Calstone and Cherhill Downs Trail

Walking trail

Ranger's highlight: "There are so many! From the views on top of Cherhill to walking through the ancient landscapes of Oldbury Castle and the Wansdyke, to the thousands of butterflies in summer. The display of wild flowers and butterflies in late spring and summer changes as the season goes on and there are highlights throughout, but the best time is early June for marsh fritillary and Adonis blue butterflies. Listen our for the chirring of the Wartbiter Bush Cricket too for which Calstone is famous."

Along the way

Oldbury Castle's banks and ditches date from the Bronze Age, were extended in the Iron Age and would have been occupied with round houses and pits for storing food. The area's chalk downland is one of the most diverse habitats in the UK with stunning displays of wildflowers, providing nectar sources for caterpillars and is home to some special butterflies. In June, the area has the best display of wild common spotted, fragrant and pyramidal orchids.

Calstone and Cherhill Downs

Map

Calstone and Cherhill Downs

Start:

Smallgrain picnic area (between Bishops Cannings and Quemerford - nearest postcode SN10 2LP).

1

Park in the Smallgrain picnic area car park. In the furthest corner from the entrance you will find a small set of steps. Head up the steps, past a large tree with a picnic table underneath on your right, and down another set of steps onto a byway. Turn right onto the byway and head up the hill. There are fantastic views to the left of the Landsdowne Monument which is where you are headed and the halfway point of the walk.

2

Stop to read the Morgan's Hill Nature Reserve panel as you pass it. You will be coming back through the reserve later on. Ignore the two gates either side of the track and carry straight on along the byway, eventually passing through a small wooded area.

3

Just past the wood, before a slight incline, you will see a stile on your left, signposted as a public footpath. Climb over and continue straight down the hill following the track.

4

At the bottom of the hill, with a small wood in front of you, the track bears round to the left and then to the right, and continues down the hill with the woods on your right.

5

Just before the track bends at a sharp 90 degrees to the left, turn right onto grassy path and through a small gate to the right of a larger gate signposted as a public footpath. About 20 yards further on you will see a large metal gate on your left, also signposted as a public footpath. Pass through this and follow the field edge round to the right until you reach a wooden gate covered with black mesh. Go through this gate into the very small church car park; the church will now be on your right if you want to explore it, or turn left and head down the lane.

6

Once you reach the road (signposted as a no through road), turn right and walk down the road, until you reach South Farm. The road then turns into a track just past the farm and almost immediately forks.

7

Take the left hand fork, signposted as a bridleway and follow the path downhill through the woods. Cross the bridge over the stream and take the muddy path which branches right steeply up hill. This path can be very slippery after rain. The path then bears round to the left.

8

At the T-junction turn left and follow the track with a large lake and the sound of running water in the valley to your left. The track eventually forks right, then bends round to the right.

9

When the path starts to bend sharply to the left, at a large open area, look to your right and you will see a bridleway marker post on your right. Turn right up this narrow path between two hedges following the bridleway sign.

10

Pass through the gate at the end of the path and turn right, continuing uphill towards the Landsdowne Monument ahead. When you reach a pair of large gates pass through the right-hand metal bridle gate and carry on. When you reach the pair of derelict barns on either side of the track continue straight on uphill, following the footpath sign.

11

At the end of the path turn right then left and through the gate onto Cherhill Down and Oldbury Castle National Trust land. Calstone and Cherhill Downs is an area of around 200ha of chalk grassland with fantastic views of the surrounding countryside. Prominent landmarks are the white horse, the Landsdowne Monument and Oldbury Castle, an Iron Age hillfort. Follow the track straight ahead, keeping the fence to your left. The track starts to bear right away from the fence and passes to the left of a square copse of trees. The Cherhill white horse will come into view in front of you and then the Landsdowne Monument will appear to your right. Keep following the track as it heads towards the monument.

12

At the major junction of a number of grassy paths and tracks, just before the hill rises ahead of you, turn left and go through the wooden gate signposted as a bridleway. Then immediately turn right and head towards the gate and interpretation panel. Pause to read the interpretation panel and find out more about this fascinating place. Go through the gate situated just beyond the interpretation panel and continue uphill with the fence on your right until you reach the Landsdowne Monument.

13

The track passes to the right of the monument and then forks. Take the left-hand path and follow the grassy track through the centre of Oldbury Castle Hill Fort. The monument should now be directly behind you with the ramparts of the fort curving round on either side.

14

Pass through the inner ditches of the fort following the chalky track as it bends to the right. Pass through the outer ditches and you come to a T-junction with a low waymarker post in front of you. Turn right following the white horse trail sign. Go through the bridle gate ahead and carry straight on down the hill following the track. Pass through a second gate, signposted as White Horse Trail and continue downhill.

15

At the end of the path, on the field boundary in front of you, you will see a byway signpost. Pass through the metal gate next to the post and onto the byway. Carry straight on over the byway and carry on along the track with a copse of trees on your right-hand side. A short while after passing the end of the trees look to your right and you will see a number of round barrows in a field.

16

When you reach the T-junction with the A361 in front of you, turn right onto the byway. Carry straight on through the first crossroads, with the Private Farm Road sign on the right and carry straight on up the hill when the main track appears to bear round to the left. At the top of the hill the track then starts to curve round to the left with trees on the right-hand side.

17

When the track splits, just before a metal gate on your left, take the right-hand fork, which immediately dips down into a rough heavily rutted area; then immediately, in the bottom of this dip, turn right taking a narrow overgrown path into the trees until your reach a metal gate signposted 'White Horse Trail'. This turning is very obscure and hard to find. If you pass the gate on your left on the main track you have missed it and will need to double back.

18

Pass through the gate and follow a narrow path through, over and along a series of banks and ditches until you dip down into a final ditch and pass through a metal gate signposted Wansdyke Path. The path climbs back onto the right-hand bank and carries on towards the masts of the wireless station you can see ahead. The largest bank should now be on your left.

19

Dip down into the ditch again and through a gate signposted as 'Mid Wilts Way'. Ignore the bridleway sign pointing left and carry on, climbing back up onto the right-hand bank and walking along the edge of the ditch with the wireless station on your right and the ditch on your left. Carry straight on at the crossroads and when you reach the end of the field drop down into the ditch and through the gate signposted 'Wansdyke Path' and 'Wiltshire Wildlife Trust Nature Reserve'. This is the other side of the Morgan's Hill Nature Reserve that you read about at the start of the walk.

20

Climb back up onto the right-hand bank and follow the grassy chalk path as it winds its way through the reserve, roughly following the line of the ditch and bank with the fence on your left. Ignore any paths branching off to the left or the right.

21

Almost at the end of the reserve you will see a wooden kissing gate on your right; head down the slope, through the gate and turn left onto the byway. When the path starts heading downhill through a wooded area, take the steps on the left-hand side, signposted 'Wansdyke Path' and follow the path back to the car park and your vehicle.

End:

Smallgrain picnic area (between Bishops Cannings and Quemerford - nearest postcode SN10 2LP).

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Calstone and Cherhill Downs Trail

Terrain

This walk follows hard tracks, byways and sloping downland as well as public footpaths and bridleways across farmland with pedestrian gates. Surfaces can be uneven and muddy with potholes and vehicle ruts. This route takes you along minor raods without pavements through Calstone village, so please take care.

Calstone and Cherhill Downs Trail

Contact us

Telephone
01672539920

Email
wiltshire.countryside@nationaltrust.org.uk

Address
South of Cherhill village, Near Calne, Wiltshire

Calstone and Cherhill Downs Trail

How to get here

Address
Smallgrain picnic area (between Bishops Cannings and Quemerford - nearest postcode SN10 2LP). Grid Reference: SU 01938 67117
By train

 Chippenham 9 miles
 

By road

South of A4; 3 miles east of Calne, near the village of Cherhill.

By foot

Various footpaths lead to Calstone and Cherhill Downs from the A4 in and around Cherhill village. Wessex Ridgeway and White Horse Trail run through the property. Lansdowne Monument is about ¾ mile from Cherhill village.

By bus

No 42 bus, Calne to Marlborough, stops on A4 in Cherhill.

By bicycle

National Cycle Network Route 403 runs through Cherhill to the north. See Sustrans website
 

Calstone and Cherhill Downs Trail

Facilities and access

  • There is a café and pub on the main road through Cherhill; post office and small shop in Quemerford on the outskirts of Calne
  • Local shops and supermarkets are available in Calne
  • National Trust café and a pub in Avebury
  • Closest toilets are in Avebury behind the museum and next to the Red Lion pub (5 miles), or in Calne, opposite Sainsbury's (3 miles)
  • Dogs are welcome, but please keep under control as sheep and cattle graze the Downs
  • Please feel free to enjoy a picnic anywhere on Calstone and Cherhill Downs
  • There are several lay-bys along the A4 (not National Trust) used for parking. These are close to footpaths that ead to Cherhill Down
  • Child carrier backpacks are more suitable than pushchairs as the main paths from Cherhill village are steep
  • Accessibility
  • Paths are unsurfaced, deeply rutted and uneven
  • The path closest to the White Horse is very steep
  • The by-way opposite the Yatesbury turning has the gentlest incline to the monument. Can be muddy and slippery