Hiking Pewsey Downs to Avebury

We are currently in a period of limbo…not living in California any more but not yet moved into our new house and able to start our new lives. We have to wait at least two more weeks until we get the keys…which is driving me CRAZY!!  We’ve been using this time of waiting as well as we can but it’s getting frustrating and we’ve been getting slothful so on Friday, after we dropped the Dude at school, the Husband and I decided to go hiking. It was my rest day from running – a few easy miles hiking wouldn’t hurt, would it?

We had no real firm plans except to park at the Pewsey Down Car Park and we thought we’d head north towards Avebury. We expected to do about six miles. It was a beautiful morning, chilly but bright with sunshine.


For the first mile, we walked near a group of women all walking their dogs – about ten dogs bounded around us, having the time of their lives. (I seriously give it a year before we are dog-owners, everyone has a dog in Marlborough). At the top of the hill, we turned west along the Mid-Wilts Way which followed a very interesting earthwork called Wansdyke. We knew nothing about it so googled it when we got back – it was a medieval defense mechanism, a man-made ditch and ‘wall’ meant to keep the marauding West Saxons away. It gave wonderful views to the north across the downs.

A marauding West Saxon?
wansdyke wilts
You can see the scale of the ditch really well here

At the top of the hill, we turned north and descended for a couple of miles along bridlepaths past farmland before coming into the tiny village of Beckhamstead. We’d hoped to get a drink at the lovely old pub but we were early and it was closed.



So we pressed on a mile or so further to Avebury. We sat on a bench, drank our tea, ate our sandwiches and enjoyed the warmth of the sunshine. Basically we were just like an old couple!! Our picnic view was over Silbury Hill,  the largest man-made mound in Europe, finished in 2400 BC but with no obvious purpose. It’s really striking. This part of the world is literally riddled with ancient earthworks and monuments.

Silbury Hill in the mid-ground


Maybe the most battered thatch I’ve ever seen!

Avebury is a truly remarkable place – the site of a massive neolithic stone circle, probably used for ritual or religious purposes. I went on a school trip when I was 12, I hadn’t been since. We walked on through the village, which really requires a proper visit (and its own blog post)  so we kept walking north-east to Manor Farm where we came out onto a by-way and started hiking up the hill, finally heading south. After climbing some way, we turned onto the Ridgeway, the 87-mile footpath that starts in Oxfordshire and is the venue for the UK’s biggest ultra, Race to the Stones. We didn’t race, we just kept walking.

Obsessed with the clouds
Watching a kestrel  hover – he got so low, we got so close

We crossed the busy A4 and descended into East Kennet village before joining another footpath and climbing up again for a few miles, crossing back over the original ridge-line with Wansdyke.

A secret green valley you only see if you hike!


As we came out of the trees, Pewsey Downs spread out before us and we could see the car-park in the distance.


We ended up covering just under 12 miles today, much more than we intended, but it was a wonderful day. It was lovely to hang out with the Husband, it was good to get the cobwebs blown away. It was a perfect day, weather-wise! We both remarked on how grateful we were to be healthy enough to just go out and do 12 miles, and to have a husband/wife who didn’t bat an eyelid at doing it as well. It was also really good to see more of this beautiful countryside that we’ve moved to – there’s so much to explore and it’s so flipping beautiful!

One thing that struck us is that the ‘trails’ are very different to US trails. They’re basically footpaths worn into grass or narrow ruts to follow. Running these ‘trails’ is going to be really hard work, they were hard even to walk at times, so it’s going to be slow work but really good exercise! I can’t wait.


  • Here’s a map of today’s hike
  • Parking was free
  • No loos at the start/finish and very few en route. Only spotted some in Avebury.
  • Pubs at Beckhampton and Avebury, which also had a cafe and a little community shop.
  • Surfaces were grass/farm-track. Hiking boots recommended, our running shoes were fine but got wet!
  • Probably brutal in bad weather along Wansdyke.


7 Comments Add yours

  1. gracechua31 says:

    Definitely marauding West Saxon. Too tall to be Celt. What a beautiful hike! I love how the UK still has all these marks and scars of ancient civilisation.

    1. Cathryn says:

      Yeah I’m really enjoying all the history, I’ve missed the sense of history that the UK has!! And yes, I think West Saxon too. Or viking.

  2. NicJ says:

    Such a pretty part of the world! Have you got to West Kennet Long Barrow yet (which you can go inside) or Lacock to relive every period drama the BBC have done?!!
    You be identified why I am reluctant to go trails – our paths are generally rubbish. Consider this your official ankle warning!!

    1. NicJ says:

      You be identified? My auto correct is going mad! I think that should be “you’ll understand why I’m reluctant to go trails…”

      1. Cathryn says:

        I like ‘you be identified’. Sounds very wiltshire 🙂

    2. Cathryn says:

      Been to Lacock, not been to West Kennet yet, since we went on a school trip that time! It’s right next to our village though, if ever we get to move in.

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