Cranborne Droves Way – West to East

Win Green to Cow Down Hill

Distance: 6.4 miles (10.4km) Maps: OS Explorer 118, OS Landranger 184

A (signposted) very potholed byway leads off the road between Ludwell and Tollard Royal to the car park at Win Green.

Go through the small gate at the end of the car park with a National Trust logo on it and follow the path half left towards the copse of trees which crowns Win Green. The views from here on all sides are superb on a good day, and there is a plinth just before you get to the copse telling you what you can see. Pass either side of the copse and bear left downhill to a small gate which gives access to the byway which loops round the top of Win Green (in practice it is easy to get onto the byway before arriving at the gate).

Turn right (effectively straight ahead) on the byway, which is the Ox Drove. It can be muddy and waterlogged at this point. Follow it round the top of Ashcombe Valley, enjoying the fine views to the left as you do so. A few yards after joining a tarmac road which comes up from the right, turn half left onto a wide track which arrives at a tarmac road after some 30m. Continue east on this road for almost exactly a mile, then fork left off it onto a signed byway (which is the continuation of the Ox Drove).

Stay on this past two bridleways, and a ‘route with public access’ at Pincombe Down, all to your left, to reach Bigley Buildings on your right. The byway again tends to get very rutted and waterlogged here. Ignore a byway going off to the right here, and continue past another ‘route with public access’ just before Bigley Barn, then another track and bridleway, all on your left, to arrive at a sharp bend on a tarmac road. Continue along this road, from which there are fine views of Woodminton Down to your left, for exactly a mile, before arriving at a T junction with the road between Broad Chalke/Bowerchalke and Sixpenny Handley.

Warning: The next section is deeply rutted, and can get extremely muddy and waterlogged after rain, and for much of the way does not have verges on either side to help avoid the quagmire – but if you persevere, it does eventually improve!

[Option for detour at Woodminton Hill on yellow road to south, then to take footpath to the east parallel to the Ox Drove, then continue on yellow road past East Chase Farm and round Cutler’s Corner back to Ox Drove at Cow Down Hill].

Continue ahead on the Ox Drove (ignoring the sign which tells you that this is a byway to the Ox Drove – you have been on it for several miles now!) for a shade under a mile to arrive at a T junction with the road from Woodyates on the A354 to Bowerchalke. There is space here to park several cars.

Cow Down Hill to Stratford Tony church

Distance: 5.5 miles (8.8km) Maps: OS Explorer 130 (south sheet), OS Landranger 184

Continue north-east on the Ox Drove, which now has a manageable surface, for exactly a mile, passing Vernditch Chase on your right, to arrive at another road, which connects Bowerchalke with Martin Drove End on the A354. Continue in the same direction past Knowle Hill House and the Hut and Lodge Farm House (which does B&B), then a footpath on your left and a bridleway on your right.

At a crossroads of tracks a bit further on, you have the option of turning left past the Middleton Down Nature Reserve and along Church Bottom to visit Broad Chalke. This is a pretty and classic chalk downland valley village with the Ebble running through it, lots of great vernacular architecture, and a 13th century church at its heart, finished in 1280 just after Salisbury Cathedral. It also has a fine pub, the Queen’s Head. This is next door to The Hub, which houses the village shop, café and pot office, and is approximately 1.8 miles from the Cranborne Droves Way.

Further information can be obtained from:

www.chalkevalleystores.co.uk

www.queensheadbroadchalke.co.uk

www.chalkevalleychurches.org/history-broadchalke.htm

If not visiting Broad Chalke, continue along the Ox Drove for almost half a mile to arrive at another tarmac road. Turn right here for 25m, then left, still on the Ox Drove [but as this is another badly rutted byway which is often very muddy and/or flooded, there is the option of walking along the field edge beside it instead, although this is not a right of way]. After 80m or so, turn left into the field at a bridleway sign (if on the byway). Bear left towards the middle of the field, then turn right towards a distant gap in the hedge ahead (go round the edge of the field if there re crop in it).

In the next field, bear slightly left towards the end of a fence ahead. Continue past the fence end, veering more to the left, and aiming for a low mound on the horizon. As you get nearer this you will be able to see a spindly post on it topped by an orange ball on a concrete platform. Pass to the right of these to arrive at a small gate. Continue in the same direction, coming within 80m or so of a spectacular combe on your left, aiming for a gap in the hedge ahead (there is a gate but it no longer closes). Follow the well established path across a final field, which may have crops in it in the summer, and on reaching the other side, turn left along the hedge for 25m, then right at the field corner through a gap, onto a continuation of the bridleway (which is also a Roman road).

Turn left along this, descending steadily, and joining another bridleway coming in from the right (this is the Fulston Drove, the alternative route for cyclists and equestrians). Some 400m after this, turn 90 degrees right through a field gate and proceed downhill towards some barns. Turn sharp left just before reaching them onto a concrete track. Follow this for ¾ mile (1.2km), and when it bends to the left, continue ahead past the buildings of Throope Farm (to the right). Turn right past an oval green in front of some houses, and take the track beyond, which ascends slightly. At a crossing of paths turn left through a gap in the hedge (past a redundant stile) and follow the path diagonally through a small paddock. Exit though another gap at the bottom (with another redundant stile), turn right, then immediately left down the track past the church.

Stratford Tony church to Salisbury

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

Cross a stream on a footbridge and turn right along the tarmac path to reach a road. Turn left along this. Cross straight over the main road, and opposite a sharp left turning go up a farm track past double farm gates. This is marked as a Roman road on the OS maps and is a bridleway. Where the ascent levels out take the enclosed path ahead, with hedge to the left. This emerges into a field, with a hedge on the right, and steadily ascends, making use of a farm track briefly, to arrive at an unsurfaced track (Drove Lane) exactly a mile after leaving the road.

After 40m or so, this meets a byway along the edge of Salisbury Racecourse at an unsigned T junction. Turn right here along the byway, which is the Old Shaftesbury Drove. This is deeply rutted in places, with large, muddy puddles across it in some sections in or after wet weather, particularly where you join it. The racecourse on your left is soon replaced by trees and bushes. Just before arriving at a pylon (to the right), turn left onto a signed bridleway. Follow this downhill for ½ mile, joining a farm track in the process, then turn right between fields, ascending a little. Turn left at the top and follow the track as it sweeps right and downhill into a wooded section.

Turn left, just as the cliffs of a disused quarry are revealed to your right, and follow this bridleway to a busy main road (the A3094 to Netherhampton). Cross this road and proceed up Upper Street opposite. Follow this round to the right as it turns into Middle Street. Ignore all turnings to left and right until arriving at the small turning to the left of Middle Town Cottage, which is Town Path. Go up this, past the Old Mill Hotel, and follow the tarmac path across Harnham Water Meadows. This is a verdant expanse of grass and streams, with nesting swans and a fine view of the cathedral to the right.

Cross a causeway bridge over the River Nadder and bear right onto Mill Road. This bends right at Harcourt Bridge and becomes Crane Bridge Road. Cross the River Avon on Crane Bridge, and at the cross roads with traffic lights turn right (opposite the pedestrianised High Street). Pass under North Gate, one of the entrances to the once-fortified  city centre, into Choristers Square, where the cathedral will be revealed in all its glory before you!