Whether it’s walking the ancient paths, exploring wildlife in Savernake Forest or hiking up the hill to where St George reputedly killed the dragon, getting out and about in the North Wessex Downs this summer certainly won’t disappoint.
The North Wessex Downs covers an area of 668 square miles taking in 173 parishes including the market towns of Hungerford and Marlborough.
This area is perfect for walking and it is so rich in history that you can’t fail to come across fascinating points of interest along your route. Look out for grey wethers or sarsen stones dotted about in fields. There are over 900 miles of footpaths including the Ridgeway which is 5000 years old and around 87 miles long and The Test Way (44 miles long) which meanders along the course of the river Test to Eling.
Or head to Uffington Castle just south of Wantage where you can see the famous white horse carving before climbing Dragon Hill on which St George is said to have slain the beast. No grass grows at the top of the mound as it is believed that is where the blood of the dragon was shed.
Dragon Hill, Uffington
For those who prefer to explore on two wheels, there are plenty of well signed cycle routes through the North Wessex Downs. The National Cycle network offers 173 miles of routes in the area including 65 blissful traffic free-miles.
When it’s too hot for cycling, the cool paths of Savernake forest might be more inviting. This is the only privately owned forest in Britain and a Site of Special Scientific Interest, boasting deer, birds of prey and rare lichen and fungi.
There are fascinating National trust properties here too. Avebury is a popular destination for visitors, but how many have discovered Ashdown house in Lambourn?
Ashdown House, Lambourn
This extraordinary building with the appearance of a dolls’ house nestles in a beautiful valley on the Berkshire Downs, surrounded by woodland. Access to the house is by guided tour only and for up to 25 people at a time, the spectacular roof top views from this 17th mansion are not to be missed.
Whatever you choose, there are plenty of websites to help you plan your days out in the North Wessex Downs this summer.
Walking, riding and cycling maps are available to download at: www.northwessexdowns.org.uk
Information on Savernake forest