Wiltshire is the home of the wonderful Savernake Forest. Set off on one of these walks to enjoy the oak, beech and hazel woodland. Your scenic tour through the Savernake woods will get your feet, and your mind, whirring with possibilities.
The waterways of the Great Bedwyn Wharf are your starting zone for a 9 or 13-mile trek, depending on how far you want to push yourself. Regardless, head into the early-morning mist, and rev your boots into gear alongside canal boats and the odd flock of ducks. Follow the Kennet and Avon Canal trail until you pass under a bridge; you’ll come to Little Bedwyn, an adorable village on the banks of the River Dun.
Take 15 minutes out and visit St. Michael’s Church, the community’s imitable place of worship that’s weathered many masters in its 900-year history. Stepping from the churchyard, angle right through the kissing gate, and march onto Sandy’s Wood, where you’ll be struck by all manner of dazzling tree displays. Now could be the right time for a swig from your thermos before you cross the canal, emerging on a gravel track that leads to Jugg’s Cottage.
Stay on the same route until you move up and eastwards. Hop over two sets of stiles, and proceed along Stype Wood. You’ll see copses and bushes submit, periodically, to a clutch of paddocks, farm buildings and open fields. The right-hand side of the River Shalbourne – meaning ‘shallow stream’ in the Saxon tongue – will greet you after a couple of miles; from there, go to the nearby A338 road.
Mill Lane will take you back up to St. Michael’s again, so you can turn left this time toward the Plough Inn, a fine stop for some hearty pub grub. Relax for an hour and chill those heels on the carpet!
Afterwards, pass through a hedge gap at the end of the A338, bearing left along to Newton Farm. There are several fields, tree-belts and sudden swerves before you arrive at Folly Farm. You’re now pretty much at the lip of Bedwyn Brail woodland, a remnant of Savernake Forest – it’s a hop, skip and jump away from the village of Wilton, from which you can gaze at its famous windmill and the Cornish beam engines at Croften, open to the public through the year.
For lighter walkers, or those who plan to fit a couple more activities in their day, take the Grand Avenue trail. It’s a 5 and a half-mile journey that was originally developed by Capability Brown, who was responsible for much of the forest you see in its modern guise…
The route crawls along a vast, wooded area with broad-leaved trees, tall pines, oaks and glorious beeches. There’s a car park/picnic spot to begin from, as long as you keep on a northerly direction for a mile. A procession of beech fauna will herd your passage to Brydon Oak, which guides you to a tree ring and the Eight Walks area, a place where a spread of paths converge on each other.
You’ll probably take over an hour to move beyond the park, Thornhill Nursery and (eventually) Cadley Church. Its gothic spire will prick the sky, so you know you’re close to the A346. The road will bring you round to a wide grass path, returning you to the starting line after another 2 miles.
Centuries ago, Henry VIII spied a young Jane Seymour at Savernake, changing the course of the country with the simple indulgence of a hunting trip. We dare say that the setting had something to do with it – a rugged paradise where the cares of the real world tend to vanish like a shadow. Explore these walks for yourself, and book a pitch at our Postern Hill campsite before other trail-blazers snap it up!
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