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Tilshead and Salisbury Plain

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Tilshead and Salisbury Plain
Author: Claire, Published: 20 Nov 2016 Walk rating : Rating:star1 Tilshead and Salisbury Plain Walking Guidestar1 Tilshead and Salisbury Plain Walking Guidestar1 Tilshead and Salisbury Plain Walking Guidestar1 Tilshead and Salisbury Plain Walking Guidestar1 Tilshead and Salisbury Plain Walking Guide
Wiltshire, Salisbury Plain
Walk Type: Hills, valleys and dales
Tilshead and Salisbury Plain
Length: 6 miles,  Difficulty: boot Tilshead and Salisbury Plain Walking Guide boot Tilshead and Salisbury Plain Walking Guide
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A 6 mile circular walk in Wiltshire, exploring a section of Salisbury Plain and the pretty village of Tilshead. Be prepared for a unique atmosphere on this beautiful expanse of chalk grassland, where you could come across army tanks or ground troops on training operations, the local beagle hound pack exercising as well as lots of wildlife. This walk isn’t for you if you (or your dog) are worried by gun fire and roaring tanks, but otherwise it is a fascinating place that is well worth exploring.

MOD SAFETY: This section of Salisbury Plain is part of the Defence Estate, owned by the MOD. You may meet army personnel engaging in military exercises whilst out walking. These activities are unlikely to affect your walk (live ammunition is not used here), but please follow any instructions from military personnel. Give way to military vehicles, do not interfere with any army activity and keep dogs under close control.

The walk has only gentle gradients throughout, but the chalk ground means the tracks and paths can be very muddy, slippery and sticky at times. Good boots are a must, or wellingtons with grips in the winter months. The final part follows the edge of a country lane, so take care of traffic on this stretch. You will not be sharing the paths with any livestock, although some sections of the plain are cordoned off with electric fencing to allow cattle to graze. There are no stiles, kissing gates, gates or other obstacles on route but the tracks are quite rutted so are not suitable for mobility buggies or pushchairs. Allow 3 hours.

Tilshead is located on the A360 road, about midway between the villages of Shrewton and Market Lavington. The walk starts and finishes at a free parking area, about half a mile west of Tilshead. The post code SP3 4SG will take you to the road junction at the western end of Tilshead, by the petrol station. From here, leave the A360 and take the small lane signed to Chitterne. After half a mile you will reach a car park on the left (marked No Access for Civilian Vehicles), do NOT pull in here instead turn right into the large car park just a few metres further along the road. This is the starting point for the walk.

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Walk Sections

Start to Treeline Gap
Start to Treeline Gap

Start point: 51.2271 lat, -1.9683 long
End point: 51.2223 lat, -1.964 long

Leave the car park via the vehicle entrance, cross over the road and take the entrance for the car park opposite (passing the No Access for Civilian Vehicles sign). Walk straight ahead following the left-hand edge of this car park and passing the large water tower across to your right. In the car park corner pick up the stone track and a few metres along you will reach a fork.

Take the right-hand branch and stay with this track leading you steadily downhill through Salisbury Plain. Here you can begin to appreciate the scale of the plain, at 38,000 hectares it is the largest military training area in the UK. Pass a section of woodland on your left to reach the valley bottom. Continue straight ahead at this point, climbing gradually to pass through a gap in the tree line ahead.

Treeline Gap to Access Track
Treeline Gap to Access Track

Start point: 51.2223 lat, -1.964 long
End point: 51.2178 lat, -1.9772 long

After passing through the tree line, keep ahead for a few paces to reach a staggered crossroads. Go straight ahead on the track with open chalk downs to your left and a section of woodland on your right. Immediately after the woodland on your right ends, turn right onto a grass track (with the woodland still on your right).

Set within a break in the trees on your right you will see a long narrow mound. This is an ancient long barrow burial mound. There are some 2,300 ancient monuments on Salisbury Plain including features dating back to 4000 BC, with more recent Roman settlements. Salisbury Plain has one of the densest concentrations of long and round barrows in Britain.

Simply keep ahead on this grass track for some distance, with the continuation of the beech tree avenue running on your right. There are great views across to your left, over the rolling chalk grassland.

Salisbury Plain is especially important for its ancient flower-rich chalk grassland, it is the largest area of chalk grassland in north-west Europe and contains 40% of the remaining area of this habitat in the UK. In summer there is an abundance of flowers including wild orchids. You may well see a roe deer and other species supported within the grassland include stone curlews and lapwings plus butterflies now uncommon in Britain such as marsh fritillary, adonis blue and brown hairstreak. Occasionally hen harriers and barn owls are seen at dusk in the winter.

You will come to a T-junction with a larger stone access track.

Access Track to Byway Crossroads
Access Track to Byway Crossroads

Start point: 51.2178 lat, -1.9772 long
End point: 51.2084 lat, -1.9869 long

Turn left along this access track. Keep straight ahead at the first two crossroads, the second of which sits at the valley bottom. Stay ahead on the main vehicle track which now climbs steadily. At the top of the slope, pass the first small clump of trees on your right and then turn right onto the signed byway.

A few metres along you will come to a choice of three paths ahead. Take the right-hand of these three, and follow this unmade vehicle track which leads you ahead, passing a fenced village across to your left. On closer inspection you will notice something unusual about this settlement, with its shuttered windows and tall watch tower.

In fact, this is a mock village created for army training exercises. The majority of this village was built during the Cold War and was designed to look like a typical village of East Germany. It has been modified several times since and is used to simulate Fighting in a Built Up Area in preparation for many modern operations. When we walked, an army exercise was underway with tanks and ground troops approaching the village. Remember, just follow any instructions from army personnel and you are quite safe as long as you stay alert to avoid vehicles. All shooting and explosions are simulated on this section of the plain.

Continue ahead on this vehicle and tank track (although you may find using the grass at the sides easier when the track is at its muddiest) heading towards the large woodland in the distance. At the crossroads immediately before the woodland, go straight ahead (this part can be very muddy, so divert along the track sides). As you enter a clearing within the centre of the woodland you will see a waymarker post marking a crossroads of byways.

Byway Crossroads to Imber Range Path
Byway Crossroads to Imber Range Path

Start point: 51.2084 lat, -1.9869 long
End point: 51.2027 lat, -1.9824 long

Turn left here, following the main vehicle track (or the grass alongside it) between the two sections of woodland. The track leads you just to the left of a telegraph pole and then continues ahead, with more views of the training village across to your left. A little further along, from the highest point, you will have 360 degree panoramic views.

The track gently descends and, just before you reach a line of trees, you will reach the next waymarker post at a junction of paths. Turn left here onto the signed Imber Range Path (the path at 9 o’clock, not the sharp left at 7 o’clock).

Imber Range Path to White Barrow
Imber Range Path to White Barrow

Start point: 51.2027 lat, -1.9824 long
End point: 51.221 lat, -1.9554 long

Keep straight ahead on this stone track, the Imber Range Path bridleway, passing along the southern edge of the training village. Just beyond the village boundary, ignore the track to your left, instead keep straight ahead on the Imber Range Path (now a stretch of byway). At the next junction, you will be leaving the main vehicle track. Ignore the permissive byways, left and right, instead take the public byway (the Imber Range Path) at about 11 o’clock. Follow this grass track as it veers steadily away from the main vehicle track which is to your right. Keep straight ahead on this grass track for some distance, crossing over three stone tracks along the way.

With such beautiful, isolated and inspirational surroundings, it is no wonder that Salisbury Plain has hundreds of literary, artistic and musical connections. It has featured in the writings of Wordsworth and Hardy, the paintings of Constable, a Beatles film and a Billy Bragg song to name just a few.

You will reach a staggered T-junction with a large vehicle track. Turn left to join this track, still signed as the Imber Range Path. The track leads you past a fenced enclosure, with a few trees and a circular mound, on your right. This is another ancient burial ground, White Barrow.

White Barrow to Tilshead Village
White Barrow to Tilshead Village

Start point: 51.221 lat, -1.9554 long
End point: 51.2301 lat, -1.9513 long

Keep ahead on the vehicle track for about 300 metres beyond the barrow and then, just before a small woodland copse on your left, you will see a waymarker post. Turn left here to join the grass path between fields, signed as a bridleway and the Imber Range Path. Keep ahead on this path until you reach a T-junction with a hedgerow ahead and a waymarker post to your left. Turn right and follow the path through a pretty tunnel of trees. As you come to a property ahead, bear left and follow the stone driveway out to the road in the village of Tilshead.

Tilshead Village to End
Tilshead Village to End

Start point: 51.2301 lat, -1.9513 long
End point: 51.2272 lat, -1.9684 long

Turn left along the pavement and follow this through the village, with its quaint flint, thatched and stone cottages.

Tilshead is, and always has been, a very isolated place. It was once a centre for the shepherds of the plain and their flocks, then a place where travellers banded together for protection against the plain's highwaymen and now mainly relies on the MOD for employment, with only a handful of farmers and a few commuters. There are still reminders of the past though; some residents have the same surnames as the highwaymen of two centuries or so back who preyed upon those travelling across the then wild Salisbury Plain!

Across to your right you will pass the Parish Church of St Thomas a Becket, the village hall and then the village pub (by this stage you will have been forced to swap to the right-hand pavement). Once round the left-hand bend, swap back to the left-hand pavement. Pass the petrol station on your right and then, where the main road bends right, keep straight ahead onto the side road signed to Chitterne. Follow the right-hand edge of this road, taking care of traffic. At the brow of the rise you will come to the car park where the walk began.

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Text and images for this walk are Copyright © 2016 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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6862_0Lesley11480432887 Tilshead and Salisbury Plain Walking Guide Image by: Lesley1
Uploaded: 29 Nov 2016
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Uploaded: 29 Nov 2016
6862_0Lesley11480432906 Tilshead and Salisbury Plain Walking Guide Image by: Lesley1
Uploaded: 29 Nov 2016


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