Lacock Abbey & Surrounding Area

Our walk today started in the National Trust car park in Lacock. At 07:30 the car park was empty. This was a very different story by the time we arrived back, even the overspill car parks here filling up. We got our kit together and made our way through the village of Lacock - a place were time stands still. The crooked buildings and beamed gables allows your imagination to wonder back in time. We came to a T-junction; facing us was an old bakery. We turned right towards the church that was tooked away in the corner of Lacock. A narrow path presented itself that we followed bringing us out at a large ford.

A little further ahead, the sign that we were all too familiar with - Public footpath. On an OS map you should see a mast, head for this. From the mast we headed across an open field with a convenient tarmac path. Mist was still lifting off the fields as the sun rose higher in the sky.

Once we reached the end of the well maintained footpath we hit Reybridge a nice little place with quaint thatched roofed cottages that overlooked the River Avon. The three of us crossed the old stone bridge and took in the fresh morning air.

We then crossed over a road and into a wooded area. Our path brought us out on the verge of a ploughed field. The mist in the distance complimented an already magnificent landscape as it rose up towards Naish Hill. We were on our way to a towpath that ran along side an old canal. I wanted this route to run alongside water in one way or another because fellow rambler Mark has yet to see a Kingfisher. The scene was set, we had water, we had trees and it was quiet and clear-ish. Maybe today will be the day?

When walking alongside this field you need to look out for a style on your left. We sailed on past it and carried on into the corner of the field which to our surprise was blocked off. The map does show that it cuts across the boundary but keep your eye out for it. Luckily for us a jogger was coming the other way and we saw that she cut into the field that we were in so we retraced our footsteps and sure enough there was our style.

As we kept our eyes peeled for the dashing, electric blue feathered kingfisher we all noticed that the rays from the sun were slowly disappearing behind quite a large grey cloud. We had not prepared for rain as the forecast said cloudy at worst. Inevitably it did rain but not for long. Luckily if it had been a down pour we could have taken shelter under a bridge that was just up ahead.

There was a notice board to the left of the bridge that explained about the ongoing work that was being done to the canal to bring it back to its former glory. It is a nice stretch of waterway and once its complete I would imagine it will link up to more established routes. It did say on the board that there were two world war II pill boxes close by but having had a bit of scout round we could not see them. We carried on up the path seeing different states of management on the canal. There were parts that appeared quite shallow and full of weeds yet other sections were wide and deeper.

Hung up on the trees were various bird boxes and feeding apparatus. There was even a box for bats but unfortunately nothing for the Kingfisher. It was along here that our path was to fork off in the opposite direction of the canal. However taken in by the beauty of the towpath and the restoration process of the canal I completely missed the path. There was a point that the land had been raised and sleepers put down indicating a crossing which I think is the place we should have crossed but in my head I just thought that it was access for farmers. If you are doing this walk watch out for this. In true rambler style we carried on right up to Pewsham Locks where we realised we had made the error.

Although it was nice seeing the history of the canal and chatting to one of the restorers about the huge project we were indeed a little bit lost. We had ventured off the map and had to rely on the Viewranger App on Mark's phone to get us back on track. (I have altered the route on the view ranger website to include this now) We headed right from the canal into open land towards Great Lodge Farm. We were not entirely sure that the land was private it most probably was but we were ready to play the dumb card should anybody question us. We made it through unscathed and found ourselves on a concrete path towards Nocketts Hill (our original route.)

It was time to switch lenses, on the road just ahead was a lamb bathing in the sun. In true Stewart Scott photography fashion it bugged off before I removed the lens cap. I swear Niagra falls would cease to just a drip should I decide to photograph it. Anyway I did manage to get some shots of the lambs whilst trying to work out our correct course.

It got a bit confusing once we got our bearings because it was not signposted very well. We passed a very posh garage that brought us out onto a road. just across from us were outbuildings and what looked like a continuation of peoples gardens. I noticed the woodland on the left and a gate by the side of them. I'm the first to admit that I am not the most inept map reader but I was quite sure that was our path. It was reassuring to know that despite our little detour we managed to get back on course. The sun was out, we had blue sky and it was blowing a slight breeze. We all felt positive about the rest of the walk.

Where the path overlooks the valley below we took a right and walked along the edge of a wood called Horse Copse.

Once we reached the edge - the sort of Italian boot of Raspberry Copse we noticed a sign marking our way but looking at the lay of the land it did not feel quite right.

Yes that little blue sign was what we were looking for but that only lead us across a small stream. What confused us was the barbed wire fence that we hit just a few feet away. We had no choice but to leap over it. We weren't sure whether or not we were now on private property or the farmer had decided that he no longer wanted people walking across his field - We get the latter a lot!

The dirt path stretched out in front of us between rows of small rapeseed plants. This lead us to a road that we needed to cross. We needed to head down towards Blue Barn Dairy which had a lot of sheep and a rather nice looking barn.

Our footpath took us across another field full of sheep and their young. The fence was electrified which since the Charmy down incident I have a more heightened fear of. When I seem to cross any electrified fence the other two look on in anticipation hoping that I slip up and get a whack, its like an ongoing joke. Well I made it out of the field without being attacked by a sheep or zapped by a fence - win win!

We continued along the path which went around the boundary of Bowden Park. This brought us out on to the main road that runs into Lacock. Opposite was quite an ornate church with a strange spire. On our side of the road was a small stone building that looked quite spooky.

We ended up outside the pub because the footpath ended/began there but really we just needed to head along the road to Griffin Farm. This was a collection of buildings that had many different businesses within them. The road bent sharply to the left and we followed it trying to keep our eyes peeled for the public footpath sign. Poking our from the hedgerow on the opposite side of the road was our sign. It seemed to point up some stone steps into somebodies back garden. A car pulled up and a voice yelled from within that we were ok to pass through.

We went past what looked to be a chicken farm and once again we were in open meadows again. There was not a clear path to follow so we just headed down the valley whilst trying to spot a small yellow arrow.

In the next field we spotted an old car that we tried to get closer to, we were hindered by two fences, one barbed and one electrified. It was difficult to spot what the make and model was but we all agreed that it was a real shame that it was out here rotting. After doing a bit of research Mark came up with the Humber Pullman. I would have to agree if not it certainly has very similar qualities. At this point we were heading towards a dead end and more dark clouds were looming overhead. Its ok getting a bit lost but doing it in the rain is just not fun.

Nigel spotted in the corner of the field some rubber tubing and rags wrapped around the electric fence that surrounded us. It had to be our path so we leapt over it slowly trying not to zap our manhood on the live sections.

We missed another path at this point. We should have kept on the right side of Upper Selves Wood but we turned left before it and went around it the other way. It was not a complete hash but it meant us following the track further than we had to and nipping across private property to get back on to Clink Lane.

It has to be said although the walk was scenic and rather nice it was overshadowed by the detours that we had to make. Paths were not very well maintained or hardly existed at all. On top of that Marks heel was starting to give him trouble at this point in the form of a blister. We still had quite a way to go but we battled on looking forward to that cold pint waiting for us at the end.

This was our view for the next mile or so until we reached Forest Lane. Our path was about 100 metres up the lane on the left hand side. Once we reached it we could not believe what we saw, the path was totally overgrown it was impassable. What we did instead was pass into the field just to the right of the path and walked along that instead.

We could see in the dirt lots of deer footprints but they were all hiding from view. We could see an opening in the hedgerow which took us in the direction of Queenfield - a dump of a farm. I say this because when we finally arrived there we noticed that the public footpath sign had been vandalised. All three arrows/signs were laying on the ground by the post. We find this very frustrating when landowners do this. Its hard enough trying to find the right path when they exist but when farmers hide them it makes it nearly impossible. We used a bit of common sense and what bits of the sign were still attached to the post and headed across the farm.

As we walked across the the field you see above the farmer (I assume he was the farmer) called us over thinking we were from the electric board. How he thought that three ramblers with maps, walking sticks and water bottles looked like electricians I don't know. He advised us on where the next style was which was behind one of his barns. As we passed said barn we noticed that the roof had all but caved in and there were still livestock in there - disgraceful. There were tractors, and other machinery parts in the long grass rotting away. It must have been thousands of pounds worth of stuff just rusting.

We hopped into a large grass meadow that put us on the home straight towards Lacock. In the corner of the field, quite some distance away were heads peering up over the brow of the hill. A narrow wooden bridge crossed a stream and lead us into a cropped field. It was time to switch lenses as just ahead was a hare sat in the sun. I managed to get my lens on and take a couple of shots before it noticed us and saunted off.

I looked up from my lens to see a row of inquisitive bullocks lining the horizon. Luckily they were in the field we had just been in. I think we were all relieved that we had made it in before they had decided to check us out. As we walked along towards the bank of the Avon the Bullocks followed us round. We then noticed another herd coming up behind. There were now well over twenty bullocks wanting to check us out. They continued to stamp and trot (do cows trot?) Mark then noticed a gap in the field that we were in which seemed to link to theres. From where we were standing it looked like they could get into our area. This was bad news so I picked up the pace from walking to full on running. Marks heel must have been really painful at this point. Luckily we saw that the opening was in fact blocked off with barbed wire, we slowed down and got our breath back.

We followed the cool inviting waters of the River Avon in a last attempt to see a Kingfisher but all we saw were ducks and some swans. One swan was sitting in the grass; all we saw was a neck it looked quite funny.

Tired and achy we made it to the Wharf and went over the stone bridge towards Lacock. As I mentioned before the car park was full which meant the pubs in Lacock were more than likely going to be the same so we headed over to a pub that we noticed on the Castle Combe walk - The White Hart just off from the A420. Overall it was not a bad walk but I think in future we are going to do around 6-8 miles. That way if we have to make a few detours then the walk may end up being 10 miles instead of doing 10 and it ending up eleven or twelve - and these blogs will be considerably smaller but until next time - Cheers.

The three lost ramblers

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