|Picked Hill – Field notes /blah blah blog
Ordnance Survey Explorer Map 157 - Scale 1:25000
Marlborough and Savernake Forest Avebury and Devizes
I have only climbed this hill once. 2006 I think it was. My crazy Swiss artist friend, Patrick Mayland had decided to camp out on the top of Milk Hill and I had foolishly agreed to join him. He really wanted to be present when the aliens were making one of their crop circles. Arriving on top of this hugh flat hill after dark and looking for a tent was not easy. I came across half a dozen other people up there, moving around in the dark. Some ran away when I got near, some couldn't speak English, and some thought I was a croppy called Ray.
We came down from the hills using the Workway Drove, an old track that leads from Knap Hill into the village of Wilcot. From here it was a walk down the Kennet and Avon canal towpath to Pewsey and the Co-op supermarket.
Check out this link for more info from Walking World
We came back along the towpath and thought it cool if we climbed up a hill to get a clearer view of the surrounding landscape. I choose Woodborough Hill as it seemed to have more features, trees, strip lynchets and a public foot path, while Patrick choose Pecked Hill. We tossed a coin and he won.
First let me state that this is private land and we had no right to be there.
We got under the wire fence at SU 12458 60636 and stashed the shopping. I remember there were young bullocks in the field but over towards the Western end. We climbed up the hill along the Eastern fence line and picked lovely fresh cherries from the trees along the lower slope. There was no human path, but seemed to be some form of track. It was a long haul in the hot sun and I remarked upon this when we reached the top and found no shade.
From this hight the whole valley is visible. I guess you could see over a dozen and a half TMA sites from here.
Looking West to East - Morgans Hill, Kitchen Barrow, Rybury, Tan Hill, Adam's Grave, Little Eve, The Ridgeway, The Altons, Knap Hill, Golden Ball Hill, Draycott Hill, The Giant's Grave and the Hill Fort at Martinsell. Over on the other side of the valley lies the other Giant's Grave on Milton Hill, the Long Barrow and the later Everleigh Barrows. Then there are the standing stones like Alton Priors Standing Stone, The Hanging Stone and Woodborough Holed Stone. Of course the one missing from this list is Hatfield Barrow, which nestled in the ruins of Marden Henge.
The canal cuts around the base of this hill, but may well follow the same route that the Ridgeway did.
This area would had run with springs from the hills above, like the `laughing wells' at Alton Priors (SU 10843 62201). Honey Street gets it's name from the gluttonise mud track once found there, not because of bees. King Alfred swore an oath with all his remaining brothers, when they met up at Swanborough Tump. This was in 870 when the Vikings where using the Ridgeway to raid the towns along it's route.
The area at the bottom of the hill also contains one of the most graceful parts of the canal. When the canal route was surveyed in 1793, the land was owned by Lady Susannah Wroughton, who would have nothing to do with it. She was finally appeased by 500 pounds, the building of a highly ornate bridge, No. 120 Lady's Bridge, dated 1808 and the landscaping of the marshy area around it.
When John Rennie originally planned the canal, this area was to be the highest point and feed by the springs from the hills above. In effect he planned a ¬`top pond', a 15 mile long reservoir to feed the canal as it fell towards Bath and Bristol in the West and Newbury and Reading in the East. This required a 4312 yard tunnel to be built and so a second opinion was sought by William Jessop. He suggested a shorter tunnel in conjunction with a steam pumping station at Crofton. This was chosen and saved the company 41,000 pounds. It still produced the 15 mile flat section or Pound from lock 50, Kennet Lock at the Devizes town bridge to lock 51, the Wootton Rivers Bottom Lock.
The Crofton pumping station is a heaven for Fred Dibnah types, and actually fires up the original coal feed boilers on special steam days. see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crofton_Pumping_Station and their own site at http://www.croftonbeamengines.org/intro.html for more details. Be careful if you take kids here. It seem like a health and safety nightmare, but well worth seeing if you have the time.
Another high light of this valley is The Bedwyn Stone Museum, which is based on the mason's yard.
Bedwyn Stone Museum, 91 Church Street Great Bedwyn, SN8 3PF - Tel: 01672 870234.
See http://www.kennet.gov.uk/great-bedwyn-1.pdf for more details of a walking route.
Chance - May 2008
Posted by Chance
16th May 2008ce