plain, Savernake consists of 2,750 acres (1,114ha) of mixed woodland managed by the Forestry Commission. In the Middle Ages, it was a wilderness of bracken and heathland and had been a royal hunting ground from long before the Norman Conquest. It was William the Conqueror who appointed the first hereditary warden, Richard Esturmy, and subsequent kings of England hunted deer in the forest glades.

The Seymours

In the 15th century a daughter of the Esturmy family married into the Seymour family who then became wardens of Savernake. In 1535, Jane Seymour was introduced to King Henry VIII by her father, Sir John. Local tradition has it that Henry VIII married Jane at Savernake. Jane's brother, Edward Seymour, became warden in 1536 and was created Protector of the Realm, the Duke of Somerset, on Henry VIII's death in 1547. He persuaded Henry's successor King Edward to transfer the ownership of Savernake to the Seymour family. In 1676 it passed by marriage to the Bruce family and so to the present owner, the Marquis of Ailesbury. Tottenham House was first built in 1742, but the existing (and fourth) construction was built in 1820.

Eighteenth-century landscaping

Although a large part of the forest was enclosed during the early 17th century, much of it decayed due to the lack of replanting following increased timber demands for shipbuilding. Few trees were declared fit for building use by a naval surveyor in 1675. Today's forest was the inspiration of landscape gardener 'Capability' Brown. He planned the 4-mile (6.4km) Grand Avenue that cuts north to south, and the eight lesser beech avenues leading to the forest centre. Originally intended to be formal, it now has an air of informality, with young broad-leaved trees and tall pines intermingling with the surviving great beeches and ancient pollarded oaks.

Walk directions

From the car park, turn right, then almost immediately left past a wooden barrier. Follow the wooded path for 500yds (457m), then bear right to reach the A346. Cross over near an old milestone and take the track beyond a wooden barrier, signed to Tottenham House.

In 150yds (137m), at a major crossing of routes, turn right and, after a similar distance, keep left at a junction where the path runs straight on. Follow this straight track (which can be very muddy in places) for 0.75 miles (1.2km) to The Column.

Approaching it, turn left and follow the track for 0.8 miles (1.25km) to a junction with Grand Avenue. Turn right and follow it for just over 0.5 miles (800m) to the road. Turn left, pass Warren Lodge and take the next right turning for St Katharine's Church.

Beyond the church turn right at the sign for Durley. Pass through trees and beyond a gate, then continue to a stile beyond the woodland. Walk ahead and over another stile. Cross parkland and woodland and the drive to Tottenham House, then cross a stile to reach open parkland and go over another stile ahead and continue to the road.

Turn left, walk through the hamlet of Durley and keep to the lane across the old railway bridge, then the main railway bridge, and shortly take the footpath on the right, waymarked 'Wootton Rivers'. You are now walking above the Kennet and Avon Canal as it passes through the Bruce Tunnel.

Walk down some steps, pass through a narrow and low tunnel under the railway line and join the canal tow path just below the entrance to the Bruce Tunnel. Turn left along the tow path for about 1.5 miles (2.4km), passing beneath the A346 at Burbage Wharf to reach Cadley Lock.

Turn right over bridge No. 105 and follow the metalled track to a T-junction. Turn right and keep to the road, passing two dismantled railway bridges, back to the car park at Hat Gate.

Additional information

Woodland tracks, tow path, bridle paths, country lanes, several stiles

Forest, farmland, canal

Parts of Savernake Forest have signs requesting dogs be kept on lead; off lead along tow path

OS Explorer 157 Marlborough & Savernake Forest

Hat Gate 8 picnic area off A346 south of Marlborough

None on route

<p>There are thieves in the area – be sure not to leave valuables on display</p>

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About the area

Discover Wiltshire

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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