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Morgan’s Hill and Calstone Downs

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Morgan’s Hill and Calstone Downs
Author: Claire, Published: 14 Jul 2017 Walk 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 UKstar1 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UK
Wiltshire, Calne
Walk Type: Hills, valleys and dales
Morgan’s Hill and Calstone Downs
Length: 6 miles,  Difficulty: boot iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UK boot iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UK boot iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UK
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A 6 mile (or 5 mile) circular walk from Morgan’s Hill Nature Reserve near Calne in Wiltshire. The route enjoys the seemingly endless rolling fields and pastures, with beautiful views of the Lansdowne Monument, visiting a pretty village church and the flower-rich Calstone Downs along the way. It is a peaceful route with typical countryside surroundings, ideal for switching off and getting back to nature.

There are two options for this route, a 6 mile circuit or a 5 mile circuit. Both follow the same return leg (along Wansdyke Path and through the nature reserve), but they take different routes for the outward leg. Both have moderate gradients throughout. Some sections can be very muddy in the winter and one stretch can be overgrown in the summer. The shared return leg has no stiles, just some single gates and steps, following stone track byways and then crossing some grass pastures (likely to be holding cattle). The outward leg for the shorter route follows a stone track byway, with no additional obstacles. The outward leg for the longer walk crosses two additional cattle fields, two crop fields (where the paths tend to be very narrow) and Calstone Downs (where cattle are used for conservation grazing) and includes kissing gates plus 5 stiles (three of these have gates alongside that are normally unlocked and the other two have gaps suitable for medium-large dogs to pass through). Navigation can be tricky with few landmarks or waymarkers, so we advise using the App’s live GPS map to guide you. Allow 3 hours.

The route starts and finishes at the Smallgrain Plantation Picnic Site car park, a free car park about 4 miles south-east of Calne. The car park is on the same minor road as the North Wilts Golf Club, accessed from either the A4 to the north or the A361 to the south. The post code for the golf course is SN10 2LP. From here, just travel north for a third of a mile to reach the car park on your right.

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Walk Sections

Start to Stone Track
Start to Stone Track

Start point: 51.4034 lat, -1.9738 long
End point: 51.4101 lat, -1.9646 long

Make your way to the far end of the car park (away from the vehicle entrance) and then turn right up the wood and stone steps (signed as the Wansdyke Path). Continue up the grass slope, passing a beautiful old beech tree with picnic bench on your right. At the top of the slope, descend another set of steps to reach a T-junction with a stone track (an old Roman road). Turn right to join this, following it steadily uphill and enjoying the first views across to your left. The track leads you up to a gate ahead, alongside a Morgan’s Hill Nature Reserve information board. At this point you have two choices.

For the simpler 5 mile loop (which avoids all stiles), simply stay on the main stone track (initially bearing left) for a further 1.7 miles, to reach a three-way byway junction at Waypoint 4 (use the App’s live GPS map to tell you once you have reached this point), then skip to the section called Roman Road Junction to Wansdyke Path.

For the full 6 mile loop, stay with the main stone track as it bends left for a few paces and then turn immediately left through a gate (and a second gate in quick succession) to enter a hillside pasture (which may be holding cattle). Follow the grass path leading you steadily downhill through this pasture, following the line of the fence on your left. At the bottom of the first field, pass through the gateway and continue on the wide grass track between fenced fields. (At about 1 o’clock in the distance you will have your first view of the Lansdowne Monument – more about that later).

At the end of the grass track, pass through the bridle gate ahead and follow the grass track through this second cattle pasture, staying close to the grass bank on your left. Towards the end of the field, the grass track drops down to your right to reach a bridle gate ahead. Pass through this to exit the pasture and turn right along a stone track.

Stone Track to Quiet Lane
Stone Track to Quiet Lane

Start point: 51.4101 lat, -1.9646 long
End point: 51.4139 lat, -1.9625 long

Follow this stone track between crop fields to reach a T-junction with another track. Turn left (downhill) and, at the bottom of the first slope (where the track swings left), turn right through a (half-hidden) wooden gate. You will emerge into a beautiful grass meadow with lovely feature trees. Walk straight ahead (staying close to the fence on your left) for just a few metres to reach a wide farm gate on your left. Turn left through this into the pasture.

Turn right and follow the field boundary (with the fence on your right) to pass St Mary’s Church through the trees on your right. At the end of the first trees on your right, turn right across a stile (or the farm gate a few paces further along is usually unlocked). You will emerge alongside the stone parking area for the church (which you can visit should you wish) within Calstone Wellington. The church was completely rebuilt in the 1400s, but is on the site of a church dating from the 1200s.

Turn left down the stone access lane, leading you downhill. Pass the Old Rectory on your right and at the bottom you will reach a T-junction with a quiet lane.

Quiet Lane to Calstone Combes
Quiet Lane to Calstone Combes

Start point: 51.4139 lat, -1.9625 long
End point: 51.4164 lat, -1.9481 long

Turn right along this lane, passing the aptly-named Thatch Cottage on your right. Further along, you will come to Carthorse Cottage on your left and metal gateways both ahead and right (with a sign saying Private Road to South Farm). Go ahead through the gateway, still on the main access lane. Immediately after the buildings on your left, you will come to a fork. Take the right-hand branch (the main lane and signed as the footpath – not the bridleway).

Continue following this access lane and pass through the gateway (or use the stile alongside if this is locked) and continue for just 80 metres more, a point just before a fork in the track. Do not walk the final paces to this fork, instead, just beforehand, turn left across the grass and follow the grass track as it swings right, following a fence line on your right.

Ignore the wide metal gate into a field on your right, instead go ahead through a smaller gateway, passing through a section of scrub to reach the edge of a crop field. Turn right along the field edge (the margin is narrow and can be overgrown) with the crops on your left. At the far end of the field, go ahead through the wooden kissing gate to enter the National Trust site of Calstone Combes (throughout which you may come across cattle).

Calstone Combes to Roman Road Junction
Calstone Combes to Roman Road Junction

Start point: 51.4164 lat, -1.9481 long
End point: 51.4111 lat, -1.9318 long

Go straight ahead (following the fence line on your right), pass through the next gate ahead and then continue through the long narrow grass pasture (with a wire fence on your right and the fenced hillocks of Calstone Combes across to your left). At the end of this long grass field, pass through the gate ahead (or use the stile) to enter the hillock combes area.

Calstone and Cherhill Downs is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest for its chalk grassland habitat. Chalk downland is one of the most species-rich habitats in the UK, it can contain up to 50 species of flora in a single square metre. Calstone Combes is a haven for some of the rarest butterfly species in Wiltshire and the wart-biter bush cricket. In the summer, you will enjoy carpets of chalk grassland flowers (including plenty of rare orchids from spring) and the sound of skylarks.

Continue ahead, still following the fence line on your right. Where the fence turns away to your right, go straight ahead to follow the subtle grass path which follows the valley bottom with the combe hills each side. (The App’s live GPS map will be your best guide here). The valley bottom path swings gently left. At the end of the valley, go straight ahead on the steeply rising grass path. At the top of the slope you will reach a stile (with dog gap) in the top fence boundary.

Cross the stile into the crop field and continue in the same direction on the narrow path through the crops. Cross the stile (again with dog gap) at the far side to reach a T-junction with a grass track. Glance over your left shoulder at this point, you will have another great view of Lansdowne Monument. Turn right to follow the grass track, then cross over a grassy field margin ahead and go through a gate (with a byway fingerpost) to reach a junction with a stone track (the Roman Road that was partly used on the outward leg).

Roman Road Junction to Wansdyke Path
Roman Road Junction to Wansdyke Path

Start point: 51.4111 lat, -1.9318 long
End point: 51.3988 lat, -1.944 long

If you have used the Roman Road for the outward leg (the 5 miles route), turn right at this point onto the side branch of the byway. If you have followed the full route through the combes, go straight ahead at this junction, again to join the side branch of the byway.

Follow the stone track byway with a crop field on your left and a fenced belt of woodland on your right. Beyond the tree belt, simply continue along the stone track with gently rolling crop fields all around. Before you reach the road ahead, you will come to a T-junction in the stone track. Turn right and follow the stone track climbing gently with Lansdowne Monument clearly visible across to your right. This 38 metre stone obelisk, also known as the Cherhill Monument, sits near the Cherhill White Horse (one of Wiltshire’s ancient chalk horses cut into hillsides). It was erected by the 3rd Marquis of Lansdowne in 1845 and today is maintained by the National Trust.

Continue for 1100 metres. At this point, the byway track bears left, to pass a fenced tree copse on your right. Look for a single metal bridle gate in the left-hand boundary. Stop about 10 paces before you draw level with this metal bridle gate. (NOTE: This next part is difficult to navigate - the path is difficult to see initially - so trust the directions and use the App’s live GPS map to help). Fork right onto a grass track for just 4 paces and then turn right onto a concealed narrow path between the trunks of two young trees. Once you are on this path, it becomes more clear, winding through the woodland, crossing some tree roots and emerging via a bridle gate. This path is known as Wansdyke Path.

Wansdyke Path to Nature Reserve
Wansdyke Path to Nature Reserve

Start point: 51.3988 lat, -1.944 long
End point: 51.4024 lat, -1.9611 long

Go straight ahead on the path through rough grassland, which is prone to becoming overgrown. The path leads you ahead, with a ditch running across to your left. This ditch is the dyke that gives Wansdyke Path its name. The steep-sided, deep dyke dates from the fifth century and was built to defend the north territory of Wessex. It was named after the Saxon god Woden, with Woden’s Dyke eventually becoming Wansdyke.

Before long, the path swings left to reach a bridle gate (from this point you may come across cattle). Pass through the gate (which sits at the base of the dyke) and continue on the path which runs along the right-hand bank of the dyke. The bank-top path winds along the left-hand edge of the grass pasture. Take the next bridle gate, ignore the bridleway signed off to the left and simply keep ahead alongside the dyke to reach the corner of a large grass field (which contains the masts of a wireless station).

Continue straight ahead through this cattle pasture, still following the bank of the dyke (with the ditch immediately on your left) and passing the wireless station across to your right. At the end of the field, the next gate leads you into Morgan’s Hill Nature Reserve (managed by Wiltshire Wildlife Trust). This reserve sometimes has Dexter cattle grazing to help with conservation.

Nature Reserve to End
Nature Reserve to End

Start point: 51.4024 lat, -1.9611 long
End point: 51.4035 lat, -1.9739 long

Follow the bridleway directly ahead, with the dyke still running on your left and open grassland to your right. There are amazing far-reaching views from this path. This nature reserve is another Site of Special Scientific Interest for its orchids, butterflies and for the general quality of chalk grassland and wildflowers. Keep your eyes peeled for cowslips, primroses and violets in spring, and wild thyme, horseshoe vetch, common rock rose and marsh helleborine in summer. Birds found at the reserve include kestrel, buzzard, yellow hammer and skylark.

Follow the main path ahead, leading you steadily downhill. From the halfway point, there are two parallel paths. It doesn’t really matter which you choose, although the higher (right-hand) path will give better views and avoid the mud.

In the bottom left-hand corner, pass through the bridle gate ahead to emerge back to the stone track (the old Roman Road). From this point, you will be retracing your steps back to the car park. Bear left to join the stone track, eventually reaching a woodland on your left. About 50 metres into this woodland, you will see a set of wooden steps on your left. Take these steps and follow the grass path which leads you directly back into the car park where the walk began.

Remember...the best way of following our walking guides is to use the iFootpath App (iOS and Android) where you will have all the information in the palm of your hand and see your exact location on the live map as you travel. You can also add comments, photos, ratings and track your own routes.

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Text and images for this walk are Copyright © 2017 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 gallery images for "Morgan’s Hill and Calstone Downs"

8614_0Richard1500020536 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UK Image by: Richard
Uploaded: 14 Jul 2017
The Lansdowne Monument set within the rolling Wiltshire countryside
8614_1Richard1500020536 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UK Image by: Richard
Uploaded: 14 Jul 2017
Many of the fields are full of wild flowers.

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