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Littleton and Semington - a Tale of two Highways

The Canal at Semington

Littleton is a relatively obscure place, which is along the Mid Wilts Way long distance footpath. Today it consists of a couple of farms, an old mill, and a few houses. It isn't on a main road, so you wouldn't spot it while passing by. Situated just East of the village of Semington, it is close to the Kennet and Avon canal. Around 1872, John Marius Wilson's Imperial Gazetter of England wrote of it as "Littleton, a tything in Steeple-Ashton parish, Wilts; on the Kennet and Avon canal, 2 miles SSE of Melksham. Pop., 62. Houses,10." I only know of it because a few years ago I vaguely knew the owners of Littleton Mill, as one of their children was a classmate of one of ours and went around there for an afternoon of play. The mill was in an idyllic spot, near Semington Brook and very isolated from the outside world.

One evening while I was at a loose end, I was looking at the OS map to find a local walk to go on, and I noticed quite a few rights of way pass through Littleton. I realised I could do a circular walk, following Semington Brook to Semington, and then returning along the canal. I call this post a tale of two highways, because I was also going to cross the busy A350 (highway 1) and plod along a canal (highway 2). When in the planning stage, getting across the A350 was a bit of a worry, as it is a long, straight and very busy stretch of road. The A350 used to go right through the village of Semington on the way to Melksham, but since 2004 it has been diverted through a new section of bypass, allowing Semington to revert back to its rural state. In fact the road from Semington to Melksham is now a virtual dead end, as once you get to the site of the Wiltshire Air Ambulance site, there is a no entry sign. The road itself is still there, and one could ignore the sign and drive through, but this would not be recommended as on the other side sits the rather large and imposing Melksham police station.

For this particular route, you could start it at Semington, by the canal bridge. In fact that is what I would recommend. But I decided to start my walk on the south edge of Bowerhill. There is a long straight road called Brabazon Way, where you can park by some permissive accesses on to fields just north of the canal. Here, there is a right of way you can pick up, which takes you in to Giles Wood. It seems that the owners of Giles Wood are happy for people to wander all over it. In the eastern corner I discovered an old pill box from the war, which you are able to go inside if inclined.

Coming out of the wood you will see a swing bridge over the canal. Head over that, through the gate, and follow the road south. There is an ornamental lake to your left, and an old fashioned road sign, before you pass over the brook. Coming to the road junction, you will see a path in the field ahead. You want to take the right of way veering to the right. As you walk along here you will be able to spot Littleton Mill to your right. Further on, you will see Littleton Green Farm emerge to your left.

At this point I was starting to get a little concerned as I could hear the busy traffic on the A350. I recall a few years ago a news story about a man being run over and killed as he crossed the road a little further north and this was playing on my mind. But I needn't have worried, as the path was following the route of Semington Brook, and as I got closer, I saw that the road was going over a section of bridge. The footpath went under the road, along with the Brook.

Under the Bridge

Emerging on the other side of the A350, I eventually crossed Semington Brook over a small bridge, and stopped to take a photo as the sun set. The path across the fields here brought me out near the Semington Canal bridge.

Semington Brook

From here it was a leisurely stroll along the canal to make my way back. A couple of places of interest along the way included Semington Dock, and an aqueduct which carried the canal over the A350. It must have been some feat to get the bypass running under the canal !

View from the Aqueduct over the A350

Overall, this was a very pleasant stroll through a nice part of the countryside. Being 3 miles or so, it wasn't too strenuous. A perfect way to stretch the legs on a summer evening. You could always extend the canal route to Seend Cleeve, and have a nice drink at the Barge Inn.

Map image courtesy of Ordnance Survey


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