In HistoryPewsey

Wilton, nr Marlborough

By Emma Kirkup

On a rainy August day, I planned a visit to the Pewsey Vale. This lesser-known part of the county holds some real treasures within it and I was looking forward to exploring more of it with Susie Brew from Pewsey Vale Tourism Partnership. 

Two of the most well-known attractions include Wilton Windmill (the only working windmill in Wiltshire) and Crofton Beam Engines – both of which I’ve been to several times before. This time, my visit was to take in areas that I wasn’t so familiar with. 

We started the morning in the small village of Wilton (not to be confused with the Wilton near Salisbury). This village sits around a large duck pond with some beautiful cottages. From here you can walk either way to Crofton or the windmill. We braved the elements to walk towards Crofton, passing the reservoir that was initially developed to provide water for the Beam Engines and the Kennet & Avon Canal. Today, it’s a tranquil spot (despite the rain) and home to lots of wildlife.

Martinsell Hill

Next up, we wound our way up the small country lanes to Martinsell Hill, one of the highest spots in the area and a popular picnic spot with the locals. There’s a small car park here and a short walk will take you to the top where the views are breath-taking. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t on our side on this visit but even in the rain, wind and mist I knew that this is a definite place I’d like to return with my ‘posh’ camera to capture the view. Here's how it looks on a better day:

Martinsell Hill, Wiltshire

We travelled down more country lanes stopping in the villages of Milton Lilbourne and Wootton Rivers, I developed mega house envy looking at some of the beautiful cottages with their pretty gardens. Just before lunch we made a quick trip to Swanborough Tump. Here in 871 the future King Alfred the Great met King Aethelred I on their way to fight the Danes. There’s a stone to mark the spot of their meeting. 

Wootton Rivers, Wiltshire

For lunch, we popped into the Honeystreet Café. It was buzzing with people all trying to escape the weather and warm up! On sunnier days, there’s a garden alongside the Kennet & Avon Canal where people can also enjoy lunch. 

Honeystreet Cafe

Travelling further along the canal, we then arrived to see this year’s Crop Circle Exhibition which is taking place over the summer months at The Barge Inn. There were lots of people exploring the exhibition and there were lots of photographic examples of previous crop circles. 

Crop Circle Exhibition

Olav, Kennet & Avon Canal

The next stop of the day was to Pewsey, we spotted the Pewsey White Horse peeking out from under the clouds and popped our heads in to the red telephone box that now doubles up as a Tourist Information Point for the local area. 

Pewsey Heritage Centre

The village of Pewsey is well-served with local shops, an art gallery, a couple of cafes and the Heritage Centre. For a couple of pounds you can pop into the Heritage Centre and learn more about some of the history of the area, particularly some of the agricultural and industrial changes over the years. 

We travelled along passing Jones’s Mill Nature Reserve (managed by Wiltshire Wildlife Trust) and onto Great Bedwyn where we stopped in at the Post Office for a cuppa. The exterior of this Post Office is a bit unconventional as it’s covered in masonry as there used to be a workshop alongside the Post Office. The church nearby also is home to the Seymour family tomb.

Wolf Hall, Wiltshire

Our final stop for the day was to Wolf Hall. You may have heard of Wolf Hall from the Hilary Mantel book and the recent BBC production as well as the connections to Jane Seymour and King Henry VIII. 

We met with Graham, a local historian and Dominic, one of the owners of the house. There are some fascinating developments taking place here and both Graham and Dominic showed us the different architectural styles of the house (Tudor, Georgian and Victorian) and talked through some of the possible plans for the estate.

Trench, Wolf Hall

They then took us to the really exciting bit, new archaeological excavations within the grounds. Here they have found the remains of not only Tudor buildings but oyster shells, animal bones which also dated from Tudor times. They have also uncovered some ornate tiles which predated the Tudor times. Pretty amazing to find these things just in your garden!

We also had a very unique opportunity, the chance to go underneath Wolf Hall and into the Tudor sewers that ran beneath the garden. What an amazing place and a place with so many stories still to uncover! We’ll keep you posted on any more developments that take place here that we hear about!

If you fancy staying in the area then there are several places to stay including Willowbank Lodges, Huntlys Farmhouse, The White House B&B and Bottlesford Cottage. Discover other places to stay on our accommodation pages. 

A big thanks to Susie for showing me around and to all the other people I met on my travels this day for their useful insights into the Pewsey Vale! These are exciting times for the Pewsey Vale and I'll be certain to return (particularly on a sunny day) to enjoy some of the fantastic walks on offer in this part of Wiltshire


Vale of Pewsey
Alton Barnes White Horse, near Pewsey

Located in the heart of the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and between Stonehenge and Avebury, the Vale of Pewsey is ideal for getting off the beaten track and has plenty of friendly and atmospheric places to stay, eat, drink and shop.



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