Codford Down and Chitterne Brook

Episode 25,  Dec 05, 2021, 05:00 AM

A fit of the giggles for Glyn and Paul this week. In a break from tradition we recorded this episode in the evening and this seems to have had a disturbing effect on our sanity. But more of that later.

This week we head to the south of the county again, not far from the scene of the last podcast. We follow a walk Paul did in May 2020 which appears on the Hidden Wiltshire website and is entitled In Pursuit of Kites. You’ll find a link below.

But first, the usual round of the last two weeks in Wiltshire. 

Against his better judgement Paul attended a Christmas event. Firmly of the belief that Christmas is on 25 December, and not 25 August as Waitrose would have you believe, Paul was taken aback to find himself at the Natural England Parsonage Down Staff and Volunteers Christmas BBQ on 2 December. Far too early! Grudgingly he admitted it was a terrific day. The morning started with a tour of the Hen Harrier Project at Parsonage Down together with a really engaging talk from the staff who work on the project. This was followed by a BBQ in a copse we have been clearing over the last few weeks prior to re-planting. Despite the freezing temperatures it was a wonderful afternoon gathered around the fire feasting on locally reared English Longhorn beef (in the form of burgers) under clear blue skies.

The Hen Harrier Project team is keen to show groups around the site that has been prepared for the eventual arrival of the birds. They really are engaging and passionate speakers (the staff, not the hen harriers). Sadly they can’t accommodate visits by individuals but if you can muster a group of people they would be delighted to entertain you. School visits are welcome. Please contact Paul via the Facebook Group or Page, via the Hidden Wiltshire website or via Paul’s website (link below).

We also talked about some of our wonderful listeners including the incredible Sarah Lucas. Sarah has lived in Scotland for the last 30 years but originates from Wiltshire. She listens to the podcast which brings back fond memories of her past in the county. Sarah wrote to us to express her thanks for the podcast. To show her gratitude Sarah prepared Paul’s family tree including an Ancestry book. She will be doing Glyn’s family tree next. Sarah is purely an amateur genealogist at the moment but is thinking about taking it up full time. Meanwhile she will do commissions so if anyone is interested please contact Paul.

Talking of listeners and followers we are delighted to say we are taking orders for our new book – Hidden Wiltshire from near and far. The official launch date is Friday 10 December and a launch event is being hosted by Wiltshire Museum in Devizes where Glyn and Paul will talk about the book and sign copies. It starts at 7:30 pm and tickets, which are free, are available on the Hidden Wiltshire website where you can also order a copy of the book. You’ll find a link to the online shop below. The books are already flying out the door.

We also chatted about Paul and his usual walking buddy Stu’s walk in the far north of the county where they visited the astonishing Inglesham church. The walk dipped in and out of the neighbouring counties of Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire but the church is firmly in Wiltshire. This wasn’t Paul’s only traitorous act as he also did a walk in the hills above the lovely West Sussex town of Midhurst. Beer may have been involved courtesy of a lunch stop at the little Langham Brewery. He can thoroughly recommend their wares!

So on to the main topic. We’ve called this episode Codford Down and Chitterne Brook but it could equally have been called East Codford Down, Clay Pit Hill, Codford Circle or Oram’s Grave – all places that were visited on the way. Or maybe we could have called it “Bottoms” (listen to podcast to hear why)!

There is a link below to Paul’s blog and walk description which is dated 21 May 2020, together with a route map. The walk as shown is 11.6 kms (7.2 miles) and begins in the layby at the top of the hill on the B390 as it leaves Chitterne towards Shrewton. Once again this is an area steeped in history. But apart from the Bronze Age and Iron Age landscape we find reminders of the more recent past including the clay pit that was dug in the 17th century to provide clay for the manufacture of tobacco pipes in Amesbury, and the disturbing tale of poor James Oram who hung himself on the 25th July 1768 having suffered “disappointment in love”. As was the practice he was buried at a crossroads (in this case the junction of the Maddington-Codford and Old Sarum-Warminster roads) in order to confuse the spirits. It’s said that later his body was uncovered and a stake driven through his heart. The walk takes you right past the burial mound.

We continue up to Clay Pit Hill before heading south past the late Bronze Age/Early Iron Age hilltop enclosure of Codford Circle. The “private” signs everywhere are a warning that visitors are not welcome. But since there is little to see it’s best to stick to the old Maddington to Codford Road which slowly descends from the heights above Chitterne Brook, with its spectacular views of Codford Down and far beyond. This is a favourite haunt of red kites and buzzards, hence the title of the original blog.

It was shortly after this point in the walk description that things went awry. The story of the unexploded World War 2 hand grenade discovered in Punchbowl Bottom just outside Codford was for some inexplicable reason what prompted a moment of hysteria as Glyn and Paul struggled to stifle their giggles. They failed!

Having recovered our composure we described the remainder of the walk that follows the path of the delightful Chitterne Brook before heading back up to Clay Pit Hill just short of what remains of the Aston Valley Barrow Cemetery. The cemetery was the location of 10 bell and one bowl barrow (although little remains visible now). The walk retraces its steps from Clay Pit Hill Clump back down to Oram’s Grave before returning to the layby. This is a memorable walk with far-reaching views, perfect for a crisp clear winter’s day or in the heat of summer. Either way, if you’re lucky, the King’s Head Community Pub in Chitterne may be open by the time you do it.

Then on to the wrap up:

Steve Dixon’s piece leading to our main subject is entitled “Bee Leaf”, just because it reminds us of a warm sunny day. As ever the piece in the introduction and at the end of the podcast is entitled “The Holloway”.

Don’t forget to subscribe to the Hidden Wiltshire Newsletter from the website.

Thanks again to the ever-patient Tim Kington at TKC Sales, the UK distributors of Lowa walking boots and shoes, and for the 20% discount on their products to Hidden Wiltshire podcast listeners. Listen to the show for the discount code. At year end we’re going to discuss with Tim whether we continue with the discount. 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. The second Hidden Wiltshire book can now be ordered from the online shop.


Paul’s blog about the walk and his photographs can be found here In Pursuit of Kites. This location also features in our new Hidden Wiltshire book.

Glyn’s photographs can be seen of course on this website and on his Instagram feed @coy_cloud

Paul’s photography can be found on his website at Paul Timlett Photography and on Instagram at @tragicyclist

Steve Dixon’s sound art can be found on Soundcloud where his username is River and Rail Steve Dixon River and Rail. His photographs can be found on Instagram at @stevedixon_creative and his graphic design business website is at Steve Dixon Creative

You can find Lowa Boots UK at Lowa Boots UK

And finally you’ll find the Hidden Wiltshire online shop here Hidden Wiltshire Shop 
and a link to Glyn’s blog about the book, how to purchase a copy and how to get tickets for the launch here Hiddden Wiltshire from near and far