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North Wessex Downs Walk
Wayland's Smithy, Ashdown House and Ashbury

Region - North Wessex Downs

County/Area - Oxfordshire

Author - North Wessex Downs AONB

Length - 7.5 miles / 12.2 km

Ascent - 600 feet / 182 metres

Time - 4 hours 20 minutes

Grade - easy/mod

Start - OS grid reference SU273843
Lat 51.556928 // Long -1.607615
Postcode SN6 8LZ (approx. location only)

Walk Route Description

Explore the classic chalk countryside with this walk just 10 miles west of Wantage, taking in the pretty Oxfordshire village of Ashbury, some wonderfully ancient sites and a chance to see a multitude of wildlife including hares, deer, skylarks, meadow pipits and corn buntings. The walk includes a section of the Ridgeway, which is thought to be Europe's oldest 'road'.

This walk starts at the car park (grid ref. SU273843) located approximately 1 mile south east of Ashbury on the B4000. After parking walk northeastwards along the Ridgeway. Go over the first crossing of tracks and pass Wayland's Smithy long barrow on your left. This megalithic tomb is thought to have been constructed about 2800 BC.

Turn right at the next crossing of tracks (grid ref. SU285855). Follow the track past woodland strips on the right and then on the left. At the break between the woodland bear right on a footpath (grid ref. SU291840) across arable fields heading to the left of the woods on the far horizon. Cross a bridleway at an ageing signpost (grid ref. SU288836). After a second large field, cross a track also with an ageing signpost. After another field you come to a fence. Go over the stile in the corner of the field and spot the weathervane on your left. Bear left keeping the weathervane to your left and the first coombe (dry valley) to your right. To your right you will see the extraordinary Ashdown House (a 17th century Dutch style house dedicated to Elizabeth, Queen of Bohemia).

When you're exactly between Ashdown House and the weathervane, bear half right and follow the ridge downhill to the stile by the road (grid ref. SU275818). Cross the road and head down the minor road opposite keeping Ashdown House to your right. As the track turns left, carry straight on through the gateway and then round to the right. Head up the field edge track and cross two stiles keeping Alfred's Castle (an Iron Age hill fort) to your left.

Head up the middle of two fields crossing two more stiles, and then along the fence line on your left. At the end cross the stile and continue. Cross the Ridgeway (grid ref. SU270841) and head down to Ashbury where St Mary's Church has a memorial to the Rev Thomas Stock, who created one of the first Sunday schools in England in 1777. At the bottom of the hill turn left following the bank round. Bear right onto the tarmac path leading past the church.

Cross the road and bear right keeping Manor Farm to your left. Cross the road onto the tarmac bridleway. Turn right onto the footpath just before the pond. Cross the road bearing slightly right and take the footpath past allotments on the left. Go over the stile, cross a field and over another stile. Keeping the beech trees to your right, walk up through the middle of the coombe ahead that gradually swings left. At the top go left along the fence. Turn right over the stile and at the Ridgeway (grid ref. SU276846) turn right and walk back to the car park where you started.

Please maintain social distancing - keep at least 2 metres away from other walkers. Travel restrictions for exercise in Wales and Scotland will be lifted in early July.

Covid 19 Update for Walkers

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