Bincknoll Castle and Broad Town White Horse
This walk idea came from a Hidden Wiltshire follower who now lives in Cornwall. Thanks Richard. It covers some lesser known parts of Wiltshire that can only really be appreciated on foot and require a little extra effort to find.
My day began by the Church in Wroughton. Elevated on a hill above the village, St John the Baptist and St Helen parish Church is a Grade 1 listed building with Norman origins and is a commanding presence. It is at the end of a narrow lane off the A4361 as it descends into Wroughton, but has quite a large car park. There were signs saying the car park is for Church visitors only, so do have a look inside and leave an offering if you plan to use it.
This route follows the contours of an escarpment all the way to Bincknoll Castle. The Castle is not an actual building, but is what remains of an Iron Age univallate hillfort. Possibly. I say possibly because this interpretation is not proven, but having personally seen over 20 of these structures in Wiltshire I think it is a strong candidate. There are clear ramparts around the triangular shape of the hill top, although later building of a Norman motte and bailey and subsequent quarrying has altered the landscape quite a bit since the Iron Age.
At the start, I followed the road in front of the Church past Legge House. This quickly gave way to a footpath that ran above the length of the cemetery. Before long, this brought me out to a field and beyond that, a minor road. A quick dog leg left and then right took me into another field where the path led diagonally and upwards to a tree lined track that led West. Here I found a curiously placed gate, conspicuous by the absence of a fence on either side. Shortly afterwards I would find another one. While it would make sense to ignore the gate and simply press on with the walk, of course I had to open the pointless gates, walk through and then close them. If someone made the effort to put them there, I thought it would be polite to use them.
Before long, the path took me to the edge of some woodland - Salthrop Wood. Here, you walk along the outer edge but dare not venture inside the wood, as there are many private signs - even one suggesting shooting takes place inside. Crossing another road takes you into Basset Down Wood, and before too long the path veers right down through a hollow. Now you are in the delightful Quidhampton Wood.
There are multiple routes through this steep wood, and we found a bench with a lovely view. Descending one of the steep banks, we saw huge carpets of wild garlic shooting out of the ground. Too early for the flowers or the smell in mid March, this will be a delightful spot when the garlic and bluebells come into flower.
Before long, we exited the wood, and found ourselves on the edge of Bincknoll. It was a wonderful sight to behold.
From the summit, you could look across towards the Ridgeway and Barbury Castle, which begs the question how connected these Iron Age communities would have been. The walk to this point had been lovely and even though we were close to (and could glimpse) the M4 and Swindon, the wind was kind to us and blowing the traffic noise in the opposite direction. At this point we could have circled back towards Wroughton Church, but today's mission was to press on to Broad Town so we could see the White Horse.
Shortly after descending from the hillfort, we picked up the White Horse Trail. This led us through fields and woodland at the base of the escarpment, which were boggy and muddy at this time of year. On several occasions we spotted groups of deer running through the tree lined hillside. After entering some woods above Littleton Farmhouse, our route eventually took us to the base of the White Horse. An information board told us all about Wiltshire's horse carvings and the long distance path that links them all together. Sadly the grass on the slope was quite long, so from this vantage point not much of the horse could be seen. But my drone made up for this, and I snapped some shots of it from above.
From here, we descended to the fields below and started to make our way back, passing through Honey Hill Copse and heading towards Bincknoll Farm. We continued to Basset Down Farm before retracing our steps up the hollow in Basset Down Wood, and picking up the path to Wroughton Church.
All in all, this 8 mile circuit was a pleasant one, although the route back through the fields was a bit of a trudge through mud and bog. In drier weather it would have been much easier on the feet and it is definitely a route I will come back to in the summer months.