Bremhill, SN11 9JZ, Calne
You don't need a dog but you do need a Christmas Jumper - or something on that looks Christmasy
Bremhill and Maud Heath's Causeway
4 miles - wellies would be a good idea. Followed by a drink and/or lunch at the pub.
Nestling on the upper slopes of Wick Hill, surrounded by lush pastureland, isolated farmsteads and leafy lanes, tiny Bremhill is a timeless downland village complete with an ancient church, a fine stepped medieval cross and a single street lined with pretty ragstone cottages. Surprisingly, for such a pastoral area, there is much to interest the casual rambler undertaking this short walk, in addition to the absorbing views across the north Wiltshire plain to the Cotswold hills from the mile (1.6km) long stretch of bridle path across Wick Hill.
The Reverend William Lisle Bowles [masked]), rector of St Martin's Church in Bremhill from 1803 to 1844, lived in the vicarage, now Bremhill Court, adjacent to the church. Bowles was not only an eccentric, filling his garden with grottoes, urns and hermitages and keeping sheep in the churchyard with their bells tuned in thirds and fifths, he was also a poet. His literary friends, such as Wordsworth, Coleridge, Southey and Charles Lamb, were all part of the considerable literary circle centred upon Bowood House. Although much of his poetry was derided, it was his now forgotten sonnets, published in nine editions, that influenced the whole school of poetry and gained admiration from Coleridge and Wordsworth. Scour the churchyard and you will find some examples of Bowles' poetry, as this eccentric vicar was unable to resist breaking into verse on tombstones, monuments and even a sundial!
One of Bowles' less impressive verses is inscribed on the monument you will pass on top of Wick Hill. Erected by Bowles and the Marquis of Lansdowne in 1838 it commemorates Maud Heath, a local widow, who in 1474 made a bequest of land and property in Chippenham to provide an income to build and maintain a causeway from Wick Hill through the Avon marshes to Chippenham, a distance of around 4½ miles (7.2km). Although starting from the top of a hill, much of the land along the route was low lying and prone to flooding in winter, so her aim was to provide a dry pathway for country people to walk to market.
For much of its route the Causeway is little more than a raised path, but the most interesting section can be found at Kellaways, where the way is elevated some 6ft (1.8m) on stone arches as it crosses the River Avon, a remarkable feat of engineering for its time.
On top of the monument on Wick Hill, Maud is depicted in a shawl and bonnet with her basket by her side. Although she has been described as a market woman, it seems unlikely that a lady wealthy enough to provide land and property on this scale would have been walking to market herself. You will see the beginning of the Causeway as you cross the hilltop road, where a tablet states 'From this Wick Hill begins the praise of Maud Heath's gift to these highways'.