In this episode we explore the expanse of Fyfield Down, searching out both hidden natural and human phenomena. There was so much to see and find that we went twice, and in the process recorded our first outside broadcast.
But first, in our catch up on the last two weeks in Wiltshire, Glyn regales us with far too much information about his feet, and reviews the first of Hidden Wiltshire’s walks in conjunction with Wiltshire Museum. The glory of these walks is that we are accompanied by a proper archaeologist who actually knows what he’s talking about as opposed to Glyn and Paul’s distinctly amateurish interpretations. Details of the programme of walks and tickets can be found on Wiltshire Museum’s website using the link below.
We also welcome the arrival of the orchid season as we wave goodbye to bluebells. The cold, wet early spring seems to have delayed the orchids by about three weeks.
We then head off to Fyfield Down following in the footsteps of Paul’s walk about which he posted a blog on the website on 27 May 2021. You can follow the route using the map in the blog. This is a walk with numerous options both for the route itself and for the start/finish point. Paul’s walk begins and ends at West Overton Church to the south of the River Kennet and the A4 but you can cut this out and park on Fyfield Down near Manton House (SU 15872 69955) if you want to head straight to the Down. However, if you wish to take in the River Kennet and the lovely villages south of the river a better place to park would be the village hall in Lockeridge, on the road between Lockeridge and West Overton.
Fyfield Down is yet another Wiltshire landscape steeped in history, characterised by the sarsen stones used by prehistoric man for construction. But the stones themselves are the product of various ice ages. Man made extensive use of these stones and there are examples dotted around the Down where prehistoric man has left his mark on them, including the Polisher and the Cup Marked Stone. Since Paul failed to find these, and the Toad Stone, during his walk he and Glyn returned one evening to find them and to record their search for the podcast.
We also visit the mysterious Beech Circle and the ruined house called The Delling, 100 metres from Delling Copse next to the Herepath. The Beech Circle appears to be the location for some mystical ceremonies, whilst The Delling was offered for sale as part of a large estate in recent years with the promise of a “project” for someone with DIY skills. It looks like there were no takers! Somewhere between the Beech Circle and nearby Totterdown Wood is the Cup Marked Stone. Somewhere! But the wood provided one last glimpse of bluebells together with another ruined building and a dew pond.
From here we head across the ancient field systems on Fyfield Down towards the Valley of the Stones. Glyn wrote a blog about his visit here in 2018 and you will find his fabulous aerial photographs in the link below, including an incredible shot of the Valley of the Stones. Itself.
Of course the highlight of man’s activity here is the Devil’s Den dolmen burial chamber. Like a miniature Stonehenge trilithon it’s easy to miss (Paul did when he first walked here in 2017) but once you know where to look it’s easy to find, unlike the Cup Marked Stone that we failed to find!
The walk re-crosses the busy A4 and the River Kennet by Clatford Hall, a robust looking 16th century manor house partially built from sarsens. You may be lucky and find yourself in the Who’d A Thought It pub in Lockeridge on your way back. Sadly when Paul passed a week or so ago it was closed but during his previous visit found it to be a fine way to end the walk.
We finish with the usual housekeeping. A reminder about the Hidden Wiltshire Online shop (link below) and a reminder about the offer to listeners of the podcast from Lowa Boots UK. You’ll need to listen to the podcast for details of how you can save 20% on their walking boots and shoes.
The music and sounds in the podcast are provided by the multi-talented Steve Dixon. The piece in the Introduction is entitled “The Holloway”, whilst the piece introducing us to the walk is entitled “Downland”, a piece we’ve used before but one that seemed entirely appropriate for this walk.
Glyn’s photographs can be seen on his Instagram feed @coy_cloud