Calstone Down tranquil walk
Discover a wonderful tranquil setting hidden in the coombes of Calstone Down. This is an awe-inspiring landscape which was shaped during the last ice age.
Be rewarded with great views and abundant wildlife
This is a great place for butterflies from May to September and orchids in June. The walk is dotted with many archaeological features, and the view from the top will take your breath away.
Bridleway to the west of Divine Café on A4 in Cherhill village, grid ref: SU022699
Follow the public bridleway until you get to a crossroads at the red barn. Follow the footpath to the left until you cross a stile, follow the rough track above the fence line to the right.
Through a gap in an old hedgerow, passing A2, into a strip of chalk grassland above some arable land. A good spot for some of the blue butterflies as well as green hairstreak. It also has a good juniper population.
In lowland England this bush with prickly foliage grows on chalk and limestone. The berries start off green and turn blue-black when they are ripe, they were traditionally used to flavour gin. Juniper lives for about 100 years, it needs bare ground to seed into. Juniper can suffer from browsing and too much competition. Many populations of juniper have been suffering over the last few decades.
Over the stile and turn right, follow the fence line to find a gentler descent into the coombes of Calstone Down.
Cross the stile and follow a cattle track to the right up the slope in front of you, at the post follow the medieval strip lynchet around the slope until you reach a farm track, passing A5.
Ignore the gate at the bottom of the track, instead carry on around the slope into Ranscombe Bottom. The slope that you are walking across has some of the best chalk grassland on the downs; look for Adonis blue, wall brown and clustered bellflower. Keep the fence line to your right.
This is prime countryside for the Adonis blue. Though nationally rare, this magnificent butterfly is abundant here. The best colony is on the steep south-facing bank at the west end of Ranscombe bottom.
Cross the stile into the heart of the coombes. The flora on the slopes is outstanding with orchids, round-headed rampion and tuberous thistle.
Early purple orchid
The earliest of the British orchids to flower it is abundant on this chalk downland other orchids such as common spotted, fragrant and bee orchid may also be seen.
Walk up the coombe, passing A7, this is the best spot for marsh fritillary seen in May and early June.
As the name suggests, marsh fritillaries like damp areas, though they love the Wiltshire chalk downland too. Local populations are highly changeable they can expand, go extinct and reappear again within a matter of years. The butterfly depends on devils-bit scabious which is it's larval foodplant.
Through the gate (A8) and pass the dew pond on your right which would have been used to collect water from the 19th century onwards. Follow the track uphill to join the Wessex Ridgeway, a drovers trail from Marlborough to Lyme Regis.
Through the gate and turn left towards Oldbury Iron Age hill fort. The ditch between the ramparts has its own micro-climate which is great for butterflies. Follow the track past the Lansdowne Monument.
Through the gate (A10) and follow the track back to your starting point. Look out for bastard toadflax and field fleawort along the way.
Divine Café on A4 in Cherhill, grid ref: SU022699
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