20090805_A short Lacock Circular Walk
When : 5th August 2009
Who : Me and my son Craig
Where : Lacock, Wiltshire, England
Map : 1:25,000 OS. Explorer Map No.156, Chippenham & Bradford-On-Avon
Start + End Point : 918, 682
Approx Distance : about 1.5 miles (2.5km)
Heights : One very simple short rise up Nethercote on tarmac lane, from the Ford.
Parking : There is limited on street parking in the village, but due to the popularity of the place there is a car-park situated just outside the village on Hither Way … Just follow the sign posts off the Chippenham to Melksham Road.
Summary : A gentle circular walk based on Lacock village in Wiltshire, including Lacock itself; The Ford; Nethercote Hill, WW2 Pill-box, River Avon; Water Meadows near Lacock Abbey and back to the Village.
I’m writing this diary entry with a small amount of reservation …. It’s not because of any difficulties with the walk, or lack of interest along the way, or any other problems encountered whilst doing it …. On the contrary, my reservations are because Lacock is such a brilliant place to visit (a picture perfect archetypal olde worlde Cotswold village of mellow limestone cottages) that I don’t know if I ought to advertise its charms to anyone else, the place can be heaving with tourists already on a nice summers day.
In the village, attractions include :
Lacock Abbey ; Fox Talbot Museum ; National Trust Shop ; Tythe Barn ; The Lock-Up ; Small Village Shop ; Some Touristy Type Shops ; 2x Tea-shops selling cream Teas etc ; Quintessentially – a shop selling handmade soaps etc ; Bakers ; A jewelers ; St .Cyriac Church ; The old Work-House, now a Pottery …. and, the Ford (if I’ve missed something I’m sorry).
As a final mention of the village attractions (but by no means of least importance), there are four pubs in the village : “The Red Lion” ; “The George” ; “The Carpenters Arms” and the oldly named “At The Sign Of The Angel”.
Anyway, we were on what’s become our annual short break in the village (we try to visit at least once a year) so we were able to walk straight out of our front door in the village, but as it’s a circular walk, I’ll write it up as if we started at the main car-park on Hither Lane.
There’s a footpath that runs from the car park to enter the village at a large barn housing The Fox Talbot Museum and the entrance into Lacock Abbey. After a very short distance, after passing The Stable Tearooms, The Red Lion is reached with it’s huge red-brick facade (quite incongruous next to the stone cottages near-by) … our route ignored the wide Main Street, instead we headed down East street (almost directly opposite the Red Lion’s front door) passing The huge Tythe Barn, The tiny Lock-up and Village Hall on the way.
The rows of terraced cottages here become home to swallows/swifts/house martins for their breeding seasons. Which sort of bird in particular I couldn’t say for sure (but I’d guess at swallows) but they do seem to thrive here, returning year after year. Whatever type of bird they are, we always enjoy watching them flit in and out of their mud homes stuck under the eaves of the cottages.
The bottom of East Street forms a T-Junction with Church Street. Directly opposite is The Bakery as olde worlde as you’ll likely find anywhere. Our route was to turn right into Church Street, passing The Carpenters Arms, King Johns Hunting Lodge Tea Rooms, and some more terraces of attractive stone cottages and touristy shops.
If you’ve reached this far, you’ve reached a dead end and you’ll need to back track a short way until near the main entrance gates to the church and then turn into a side road called simply Nethercote, the name very neatly inscribed in a cornerstone of the corner cottage.
The route now heads away from the village but soon reaches the village ford. The footpath crosses the stream by means of a small attractive stone bridge and then continues as a raised walkway above the stream. The stream makes a big dogleg here and any vehicles negotiating the ford have to travel quite some distance along the river (either with or against the flow). On warm sunny days the local kids love paddling here and riding their bikes back and forth. My kids over the years have walked to and fro through the cooling waters and on a few occasions have slipped over to end up with a wet back-side and bruised pride! On a nice quiet summers day it’s very easy to be fooled though, as even after a very moderate amount of rain the stream swells rapidly, effectively kind of trapping the local residents who live on the far side; the lane you see is a dead end and anyone living on Nethercote Hill without a big 4×4 are well advised to move their vehicles onto the village side of the ford before the waters rise too far. I would imagine weather forecasts are watched with more than just a passing interest each evening for over-night rain.
There are a couple of attractive cottages at the far side of the ford, one has quite a sizeable fig tree growing nearby and the other often has grape vine cuttings for sale which I guess gives an indication of the mild climate here-abouts.
After passing between these two cottages the lane climbs Nethercote Hill, with a much more rural feel now. We have often black-berried along the hedgerows here. The hill at first seems quite steep, but is not very long and is really very straight forward and probably only rises 30-40 feet, passing a handful of properties and allotments along the way, until it levels out and comes to an abrupt end near a small row of terraced cottages with farmland all around.
There are several footpaths that radiate out from the end of the tarmac road in various directions. Our route was to go through a large kissing gate to pick up a surfaced path heading off north-eastwards through the middle of the field (normally with sheep grazing). This path heads off down the hillside towards the pretty hamlet of Reybridge … but … today we weren’t heading that way … No, instead I wanted to explore a route that I hadn’t done before, to follow where the locals walk their dogs, etc. but with no official right of way on the map.
So after about a hundred yards or so, about level with the corner of a hedge on the right, we branched off the made-up track swinging off and round to the right to head out onto the field itself, and then heading downhill directly towards the bottom right corner. The views are lovely here, down to the River Avon across the water meadows and then rising up to wooded hills in the distance. A very rural peaceful landscape, almost old fashioned … you could imagine Constable painting here today and feeling quite at home.
[Just as an aside, it’s very easy to make a short detour by heading all the way down the surfaced path to reach the small hamlet of Reybridge. The small terrace of cottages raised slightly above the stone bridge over The Avon makes a lovely scene. Insurance against flooding here must be so expensive but the setting is quite superb. Once seen you could head back up to the sheep field again, turn left to follow the river and rejoin my route in the far corner].
In the corner the route crosses a side stream just before it converges with the Avon. This side stream has been seen before, as it’s the outflow from the ford passed earlier.
Once over the bridge, we turned left alongside the small stream to do a bit of exploring as I thought a good photo opportunity might arise at a bend in the main river … Well I certainly found an interesting view, but it turned out to be totally unexpected, as hidden away in the rough, a surprise was waiting … A brick and concrete built pill box, I assume from the second world war and in remarkably good condition. The inside was a tad unkempt but the outside was pretty much pristine. The small entrance is protected by the trunk of a sizeable tree, but I managed to squeeze my way in to take a look at the interior, my 7 y.o. little boy was fascinated as you’d expect.
Anyway, after a while we headed back up to the open fields and took a straight line heading pretty much south whilst the Avon took a big sweep off to the left in a series of meanders. It wasn’t long before we reached a stile over a wire fence near to where the River had bent back to be quite close again. Dead vegetation clinging to the barbed wire remained as testament to how high the river floods to, showing why these are known as water meadows.
Crossing the stile we were now entering the extended grounds of Lacock Abbey, yet another fantastically photogenic subject, again built of Cotswold Stone, but somewhat grander than any of the cottages seen earlier.
We headed diagonally up across the field to reach the corner of a wall near the National Trust Abbey itself. Inside, the grounds are very much more manicured and mark the area where only paying guests can wander.
We then headed half left back down to rejoin the river bank to follow it all the way to a minor road. The double bridge here, with its multiple arches is attractive to look at, but needs a degree of patience and politeness to cross by car as the narrow carriageway dictates
After a little explore along the bridges we then headed right along a raised walkway to climb gently alongside the Abbey grounds on a footpath alongside the road and a quite substantially built stone wall. The wall’s flat stone toppings seemed readymade for a little boy to run along the top of and I really couldn’t bring myself to stop Craig from doing so … It’s fun after-all.
It wasn’t long before we were back at Hither Way and the car-park; although I’m sure if you do this walk you’ll almost certainly head on back into Lacock once again to explore the village in more detail. After all there are the Tea-shops to visit, pubs to try, shops to spend money in, etc. oh and of course there’s the Abbey and Fox Talbot museum as well. As we re-entered the village (and before we headed back to our cottage) we stopped off to get a 99 ice-cream at the ice cream van that always seems to park-up here just before the Red Lion. He must make a small fortune when the coach loads of visitors get dropped off here during their tours of the area.
I guess that’s the end of this post, I hope you enjoyed my scribblings ….
Next walk = 20090806_Castle Coombe-Biddestone Walk_Macmillan Way