A modest and varied circle from Biddestone along the By Brook via Ford and Slaughterford in North Wiltshire. About 6.5 miles. Use the map Explorer 156, Chippenham and Bradford on Avon, ref: 863 734. Park in Biddestone village on the green near the pond. The village lies just south of the A420 , about four miles west of Chippenham.
There's nothing too taxing on this walk in North Wiltshire – especially if you take advantage of one of the three lovely pubs en route.
THE picturesque village of Biddestone, with two pubs on the green, and the equally photogenic river-side hamlet of Ford, with a pub on the river, link this green and pleasant circle in North Wiltshire.
The only sounds should be of the river and buzzards soaring above. It also goes through an old settlement where Alfred is said to have beaten the Danes. There are contrasts of high open farmland, shady woods and a river valley.
There is likely to be mud on a stretch through the woods but the rest should be fairly dry. Walking is on footpaths, old thoroughfares and on quiet country lanes.
From Ford, there is a climb of a few minutes, and a gentler, steady climb from Slaughter- ford but the rest is flat or gently undulating.
From the parking area, turn back the way you probably came in, and then turn left down Church Road signed to Hartham. Pass the turnpike cottage, and next to it a circular roofed shelter over a pump and a line of pretty 18th-century cottages and then reach St Michael's Church, which is well worth a visit.
Continue on along the Butts, leaving the village, and reach the lychgate ahead leading to the cemetery. Here, fork right on By Lane, a No Through Road, signed to Field Barn Farm.
This is a very quiet lane taking you quickly out across the flat upland farming country towards the By Brook valley. The road kinks a little. Continue to a sharp right bend with two large metal gates ahead.
Take the metal stile barrier at the side into a field. Now, it's straight ahead across the field with great open views across the valley to Colerne.
Go through to another field and continue straight on until you reach the end of a hedge with a large ash tree. Maintain direction, keeping the hedge on your left. Drop down to the corner, to a stile on to Weavern Lane.
2. WEAVERN LANE
Turn right. This old thoroughfare drops down hill under trees. Ignore any side paths. Enter woodland and here it may be rather muddy, after rain, but there should be room for walkers to pass relatively cleanly.
The lane does get drier and eventually better surfaced. Just continue on. Ignore a farm track and then after well over a mile on Weavern Lane, reach a lane which joins from the right. Just continue on down. Ignore side turns and bend round left to reach the bridge over the By Brook at Slaughterford.
Don't cross the bridge, but continue on the lane with the By Brook on your left and at the bend, (or take a shorter circuit from here *) go straight ahead by a metal barrier on a footpath into woodland.
Shortly, reach remains of the old mill – a metal mill wheel and crumbling remains of the building – on the right. Continue on. Cross a footbridge over a weir, which after rain can be quite spectacular. Go ahead in the field following the river and go under power lines.
Eventually, reach another weir and bridge on the right and cross. Once over, continue on as before, with the water on your left. Maintain direction through this green valley and cross two stiles. There are one or two well-placed benches by the river, ideal for a rest or picnic.
Reach another weir and cross right over it and just carry on in the same direction with the water on your right.
Finally, at the end of the field, cross a stile on to a lane (there is some traffic along here) and turn right into Ford hamlet.
Turn right past the White Hart, which has great seating areas by the By Brook, and an imaginative menu. Cross the river and by the de-restriction sign, shortly fork right on a Tarmac lane.
This climbs fairly gently through beech woodland for two or three minutes and then it levels out and comes into the open. Keep on and drop down to Slaughterford and a T-junction.
This quiet hamlet was originally known as Slaphornford, from the Saxon slah-porn, meaning sloe thorn or bush. Legend has it that there was a battle here with King Alfred victorious over the Danes.
There were paper mills in Slaughterford, taking advantage of the clear waters of the By Brook by the latter part of the 18th century and one of them, Chaps Mill, closed only a few years ago; it had been making art and craft papers, mainly for schools.
If you are interested in old churches, it is worth making a short detour over the stile ahead to the church in the field. The old church was destroyed during the Civil War by Cromwell's men en route from Chippenham to Bristol.
**Turn left up the lane (right if doing the shorter circuit). It is a steady, fairly gentle uphill section. At the top, as the lane bends left, go right into a field following the footpath sign.
Follow the left hedge along and around (ignore a farm track in the field) and in the corner go through a metal gate into the next field.
Continue along the left hedge and when it ends, maintain direction across the field under power lines to a stile/barrier in the hedge line. Cross and now head up the field aiming for the top right corner. Here find a footpath signpost. Stay in the field and turn right, with the hedge on your left.
In the corner, go into the next field and start to descend. The footpath bears right across the field to reach a hedge corner which juts into the field, but if there are crops you may need to go around the left edge. Continue on down to the bottom corner and cross a stile on to a lane.
7. HAM LANE
Turn left and follow the lane for half a mile back to Biddestone, retracing your steps back along past the church to the green. There's the picturesque White Horse and a little further on, the Biddestone Arms, both very popular pubs.
Shorter circuit: *If you want to cut the circle short and not visit Ford, continue on the lane into the heart of Slaughterford, using the raised pavement on the right. Turn up right through a gate and across to the church. Pass the church on your left and go across to the far side of the field and down steps to the lane and T-Junction. Here continue the main circle from **.