The North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

The North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) offers a wealth of scenic landscapes, cycling routes, and walking trails to explore. Here are some recommended places and activities in the area:

Scenic Drives:

Start your drive in your Easicampers campervan at Overton Hill, near Avebury, and follow the Ridgeway National Trail. This scenic route takes you through the heart of the AONB, offering stunning views of rolling hills, ancient sites, and charming villages such as Osbourne St George and East Kennett.  Explore the Test Valley, a picturesque region known for its idyllic villages, rolling hills, and the River Test, renowned for its crystal-clear waters and abundant wildlife.

Cycling Routes:

Avebury and Surrounding Villages: Begin your cycling adventure at the Avebury stone circle. From there, cycle through the delightful villages of West Overton, East Kennett, and Lockeridge. Enjoy the picturesque countryside, with its patchwork fields, hedgerows, and charming thatched cottages.

  • Distance: Approximately 15 miles (24 km)
    • Difficulty: Easy to moderate

Kennet and Avon Canal: Cycle along the towpath of the Kennet and Avon Canal, which stretches from Reading to Bath. Start at Hungerford and pedal alongside the peaceful canal, passing through picturesque locks and quaint canal-side pubs. Enjoy the tranquility of the waterways and the surrounding countryside.

  • Distance: Varies depending on your starting point; consider cycling from Hungerford to Pewsey (approximately 18 miles or 29 km).
    • Difficulty: Easy

The Ridgeway Trail: For a more challenging cycling experience, follow a section of the Ridgeway Trail. This ancient track offers panoramic views as you cycle along the undulating chalk downs, passing through patches of woodland and open grasslands.

  • Distance: Choose a section based on your preference and fitness level. Consider cycling from Avebury to Streatley (approximately 32 miles or 51 km).
    • Difficulty: Moderate to challenging, due to hilly terrain.

Walking Trails:

The White Horse Trail: This circular walk allows you to explore the iconic white horse hill figures in the area. Begin at Avebury and follow the trail, passing by the Uffington White Horse, Hackpen White Horse, and others. Enjoy the sweeping views from the chalk downs and immerse yourself in the rich history of these ancient landmarks.

  • Distance: The entire trail is approximately 90 miles (145 km). Choose a section that suits your time and preferences.
    • Difficulty: Moderate to challenging, depending on the chosen section.

Wayfarer’s Walk: Follow a section of the Wayfarer’s Walk, a long-distance footpath that passes through the North Wessex Downs AONB. Consider starting from Inkpen Beacon and enjoy panoramic vistas, charming villages like Burghclere, and varied landscapes as you make your way towards the Hampshire border.

  • Distance: Choose a section based on your preference. Consider walking from Inkpen Beacon to Kingsclere (approximately 15 miles or 24 km).
    • Difficulty: Moderate

Watership Down Circular Walk: Immerse yourself in the landscapes that inspired Richard Adams’ novel “Watership Down.” Start at the village of Kingsclere and follow the circular route, which takes you through rolling downs, woodlands, and peaceful countryside. Admire the stunning views from Ladle Hill and Ladle Hill Fort.

  • Distance: Approximately 6 miles (10 km)
    • Difficulty: Easy to moderate

Nature Reserves and Parks:

West Woods: Located near Marlborough, West Woods is a beautiful ancient woodland known for its vibrant bluebell displays in spring. Explore the network of footpaths, winding your way through the towering beech trees and experiencing the enchanting atmosphere of this woodland haven.

Ashdown House and Wayland’s Smithy: Visit Ashdown House, a stunning 17th-century hunting lodge nestled in the Lambourn Valley. Explore the well-manicured gardens and take a stroll through the nearby woods. Just a short drive away, you’ll find Wayland’s Smithy, a long ancient barrow surrounded by beautiful countryside. Take a moment to soak in the history and enjoy the peaceful surroundings.

Cotswold Water Park: Although just outside the official boundaries of the North Wessex Downs AONB, the Cotswold Water Park is worth a visit for nature enthusiasts. This network of lakes offers opportunities for leisurely walks along the lakeshores, birdwatching, and observing the local wildlife. You can also try your hand at various water sports, including kayaking and paddleboarding.

Additional Recommendations:

Donnington Castle: Located just outside Newbury, Donnington Castle is a ruined medieval castle with a rich history. Take a stroll around the castle grounds and learn about its role in the English Civil War. Enjoy the panoramic views from the hilltop where the castle is situated.

Lambourn Valley: Explore the picturesque Lambourn Valley, known as the “Valley of the Racehorse.” Visit the charming village of Lambourn, famous for its horse racing heritage. Take a leisurely walk along the Lambourn Circular Walk, which offers scenic views of the valley and passes through tranquil countryside and charming villages.

Combe Gibbet: Take a walk to Combe Gibbet, a historical landmark situated on Inkpen Hill. The gibbet marks the site of a gruesome execution in the 17th century and provides stunning panoramic views over the surrounding countryside.

Remember to check local visitor centres, such as the North Wessex Downs AONB Visitor Centre, for up-to-date information, maps, and specific recommendations based on your interests and the current conditions in the area. Enjoy your Easicampers Heathrow campervan adventure in the North Wessex Downs AONB, and take in the beauty and tranquillity of this remarkable landscape!

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