This is a blog written by Elaine Perkins based on a walk she undertook on 9 March 2022. All photographs were taken by Elaine.
We decided to investigate Throope Down with its bottom and memorial stones. It also meant that we could visit the pretty villages of Bishopstone and Stratford Tony.
We parked in Bishopstone Village Hall car park so we did have to walk a little way along the back road before reaching the path that leads up to Throope Down. It didn’t matter as it is a very quiet road and there are interesting things along the way.
The village of Bishopstone consists of a number of distinctly named areas that run along the pretty River Ebble. We walked along the back road on the southern side of the village. This led us through Faulston where there is a manor with a very unusual dovecote. Historic England dates the dovecote tower as C17 and intriguingly references John Aubrey’s account suggesting that the manor once had as many as four such towers. Others believe it could date back to even earlier times and might be a rare Plantagenet Watch Tower. So it is quite intriguing and the tower is somewhat of a landmark for this side of the village.
The road takes you along the Ebble past a mill house and pretty thatched cottage. Towards the end of the road you can follow a footpath along the river where there is a chance of seeing herons and mallards and many butterflies later in the year. This footpath brings you out onto the road close to the beautiful church of St John the Baptist (https://www.chalkevalleychurches.org/history-bishopstone.htm). This rather large and elaborate church contrasts with the small church at Stratford Tony, no doubt its connection with bishops including the Bishop of Winchester allowed it to grow.
At some point the village changed its name from Ebbesbourne to Bishopstone possibly due to these connections. Both Faulston Manor and the church saw action during the Civil War with the church, like Alton Priors, showing some evidence of musket fire.
There are lots of interesting things to see in and around the church with old tombs tucked away in buttressed alcoves, some very old and some ornately decorated headstones as well as the beautifully carved pulpit amongst others. We stopped for a while by the small area currently dedicated to Our Lady of Ukraine and hoped for peace there and across the world.
Opposite the church there is a clapper bridge, one of the few mentioned in Wiltshire, although I don’t think this dates back as far as those found further west. So all in all quite a lot of hidden interest in this lovely village (see also Hidden Wiltshire’s Knapp Down walk).
Having walked past Faulston and a road junction we soon found the path to our right and made our way up some steps and on towards the down. We crossed over the Roman road (Ackling Dyke) and headed up towards the summit of Throope Hill. Along the way we passed a field of excitable sheep which appeared to be lining up as school children before running off to do a hop, skip and jump. Although the weather wasn’t the best, at the top, the views out towards Knighton and Marleycombe Hill were lovely. Sadly, it was little too cold to stand and admire them for long and not particularly good light for taking photos.
Having found the memorial stones on top of a ridge looking over Throope Down, we discovered that they were memorials to previous owners of Throope Manor. They were the politician and consul Antony Head (1st Viscount Head of Throope) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antony_Head,_1st_Viscount_Head and his wife. Another was to a young man called Geoffrey Scott Brown 1920-1938. (I assume he was a relative of the earlier owners of Throope Manor Algernon George de Vere Capell the 8th Earl of Essex and his second wife Alys Montgomery Scott Brown.)
The land where the memorials are is farmed as a MAFF environmentally sensitive area and has open access. According to the OS maps this area appears to extend quite a way along the byway we were on and across to Faulston Drove. We noticed two gates that allowed entry to the area, although the rope used to keep one gate closed was difficult to pull over the gate post. There was a large pit close to the path and what appeared to be a round barrow near Throope Hill, but nothing is given on the OS map about these so it is difficult to know their origin.
Having seen the memorials, we walked back down the byway that runs on the other side of the hill towards Stratford Tony. I hadn’t realised that the name Strat comes from the word for Roman Road and indeed Ackling Dyke does cross the river nearby.
After spending a little while looking around the small historic church in Stratford Tony we then walked back through Throope Manor and along the road to the car.
For an alternative route back you could turn right towards Bishopstone church and then left on the footpath past Manor Farm and across the water meadows back to the main part of Bishopstone and the village hall.
I would recommend this walk especially if you go the alternative way back. If you venture out onto the open access area please note the slope is very steep in places. I estimate the walk is approximately 6.5 miles long.
All images copyright Elaine Perkins