Milk Hill and the Pewsey Downs
Updated: Nov 14, 2020
Milk Hill is the highest point in Wiltshire and is part of the Pewsey Downs, a rolling set of chalk grassland hills between Devizes and Pewsey which are prominent in the landscape and almost invite the passer by to park up and take a stroll along the ridge. At just over 1,000 feet, they are high enough to offer fantastic views of the Pewsey Vale and beyond but low enough to make walking over them not too strenuous.
You can do a circular walk from the Pewsey Downs car park which takes you up to Adam's Grave, over the top of the Alton Barnes White Horse looking across to Tan Hill and beyond, past a group of sarsen stones, along the Wansdyke before descending with views across to Knap Hill. It is a great way to get a full flavour of Wiltshire in one go as it takes in the neolithic history, natural history, a white horse and views of some of the best parts of hidden Wiltshire.
The first neolithic site you will see is Knap Hill next to the car park. The best views of this are on the descent, but there are good views from the car park. It is a prominent earthwork, and you can clearly see the shape of a causewayed enclosure, which reminded me a lot of the shapes seen on Scratchbury Camp near Warminster.
As you cross the road and start the walk up Milk Hill you will see the raised feature of Adam's Grave at the top of the ridge, which is a neolithic long barrow. Whoever was buried here must have been important as its prominent position on the summit can be seen for miles around. It definitely makes a statement about the people, even after their deaths.
As you walk along the ridge from here, you will come across the Alton Barnes White Horse on the side of the hill, and walk right across the top of it. Up close, it does lose some of its magic as it is best viewed from a distance, but it does display how difficult it must have been to cut these figures so that they are the right size and shape to be viewed from afar.
The summit of Milk Hill is actually really difficult to find as it isn't marked and is part of a flat plateau which is in the middle of a farmers field full of crops. But if you follow the path around the perimeter of the hill you will see great views across to Tan Hill, the second biggest hill in Wiltshire, and also across to the Lansdowne Monument in the distance. Here you will also see a smattering of sarsen stones across the ground.
If you look closely you can also see a scar in the landscape that makes its way right up to the top of Milk Hill. This is King Alfred's Wansdyke, marking the boundary of Wessex. This reminds us that this landscape tells the story of a wide span of British history.
This is a great place to walk on a summer's evening to watch the sun come down. The sunsets in this landscape are special as the view is unspoiled, and the views across to the horizon uninterrupted.
Start the walk from the Pewsey Downs car park which is north of Alton Barnes village. It is best to follow a map if you can, so that you can find all the landmarks along the way.