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A Walk with Good Manors from Holt

A gentle farmland stroll from a rare Wiltshire industrial village leads you to a beautiful 15th-century moated manor house.

Distance 3 miles (4.8km)

Minimum time 1hr 30min

Ascent/gradient 147ft (45m)

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Field paths, metalled track, country lanes, 8 stiles

Landscape Gently undulating farmland

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 156 Chippenham & Bradford-on-Avon

Start/finish ST 861619

Dog friendliness Keep dogs under control at all times

Parking Holt Village Hall car park

Public toilets Only if visiting The Courts or Great Chalfield Manor

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1 Turn left out of the car park and then right along the B3107 through the village. Just before reaching the Old Ham Tree pub and village green, turn right along Crown Corner. At the end of the lane take the waymarked path left along a drive. Follow the fenced path beside 'Highfields' to a stile.

2 Keep to the right along the edge of the field, then keep ahead in the next field towards the clump of fir trees. Continue following the worn path to the right, into a further field. Keep left along the field edge to a stile in the top corner. Maintain direction to a ladder stile and cross the metalled drive and stile opposite. Bear diagonally left through the field to a hidden stile in the hedge, level with the clump of trees to your right.

3 Turn right along the lane. At a junction, turn right towards Great Chalfield and go through the kissing gate almost immediately on your left. Take the arrowed path right, diagonally across a large field towards Great Chalfield Manor visible ahead.

4 Cross a stile and bear half-right downhill to a stile. Cross the stream via stepping stones, then a stile and bear diagonally left across the field to a gate. Cross the bridge and keep ahead beside the hedge to a metalled track by a barn.

5 Turn right, then right again when you reach the lane, passing in front of Great Chalfield Manor. At the sharp right-hand bend, go through the gate ahead and bear right, then half-left across the field to cross a footbridge over a stream. Continue straight on up the field beside woodland to a gate in the field corner.

6 Follow the left-hand field edge to a gate, then follow the path straight ahead towards a chimney on the skyline. Go through a gate, bear immediately right to a gate in the hedge and turn right along the path around the field edge.

7 Ignore the stile on your right and continue to the field corner and a raised path beside water. Go through a gate and turn left along the field edge to a further gate on your left. Join the drive past Garlands Farm and pass between small factory buildings to the road and turn right back to the car park.

Threaded by the busy B3107 linking Melksham to Bradford-on-Avon, Holt is a rare industrial Wiltshire village with a significant history as a cloth-making and leather-tanning centre. The tannery, founded in the early 18th century, still occupies the main three-storey factory in the appropriately named small industrial area - The Midlands - while bedding manufacture and light engineering now occupy former cloth factories. Holt also enjoyed short-lived fame between 1690 and 1750 as a spa, based on the curative properties of a spring, but its popularity declined in face of competition from nearby Bath. The most attractive part of the village is at Ham Green where elegant 17th- and 18th-century houses stand along three sides of a fine green shaded by horse chestnut trees, and a quiet lane leads to the late Victorian parish church with a Perpendicular tower.

From the green a walled walk leads to The Courts, a substantial 18th-century house that served, as its name suggests, as the place where the local magistrate sat to adjudicate in the disputes of the cloth weavers from Bradford-on-Avon. Although not open, the house makes an attractive backdrop to 7 acres (2.8ha) of authentic English country garden owned by the National Trust. Hidden away behind high walls and reached through an avenue of pleached limes, you will find a series of garden 'rooms' that are full of charm and a haven of peace away from the busy village street. Stroll along a network of stone paths through formal gardens featuring yew topiary, lawns with colourful herbaceous borders, a lake and lily pond with aquatic and water-tolerant plants, and explore an area given over to wild flowers among an interesting small arboretum of trees and shrubs.

You will glimpse the Tudor chimneys and gabled windows of this enchanting manor house as you stride across peaceful field paths a mile (1.6km) or so north west of Holt. Enhanced by a moat and gatehouse, this exquisite group of buildings will certainly live up to your expections and really must be visited. Built in 1480, during the Wars of the Roses, by Thomas Tropenell, Great Chalfield is one of the most perfect examples of the late medieval English manor house which, together with its immediately adjacent church, mill, great barn and other Elizabethan farm buildings, makes a harmonious and memorable visual group.

Sensitively restored in the early 20th century by Sir Harold Brakspear after two centuries of neglect and disrepair, the manor house is centred on its traditional great hall, which rises to the rafters and is lit by windows, including two beautiful oriels, positioned high in the walls. Join one of the guided tours and you will be able to see the fine vaulting, the chimney place of the hall, the concealed spy-holes in the gallery, designed to allow people to see what was going on in the great hall, and the amusing ornaments, gargoyles and other fascinating details of this fine building.

Where to eat and drink

You will find a choice of pubs in Holt. The 16th-century Tollgate Inn offers innovative, freshly produced food on varied menus alongside fine wines and local ales. For more traditional pub food and atmosphere head for the Old Ham Tree which overlooks the green.

What to look for

A huge factory dominates the landscape south of Holt, standing beside the River Avon on the site of a 16th-century cloth mill. The present building dates from 1824 and belongs to Nestlé who manufacture processed foods here. All that remains of Holt Spa is an arch, pump handle and stone tablet on one of the factory walls in the industrial estate.

While you're there

Visit Trowbridge Museum, located in the town's last working woollen mill, and learn more about the woollen mills and cloth-making industry of the Avon Valley in West Wiltshire.

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