Lockeridge Dene walking trail
Ranger's highlight: "The sarsen boulders in Lockeridge Dene are intriguing; they are the remains of a sandstone layer which built up over 30 million years ago. This layer was broken up and the boulders deposited here in a 'sarsen stream' during the last ice age. Sarsen stones were used in the construction of Stonehenge and Avebury stone circles and avenues. As you walk past you can still see evidence of where the stones have been split and worked in the past. They are now a haven for rare lichens and mosses.
Along the way
West Woods is famous locally for the spectacular carpets of bluebells which are a 'must see' stretching in every direction between the 800 acres of beech trees, in late April and May. Stunning White Park cattle graze at Lockeridge Dene, keeping grass growth down and allowing flowers such as Lady's Bedstraw, Bird's Foot Trefoil, Meadow Saxifrage and the Bluebells to thrive. In the skies above Lockeridge you may catch sight of a buzzard or the elusive Red Kite, with its sharply forked tail.
West Woods forestry commission car park (off Ryles Lane/Hillside Lockeridge) Nearest postcode SN8 4ED
The car park is located at the end of an unnamed no-through road at the junction where Ryles Lane becomes Hillside, grid reference no SU 15238 67257. From the car park turn back the way you drove in and head out of the car park on the hardcore track. Just after the entrance to the car park turn left onto an adjoining hardcore track signposted as a bridleway. Just before you reach the house in front of you, right on the bend, you will see a gate with a stile next to it. Climb over the stile and cross the orchard diagonally to the right, climbing over another stile next to the stone wall and into a field. Please keep dogs on a lead as sheep graze this field. Keeping the fence on your left, make your way down the hill and over the stile at the bottom.
Walk through this small wooded area, keeping the fence and outbuildings on your left. The path can get quite narrow and overgrown in places. You will eventually emerge on the driveway of a private house. Continue down the drive and out onto the road where you will turn left towards Lockeridge village. Please take care when walking down this road as there are no pavements.
When you reach the play area on your right cut through it diagonally to the left and cross the minor road to reach the entrance gate to Lockeridge Dene. Lockeridge Dene contains what is known as a sarsen stream - a valley filled with sarsen stone boulders - which provides the perfect habitat for rare lichens and mosses. Look out for bluebells and wood anemone beneath the oak trees in spring and birds such as great spotted woodpecker and nuthatch. May is a great time to see meadow saxifrage in the roadside hedgebank and common blue butterflies flitting amongst the flowers. Take a moment to read the interpretation panel at the entrance, then follow the well-trodden path along the valley and up the slope behind the house in the middle of the site. As you reach the top of the slope you will find yourself in the middle of a large well-used badger sett. If you're lucky you might spot some trails of old bedding (dried grass) or even badger fur caught up on the fences. Turn left and pass through the gate into the other half of the Dene.
Carry straight on following the path along the slope, which has fantastic views of the sarsen boulders in the valley below. You will eventually drop down onto the valley floor; turn left immediately, as if going back on yourself, and follow the well-trodden paths along the valley back towards the house. Just before the house, bear right towards the road and a gate with a stile. Climb over the stile, carefully cross the road and turn left, walking back along the road for approx. 100 yards.
Just beyond the 'Lockeridge Please Drive Carefully' sign, turn right onto a bridleway signposted 'Huish' and follow the narrow path up the hill. When you reach a large metal gate, pass through it keeping to the left of the field and continue up the hill. Pass through another gate with a bridleway sign and continue straight on.
When you reach a major junction with a hardcore track, turn right onto this track which is signposted as a bridleway. Keep following the hardcore track until a crossroads where the hardcore ends and it becomes a trackway. Continue over the crossroads and follow the trackway until it begins to bear round to the right.
At this point cut through a gap in the vegetation on your left to join the main byway which runs along the southern perimeter of the woods and turn left onto it. Follow this path through beech and bluebell woodland, listening to the calls of the pheasants and bird song or smelling the scent of wild garlic in the air. You will notice an embankment and ditch coming into view on your right hand side; this is the Wansdyke, an early medieval defensive linear earthwork which runs west from Savernake forest.
At the crossroads where the byway, the Wansdyke and a bridleway all join, continue straight on signposted 'Byway Open to All Traffic' and 'White Horse Trail'. Continue straight on round the bend - the Wansdyke should now be on your left with fields to the right.
At the next junction turn left to pass through a row of wooden bollards, then turn immediately right onto a path signposted 'Public bridleway' and 'The Wansdyke Path'. Continue on this path with the Wansdyke on your left.
When you get to a waymarker post at a T-junction turn left, still following The Wansdyke Path then approx. 10 yards further on turn right and continue along The Wansdyke Path with the Wansdyke now on your right. Continue on past the junction with the Easy Access Trail following the bridleway sign. Just past the second bench on your right, the Wansdyke veers off at 90 degrees to the right; carry straight on at this point.
When you reach a T-junction you leave The Wansdyke Path and turn left. Carry on down the hill, following the bridleway signs, until you reach a tarmac road.
Turn right onto the road and 50 yards further along you will see a handy picnic area - the perfect place to stop for lunch or a light snack. Continue on along the tarmac road, past the picnic area on your left until you come to a bridleway sign.
Turn left her and pass through the pedestrian gate into a grassy field. Cross the field diagonally to the left and continue uphill until you spot a gate in the top left hand corner.
Go through the gate and bear right at the first bridleway sign. Continue following the bridleway signs through this part of the wood and you should eventually start to descend down a steep and slippery hill. Continue following the bridleway signs down the hill until you reach the bottom.
At the bottom, turn left onto a track, ignoring the bridleway sign ahead of you. Continue along this track, straight across at a crossroads, until you reach a hardcore road.
Turn right onto the hardcore road and follow it up the hill, passing through a kissing gate at the top into the car par where you will be able to re-join your vehicle and complete the walk.
West Woods forestry commission car park (off Ryles Lane/Hillside, Lockeridge. Nearest postcode SN8 4ED
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