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Smeathe's Ridge and Burderop Down

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Smeathe's Ridge and Burderop Down
Author: clairesharpuk, Published: 27 Jul 2015 Walk rating : Rating:star1 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UKstar1 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UKstar1 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UKstar1 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UKstar0 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UK
Wiltshire, Swindon
Walk Type: Hills, valleys and dales
Smeathe's Ridge and Burderop Down
Length: 5 miles,  Difficulty: boot iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UK boot iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UK
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A 5 mile circular walk from Barbary Castle Country Park, near Swindon in Wiltshire. This peaceful walk explores the stunning Marlborough Downs, taking in a long stretch of the Ridgeway National Trail before returning via bridleways alongside typical Wiltshire arable fields and pastures. The view from the ridge stretches for miles around on a clear day and there is plenty of wildlife to enjoy on the chalk downland as well as in the dense hedgerows on the return leg.

The route includes very gentle but long gradients throughout, with just one short steeper climb. As the walk follows bridleways for its entire length, there are no stiles, steps or kissing gates to negotiate, just a few simple bridle gates. The ridge top path on the outward leg is firm and wide, but the lower bridleways on the return leg are much narrower and can be a bit overgrown in the summer months and very muddy in winter. You will be sharing three of the fields with dairy cattle, but the paths are well-walked (particularly the National Trail) and our experience was that the cattle didn’t even seem to notice us (or our dog) as we walked through. All the same, do take care around the cattle. There are picnic tables and toilets within the car park at the start of the walk. Approximate time 2.5 hours.

The walk starts and finishes from the Barbary Castle Country Park free car park, south of the M4 in Wiltshire. The park lies about three miles south-west of Chiseldon. Leave the M4 at Junction 15 and follow the A346 south towards Marlborough for just a short distance. Before a petrol station, turn right to follow the signs for Chiseldon. You will soon pick up the brown tourism signs for Barbury Castle. Approximate post code SN4 0QH.

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Walk Sections

Start to Reservoir
Start to Reservoir

Start point: 51.4836 lat, -1.7764 long
End point: 51.4709 lat, -1.7326 long

NOTE: This walk does not explore the earthwork remains of Barbury Castle Iron Age hill fort itself. Should you wish to do this separately, exit the car park at the gate furthest from the vehicle exit (by the picnic area) and follow the Ridgeway for about half a mile to reach the remains. Return to the car park when you are ready to start the walk.

Leave the car park back through the vehicle entrance and turn right along the quiet lane. Continue past the racing stables on the left and, just before the track begins to descend, turn left through the gate (signed as a Byway, part of the Ridgeway National Trail). NOTE: You may come across livestock from this point so take care with dogs.

Follow the stone track ahead for just a short distance and then fork left onto the grass track, signed as the Ridgeway. Follow the obvious path along the undulating ridge, known as Smeathe’s Ridge, for some distance. Take time to enjoy the magnificent views all around. The Ridgeway has been in use since at least 3,000 BC and is commonly regarded as the oldest road in Britain. The original route stretched for 250 miles between the Dorset coast and The Wash.

After just over a mile, you will come to the first gate ahead. Pass through this (NOTE: you are likely to come across cattle in this field) and continue along the obvious ridge. Just beyond the next dip (and before you reach the next gate), you will come to a fingerpost marking the Ridgeway path bearing left at this point. Take this left fork which leads you through two more gates and on to reach a covered reservoir with a black fence surround.

Reservoir to Concrete Track
Reservoir to Concrete Track

Start point: 51.4709 lat, -1.7326 long
End point: 51.4787 lat, -1.7455 long

Continue along the track, passing the fenced reservoir on your right. The track leads you down to a wide gate. Pass through this and turn immediately sharp left to join a signed bridleway between hedgerows.

Follow this narrow bridleway for some distance, which can be a bit overgrown in the summer months. Look out for flora and fauna as you walk; in the summer the path is lined with beautiful wild flowers which attract lots of butterflies, bees and other insects. Further along, the hedgerows give way to crop fields each side of the path. Along this stretch, the wildlife value provided by ancient green corridors such as this becomes very clear, compared to the relative starkness of the crop fields.

Eventually you will emerge down to a T-junction with a concrete track.

Concrete Track to End
Concrete Track to End

Start point: 51.4787 lat, -1.7455 long
End point: 51.4839 lat, -1.7764 long

Turn left and follow the concrete track as it swings right. A few yards later, fork right, leaving the concrete track and continuing along the grass track signed as a bridleway. Follow the long grass track with a crop field on the right and a line of trees running to the left. At the end of the first long crop field, go through the gateway ahead and then fork left to join the narrow stone path between hedgerows.

The path leads you to a couple of waymarker posts, marking a choice of paths ahead. Take the left-hand path and follow it winding ahead to pass through a gate. Continue ahead, following the line of the fence on the left and on through the next gate. Beyond this second gate, the path climbs more steeply, passing to the right of the copse of trees on top of the hill.

Pass through the next gate (after which you may encounter more cattle) and continue along the left-hand field-edge track, still climbing. The slope down to the right is known as Burderop Down and at the bottom of the slope you will be able to see (and maybe hear) the Shooting School. The slopes are home to a Bronze Age field system, with the field edge earthworks still visible today. Some way along, you will pass an upright memorial stone that acts as a monument to Alfred Williams (1877-1930). Williams was a poet born in nearby South Marston. The inscription reads ‘Still to find and still to follow, joy in every hill and hollow, company in solitude’.

At the end of the field, a gate leads you out to a T-junction with the access lane. Turn left, heading uphill, for just 100 yards to reach the car park where the walk began on the right.

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Text and images for this walk are Copyright © 2015 by the author clairesharpuk and may not be reproduced without permission.


The information in this guide has been provided in good faith and is intended only as a guide, not a statement of fact. You are advised to check the accuracy of the information provided and should not use this guide for navigational directions nor should you rely on the accuracy of the weather forecast. You are advised to take appropriate clothing, footwear, equipment and navigational materials with you according to the current and possible weather and nature of the terrain. Always follow the country code and follow any additional warnings or instructions that may be available. Some walks may be very strenuous and you are advised to seek medical advice if you have any doubts as to your capability to complete the walk.

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2 images to "Smeathe's Ridge and Burderop Down"

4777_0Richard1438006255 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UK Image by: Richard
Uploaded: 01 Jan 1970
This picture shows the green corridor that you walk along on the homeward leg of the walk. It was a little overgrown when we walked it in July 2015 but that was counter balanced by the wealth of wild flowers along the route.
4777_1Richard1438006255 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UK Image by: Richard
Uploaded: 01 Jan 1970
This picture tries to capture the vastness of some of the land used for crops in the area. Taken July2015.

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