Walking in Wiltshire: Exploring the ancient landscape on foot


Florence Robson

Sun setting in the fields | True Grace

The English countryside offers some of the most spectacular walks in the world. From heather-scattered moorland to rugged coastlines; glittering lakes to gurgling streams; patchwork hills to towering woodlands; the English countryside is a diverse feast for the senses. Set out for a rural stroll in June and you might hear chattering swallows or the deep hum of bumblebees. You’ll catch the scent of a wild rose and spot butterflies darting across the grass. And, if you’re lucky, you’ll even feel the sun on your skin. 

There is little so healing as the simple act of walking through a beautiful landscape. Spending time in nature can improve our mood, reduce stress and boost concentration and creativity. A solo walk can give us time to think, clarify any challenges and change our outlook, while conversations while walking can deepen bonds and strengthen relationships. Even a short, brisk walk can increase our mental alertness and energy; when you combine exercise with the beauty of the natural world, you get a powerful — usually free — tool for physical and mental health.

At True Grace we’re so passionate about the transformative power of walking that we attempted to distil it into our Functional Fragrances range. Inspired by the English countryside, the scents harness the therapeutic benefits of pure oils to capture the healing power of the natural world. Each fragrance in the range — Lawn, Fields and Moorland — has been named for the landscape that influenced it. Lawn uses a herbaceous blend of cypress oil, geranium, chamomile and lavender to capture the feeling of sinking your bare toes into dewy grass; Fields is inspired by wild flowers and long grasses, using lemon, rosemary and labdanum to refresh and centre you; and Moorland conjures the purifying effect of a hike on a cool and breezy day, with eucalyptus and mint mingling with warming mandarin and clove. 

The beauty of a Wiltshire Walk

As a predominantly rural county, Wiltshire has an abundance of beautiful countryside, stretching from the New Forest to The Cotswolds and taking in iconic landmarks, archeological features and chalk carvings. There is no better way to soak up the history and mystery of this ancient landscape than on foot: stroll through rich chalk grassland, admire the view from the top of rolling hills and soak up the atmosphere in sprawling woodland. In the words of artist/photographer and Essence of England interviewee, David R Abram, visiting these sites can feel like “you are communing with human lives from millennia ago.”

Among Wiltshire’s most notable landmarks are, of course, the stone circles of Stonehenge and Avebury, as well as Salisbury Cathedral (home to England’s tallest church spire), and a number of country houses such as Longleat, Stourhead and Bowood. However, don’t limit yourself to these places alone: the county has any number of places to explore on foot, from short strolls to longer hikes (this book offers plenty of inspiration). Here are some of our favourites.

Along the River Nadder to The Compasses Inn

“I believe that a great walk ends up at a pub,” says True Grace Co-Founder Roger Biles. “There is a beautiful stroll that takes you from my local town, Tisbury, along the beautiful banks of the River Nadder and towards Chicksgrove, a lovely hamlet where you’ll find The Compasses Inn, a 14th century thatched pub that’s a local favourite for its delicious food and great atmosphere. You can even stay over if you fancy making an evening of it.”

Other pub walks beloved by the team include an amble around the Fonthill Lake followed by a pint at the Beckford Arms, and a visit to The Three Daggers in Edington after a bracing walk to Bratton Camp and the White Horse

Roger is also partial to a night walk, when the world is further transformed, and finds great inspiration from this book.

“There is no better way to soak up the history and mystery of this ancient landscape than on foot.”

Alfred’s Tower at Stourhead

While Stourhead’s gardens are stunning at any time of year, we particularly love this circular walk through beautiful woodlands to Alfred’s Tower, a folly believed to mark the site where King Alfred the Great rallied his troops in 878. 

Avebury to Silbury Hill

This fascinating walk will take you across breathtaking landscapes and along ancient trails. Start at the Red Lion pub in Avebury (rumoured to be home to several ghosts) before walking along the Winterbourne and towards Silbury Hill, the largest prehistoric man-made mound in Europe.

Cley Hill Trail

Not far from True Grace HQ you’ll find Cley Hill, a landmark famed for its 2,500-year-old Iron Age hillfort and Bronze Age burial mound. Make it to the top and you’ll be rewarded with stunning 360-degree views over the Wiltshire landscape and beyond.

Grovely Wood

This ancient woodland is situated on a chalk ridge and cut through by a Roman road. Amongst locals it is known as the setting for spooky folklore, including the tragic tale of the Handsel sisters who were accused of witchcraft and murdered amongst Grovely’s trees. Three gnarled beech trees now stand where the sisters were supposedly buried — far enough apart so that they couldn’t conspire against their killers from beyond the grave. Make it to those beech trees today and you’ll find them adorned with ribbons and offerings from respectful walkers. 

Lockeridge Dene

Sarsen stones are another Wiltshire wonder, formed out of a sandstone deposit that formed on the chalk over 30 million years ago. Many of these boulders have been used as building materials (with Stonehenge being the most famous example) but there are a number left in the wild, too. At Lockeridge Dene and Piggledene, you can stroll across wild grasslands and admire the flowers, birds and insects that inhabit them, while you skip over sarsen boulders.

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