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A five mile circular walk which starts at Salisbury Cathedral and follows the River Avon out to Old Sarum through a nature reserve. Explore the outer rings of Old Sarum including the ruins of the original cathedral (which you can see for free), admire the views over the city, then walk back to town on the other side of the river.

The River Avon banks covered in trees and flowers on a sunny day
The Avon Valley Nature Reserve is a great place for wildlife spotting, walking and photography.

This walk divides into three different routes at the mid-way point, so you get a choice as to which one to take. Route A is by far the prettiest and is filled with wildlife, but can be hard going after heavy rain. Route C is the dullest but is mostly paved.

Bear in mind that Old Sarum itself can get very boggy after rain. Walking the narrow outer rings after rain on all that chalky clay soil can be quite an adventure as you try not to slip down the steep banks into the moat, or lose your footwear as it gets sucked into the mud.

1. The walk starts at the cathedral, at the statue of the Walking Madonna. (w3w:

The statue of the Walking Madonna outside Salisbury Cathedral

The Walking Madonna in the Cathedral grounds is a life size statue of Mary in her later years (the cathedral is formally the Cathedral Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary).

She is frail after the death of her son but walking with determination to spread the word of the church. You can read more about the meaning behind the statue here >>

The statue is facing Old Sarum, home to the original cathedral of Salisbury, and the direction you will be walking in.

2. Walk through the High Street Gate and continue down the High Street in a straight line, you will need to cross a road at the end.

You will reach St. Thomas' Church. This medieval church was built for the people working on the cathedral, and is usually open to visitors, if you have the time. It is home to the largest and best preserved Doom Painting in the country, which you can read about in detail here >>

3. Turn left into the Maltings (w3w: ozone.empty.rare) and follow the path of the river, keeping the river to your right.

You will pass the spot where the Skripals were found on a bench (w3w: passes.decks.opens) , having become seriously unwell after being poisoned with novichok. The bench has since been removed and not replaced - currently there is a plastic Stonehenge chair in the area, presumably for visitors to take photos of themselves sitting in it.

This section of the walk is not the most exciting - you will see the backs of modern buildings and a few run down ones, including the old Boathouse which just looks pitiful now - it was once a lovely pub where you could have a drink with a riverside view, and even hire out a boat to bob around on the river.

4. Keep heading north on the path - you will cross a small road then veer left to go round the old Boathouse, before crossing another road. Stay on the path - it will lead you round over a sluice gate at w3w: sage.spice.intelligible and under a railway bridge at w3w: decks.terms.fight

The first part of the walk takes you under a railway bridge and past Grade II listed Scammells Bridge

On your right you will see what is known as Scammells Bridge. This once carried the London to Exeter railway over Castle Street, but was moved, by hand, to its present location in 1898. The lattice sides were not part of the original construction, being added when the bridge was moved. The bridge is Grade II listed but looks rather unloved.

5. Keep following the path which will lead you under the dual carriageway at w3w: save.trim.normal and finally out onto a much nicer view. Here on the right you can see the back gardens of some rather nice houses, while you pass Waitrose on your left. Keep on following the path!

6. You emerge at a pedestrian crossing (w3w: crash.gown.ready) on Ashley Road. Cross the road and keep following the path, with the river still to your right. On your right will be a bridge, (w3w: switch.battle.part) which leads to the Five Rivers Leisure Centre, and this is where you get to make a choice as to the rest of your route.

Route A is by far the loveliest as it takes you through the Avon Valley Nature Reserve, but it is a little bit longer than the others. Route B is through a different section of the Avon Valley Nature Reserve, not quite as lovely, and Route C is the one you should use when the ground is sodden, as well as being the shortest route. Take your pick now!

Route A

Sunshine on the River Avon

Don't cross the bridge, keep following the path round, keeping the river on your right and just keep going.

This takes you through the Avon Valley Nature Reserve, which has beautiful wetlands as well as the river, and no shortage of wildlife.

Part of the walk is on a boardwalk, the rest continues through wetlands and river plain until you reach a bridge at w3w: unroll.overdrive.splendid.

Cross the bridge, follow the path until it turns into a road - Mill Lane, turn left at the end and you will walk a short way on pavement through the village of Stratford-sub-Castle.

Stratford-sub-Castle has a long history, which you can read about here >>

Just before you get to the church, cross the road into a track at w3w: baseline.illogical.bubbles. Follow it and you will see that you are heading up towards Old Sarum. Turn right after the second field (w3w: laughs.fingernails.reshaping) then turn left at w3w: scenes.ordeals.solder.

This area is the site of the old Roman-British settlement, although you will not be able to see any remnants of their time here.

You are now on the outer rings of Old Sarum. Go to Old Sarum section

Route B

Cross the bridge and follow the path immediately to your left, which keeps the River Avon on your left and the Leisure Centre on your right. You will walk through part of the Avon Valley Nature Reserve, until the path bends round to your right and eventually puts you on a path at w3w: recent.pave.comically. Turn left onto the path. Follow the path, past the allotments on your left and a small field which usually has horses in it.

The path eventually emerges onto a main road in Stratford-sub-Castle. Turn right onto the pavement, walk past the houses, and where the road bends round to the right, you keep going straight on, up the path. This is the Portway.

The hedge lined track that is the Portway
The Portway today

The Portway is believed to be an old Roman Road which ran between London and Dorchester, via Old Sarum.

It is far more likely however to be a bypass for the main Roman Road, as the area became increasingly busy. By the MIddle Ages it had become a main throughfare for people travelling to the west from Old Sarum.

The Portway will lead you to the bottom of Old Sarum - you can walk either on the track or cross to Hudson's Field next to it, which may be better if the track is too wet.

Hudson's Field is named after Alderman J.C. Hudson, Mayor of Salisbury from 1926 -1927, who bequeathed £3000 in his will to ensure that the area remained a green space, and that housing couldn't encroach on Old Sarum. It is a large space, used for rugby, football, dog walking and large events held in the city, such as the Race for Life.

A set of muddy steps leading to a field
The 'Scout Steps' to Old Sarum

Keep on following the path until you reach a set of wooden steps to your left at w3w: disposal.gushes.cello. which were donated by a local Scout troup.

Walk up them and you are now at the base of Old Sarum.

Walk up the field and on your left is a gate to the castle grounds.

Route C

A narrow path next to a sports field
The dry route to Old Sarum

This is the least exciting route, but the one to use if the ground is saturated, as the Avon Valley Nature Reserve can get very boggy after heavy rain.

Cross the bridge, walk straight ahead and turn left to join the path.

There is a school sports field to your right and you will walk past the backs of houses and two fields of allotments in a straight line. This path is tarmacked which is why it is best used in inclement weather.

Old Sarum

Ruined foundations at Old Sarum
These ruins are free to view

Once at Old Sarum, you can explore all around the outer rings, including the ruins of the original cathedral, for free. There are some lovely views over the city and a lot of places to just explore.

If it is open, you have the option of paying to go into the inner castle, or it is free if you are an English Heritage member. There are loos above an old World War II pillbox and wireless room in the car park. If you need food or drink, then on the main road is a Harvester which does typical English pub food and has a nice garden.

Old Sarum to Salisbury Cathedral

For your return journey, why not choose one of the other routes to walk back by? Just reverse the instructions.

Or for speed you could just head down Castle Road which takes you back into the heart of the city, but it is a very busy road and you will have to deal with the noise and pollution, particularly in rush hour. The only advantage of that route is that you will walk past the Salisbury Spitfire Memorial, which is an impressive sight. If you do take that route, divert into Victoria Park for some of it so that not all of it is next to the main road.


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