North Wessex Downs Walk
Avebury, West Kennett and Silbury Hill
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|Anquet OS Explorer 157||Digital Map||1:25k||BUY|
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It is recommended you take a map. The preferred scale is 1:25k.
Walk Route Description
This Wiltshire walk offers the opportunity to visit some of the world's finest Neolithic monuments in the vicinity together with an invigorating section of the Ridgeway, which is one the oldest 'roads' in Britain. Avebury can get very busy on fine days and if you wish to explore the stone circle in the centre of the village without too many people then an early start is recommended.
The walk can be reached by public transport using the regular bus service between Swindon and Marlborough. Alternatively there is a National Trust pay and display car park (grid ref. SU099696). Leave the car park and follow the signs to the village passing a section of the stone circle on your right. This path leads you onto the main street. If you want to visit the church then turn left, otherwise turn right and walk towards the main A4361 road. Cross the main road and continue straight ahead with further parts of the stone circle to your right and left.
The lane passes Manor Farm (grid ref.SU110702) on your right and becomes a track. After rain this can be quite slippery and it is probably better to walk along the grass verges where a path is developing. The climb is steady and you soon have fine views over the countryside. Reaching the junction with the Ridgeway (grid ref. SU125708) turn sharp right. It is worth reading the information board here which details some interesting facts about Overton Down and its source of Sarsen Stones.
The Ridgeway is one of the oldest thoroughfares in Britain and is a National Trail. Continuing gently downhill you will see a number of sites on your right where burial mounds have been covered in trees. Known locally as 'hedgehogs', these are a prominent feature of the landscape hereabouts. You will soon reach Overton Hill the Ridgeway's starting point, which ends 87 miles away at Ivinghoe Beacon in the Buckinghamshire Chilterns.
Cross the main A4 with care. Sighting distance is thankfully good. On the right is the Sanctuary another of the many Neolithic sites in the area. Continue ahead on a descending path that leads down to a bridge over the River Kennett. Cross the bridge and continue into the village of East Kennett passing an impressive house on your right. At the end of the wall take the narrow footpath on the right that follows the wall and leads out onto a lane. Turn right and walk through the attractive village. Just before crossing the river, turn left down a track. Just after a junction where another less used lane goes left look out for a footpath on your right. There is a sign but it is hard to see.
Take this footpath and, following the river which is to your right, continue across fields to reach a lane (grid ref SU109681). Go straight ahead over and continue on the path to reach a junction of paths (grid ref. SU104681). If you want to visit the West Kennett Long Barrow, which is remarkably intact, then walk left up the hill. Otherwise continue ahead to reach the A4 again.
Cross straight over and continue on the footpath. To your left rises Silbury Castle which is completely man-made and dates from about 4750 years ago. It has been calculated that it took 500 men about 15 years to construct and is the largest structure of its kind in Europe. Access to hill is not possible so you have to be content to enjoy it from a distance. Soon after passing the Hill you are on the approach to Avebury. Cross the A4361 and opposite is the National Trust car park. There is pub, toilets and a National Trust café in the village - the first opportunity for refreshment since starting the walk.
Other walks nearby
Walk 3417 Silbury Hill and West Kennett Long Barrow from Avebury - easy - 3.0 miles/4.9 km
Walk 3318 Hackpen Hill & Overton Down from Avebury - easy/mod - 9.5 miles/15.4 km
Walk 3517 Avebury & Overton Down from Overton Hill - easy/mod - 7.5 miles/12.2 km
Walk 2339 Milk Hill the highest point in Wiltshire - easy - 3.0 miles/4.9 km
Walk 1807 The Southern Escarpment of the Marlborough Downs - easy/mod - 6.5 miles/10.6 km
Walk 1733 Wessex Downs & Kennet & Avon Canal from Pewsey - easy/mod - 8.0 miles/13 km
Walk 3295 Pewsey Hill and Fyfield Down - easy/mod - 9.0 miles/14.6 km
Walk 1928 Pewsey Downs from Wootton Rivers - easy/mod - 8.0 miles/13 km
Walk 2699 Lacock - a village stroll - easy - 1.0 miles/1.6 km
Walk 2410 Wayland's Smithy, Ashdown House and Ashbury - easy/mod - 7.5 miles/12.2 km
Recommended Books & eBooks
Walking in the North Wessex Downs
30 walking routes exploring the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). The routes are between 7km to 20km through this peaceful rolling chalk landscape covering parts of four counties: Berkshire, Hampshire, Wiltshire and Oxfordshire, with descriptions to reach the highest points in each one.
The Kennet and Avon Canal
Guidebook to walking along the Kennet & Avon Canal. The 94 mile route from Reading to Bristol is split into 7 stages of fairly easy walking and includes the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Bath and Bristol's Floating Harbour. 20 circular walks are also included, ranging from 4¼ to 9 miles, taking in the best sections of the canal.
The National Trails
This inspirational guidebook looks at each of the UK's 19 National Trails, with information that allows ease of comparison and contrast, inspiring you to find out more and to take up a long-distance challenge. Some Trails are short and easy, others much longer, many have strong themes - they may follow a coastline, or traverse ranges of hills.