It was an important and historic day for Wiltshire when we recorded the podcast as we waited for the decision of the courts on the judicial review of the Government’s decision to build the A303 tunnel past Stonehenge and the Winterbourne Stoke bypass. Will the courts allow the legal change against the process for arriving at the decision to build, or will they decide the process was not legal? Will it be the end of decades of wrangling? Whatever your view, the decision will be known by the time the podcast goes live. But either way today will be remembered for generations to come as the day that Glyn and Paul recorded Episode 16 of the Hidden Wiltshire podcast!
But first a roundup of the last two weeks in Wiltshire. In fact it’s four weeks since we recorded as Episode 15 was put together before Paul left for his trip to Shetland and Orkney. Whilst he was unable to share his thousands of holiday snaps (mercifully this is an audio production) Paul did share his thoughts about the connections between the truly remarkable prehistoric sites on Orkney (such as Skara Brae, the Ring of Brodgar, the Ness of Brodgar, the Stones of Stenness and countless more) and the many monuments we have in Wiltshire. The craftsmanship and technology exhibited in the dwellings built by Neolithic man at Skara Brae in particular are astonishing considering they date from around 3300 BC. They include a drainage system more advanced than that used in Medieval Britain some 4,800 years later.
Whilst Paul galivanted around Scotland, Glyn held the fort in Wiltshire. The latest Hidden Wiltshire guided walk with Wiltshire Museum was to one of our favourite spots at Bratton and Luccombe Springs where Glyn met the owner of Luccombe Mill. His disagreements with various parties over rights of way across his land has given him a degree of notoriety but it seems he has improved access to the Springs and has ambitious plans for a couple of old pumping stations there.
Glyn posted a new walk on the Hidden Wiltshire website (link below) taking in the Gallops at Beckhampton and discovering a new (to us) clump at Witches Plantation. Despite its proximity to the A4 it’s possible to find yourself alone in this stunning and, of course historic, landscape.
Glyn has also been flying his drone again recently and has posted some stunning aerial footage and stills on the Facebook Page and in the Facebook Group for contributors.
Then on to the main subject of this episode. This sort of follows a walk Paul did in March 2019 on the Pewsey Downs to the east of the Pewsey Downs car park between Walkers Hill and Knap Hill. Despite Glyn’s insistence we will not be calling this episode of the podcast “Golden Balls”! The blog Paul wrote (linked below) about the walk was entitled “Knap Hill, Medieval Shaw, Huish and Oare in the Pewsey Downs”. A snappy little title but maybe in need of abbreviation? Just not to “Golden Balls”, despite Golden Ball Hill being on the route.
You’ll need to listen to the podcast or read the blog to understand the reference to Medieval Shaw. But on a day of biblical weather Paul failed to find the site of the abandoned village of Shaw, although he was convinced at the time he had found it. He’s discovered it since which necessitated a re-drafting of the blog in December 2020 for fear of sending people on a wild goose chase.
But fear not, the amended walk is a fine one, taking in the sites of some of Wiltshire’s most ancient settlements on an escarpment that includes Neolithic Knap Hill, Mesolithic Golden Ball Hill as well as Draycott Hill, Gopher Wood and Huish Hill. Golden Ball Hill is one of the first locations where our hunter/gatherer ancestors first settled and began their long transition to farming. Finds there included three extremely rare dwellings with flint floors, post holes and hearths.
Descending to Oare and Huish we find the true essence of Hidden Wiltshire encountering incredibly lifelike sculptures of deer (they had Paul fooled), a mini Avebury stone circle and a seven foot rooster. And something we forgot to mention, the grave of David Niven’s ex-wife in the churchyard of St Mary’s, Huish. Returning to the hills you can capture views of the remarkable Oare Pavilion, a summerhouse looking like a giant wigwam in the parkland surrounding Oare House. A place of enormous wealth and privilege.
And so to the wrap up.
Steve Dixon’s piece in the middle leading into the discussion about the walk is entitled “Gatherings”, redolent perhaps of the ancient gathering places in these hills. After Glyn’s recent appearance on BBC Radio Wiltshire, who did a short feature on our podcast, Steve is also going to appear in a feature about his music. Terrific news and well deserved.
The next Hidden Wiltshire/Wiltshire Museum guided walk will be on 14 August 2021 and will be to the hills above Edington. You can get tickets using the link below.
Don’t forget to subscribe to the Hidden Wiltshire Newsletter. It’s going to move from a weekly publication to a more targeted newsletter in future, so watch out for that.
Thanks again to Tim Kington at TKC Sales, the UK distributors of Lowa walking boots and shoes, for the 20% discount on their products to Hidden Wiltshire podcast listeners. Listen to the show for the discount code. It can’t last forever! You’ll find a link to Lowa Boots’ website below.
And finally, help us keep the lights on by heading to the Hidden Wiltshire Online shop. Link below.
Glyn’s photographs can be seen on his Instagram feed @coy_cloud