A Survey Walk on the Lower Section of the Proposed Great Stones Way
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All photographs on this page copyright Roger Griffin.
At 10.45 on 30th August 2010, three intrepid walkers (Roger Griffin and David and Heidi Schofield) set off to undertake a reconnaissance walk of a section of the proposed Great Stones Way (GSW) walk,from Old Sarum (OS) car park (SU139326) to Woodhenge.
The first difficulty facing walkers is to identify the correct entrance to the track running NNW from OS, this is in fact currently signed as a bridle way (SU14053265). Figure 1 shows the style leading to a path which goes around the base of OS. Fortunately David found the correct track, figure 2, and we managed to avoid this trap.
Figure 1: Showing incorrect path. Figure 2: Showing gates to correct path.
The group proceeded downhill to (SU13853305), the intersection with the Roman road called Portway. Figures 3 and 4 show views at this intersection facing OS and Shepherds Corner Farm respectively.
Figure 3: Facing OS. Figure 4: Facing Shepherds Corner Farm.
A gentle downhill track led to Shepherds Corner Farm, figure 5, SU13553350.
There was then a gentle but prolonged climb to SU13253425 and then downhill to Keeper’s Cottage, figures 6, 7, and 8. A delightful property at SU1323455.
Figure 5: Shepherds Corner Farm. Figure 6: Uphill from Shepherds Corner Farm. Figure 7: Looking back to Shepherd’s Corner. Figure 8: Keeper’s Cottage.
Figure 9 shows the view towards Lower Woodford taken from SU13033505.
Figure 9. Looking towards Lower Woodford.
At SU131352 we entered a small coppice, figure 10, and emerged via the intersection with Monarch’s Way, SU13133535, figures 11, 12 and 13.
Figure 10: Coppice on approach to Monarch’s Way. Figure 11: Monarch’s Way West. Figure 12: Monarch’s Way East.
Figure 13. North from Monarch’s Way.
There then followed a short uphill section to SU13153585, where there was an intersecting track, figure 14, and on to another track intersection at SU13753660. We failed to notice either reservoir shown on the map for this section, although we did see plenty of pigs, figure 15, and have a brief chat with the farmer, expressing our admiration for the quality of his pigs. He wished that he could join us on our walk!
Figure 14. Intersecting track. Figure 15. Something about Pigs.
At SU138370 and SU13953700 we did the left and right with the Netton High Post road and walked down the hill into Great Durnford, figure 16, turning left at the “T” junction at SU13553805, figure 17 and admiring a cob wall, figure 18.
Figure 16: Downhill to Great Durnford. Figure 17: The ‘T’ junction at SU13553805. Figure 18. A fine Cob wall.
We walked past the public house and then turned right at SU1345379 to head for Durnford mill. On the way we crossed over the Avon, figure 19, saw the mill, figure 20, crossed another bridge, figure 21, and at 12.30 precisely stopped for lunch at SU132381, figure 22. All the team ate a hearty packed lunch and were ready to go again after 20 minutes.
Figure 19: The Avon at Durnford Mill. Figure 20: Durnford Mill itself. Figure 21: An attractive bridge after the Mill. Figure 22: Our lunch location at SU132381.
From the lunch location we continued along the track to the intersection with the road joining Wilsford, Lake and Upper Woodford at SU132386.After crossing the road, we took a picture of the signpost, figure 23, giving distances to Normanton Down Barrows and to Stonehenge and a little further along the path we looked at a view of Lake village, figure 24.
Figure 23. Signpost at SU132386. Figure 24. View of Lake village.
At about 350 metres from the intersection, the path turned through 90 degrees and went downhill to a track crossing at SU12903885. Here we saw the modern equivalent of the “The Haywain”, figure 25. Figure 26 is a view up the path showing the distances back to Great Durnford and Upper Woodford.
Figure 25. The Modern Haywain. Figure 26. Looking up the track from SU12903885.
Turning left we headed along the track to Spring Bottom, stopping to view the remains of the Lake Wellhouse building at SU 12653890, figure 27.
Figure 27. Remains of Lake Wellhouse. Figure 28. Spring Bottom farm.
At Spring Bottom farm, figure 28, SU122400, we turned left and followed the path curving to the North on what was now a wide luxurious grassed track heading for Normanton Down,a cluster of Tumuli, the A303 intersection and Stonehenge.
We passed the RSPB Welcome to Normanton Down nature reserve sign, which stated:
“Normanton Down is rich in wild life and archaeology. To protect these, the RSPB has been working with the landowner to re-create species rich chalk grassland.
The chalk grassland will create safe breeding and feeding habitat for lapwings and stone curlews. The reserve attracts other rare farmland birds, including sky larks, corn buntings, linnets and yellowhammers. In spring and summer, the reserve is alive with flowers, butterflies and other insects. In winter the reserve is home to large flocks of golden plovers, lapwings, starlings and finches. Brown hares are present all year.
Normanton Down contains one of the most impressive groups of prehistoric burial mounds in the Stonehenge landscape with over 30 Bronze Age round Barrows (dating from 2000 to 1500 BC) and an earlier Neolithic long barrow (4000 to 3000 BC). They are on a prominent ridge with a clear line of sight to Stonehenge.
While Normanton Down is privately owned with no public access, you can see the nature reserve from paths along the east, west and northern boundaries.”
The National Trust had also erected a sign providing us with more information on the Stonehenge Estate, particularly the Normanton Down Barrows. At SU12024132 we took figure 29 and at SU12054135 we turned left onto the permissive path to join the track at SU11704145, 600 metres from the A303 and looked back towards the Barrows, figure 30.
Figure 29. Signpost at SU12024132. Figure 30. Looking back to the Barrows.
At SU11804183 we took our life in our hands and crossed the A303. The crossing was easier than we expected; traffic from the West appeared to slow as the drivers saw a view of Stonehenge and we quickly found a gap in the traffic from the East. As realised and discussed by the FoR, there are issues with this crossing which need to be addressed.
Figure 31: View of Stonehenge. Figure 32: Signpost at the Disused Railway .
From SU11864209 we had a view of Stonehenge itself, beset with August Bank Holiday visitors, figure 31, then continued north crossing the A344 and the Cursus and picking up the north-easterly track at SU12354300 to cross a field towards the Sewage Works at SU118432.
This track continued almost due east passing a Long Barrow and Strangwaysquarters and intersecting a Dismantled Railway track at SU14554310, figure 32, the sign post showing distances to Amesbury, the Cursus and Larkhill. Although the Ordnance Survey Active Map 130 showed the path as heading east towards another Long Barrow and a picnic area, (the route we walked), there was a well-worn path crossing the field at 45 degrees towards Woodhenge. Figure 33 taken from SU15004345 (National Trust the Cuckoo Stone) shows this path looking towards the area of figure 32.
Figure 33. View towards SU14554310.
Our group explored Woodhenge SU15084336, figures 34, 35 and 36, and then rather than walking along the A345, we turned west along the road at Woodhenge passing through the Married Quarters and turning north to the crossroads at SU14404405. From there we crossed the road and headed towards the Stongehenge Golf Centre car park.
Figure 34: View southwards towards Woodhenge.
Figure 35: Entrance to Woodhenge. Figure 36: The southern side of Woodhenge.
Whilst all agreed that the walk had been most interesting, the weather brilliant, and the company excellent, there was a distinct sense of relief at 15.45 hours when we were able to take off our bags and boots and place them in the car, after the best part of 9 miles in 4 hours and 40 minutes.
There is a need for appropriate signage, particularly to identify the GSW start at OS and eventually throughout the walk as it progresses to National Trail status.
The majority of the walk covered surfaces which were grassed and comfortable to walk on. Sections of the route adjacent to Stonehenge had more exposed stone and would be quite slippery in wet weather.
The health and safety issues of the A303 crossing have been recognised and it is understood that they are under consideration.
The routing to Woodhenge from the dismantled railway intersection needs clarification.
The routing of GSW northwards from Woodhenge, Durrington and the meeting with the MOD Salisbury Plain area probably also requires clarification.
Health and safety requirements may necessitate a full risk assessment for the entire GSW before it becomes a National Trail.