Horsebrook Nature Trail

This picturesque stretch of land next to the river Marden was gifted to the town by three-time Calne Borough mayor, Charles Robert Syms. Walking along the recently upgraded path, so much wildlife can be seen, from brown trout and mandarin ducks to squirrels and deer. 

Beginning at Horsebrook, which has space for on street parking, the first sight of the river is gained from the bridge. Looking further down the street, you will be able to see Horsebrook mill. The mill, also known as Swaddon’s mill, for one of the families that ran the mill, originally dates back to the 1600s as a fulling mill.

The mill was sold and converted a few times before being rebuilt by Joseph Bailey in 1822, who turned it into a five-storey factory, the biggest in Calne at the time. The mill was devastated by fire in 1861 and the 1930s, before eventually being turned into flats.

Facing south on the bridge, you will see a path to the right of the bridge railing, from here we begin our walk along this peaceful brook. Since the path was upgraded in 2018, this walk is now accessible from here to the steps encountered at Brewers Lane.

Horsebrook, a name which was in use by 1828, likely refers to horses that would have used the brook when at the mill. This first stretch of the walk is bordered by wild garlic in the spring, such an evocative scent – and just one of the many plant species that make this trail such a paradise.

Horsebrook Trail Plaque

Following the path as it meanders, we come upon a plaque commemorating Syms, who was a local and well-known builder around Calne. He developed nearby Horsebrook Park c. 1954 and it was the remaining land, which couldn’t be used for housing, that was donated to the town.

Further along the path, to the left, is an opening that reveals a cluster of bug hotels, also some young trees, which will make the path even more secluded in time. For now, we can see the housing on Saddleback Close with their gambrel roofs and riverside gardens.

As we come to the end of our walk, what always grabs me is the amount of birdsong along the trail. As the crow flies, the trail is only 200 metres from the A4: The Great West Way. For me, the highlight of the walk is the exotic-looking mandarin duck. Seeing them perched on the branches of trees never ceases to amaze me. They’re often seen across the river, in an opening just prior to the steps that lead out of this section of the trail. Quiet patience may also bring out the muntjac deer that frequent the site.

Upon climbing the steps, you can continue across Brewers Lane to a second, shorter section of the trail. Alternatively, turn right following Shelburne Road up to London Road. Turn right again and follow London Road to The Green. Again, turning right, continue to Horsebrook, completing the walk. The final option, is to stop before the steps, turn back, and enjoy the trail in reverse.

By Tim Havenith, Local Author

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