Cranborne Droves Way – East to West

Salisbury to Stratford Tony church

Distance: 4.8 miles (7.7 km) Maps: OS Explorer 130 (south sheet), OS Landranger 184

The most convenient car park to use in Salisbury is the Central car park between the ring road and Sainsburys, as it is a long stay car park with a maximum charge (Feb 2019) of £8.90 and is in easy walking distance of the cathedral. To get to the start of the Cranborne Droves Way, walk down the side of the Sainsburys covered car park, with the River Avon to your left, and follow the signs to the cathedral. This will take you across Bridge Street and down the tarmac path beside the Kings Head Inn to Crane Street. Here turn left to the traffic lights, then right opposite the High Street. Go under the gate in the castellated wall (North Gate) and pass Chorister Square on your right to arrive at the cathedral in its green.

To start the Cranborne Droves Way (CDW), retrace your steps to Crane Street. Where you emerged onto it from the car park, continue ahead. Crane Street becomes Crane Bridge Road, then Mill Road. When this bends to the right, fork left onto a concrete path, signposted “Harnham via Town Path”, then onto a causeway bridge over the River Nadder which is the gateway to Harnham Water Meadows. This is a verdant expanse of grass and streams, with nesting swans and a fine view of the cathedral to the left.

Kink right and left across a weir and past the Old Mill Hotel, and walk down its approach road. Turn right at the junction into Middle Street. Continue along this street for 600m, where it bears left and becomes Upper Street. This leads to a busy main road (the A3094 to Netherhampton). Cross this road and go up the bridleway opposite, Carrion Pond Drove. This runs for 300m behind gardens to bring you to a disused quarry/chalk pit. Here turn right and go uphill to emerge into a field. Follow the field edge ahead and then round to the left.

At the end of the field continue ahead for 80m, then turn right between fields. At the end of this field, turn left onto a farm track. Go gradually uphill, and when the farm track veers off to the right, continue ahead. Enter an enclosed path at the top which soon comes out onto a byway at a T junction. Turn right along the byway. This is the Old Shaftesbury Drove, and is deeply rutted with large, muddy puddles across it in some sections in or after wet weather. After a while, the hedge on the right disappears to give a close up view of Salisbury racecourse. The track surface immediately improves. As you near the grandstand, turn sharp left onto an unsurfaced track (Drove Lane).

After 40m or so, take the bridleway on the right down the left-hand side of a large field, which is marked as a Roman road on the OS maps. Continue in a straight line through a second field, joining a farm track which soon goes off to the left Go straight on and pass through an enclosed section. Then gradually go downhill to arrive at the minor road to Stratford Tony.

Turn left onto this, and cross over the main road, which is shortly reached, and go down the road opposite, which is signposted as a dead end. Cross a stream and soon after turn right along a track/tarmac path signposted to the ‘Historic Church’. Cross a stream on a footbridge and turn right towards the church.

Stratford Tony church to Woodminton Down

Distance: 6.4 miles (10.2 km) (the alternative adds another 0.5 mile) Maps: OS Explorer 130 (south sheet), OS Landranger 184

Follow the track up to and round the left-hand boundary of the church wall to reach a lane. Turn right onto this, and almost immediately go through a gap with a redundant stile in the hedge opposite. Bear diagonally right across a small paddock to reach another gap in the hedge with another redundant stile onto a bridleway. Turn right along this to come out at an oval green with houses on the right and farm buildings on the left. Take the tarmac road to the left at its far end.

This becomes a concrete track beyond the sign announcing it as a restricted byway, and makes its way along the valley floor, ascending gently as it approaches a couple of large barns (marked as Throop Bottom Cottages on the OS maps). This is the start of the ascent to the top of the downs and the Ox Drove. Take the unsurfaced track going uphill to the right, pass through a farm gate at the top and turn left onto the continuation of the Roman road you were on before. After passing through another farm gate, and ignoring the track going off to the left, continue uphill on a broad track.

Alternative for cyclists, and walkers in very wet weather: Take the track going off to the left after passing through another farm gate. This is Faulston Drove, a bridleway with a good surface. Follow it for exactly one mile to arrive at a collection of farm buildings. Turn right at the crossroads of tracks beyond onto a byway. This has a very good surface for almost a mile, until the next track (a bridleway, Croucheston Drove) comes in from the right, after which it deteriorates.  Finally, 11/4 miles (2 km) after leaving the crossroads of tracks, arrive at a tarmac road to rejoin the main route at * below

Just before you reach the top, turn right through a gate-sized gap in the hedge and immediately left up the side of the field. After 25m, fork right (through crops in the summer), following a well-established path across the field. Pass through a gap in the hedge on the other side marked by a wooden post (there is a gate but it no longer closes) and continue in the same direction, then follow the tractor track along the contour of the hillside to skirt the left-hand edge of the coomb and reach a small gate in the hedge. 

Keep going in the same direction aiming for a solitary stunted tree on the skyline. As you get near this you will be able to see a spindly post topped by an orange ball next to the tree, which is on a concrete platform. Pass to the left of these then between the end of a fence (coming in from the left) and another coomb. Follow the tractor tracks ahead then left to join a much wider track in the centre of the field. Here turn right, aiming for a gap in the hedge beyond. Stay on the same course in the next field, deviating to the left near the end to arrive (finally) at the Ox Drove at an obvious gap in the hedge marked by a sign asking users to stay on the path and dog owners to keep their dogs on the lead. Turn right along this [but as this is a deeply rutted byway which is often very muddy and/or flooded, there is the option of walking along the field edge instead, although this is not a right of way].

When the byway comes out at a tarmac road * after 80m or so, turn right for 25m, then left down another broad, but frequently waterlogged (in winter) byway. Follow this past the Middleton Down Nature Reserve to the right, and the Hut and Lodge Farmhouse (which does B&B) to the left, to arrive at another tarmac road just beyond Knowle Hill House, which is on your right. Cross the road and continue along the track, which is at first smooth but soon becomes rutted and often waterlogged, to arrive at the tarmac road over Cow Down Hill.

[To avoid the worst of the rutted and often waterlogged surface of the Ox Drove in the next section, there is the option of a detour at this point: turn left along the road at Cow Down Hill and follow it round to the right at Cutler’s Corner. When it bends sharply to the left, continue ahead on a footpath which arrives at a road after almost a mile. Turn right on this road, then take the first turn to the left, which is at Woodminton Down – you are now back on the Ox Drove.]

Cross another tarmac road here and go ahead down the byway, ascending very gradually, to reach another tarmac road at Woodminton Down. This is the road between Broad Chalke/Bowerchalke, and Sixpenny Handley. There are no views to be seen on this section from Knowle Hill House as the route is hedged in on both sides.

Woodminton Down to Win Green

Distance: 5.5 miles (8.8 km) Maps: OS Explorer 118, OS Landranger 184

Start where the road signposted to Ebbesbourne Wake and Shaftesbury branches off at right angles from the road between Broad Chalke /Bower-chalke, and Sixpenny Handley. Walk west along the tarmac road towards Ebbesbourne Wake. Fine views of Woodminton Down open up on your right.

When the road veers sharply to the right (north), continue ahead along the track. This is at first quite rutted, but its surface soon improves. Pass a bridleway, then a track, both on the right, before reaching Bigley Barn, then a ‘route with public access’, also arriving from the right, and a byway going off to the left at Bigley Buildings. Continue ahead (the route again tends to get very rutted and waterlogged here), passing another ‘route with public access’ and two more bridleways on your right. Eventually, 2 ¾ miles after leaving the tarmac road, come out onto another one, and continue on this for almost exactly a mile.

When the road proceeds downhill towards a signpost, take the wide track which forks left off it. After some 30m, turn right onto the continuation of the Ox Drove, which immediately forks right. Stay on this stony track round the top of Ashcombe Valley until you arrive at a small gate on your left with the National Trust logo on it. Go through it and climb up towards the copse of trees on the top of Win Green. The views from here on all sides are superb on a good day, and there is a toposcope to the left (south) of the copse telling you what you can see. Pass either side of the copse and walk to the car park beyond it to finish the CDW, or to continue on the Wessex Ridgeway.