123 TUTOR: Adrian Woodford (BA (Hons) MA)
In the largely undocumented days between the departure of the Romans and the settlement of England by Saxons, Angles and Jutes, a dyke, with its ditch facing north, was constructed across the Wiltshire Downs. Long stretches of the eastern bank of this wall, named by the Saxons 'Woden's Dyke' or 'Wansdyke' survive, running across the open expanses of the Marlborough Downs. During the week, you will walk alongside, and occasionally on, Wansdyke, at times veering away from the dyke to visit other Saxon sites, such as Alton Barnes and Adam's Grave. The terrain on the walk is hilly and occasionally overgrown, but generally good underfoot. The walks will vary in length from between three and five miles.
We drive west, stopping at the foot of Morgan's Hill. The line of a Roman road, traced by a hedgerow, continues west to Bath. The earth ramparts of Wansdyke rise up the hill, cutting across the Roman Road and soon dominating the Wiltshire landscape. We follow the route of the Dyke southeast, descending back to the valley at Shepherd's Shore.
Wansdyke climbs back on to the Downs at Easton, its double ditch and rampart threading its way across some of the most dramatic (and isolated) downland in England. At the highest point of the route by Tan Hill, we leave Wansdyke and descend to the road near Allington, crossing the Iron Age Fort at Rybury.
We return to the Wansdyke and continue east toward West Woods, passing close to Adam's Grave and the Red Shore Gate, both important crossing points in the ebb and flow of conquering tribes from Bronze Age times to the eventual dominance of the West Saxons in this part of post-Roman England.
Wansdyke climbs up through the vestiges of Shaw, a village abandoned after the Black Death, and enters one of Savernake's surviving outliers, West Woods. The dyke, now a shadow of the barrier that crossed the Downs, threads its way through the woods, breaking free into open country near Wernham Farm.
The traces of Wansdyke become ever fainter as we approach Marlborough. We finally say goodbye to the low mound as it peters out before Savernake Forest, following an attractive route to Granham Hill before descending to Marlborough and a well-earned final tea at the College.
We will walk between 3 and 4.5 miles each day, stopping to discuss the construction of Wansdyke, its link to post-Roman politics and invasions, and its connection with other earthworks that dot the English landscape.
Adrian Woodford has worked as a guide from the mountains of Nepal to the streets of Venice. He has written walking guides to France and Italy, and run a series of walking weeks at the Marlborough Summer School.
All courses run for 5 days
WK 1 11 Jul - 15 Jul
WK 2 18 Jul - 22 Jul
WK 3 25 Jul - 29 Jul
WK 4 1 Aug - 5 Aug
9.15AM to 12.15PM
1.45PM to 4.30PM
All Day Courses
9.15AM to 4.30PM