Getting to Know the North Wessex Downs

247 TUTOR: Ted Hiscocks (BSc CEng MICE MCIHT MCMI)

Marlborough is at the heart of the North Wessex Downs, a nationally designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and, in part, a World Heritage Site. Yet what makes the area so special? Is it the landscape or humankind's impact on it over the past 5,000 years? With talks, videos, drives and short walks, this course seeks to provide some answers while illustrating the wide variety of natural qualities to be found in the region.

Course Notes

1. The programme order and content may be changed if the weather or other factors dictate it.

2. Short notes will be provided for each day's topic along with a key plan of destinations and some suggested reading material. However, no background reading or research is required beforehand.

3. Site visits will usually consist of a drive followed by a walk of up to 1.5 miles on varied but firm ground. The drive out and back will often pass features of special interest. Students will be required to provide appropriate footwear and clothing.

4. The course will be led each day by Ted Hiscocks from the North Wessex Downs Landscape Trust. He will be supported by a range of guides/tutors with particular expertise in the topic or site.

5. Except on the first day the course will start at 1.30 pm to maximise the time for site visits.

Day 1 - Introduction and History

Classroom - preliminaries; illustrated overview of the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty; first intervention by mankind; archaeological activity.

Site visit to: Avebury and the Neolithic henge monument which includes the world's largest stone circle dating from 2,850 BC; Silbury Hill which is the largest prehistoric mound in Europe; and the field of sarsen stones at Lockeridge (EH/RS/RW)

Day 2 - Landscapes

Three of the AONB's six main landscape types (River Valleys, Downs Plain and Scarp, and Woodland - the others are Chalk Grassland, Arable Farmland, and Heathland).

Site visit to River Kennet valley, Hungerford Common, and Savernake Forest which is more than 1,000 years old and was the site of the UK's largest ammunition dump during World War 2. Students will see other landscape types on other days (EH/HO)

Day 3 - Natural History

The natural history: the wide range of flora and fauna; changes that are occurring at present; the initiatives being taken to conserve and enhance.

Site visit to Morgan's Hill Nature Reserve, a Site of Special Scientific Interest managed by Wiltshire Wildlife Trust, and noted for its orchids, butterflies and the quality of the chalk grassland and wildflowers (WWT/EH)

Day 4 - Settlements and Linkages

The establishment and growth of settlements; transport corridors; changes of transport mode from road to canal, then to railway, and back to road.

Site visit to see settlements and transport modes; then tour of Crofton Beam Engines which supply water to the Kennet and Avon Canal and are the world's oldest such pumps in the original engine house and still performing their original function (EH/MR)

Day 5 - Economy

The economy yesterday and today in farm, village and town; changes in agriculture and diversification; impact and consequences of World War 1 and 2; the rise of tourism.

Site visit to Manor Farm, Wilton, and Wilton Windmill which is the only working windmill in Wessex (PL/EH)

Course Tutor

Ted Hiscocks


About Ted

Ted Hiscocks is a retired civil engineer who lives in Ramsbury at the centre of the North Wessex Downs. For 6 years he was chairman of the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty council whose nine local authority members have the statutory duty to produce a management plan covering farming, heritage, community, recreation, nature conservation, planning, tourism and education.

Ted is a trustee of the North Wessex Downs Landscape Trust which was registered as a charity in 2016 to harness the enthusiasm of individual volunteers in supporting local projects and telling people about this unique landscape.

Supported by colleagues Ted is keen to share the multifaceted stories of the North Wessex Downs with all who wish to hear about and see them.

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Summer School Dates for 2024

All courses run for 5 days

WK 1 8 Jul - 12 Jul

WK 2 15 Jul - 19 Jul

WK 3 22 Jul - 26 Jul

WK 4 29 Jul - 2 Aug

Morning Courses

9.15AM to 12.15PM

Afternoon Courses

1.45PM to 4.30PM

All Day Courses

9.15AM to 4.30PM