After arriving, no longer had we crossed the old bridge over the canal, we were overrun with competition rowers, running alongside the bank in two man crews with their canoe's above their heads. Later we found out, that this was the annual Devizes to Westminster International Canoe Race, that runs every Easter! It's an impressive 125 miles long with 77 portages. As you traverse the tender-stem fields, you have some fantastic views of Wilton Windmill, as it stands out clearly on the horizon in all its glory.
It was Good Friday, and we were itching to get out into the countryside, rambling around on our day off to enjoy great sites, interesting attractions and natures tranquility. We were keen to try out a new walk roughly within an hour’s drive that had a mix of woodland, rolling hills and was a good 4+ miles long.
Out pops our Jarrolds Short Walks for Wiltshire & Salisbury
Knowing that these little walking guides are generally a great little resource for those quick-to-find leisure walks, we quickly narrowed down our options and picked the Great Bedwyn and Crofton walk.
It took a little longer to arrive, due to the bank holiday motorway pandemonium. Just before adjoining the motorway, we noticed the stationary traffic from the roundabout above and took the scenic route towards Hungerford! Hours saved already, which always put’s you in a good mood, despite the overcast skies.
The Canals at Great Bedwyn were a hive of activity
After arriving, no longer had we crossed the old bridge over the canal, we were overrun with competition rowers, running alongside the bank in two man crews with their canoe’s above their heads.
Later we found out, that this was the annual Devizes to Westminster International Canoe Race, that runs every Easter! It’s an impressive 125 miles long with 77 portages.
Up to the woods, a trudging we must go
After leaving the canal, you head up the hill passing a couple of very old tree’s and into Castle Copse, where it is extremely damp and muddy underfoot. This is no understatement; you NEED to be wearing decent walking boots! or be prepared to fill your socks, that’s if you don’t lose your footwear first!
You continue through a managed wood, up through Bedwyn Brail, passing plenty of log piles up-towards a lovely little double bench by a signpost for the Wilton Windmill and the Wilton Brail. This was the perfect opportunity for a (pre-half time) break and a light snack, whilst pondering the experience thus far.
We continued sticking to the instructions in our guide book
There were some lovely views, but the middle part of the walk was chalky track and not very inspiring despite some of the ancient fallen trees. However, as we left the forest track and entered a field (Dodsdown) full of shall we say rather fragrant tender-stem broccoli and after a short downpour, which tends to smell a little like wee.
We caught a glimpse of a large white barn owl swooping over the field at speed, though too quickly to react with the camera for good photo.
In the distance we could see Wiltshire’s Wilton Windmill
As you traverse the tender-stem fields, you have some fantastic views of Wilton Windmill, as it stands out clearly on the horizon in all its glory. The iconic white cap and four fantail blades stand out from the skyline with the 5 floor, faded red brick mill tower standing proud from the surrounding hills.
The 100 year old mill was listed as a Grade II Building of Special Architectural and Historic Interest in the 1960’s. Since has been restored to it’s former glory in 1976, now is a fully functioning mill.
Visting Wilton’s Windmill
You can visit the Windmill at any time of the year, but I believe guided tours are from Easter to September from 2pm to 5pm.
- Refreshments and gifts are available from the Shepherds’s hut shop
- Picnic/Seating areas with breathtaking views of the Downs
- Toilets available
- Dog’s welcome on a lead
The Roman road & The Swan Inn at Wilton
As you leave the broccoli behind you enter an old Roman road uphill, with some lovely views of Wilton village below and an old sun bleached signpost to The Swan Inn at Wilton.
Afterwards I found out that it was a great pub to visit, hindsight is a wonderful thing and were tempted to stop by for a drink, but honestly we were getting tired, it was downhill and we still had a climb to reach the top of the Roman road, so we opted to continue walking on.
Crofton Beam Engines, 200 years and still pumping
As we descended down the old Roman road towards Crofton, you can just make out a tall chimney in the distance, which is Crofton Beam Engines, an old water pumping station. Apparently the pumping station provided a supply of water to the highest point of the Kennet and Avon Canal through Savernake forest.
Entry is free for kids and around £4-£8 for adults, depending if the engines are in steam. There is an on-site Engineman’s Rest Cafe, gift shop and picnic area for an interesting afternoon out.
Walk review: Great Bedwyn and Crofton via Wilton Windmill
Despite the weather being quite drizzly, the walk had plenty of interesting key points of interest toward the last two miles. However, the two Brail stretches through the woodland were not as exciting as would have liked (we do like a good overgrown wood without many wide open tracks).
On the upsides, the Wilton windmill and Crofton Beam Engines pumping station were interesting and worth a visit, whilst only adding a mile to your walk for a great day out.
In hindsight, we cannot comment on the two pubs along the route and wished we had stopped by for a cheeky pint. If anyone has experience of the local pubs, we would love to hear your thoughts.
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Great Bedwyn and Crofton walk details
Here are the walk specifics collated from several different written sources and maps, which include the readings from our pedometers on a typical ramble. For more detailed information please purchase one of these fantastic walking guides or source the information on-line.
I have included a link to the traditional walking guide map from the Jarrold Short walks guide book.
You can find detailed instructions of the walk on-line via:
Though personally we are a big fans of purchasing the walking guide books and ticking off the walks we have completed.
Below you see the path we took on our Map My Walk app or click the link:
On the right is appropriate quick link Google map for Great Bedwyn, which is the starting point for the walk, as suggested by both guide books.
You can park for free in the train station car park, providing you respect the local residents. It is a short walk from the station to the canal, to start the walk.