Broad Chalke and Fifield Bavant
The week after the heatwave we again managed to get the opportunity to go out for a walk in the beautiful Wiltshire countryside and despite (or because) of the much needed rain we really enjoyed every minute of it.
Once again we chose to start at Broad Chalke but this time we decided not to head south towards the Ox Drove but instead took the middle, less steep route southwest of the village towards Bowerchalke. However, just before reaching this village, we turned northwards towards Meads End and Fifield Bavant. From there we headed back to Broad Chalke along by the river and watercress beds. It was a moderate and fairly short walk of about 4.8 miles just right for us yesterday but it could easily be extended to include Bowerchalke and beyond.
As usual we parked in the church car park but this time took the path alongside the church to South Street where we turned right and headed into the village passing the Red House and many pretty cottages. These had a number of different styles, and some allowed only a small glimpse to be spied from their pretty garden gate, but all were very much in keeping with this attractive village.
At a triangle of grass and a pretty stone built house we turned left then to the right and up a tree lined sunken lane to head out of the village. Soon we were out into open pasture where sheep were grazing and the sun, which was fleetingly shining through the mostly cloudy sky, gave the impression it was dancing across the undulating landscape.
Here only a few solitary trees lined the path and we felt the breeze quite keenly but it was a welcome relief after the heat of last week. Even under the cloud laden skies the countryside was beautiful; the yellow of the ripened barley adding a golden hue to the scenery. Sadly, most of the sheep moved away from us as we walked past them and we regretted disturbing their peace and quiet for what was only a transitory moment.
At a crossroads in the footpaths we turned right and headed down towards Mead End noting the dry conditions and hoping that the clouds might at least produce some moisture.
We continued past Mead End and crossing the road we headed to Fifield Bavant. Along this path we observed some young hares chasing each other. They were completely oblivious to our presence but too quick to capture on camera. We also caught sight of a slim brown and buff bird which might have been a spotted flycatcher but sadly it wasn’t possible to get a proper identification. As we walked on towards Fifield Bavant we got our wish for rain but it was for the most part light and not too troubling, and gave the views a slightly enigmatic mistiness. As we entered the tiny village we noticed a clapper bridge over a dry river bed and came across some friendly sheep, a ewe with her two lambs.
These sheep, for once, ran towards us rather than in the opposite direction and seemed to talk to us. But after stopping briefly to say hello, again we were filled with regret as the mother followed us to the gate still wanting company and bleated in a somewhat chastising way when we took our leave. At the village we turned towards the church passing a row of thatched cottages on our left.
The village of Fifield Bavant is incredibly small and has an equally tiny church which has been written about previously by Hidden Wiltshire (Fifield Bavant and the Smallest Church in Wiltshire). The church is a lovely building but seems somewhat isolated so we were surprised that, although simple, it was very warm and welcoming inside.
From the church we retraced our steps a little down the hill and taking the gate to our left we headed across a field and second clapper bridge before turning left and following the edge of some trees. Once again the bridge spanned a dry river bed and looking at the map I realised that this was likely to be the River Ebble as it runs down from Ebbesbourne Wake.
We continued following the path until it reached a road where we turned left and made our way past a few houses in an area known as Little London. A short way down the street we found an open gate to our left and a sign for a footpath, which was rapidly disappearing into the bushes. We took this path and at a footbridge we crossed the river admiring the view of the watercress beds as we did so. Here too the river had nearly dried up. However, it was pleasing to see that water was flowing through the watercress beds. This has most likely being pumped from boreholes rather than coming in from the rivers that feed the area. I suppose six generations of owning and running the business they know more than a thing or two about how to handle difficult growing conditions and it is great to see that watercress is still being grown in the county.
We continued on the footpath until we reached the road. Here you can continue straight on and along into the village via a footpath but we decided to turn right and walk past the watercress beds before turning left and back onto South Street.
On the way back we took a photo of the 15th century “King’s Old Rectory”. The reason it is called King’s is because until the 1920s it was owned by King’s College Cambridge. Apparently King Henry VI gifted it to the College back in the day thus forming a connection between the College and the village. It seems there is always something new to find out when visiting Wiltshire’s hidden gems.