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Cotswolds – Slaughterford and By Brook round

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Wiltshire or the County of Wilts is situated in the south west of England and borders the counties of Dorset, Somerset, Hampshire, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire. Along with the rest of South West England, Wiltshire has a temperature climate which is generally wetter and milder than the rest of the country. Wiltshire, mostly rural, is made up of high chalk downlands, limestone downlands, wide clay valleys and dales providing a beautiful rolling landscape. There are two rivers named Avon that flow through Wiltshire the Bristol Avon and the Hampshire Avon. The largest vale is the Avon Vale with the Bristol Avon cutting diagonally through the north of the county, flowing through Bradford-on-Avon and into Bath and Bristol. The Hampshire Avon rises at Pewsey in Wiltshire flows through the City of Salisbury and the county of Hampshire before entering the English Channel in Dorset.  The Vale of Pewsey cuts through the chalk into Greensand and Oxford Clay in the centre of the county. The Vale of Wardour is in the south west of the county and to the south east are the sandy soils of the northern most area of the New Forest. The highest point in the county is the Tan Hill-Milk Hill ridge at 295 m (968ft) in the Pewsey Vale just north of Salisbury Plain. Wiltshire is known for its pre-Roman archaeology and the Mesolithic, Neolithic and Bronze Age people built settlements on the hills and downland. Stonehenge and Avebury are the most famous Neolithic sites in the UK. The largest area of chalk is Salisbury Plain a semi-wilderness used mainly for arable agriculture and by the British Army as training ranges. The famous Stonehenge, Avebury stone circles and other ancient landmarks can be found on Salisbury Plain. Wiltshire has many country houses open to the public including Longleat near Warminster and the National Trust’s Stourhead near Mere and the City of Salisbury is known for its mediaeval cathedral.

The Cotswolds are a range of hills covering an area of 25 miles across and 90 miles long and lie mainly within the counties of Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire but extend into parts of Wiltshire, Somerset, Worcestershire and Warwickshire. The spine of the Cotswolds runs southwest to northeast through the six counties particularly Gloucestershire, west Oxfordshire and south western Warwickshire. The Cotswolds have been designated as the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is the largest AONB in England and Wales. The northern and western edges of the Cotswolds are marked by steep escarpments down to the Severn Valley and the Warwickshire Avon and this escarpment is often called the Cotswolds Edge. On the eastern boundary lies the city of Oxford and on the west is Stroud. To the southeast the upper reaches of the Thames Valley and towns such as Lechlade, Tetbury and Fairford mark the limit of this region and to the south the boundary reaches beyond Bath and towns such as Chipping Sodbury and Marshfield. The Cotswolds are characterised by attractive small towns and villages built of the underlying Cotswold stone, a yellow limestone, and drystone walls many built in the 18th and 19th centuries can be seen everywhere in the fields. The most well known towns or villages are Bourton-on-the-Water, Broadway, Burford, Chipping Norton, Cirencester, Moreton-in-Marsh, Northleach, Stow-on-the-Wold, Stroud and Winchcombe. During the 13th – 15th centuries the native Cotswold sheep were famous throughout Europe for their heavy fleeces and high quality of wool. Cotswold wool came at a high price and the wealth generated by the wool trade enabled wealthy traders to leave their mark by building fine houses and beautiful churches, known as “wool churches”. Today the sight of the sheep on the hillside is still one of the most common features of the Cotswolds.

Slaughterford is a small village about 5 miles west of Chippenham, in the Cotswolds, Wiltshire. The village is a crossing point of the river By Brook in a wooded valley between Castle Combe and Box. The 15th century church of St Nicholas is Grade II listed. It was partly destroyed by Richard Cromwell’s troops on their way to Ireland in 1649. It was left in ruins until it was rebuilt in 1823 then had a further restoration in 1883.

The By Brook is a small river and a tributary of the Bristol Avon. It is 12 miles long and its sources are at Tormarton and Cold Ashton and join just north of Castle Combe. The river flows through the village southwards through the village of Ford and on through Slaughterford. It then runs south westerly past Shockerwick House before joining the Bristol Avon at Bathford. A variety of flora and fauna is supported by the river including the endangered white-clawed crayfish. Twenty watermill sites have been discovered on the river but now none remain in use.

The Macmillan Way is a 290 mile long distance walk linking Boston in Lincolnshire to Abbotsbury in Dorset. The route follows existing footpaths, bridle ways and byways with only short stretches of minor road. From Boston the path heads to Stamford, then by the shore of Rutland Water to Oakham then on to Stow-on-the-Wold via Warmington then through the Cotswolds to Bradford-on-Avon, through Somerset and into Dorset via Castle Cary and Sherborne to Abbotsbury on the coast. The path links to the Viking Way, the Thames Path and the South West Coast Path.

The Walk

We go through the gate at the end of the lay-by into Rag Mill Wood and follow the path with the By Brook on our left passing a notice board about the upgrade of Rag Mill waterwheel which you can see on the right. We cross over two footbridges and continue ahead for a short way with the By Brook now on our right. When we come to a gate we turn left over a stile uphill. We go through the next gate and head forward following the track. At the end of the houses the track splits we bear left heading towards Hall Farm. We pass to the right of the farm on the track to the road. At the road we cross straight over through the hedge into the field and keep ahead to go through the gate at the road to the left of the buildings. We turn right along the road for a short way and turn left at the footpath sign and go through a gate. We head forward past the green boxes on the left and the gate on our right uphill on the faint path. We then turn right heading forward to the left of the trees along the top of the valley. When we come to the hedge we had to look for the gate hidden behind some bushes. We go through and head forward through two fields to a farm. At a road we turn right and follow it round to the left. We continue downhill through a gate into a field, look for the roman soldier on the right before going through a second gate into another field. We now start to bear right following the hedge line on our left. When we come to the gate on the left we go through heading downhill on the track. We pass an old building on the right then bear off left following the white arrow. When the track becomes tarmac with a building ahead we turn left through the gate at the footpath sign. We now follow the By Brook on our right into the wood. We keep heading forward cross over the river, there’s some old farm buildings on the left, and continue ahead on a narrow grass path between two fields. We are now on the Macmillan Way. When we come to a track we head forward on the narrow path to the left of the track and the stream into the trees. We soon go through a gate we turn left onto a track. We follow the track, Weavern Lane, which becomes tarmac for a while until we come to a bend in a tarmac road we head straight forward downhill. We soon turn left at the By-Way sign downhill. We walk through the buildings that look like an old factory turning right, left and right again. At the end of the buildings we turn right and right again at the road then left over the bridge back to the car.

Terrain

This is an easy walk on grass, gravel and tarmac paths/tracks with gates and stiles. There are some slight inclines and declines.

Elevation: approx lowest point 41m (134ft) approx highest point 151m (496ft) approx ascent 195m (640ft).

Distance and Start Point

Approx 5 miles allow 2 to 3 hours using OS Explorer Map 156, Chippenham and Bradford-on-Avon. This walk is done anti-clockwise.

Start point: lay-by near the bridge at Slaughterford.

Location

Slaughterford is south of Castle Combe in the Cotswolds, Wiltshire.

Directions and Parking

From the M4 take junction 17 then the A350 Chippenham. At the fourth roundabout take the third exit onto the A420. At Ford turn left signed Colerne then left then right along a single track road through woods. At the junction keep right then just after the sharp left hand bend parking is on the left.

Or take junction 18 then the A46 Bath. At the roundabout take the first exit onto the A420. Continue towards Chippenham. At Ford turn right signed Colerne then continue as above.

Parking: lay-by free parking.

Toilets and Refreshments

There are no public toilets or refreshments en-route but there are facilities are at nearby Castle Combe, Box, Colerne and Corsham.

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