Of all the valleys that radiate out from Salisbury, the Ebble must be the most peaceful and unspoilt. Time seems to have passed by the valley and its string of tranquil villages, for it’s free from busy main roads and their associated developments. This is particularly true in the upper Ebble Valley close to Cranborne Chase and the Dorset border, where the 13-mile (21km) chalk stream rises. Here, tortuous narrow lanes link isolated farmsteads, hamlets and villages, hidden and protected in the folds of the steeply rising chalk hills.
Alvediston and Ebbesbourne Wake
Norrington Manor and the nearby village of Alvediston date back to medieval times. They were associated with one of the oldest families in England, the Gawens, said to be descended from the legendary knight Sir Gawain, of King Arthur’s Round Table. The original manor house was built in the time of Richard II and the Gawens completed the building after 1377. Much of the striking 14th-century stone building still stands, with some 17th-century additions. Memorials to the Gawen family, and the Wyndham family who succeeded them at Norrington after 450 years, can be seen in St Mary’s Church at Alvediston, which was rebuilt in 1866 and overlooks peaceful water-meadows.
Ebbesbourne Wake nestles beside the intermittently flowing Ebble stream at the base of the downs, oblivious to 21st-century hustle and bustle. A collection of neat thatched cottages congregates around the 15th-century church, which stands on a hill, and close to the gem of a simple and unspoilt village inn – the Horseshoe.
Following the Herepath
For hundreds, even thousands of years, this hilltop track, known as the Herepath or Salisbury Way, was one of main highways linking Salisbury to the west, especially for pilgrims travelling to the abbeys at Wilton and Shaftesbury. In later years the route was used by horse-drawn coaches on route from London to Exeter, until improved road-making techniques in the 19th century made it possible for a new road to be built in the Nadder Valley. Its importance in the earliest days can be traced through the presence of earthworks, barrows, tumuli and, a little way east, the Iron Age settlement of Chiselbury Camp. It is now a deserted grassy track providing a fine panorama to the north across the broad, undulating and wooded Nadder Valley, and south down steep dry valleys into the narrow Ebble Valley and to lofty chalk downland beyond.
Head west along the arrowed byway, the Herepath (can be flooded after heavy rain). Emerge from the copse and take the bridleway left. Descend into the Ebble Valley, keeping to the narrow enclosed path to a gate. Continue ahead down the field-edge, following the track through two gates to Norrington Manor.
Cross the track and walk between farm buildings. Where the farm track veers right, cross the stile on your left and keep to the left-hand field-edge to a stile in the corner. Cross the track and take the path ahead through the valley bottom to a gate. Keep to the left through the field to a stile and lane in Alvediston.
Turn right and continue along the lane to visit the thatched Crown Inn. Retrace your steps past the stile and turn right along the drive up to St Mary’s Church. When you have explored this, return down the drive and go through the field gate at the bottom. Keep to the path ahead across two fields to a gate and enter the hamlet of West End.
At the road, turn right across the stream, then immediately left and follow the lane witth the stream on your left. At a fork, bear left along Duck Street, then, as it begins to dip left, fork right along a footpath to reach the church in Ebbesbourne Wake.
By the lychgate, bear left to the lane and turn right to visit the 17th-century Horseshoe pub. Otherwise, hook back left down Duck Street. At the bottom, take the footpath right, cross the bridge over the Ebble and climb the stile on your left. Follow the path diagonally right up the slope to a stile. Cross the road and the stile opposite, then bear left up the field-edge. Climb steadily, with Prescombe Down opening out on your right. Go through the metal gate on the left and continue ascending along a track to a field gate. Continue ahead, following the field-edge, crossing two stiles as you pass beside a thicket, then turn right along a byway.
At a crossing of tracks at the top, turn sharp left and follow the rutted Herepath for about a mile (1.6km) back to the car parking area, with the steep escarpment of Swallowcliffe Down to your right.
Byways, field paths, bridle paths, metalled lanes, several stiles
Chalk downland and river valley
Will need to be lifted over some stiles; lead required around livestock and in village streets
OS Explorer 118 Shaftesbury & Cranborne Chase
On top of Swallowcliffe Down, where Herepath byway crosses a minor road between Ansty and Alvediston
None on route
Walking in safety
Read our tips to look after yourself and the environment when following this walk.
Also in the area
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.