A May Day meandering in West Berkshire & Wiltshire

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Lowland and Hill Walks
May 06

14 people attending

6 places left

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Distance is 11 miles; total ascent is 168m; terrain is dirt, grass, chalk and tarmac.

After what seems to have been a period of perpetual rain, spring is finally here! 

This Lowland and Hill Walk will take us through some of West Berkshire and Wiltshire’s green and varied landscape as we traverse the North Wessex Downs.

Our walk commences in West Berkshire from the market town of Hungerford. We’ll be taking the tow path along the Kennett and Avon canal before heading North (and into Wiltshire) towards Cake Wood, and onto Littlecote Park. 

Littlecote Park is home to Littlecote House, a Grade I-listed Tudor manor, here also exist the remains of a Roman villa dating back to 60AD. We will stop here for a packed lunch, and if of interest, the villa remains can be explored.

After lunch we embark on a moderate climb of 167 metres, the ascent offers a view of the village of Ramsbury. Our decent takes us back towards Hungerford through the Ramsbury Estate a 19,000 acre expanse of mainly farming and forestry. You may have heard of the Ramsbury Estate through their production of ale and sprits which are produced on the estate itself. Sadly, this event does not include a visit to the distillery or brewery, we will however have a chance for a glass of liquid refreshment once back in Hungerford.

For the final stretch back to Hungerford we re-join the canal towpath, crossing Freemans Marsh which is 90 acres of wildlife habitat and home to the gently winding chalk stream of the River Dun. 

Underfoot our walk is mainly dirt, grass, gravel, and chalk. There will be stretch along a towpath, there will be minimal road walking. We will be crossing what can be at times a busy ‘A’ road at the start, and towards the end of the walk.

The sights:

Hungerford: An historic market town and civil parish in Berkshire, England, 8 miles (13 km) west of Newbury, 9 miles (14 km) east of Marlborough, 27 miles (43 km) north-east of Salisbury and 60 miles (97 km) west of London. The Kennet and Avon Canal passes through the town alongside the River Dun, a major tributary of the River Kennet. Hungerford is the only place in the country to have continuously celebrated Hocktide or Tutti Day (the second Tuesday after Easter). Today it marks the end of the town council's financial and administrative year, but in the past it was a more general celebration associated with the town's great patron, John of Gaunt. Its origins are thought to lie in celebrations following King Alfred's expulsion of the Vikings. The "Bellman" (or town crier) summons the Commoners of the town to the Hocktide Court held at Hungerford Town Hall, while two florally decorated "Tutti Men" and the "Orange Man" visit every house with commoners' rights (almost a hundred properties), accompanied by six Tutti Girls, drawn from the local school. Originally, they collected "head pennies" to ensure fishing and grazing rights. Today, they largely collect kisses from each lady of the house. In the court, the town's officers are elected for the coming year and the accounts examined. Hungerford is well known for its selection of antique shops and arcades. Recognisable from TV shows like Homes under the Hammer, Antiques Road Trip and more.

Littlecote Park: Littlecote House is a Grade I-listed Tudor manor with its earlier parts built in the 16th and 17th centuries. It has historical connections with Henry VIII when he was courting Jane Seymour and later with the Civil War. Originally owned by the Popham family

The Roman villa was initially built in about 60AD near the site of a Roman guard post covering a crossing of the River Kennet. Successively rebuilt and enlarged over the next two centuries, in its heyday it boasted 60 rooms, two thermal baths and a number of mosaic floors and hypocausts. The magnificent surviving mosaic floor was built in the mid 4th century. Its central feature depicts Orpheus, god of the underworld and musician to Apollo. It is thought that this was a homage to a religious cult associated with Apollo and Bacchus which flourished at that time. The quality of the mosaic design and the rarity of its overall configuration, with what would have been three semi-circular apses at one end, make it one of the outstanding Roman mosaics in Britain. It is now protected by a roof and there is a raised viewing platform.

The Route

Don't waste that space!

Spring walks get busy so please only book if you know you can make it. If your plans change please free up the space for someone else.

Is it dog friendly? 

Dogs are welcome on the walk, but please abide by the Countryside Code (https://tinyurl.com/rlqvp3h). Please also remember not everyone loves dogs as much as you do so please be mindful of other members.

New Members

Please feel free to join this as your first OutdoorLads event. If you have any questions then feel free to message me, or go to the "My First Event" section under "About Us".

Image / photo credits:  All images taken by the event leader with permission for ODL use.

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