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  • Writer's pictureElaine Perkins

Great Durnford, Ogbury and the Flood

The River Avon

I cannot believe that we are already into the third week of January. The persistent rain that we have been experiencing in Wiltshire has been relentless, and I have not yet had the opportunity to get out and explore any new hidden aspects of the county. The days have been mostly dull, but that hasn’t quelled my enthusiasm for the New Year and new beginning. I am probably odd as I am a creature who both enjoys Christmas and yet feels relief when all is over and the New Year has arrived and with it new hopes and aspirations. However, over recent days as the rain has lashed at my windows, I have been in a reflective mood. With so many of the local rivers flooding, I have been reminded of a walk we did early in 2022 around the picturesque village of Great Durnford it turned out to be flooded in an unexpected location.

Thatched Cottage Great Durnford

Great Durnford is nestled in the beautiful Woodford Valley south of Amesbury. Much of the area is part of the Great Durnford Estate, which has existed since the eleventh century. It also has a curious link with our friends across the Atlantic. The village itself is surrounded by evidence of early man and no matter which way you walk out of it you will encounter evidence of our ancestors. It was the lure of seeing more of this ancient landscape that we visited on a lovely day in February following a spell of wet and windy weather.

On the day of our visit, with its elevated location in mind, we decided to devise a walk to include Durnford’s nearby hill top enclosure of Ogbury. I had been thinking of going there for some time and mindful of the recent rain it seemed like a good choice as all of the footpaths were mostly on high ground and we would be on the road when heading down into the village. Therefore, we thought we would be avoiding too many puddles in the farm tracks.

On the walk we were reminded that, despite the snowdrops and signs of spring, winter was not quite done with us yet. On the higher ground the wind was bitter and on the low ground, let’s just say we were very glad of our waterproof sealskinz socks.

You can park by the church in Great Durnford, but we stopped a little south of the village in what appears to be a makeshift lay-by next to the River Avon. Parking there provides lovely views of the river, and allows you to take the footpath to the right that ascends what could be a quarry area before leading to a path to Ogbury.

As we were leaving the car, there was a rainbow. We hoped that it was signalling that any rain had passed rather than being an ominous portent of more to come. We stopped by the river for a few minutes and watched a cormorant flying overhead. I thenI set my Apple Watch for walking exercise and we headed off. With the rainbow in mind and the thought of rain, we decided against taking the ‘quarry’ path as the steps were steep, already wet, and muddy. Instead, we walked into Great Durnford and past the Black Horse Pub, which was undergoing very extensive renovations at the time.

View from Ogbury towards the Woodford Valley

At a thatched cottage and old telephone box, we turned right to ascend the hill up towards Ogbury. Further on we turned left at a slightly confusing crossroads of paths and after walking along for a short stretch we found our selves entering the enclosure. Ogbury is believed to date back to the Iron Age. However, neolithic artefacts have also been recovered from the area, so I suppose there is a chance it is a little older, or at the very least man has occupied the this place from really early times. We found the earthworks somewhat silted up and shallow, so unlike some enclosures there is little sense of the place as you enter. However, once inside we were surprised at how big it was, and as always the views were vast and lovely. Looking at the OS map, it in fact appears to be just a little bit larger than Old Sarum. This type of enclosure is apparently quite rare as most have the added fortification in the centre. So it is an interesting and unusual place to visit and gives you a sense of what some of these enclosures were like in earlier times, before later generations added their changes to them.