Follow field paths to a hilltop monument and the start of Maud Heath's impressive Causeway.
Distance 4 miles (6.4km)
Minimum time 1hr 30min
Ascent/gradient 295ft (90m)
Level of difficulty Medium
Paths Field paths, bridle paths, metalled roads, 13 stiles
Landscape Gently rolling farmland, downland escarpment
Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 156 Chippenham & Bradford-on-Avon
Start/finish ST 980730
Dog friendliness Keep dogs on leads at all times
Parking Bremhill church
Public toilets None on route
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1 With your back to the church, turn right and walk downhill through the village. Begin to climb and take the arrowed path left across the stile. Proceed straight on below the bank along the field edge to a stile in the corner. Bear diagonally right, uphill across the field to a gate and lane.
2 Cross the stile opposite and cross a paddock to a further stile. Bear half-left to a stile in the field corner and walk along the left-hand edge to a gate and maintain direction to a stile. In the next field look out for and pass through a gate on your left and head straight across the field to a gate and lane.
3 Turn left, then immediately bear off right along a track to a gate. Join the waymarked bridle path along the right-hand field edge to a gate. Maintain direction through several fields and gates to reach the monument to Maud Heath on top of Wick Hill.
4 Continue to cross a lane via stiles, passing the stone tablet and inscription identifying the beginning of Maud Heath's Causeway. Follow the bridle path along the crest of the hill through seven fields via gates and bear left before woodland to reach a gate and lane at the top of Bencroft Hill.
5 Turn left, pass Bencroft Farm and a bungalow, then take the waymarked path right, through woodland to a gate. Continue ahead through a plantation, bearing left on nearing a gate to cross a stile. Proceed straight across the field on a defined path, cross double fence stiles and remain on the path to a stile to the left of a bungalow.
6 Turn left along the lane, heading uphill to a junction beside the Dumb Post Inn. Turn right, then left along the drive to a thatched cottage. Go through a squeeze-stile and keep to the left-hand edge of the field through a gate and squeeze-stile to reach a stile in the field corner. Walk in front of Manor Farm to reach a gate leading into Bremhill churchyard. Bear right along the path back to your car.
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 (1762-1850), 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'.
Follow the route of Maud Heath's Causeway to Kellaways to view the path where it crosses 60 raised arches and see the sundial monument, erected in 1698 and inscribed with the story of Maud Heath's legacy.
The Dumb Post Inn, an 18th-century stone and tile building, provides welcome refreshment towards the end of the walk. Relax in the garden on summer days and enjoy the views towards Bowood Park.
On the outside of the north wall of St Martin's Church in Bremhill you will find a carved stone memorial to 'a poor old soldier', Benjamin Tremblin, who died in 1822 at the age of 92. The verse, written by Bowles, commemorates the notable actions and commanders he had witnessed.