A round walk, including a short section of a roman road; then a climb of a haunted historical hill!


“Walking is man’s best medicine. ”

― Hippocrates

The reason for this route

I suddenly found myself with a free afternoon; because seemingly more important plans went “gang aft agley”!

So in need of some fresh air and a different point of view; I decided to climb a local hill: Roundway Down, that was the site of a important English Civil war battle. To add extra interest; I made an extra loop to include a section of a now long overgrown Roman road.

Looking along the northern edge of Oliver’s Castle
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Parking in the village of Heddington

You have plenty choice as from where to park your car and start this walk. However, the village of Heddington is a natural choice. It is central, an easy and safe place to park as well as having a brilliant village pub to give yourself a pat on the back and treat for your liver!

So I chose to park by the church of St Andrew; with it’s bright blue door, yet there is a signed free car park as well as that pub car park!

The Ivy Inn in Heddington; currently helping the community as a village store in this time of the Coronavirus. Below is a link to their website:

https://www.ivyinnheddington.co.uk

The blue door of St Andrew’s Church

A Roman Road!

Studying a free online version of the Ordance Survery map of the area; kindly provided by: https://footpathmaps.com/
I noticed the route of a Roman road to the north of Heddington; which ran in an east-west direction.

After, doing some more research; I found that this Roman road connected the bathing resort of Bath (Aqua Sulis) to a garrison in Speen (Spinis), and then on to London (Londinium).

The short section I walked, ran between: a small Roman town Verlucio near modern day Sandy Lane; and Cunetio, a large walled town, near modern day Marlborough.

Check out this free website; to find about Roman roads near you:
https://saxonhistory.co.uk/Location_Roman_Roads-SWest.php

All this wonderful history gave so much meaning to the walk; I was so glad that I researched all this information. As I walked across: a ploughed field, through an overgrown ditch and over a broken stile; I could only picture cohorts of legionaries marching to the orders of a Centurion. With their shiny armour, shields, pilums and Galea all glistening in the sun. Maybe some free and noble ladies travelled this way; to take the rich mineral waters of Aqua Sulis? I could picture too, the local Britons looking on from the fields; maybe with anger or in awe of their Roman invaders? Perhaps they were thinking to themselves: “What have the Romans ever done for us?”

The course of the Roman road is to the left of the picture. Now an overgrown hedge possibly because the ploughs would be damaged by the remaining stone.

Climbing up through Bloody Ditch to Olivers Castle

After following the Roman road for about two miles across open fields; I arrived once again to a modern macadam road and returned south towards Heddington. Walking for a short distance on the side of the road; I took care to face the flow of traffic and listen out for any approaching vehicles. After a short dog-leg I reached a gravel track that led up to Beacon Hill. When the gradient started to increase I turned to the right and followed the base of the hill; to reach the ridge by way of the infamous Bloody Ditch.

A broad drive in Heddington
The chalky lumps and bumps of Roundway Down

The high plain above this ridge; was the site of a English Civil War battle in 1643. After, an impressive horse ride all the way from Oxford; Royalists cavalry charged the Parliamentarian cavalry and infantry causing them to panic and flee. As Parliamentarians fled in panic; they tumbled and fell to their deaths down the steep sides of Oliver’s Castle. With an estimated 600 lives lost; it became known as: ‘Bloody Ditch’.

Some locals have said that in the early morning on the anniversary of the battle; a ghostly army can be seen: running, falling and screaming, as they relive their own deaths! The 13th of July is the anniversary; so maybe come then, if you believe and fancy such frightful ideas in the early morning!

Walking up these same slopes, on a balmy day in late May; I bore these thoughts in mind. Yet with the warmth of the sun and the fresh breeze; I could only feel relaxed. So I hoped that these poor souls could now relax too on such a peaceful day.

Oliver’s Castle

After climbing the gentle gradient between the otherworldly lumps and bumps on the edge of this chalk down; I reached the ridge and looked back over the wide open plains of West Wiltshire.

To my left now was the Iron Age hill fort known as Oliver’s Castle after Cromwell. To my right the way home of the wide meadows of Beacon Hill.

A windswept tree on Oliver’s Castle

I decided to make a circuit of Oliver’s Castle then return across Beacon Hill and back to Heddington. Earthworks are all remain of the castle, along with windswept trees and the wide open views of west Wiltshire. The wind was now strong but refreshing; so I stood on the edge and breathed in lungfuls of fresh spring air. Here is a video of the experience:

I thought what a great place to take a solo stroll and ponder the thoughts of the day. Or come with family and friends for a picnic and to fly a kite! You must really come and see for yourselves.

Looking over west Wiltshire from above ‘Bloody Ditch’.

After clearing the mind as well as my lungs; I turned back north for the gentle descent into Heddington.

Looking back to Oliver’s Castle from Beacon Hill

A very English and civil place

So come if you can, and see the place for yourselves. Do your own research, bring a picnic and even a friend! It is a high and exposed place; so wrap up warm in winter and don’t forget the sunscreen in summer.

I cannot help you make a picnic or be there as a friend; yet I recommend these three books, if you are interested in the history of these long ago acts. Or just read this brilliant account by the local Devizes Heritage website: http://www.devizesheritage.co.uk/battle_of_roundway.htm

Enjoy, read and relax!

Here is an Amazon link to buy these books:
Please note: “As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.”


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