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- QUEEN ELIZABETH GARDENS, SALISBURY
One of the major parks in Salisbury, this riverside park has beautiful views of Salisbury Cathedral and the River Avon, a good play area, plenty of places to relax and some great paddling spots. Opened in 1960 to commemorate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II seven years earlier, 'Lizzie Gardens' as it is know to the locals, is the park which is closest to the town centre. Flanked on two sides by the River Avon and with a shallow tributary running through it, the park is dominated by the presence of water. Paths traverse the park and around the water's edge, and at one corner there is a bridge across the river to 'Town Path', which leads people through the ancient water meadows to the suburb of Harnham. From here you can see Salisbury Cathedral and the view painted by John Constable in one of his most famous paintings. It is possible to see kingfishers and other river wildlife swooping around the area, or a family of swans gliding by on the still river. A central island surrounded by shallow water is the perfect place for children to paddle in the summer, and the water is often filled with them splashing around with nets and balls, while parents picnic on the grass verges. Summer also sees Music In The Park - regular events where people can just turn up and enjoy free music in the sunshine, as well as Park Yoga - free yoga sessions on Sunday mornings. There is also a really good play park for children, with a wide variety of equipment, including some which is accessible for wheelchair users. Lizzie Gardens made international headlines in 2018, when Salisbury was at the centre of the Novichok poisoning scandal. It is thought that the spies mixed the poison in the facilities here, and is where the poison was found in a perfume bottle and given to a local resident, who tragically died. The park was cordoned off from the public for several months, and had to be fully decontaminated before it was opened up again. Nowadays though, it is just a lovely park for a peaceful stroll, or to rest on one of the many benches overlooking the river. It's not just a park for the summer though, as autumn sees the leaves changing colours, spring has a plethora of bulbs and in the winter, it makes an excellent spot for snowmen and snowball fights. VISITING QUEEN ELIZABETH GARDENS How to get to Queen Elizabeth Gardens Postcode: SP2 7TD what3words: There are several ways in, the main entrance is at shop.dimes.factories Public Transport: The park is within an easy walking distance of the train stations. The nearest bus stop is the Fisherton Street Clock Tower stop, with a short walk by the river to the park. Parking: If you are driving, which I don't really recommend in Salisbury, there is paid parking right next to the park at the Lush House Car Park. When is the Queen Elizabeth Gardens open? The park is open all hours, all year round. How much does it cost to visit Queen Elizabeth Gardens? The park is free to visit. Are there any facilities at Queen Elizabeth Gardens? There are public loos and often an ice cream van. Shops, cafes and restaurants are a short walk away. See our Salisbury City Guide for details on how to get to Salisbury, locally owned accommodation, restaurants and shops, further places to visit and things to do.
- 12 ARTS AND CRAFTS HOUSES YOU CAN VISIT IN ENGLAND
The Arts and Crafts movement started in England around the end of the 19th century, as a reaction against the mass production and homogenisation of Victorian design. With a focus on design aesthetics and using local craftsmen who would use local materials, Arts and Crafts houses fit perfectly with the ethos of the Slow Movement and will appeal to the Slow Traveller. Here we list twelve of the best Arts and Crafts houses that visitors can actually go into, rather than just admire from the outside. What are Arts & Crafts Houses? Arts and Crafts houses are easily recogniseable, made from a variety of locally sourced materials, with asymmetrical roofs, often with gables, and with a very clear form and structure. The emphasis is on the construction, using traditional methods, and the craftmanship involved. The houses tend to blend the charms of a traditional country cottage with a house of larger proportions, providing a quirky character which is often absent in large properties. As the construction features are so important to the style, they tend to be exposed, with brickwork and timbers on display. Chimneys are usually oversized, leading to brick or stone fireplaces inside and the windows are often made up of smaller panes for a more traditional look. Front doors tend to be substantial and made of wood, and are often included as a main feature in a porchway. Although the style only lasted for a short time, being lost in the practicality demanded by the world wars, it is still hugely influential today. Many people pine for a return to individuality in design and the landscapes around us, when once again everything is becoming homogenised, globally as well as locally. Now that the significance of the Arts and Crafts movement is being recognised and appreciated, more properties are opening their doors to visitors who are on a quest for the quirky and unique. Coleton Fishacre, Devon This wonderful Arts and Crafts house was built in 1925 as a holiday home for the D’Oyly Carte family, atop the cliffs of South Devon near Dartmouth. It has a true Arts and Crafts exterior with pitched roofs and simplistic, hand crafted design. There are beautiful and extensive gardens which are divided up into ‘rooms’ in the Arts and Crafts style, and which lead right to the sea. Now owned by the National Trust, the house and garden is open to visitors. The interior is decorated for the 1930s and really conjures up a vivid depiction of life for the wealthy in the time of Art Deco. There is even a 1920s holiday flat which is a wonderful place for a Slow holiday. Read more >> Nuffield Place, Oxfordshire This Arts and Crafts home was built in 1914 and later bought by Lord Nuffield, creator of the Morris motorcar and Britain’s greatest ever philanthropist, who gave away millions of pounds throughout his lifetime, including iron lungs to any commonwealth country that asked for them. A modest home, it has typical Arts and Crafts exterior features and interiors, as well as a pretty garden. Now owned by the National Trust, it has been recreated as it was when Lord Nuffield and his wife lived there, with furnishings from the 1930s and with many of their personal items, providing an enlightening look at their lives. Read more >> Blackwell House, Lake District Photograph © Tony and Maureen Kemp This Grade I listed house which overlooks the lakes of Cumbria was designed by the famous architect, Baillie Scott, and completed in 1901 as a holiday home for wealthy brewer, Sir Edward Holt. The large house is considered to be a masterpiece of the Arts and Crafts movement and still has many of its original features as well as interior furnishings such as wood panelling, stone fireplaces and timber beams. The terraced gardens were designed by Arts and Crafts garden designer, Thomas Mawson, and overlook some stunning views of the Lake District. The house is now owned by Lakeland Arts who have opened the house to the public >> Lindisfarne Castle, Northumberland Lindisfarne is a 16th century castle on Holy Island in Northumberland, which was originally built as a fort. It was extensively altered in 1901 when it was bought by Edward Hudson, the owner of Country Life magazine, who brought in Sir Edwin Lutyens to remodel the property. He removed many of the fort’s original features, leaving instead a comfortable Edwardian holiday home with a strong Arts and Crafts influence. Nearby is the Gertrude Jekyll garden, which she created alongside Lutyens in 1911 and which has a typical geometric Arts and Crafts layout. Both castle and garden are owned by the National Trust and open to the public. >> Stoneywell, Leicestershire Photograph © Robin Leicester Only recently opened to the public, the house was designed by Ernest Gimson, a leading figure in the Arts and Crafts movement, for his brother in 1899. Gimson had met and been greatly influenced by William Morris, who steered him towards his career in architecture. Gimson also designed much of the furniture and because the house stayed in his family for many years, much of what is in there today is original. With close attention paid to hand crafting everything from the exterior to the chairs inside, it is a true representation of the movement, with asymmetrical gabled roofs and stone clad fireplaces. The house is now owned by the National Trust and is open to visitors >> Goddards House, York Photograph © Edward UK Built in 1927 for members of the Terry’s chocolate manufacturing family, this house in York was designed by local architect Walter Brierley, who has been described as a Luyens of the North. As well as the typical hand crafted styling of the exterior, with asymmetrical gables, decorative chimney stacks and geometric bricks, the interior has many original features such as an oak carved staircase, Arts and Crafts wallpapers and wooden panelling. The garden is typical Arts and Crafts style, divided up into different ‘rooms’, herbaceous borders and a cruciform lily pond. Since the 1980s the house has been a regional headquarters for the National Trust, but now has rooms and gardens open to the public. >> Red House, London Photograph © Ethan Doyle White The Red House just outside London is one of the earliest examples of an Arts and Crafts house, having been designed by Phillip Webb and William Morris, and was Morris’ family home for five years. Built in 1860, the house was built using his principles of hand crafting and artisan skills. For a while the house became the centre of the movement and had many famous visitors, some of their artwork is still on the walls. It was here that he started up his famous Morris & Company. The house is now owned by the National Trust who are currently trying to restore the gardens to his original designs, which provided so much influence for his furnishings designs. More details >> Standen, West Sussex Photograph © David Illif This Grade I listed house was built by Phillip Webb in the late 1890s, who designed it for James Beale, a wealthy London solicitor, and his large family. Webb drew his inspiration from Medieval farm buildings, but created a thoroughly modern house. Built from local construction materials and lavishly decorated inside with William Morris interiors, the house also still has its electric light fittings which were installed when the house was built. The garden was planned as a continuation of the house and the two were meant to form a whole. The house is now owned by the National Trust, who are currently restoring the garden to its former glory. More details >> Emery Walker’s House, London Photograph © Emery Walker’s House 7 Hammersmith Terrace was built around the turn of the 19th century, but it is the interior which is of relevance, as the owner was Emery Walker, the founder of the private press revival and a central figure of the Arts and Crafts movement. He was a good friend of William Morris and they had much in common. Emery Walker lived in the house from 1903 until his death in 1933, when his daughter inherited the house and preserved as much of it as she could. The house is now owned by the Emery Walker Trust who run guided tours on Thursdays and Saturdays in the summer months for visitors. >> Rodmarton Manor, Gloucestershire Photograph © Robert Powell Built in a soft Cotswold stone, this large Grade I listed, privately owned house was built in the early 20th century, hand crafted from wood and stone by local craftsmen. Described as ‘The English Arts and Crafts Movement at its best is here’ by leading architect C R Ashbee, it was designed by architect Ernest Barnsley, a follower of William Morris, for the Biddulph family who still own it today. One wing of the house was used for teaching community crafts and the interior furnishings were all bespoke and made locally. Part of the gardens are landscaped as ‘rooms’ following the Arts and Crafts style. Although privately owned, the house and its eight acres of gardens are open to the public for two days a week in the summer months. More details >> The Barn, Devon The Barn was built in 1896 by Edward Schroeder Prior, an architect who was a founder of the Arts and Crafts movement. Built in the design of the 'butterfly plan' with a tall six sided hall with two wings coming off it, it was designed to make the most of the sun and the views. The Grade II listed Barn is just minutes from the beach at Exmouth with far reaching views. The house was damaged by fire in 1905 and many internal features were lost, but the exterior is still very distinctive Arts and Crafts style. The Barn is now a 4* hotel with amazing gardens and a swimming pool, so visitors can lap up the unusual and stunning design features while exploring the local countryside and surroundings. (As of Spring 2022, the hotel is closed, but may well re-open again soon) Shaw's Corner, Hertfordshire Photograph © Jason Ballard Nobel prize winner George Bernard Shaw lived in this Edwardian villa for over 40 years until his death in 1950. The house was built in 1902 in the Arts and Crafts style, with the typical gabled roof, large windows and attention to details, such as heart shapes cut into the banisters. It was designed by local architects who used local materials in its construction. The house has been left as it was when he died in the dining room and is now owned by the National Trust. Read more >>
- THE RUFUS STONE MONUMENT IN THE NEW FOREST
An ironclad stone near the small New Forest village of Minstead in Hampshire is a memorial to William Rufus, the third son of William the Conqueror, who was killed there in a hunting accident by Sir Walter Tyrell, although whether by accident or design is still a matter of much debate today. Conveniently located next to some stunning forest scenery, it makes a great base for a stroll in the woods while learning more about this infamous Norman ruler. Outside the village of Minstead and in the heart of the forest, the Rufus Stone is a small stone which marks the spot where William Rufus is said to have died. Although many historians now believe that the actual spot is closer to Beaulieu on the south coast, this is the place that has been marked since the 18th century and is supported by local lore and legend. There is more to this area than a stone to a historically dubious event though, as it is a truly lovely part of the New Forest. There is a huge area to explore nearby, with a mix of open land, forest and streams. New Forest ponies roam free, deer can be spotted in the undergrowth and the birdsong is all around. The area can get busy in the school summer holidays, but you will still be able to find areas without any other people in them if you wander off the beaten track. If you get there early in the morning, you can have the whole place to yourself, making it a much more tranquil experience. HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF THE RUFUS STONE The New Forest was marked as royal hunting grounds in 1079 by William the Conqueror, who reigned over England until his death in 1087. On his death, his eldest son Robert inherited Normandy, the second son had died in a hunting accident in 1075 and William inherited England, with the youngest son Henry, left landless. William II was more commonly known as William Rufus due to being born with red hair and a florid complexion. He was a very unpopular king, helping himself to church funds, falling out with nobles and his brothers and treating his people with contempt and disdain. On the 2nd August 1100, he was hunting boar and deer in the New Forest with some noblemen, when an arrow was fired by a French nobleman at a stag, which ricocheted off an oak tree and ended up in the King’s lungs, killing him almost instantly. The French nobleman, Sir Walter Tyrell, immediately made for Normandy, fearing retribution for killing the king. It is said that he stopped at a blacksmith in the forest to have his horses shoes put on backwards so that he could not be traced. He needn’t have wasted his time, for it appears that people weren’t bothered. The King’s body was left where it was, until a local charcoal burner called Purkis put it on his cart and took it to Winchester, where he received a very low key burial in the cathedral. On receiving the wound the king uttered not a word; but breaking off the shaft of the arrow where it projected from his body… This accelerated his death. Walter immediately ran up, but as he found him senseless, he leapt upon his horse, and escaped with the utmost speed. Indeed there were none to pursue him: some helped his flight; others felt sorry for him. The king’s body was placed on a cart and conveyed to the cathedral at Winchester… blood dripped from the body all the way. Here he was buried within the tower. The next year, the tower fell down. William Rufus died in 1100… aged forty years. He was a man much pitied by the clergy… he had a soul which they could not save… He was loved by his soldiers but hated by the people because he caused them to be plundered. William of Malmesbury in his ‘Chronicle of the Kings of the English’ (c. 1128) Meanwhile, brother Henry hot-footed it to Winchester, seized the royal treasury and had himself crowned as King Henry I within three days. The elder brother Robert was inevitably peeved as he was entitled to the crown, but the nobles gave their allegiance to Henry and although the two fought later on, Henry was victorious and remained the King of England. There is still much debate about whether the killing was accidental or deliberate. Sir Walter was renowned as a skilled bowman, but accidents do happen and people were frequently killed in hunting accidents at the time. He was an unpopular leader and there were many with reason to kill him, particularly his brother Henry who seized his throne. It was said that Henry was also hunting in the forest on the same day, perhaps even in the same hunting party. It is all speculation however, and the truth is unlikely to come out over 900 years after the event. The bones of William Rufus can be found in Winchester Cathedral in one of the famous mortuary chests. Read more about it in our guide to visiting Winchester Cathedral >> THE RUFUS STONE The stone was erected in 1745 by John Lord Delaware, although the one you see today is a newer version erected in 1841, as the original was vandalised and defaced. The original oak tree which it commemorates is long gone, but there is still an oak tree there, perhaps a descendant of the original one. The three-sided stone is inscribed as follows: Here stood the oak tree, on which an arrow shot by Sir Walter Tyrrell at a stag, glanced and struck King William the Second, surnamed Rufus, on the breast, of which he instantly died, on the second day of August, anno 1100. King William the Second, surnamed Rufus being slain, as before related, was laid in a cart, belonging to one Purkis, and drawn from hence, to Winchester, and buried in the Cathedral Church of that city. That the spot where an event so memorable might not hereafter be forgotten, the enclosed stone was set up by John Lord Delaware who had seen the tree growing in this place. This stone having been much mutilated, and the inscriptions on each of its three sides defaced. This more durable memorial with the original inscriptions was erected in the year 1841, by WM Sturges Bourne, Warden. VISITING THE RUFUS STONE Postcode: SO43 7HN what3words: kite.visits.cuddled Public Transport: The area is well served by buses, but there will still be some walking involved. Use the Moovitapp to put in your departure point and it will outline all public transport options available. Parking: If you do drive, parking is directly opposite the stone in a woodland clearing and is free of charge. You will see brown signposts saying ‘The Rufus Stone’. When is the Rufus Stone open? The stone is accessible at any time of day How much does it cost to visit the Rufus Stone? There is no charge for visiting the stone What facilities are there at the Rufus Stone? The stone has no facilities, but nearby the Sir Walter Tyrell is one of many eateries in the area. It is a traditional British pub which has a large garden with lovely views and a fantastic kids play area.
- THE FIREPLACE IN THE FOREST: THE WAR MEMORIAL TO THE PORTUGUESE LABOURERS OF WORLD WAR I
With its location so close to major ports, the New Forest not surprisingly saw a large military presence and a great deal of change during World War I. There is very little evidence left of that time in the forest’s history as nature has reclaimed much of it, but a few little pockets remain. One of these is a stone fireplace, standing alone in the forest surrounded by trees, ferns and horses, which now acts as a memorial to the Portuguese who helped with the Allied war effort. In one of the most picturesque spots in the New Forest, the fireplace is more than just a poignant reminder of the war. Built of stone and surrounded by trees, ferns, bracken and assorted wildlife, with horses munching contentedly nearby, birds hopping around the overgrowth and barely a distant hum of traffic, the fireplace also stands as a testament to how nature can reclaim places which were once filled with human activity. It is a beautiful location for a walk, a picnic, a gentle meander through the forest exploring its sights, sounds and scents. Easily accessible to the slow traveller, it is close to other sites that may be of interest, such as the Knightwood Oak, Bolderwood Deer Sanctuary and the Canadian Memorial. Pubs and restaurants are within easy cycling or walking distance, and a day spent exploring these places in the forest would see you experiencing nearly every type of forest landscape in one very peaceful day. HISTORICAL BACKGROUND THE NEW FOREST DURING WORLD WAR I The New Forest played a significant role in World War I. During the 19th century it had been used for military maneuvers, but with the outbreak of war in 1914 it became far more significant; a location for soldiers to train and stay, for staging posts, airfields for the newly formed Royal Flying Corps, as an embarkation point, Trench Mortar School, War Dog Training School, Bombing School and countless military hospitals. The ‘Immortal Seventh’ was stationed at Lyndhurst at the start of the war. Their soldiers were recalled from overseas postings and encamped in the forest, marched around it and put through their paces in replica trenches. In October 1918 they marched the eight miles to Southampton and embarked for France and Belgium, where they went straight into the first Battle of Ypres, with the loss of thousands, who were dead within weeks of arrival. The New Forest was also valuable for its industrial output, being used as a major resource. Many of its hardy ponies were drafted into becoming war horses, with few returning. Charcoal production, which had been on the decline, was massively increased and New Forest charcoal was used in the filters of gas masks. The ubiquitous heather was used for packing munitions, and thousands of acorns were collected to produce acetone, a key component of cordite used in shells, of which the British Army and Navy fired 258 million over the course of the war. The other valuable resource was of course timber. NEW FOREST TIMBER DURING WORLD WAR I Timber was an essential commodity during the war. Unable to rely on imports, yet with an increased need and a drastically reduced workforce who were now off fighting, the Canadian Timber Corps was swiftly formed and dispatched to the UK from Canada in 1916. With their own equipment and methodology, they swiftly established sawmills and lumber camps and were able to ensure the supply of timber for the war. Timber was needed for pit props for coal mines, whose coal fuelled the warships, and was also used for the construction of the trenches – about 12,000 miles of trenches were built by the Allies alone. About 2,000 tonnes of lumber was felled in the New Forest during the war, with mainly broadleaved deciduous trees being removed, and replaced with quick growing conifers. By World War II, when timber was again a necessity, much of the pine planted during the first war was felled for the second. The site near Millyford Bridge is now an area of typical forest, with a mixture of trees and open heathland, a small stream and an abundance of wildlife. A narrow, little-used road runs through this part of the forest, and all you can hear is bird calls, the harrumphing of ponies and the wind swishing through the trees. It is hard to believe that just over 100 years ago, this area was a hive of activity, with a Canadian sawmill on the site occupying several acres and surrounded by fences. Inside were assorted buildings which housed sleeping quarters, a canteen, bath houses, a mess, a laundry, hospital, tailors, cobblers and more. A narrow gauge railway ran through the forest to take the timber to and from the sawmill. As the war progressed, with more Canadian lumberjacks being sent to the front, the UK called on its old ally, Portugal, for help. In 1917, an army unit from neutral Portugal took their places at the sawmill, with a camp being built especially for them nearby. THE PORTUGUESE FIREPLACE When the war was over, the entire camp was dismantled, except for the stone fireplace which stood in the Portuguese cookhouse. It stands alone amongst the greenery, as the only memorial to the Portuguese who helped with the British war effort. The land around it bears little trace of what had gone before, just a few raised earthworks covered in a soft moss. A couple of concrete blocks with rusted metal poles are hidden underneath ferns and brambles and are all that is left of the sawmills. There used to be a plaque next to the fireplace which said, ‘This is the site of a hutted camp occupied by a Portuguese army unit during the First World War. This unit assisted the depleted local labour force in producing timber for the war effort. The Forestry Commission have retained this fireplace from the cookhouse as a memorial to the men who lived and worked here and acknowledge the financial assistance of the Portuguese Government in its renovation.’ The plaque is no longer there and the fireplace stands alone, with nature slowly encroaching into its nooks and crannies. Fresh ash in the hearth shows that must still be used at times, but otherwise the fireplace looks abandoned, a poignant and silent memorial to the impact of the war on the now peaceful Forest. VISITING THE PORTUGUESE FIREPLACE How to get to the Portuguese Fireplace Postcode: SO43 7GR what3words: trespass.spelling.makeovers Public transport: The nearest train station is in Brockenhurst, but there are regular and easily accessible buses which will help you get around. See the New Forest Area Guide (coming soon) for more details or use the Moovitapp, which will give you public transport options to and from anywhere in the country. Parking: If you are driving, there is free parking at Millyford Bridge, a car park off the narrow road between Emery Down and the Bolderwood Deer Sanctuary. It is only a short walk to the fireplace. Park at what3words: retina.budgeted.lace When is the Portuguese Fireplace open? You can visit at any time. How much does it cost to visit the Portuguese Fireplace? It is free to visit. What facilities are there at the Portuguese Fireplace? There are no facilities at the site, but the nearby village of Emery Down has a traditional 18th century pub, The New Forest Inn, for refreshments. It is a four minute drive or thirty minute walk away.
- DOWNTON MOOT: VISITING THE 18TH CENTURY PLEASURE GARDENS NEAR SALISBURY
The village of Downton, just six miles outside Salisbury in Wiltshire, has a history stretching back to the Neolithic. A motte and bailey castle, built in the early 11th century, forms the basis for eight acres of landscaped gardens next to the River Avon, which are open to the public and free to visit. They make a great place to visit for a walk, or as the starting point for one of the many longer river walks in the area. Evidence of the origins of The Moot can still be seen in the gardens today, and although it can be quite difficult to make out what is what in terms of the old castle, the earthworks and series of mounds and ditches are clearly visible and fun to explore, making a fascinating backdrop to the layers of wildflowers, formal planting and trees. Bounded by the River Avon on one side, a road on one and houses on the other, the grounds are about eight acres in total. A mixture of open space, woodland and waterway, they make a lovely place for a stroll, a picnic, ball games or just sitting and appreciating the birdsong. Regular events are held at the Moot and it is a popular place for locals and visitors alike. Christmas tree markets, activity afternoons and all sorts of other events are held there at various times throughout the year. It leads onto some lovely river walks, and is also a good stop off point for anyone walking the Avon Valley Path from Salisbury to Christchurch. HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF DOWNTON MOOT The Roman Villa Downton is a small village with a big history, with evidence being found for Mesolithic, Neolithic and Iron Age occupation. Excavations in the 1950s found a Roman villa; a long narrow building facing west with seven rooms and an attached bathhouse. Below the villa leading down to the River Avon was a well, a large corn drying oven, outbuildings, drainage ditches and roads. The most impressive find was a large mosaic floor from the central room in the villa with a design of a drinking cup with handles shaped like dolphins. Dating of the objects put the villa at late 3rd to early 4th century AD. Sadly there is nothing left to see of the villa, with a housing estate, Moot Close, now built over it, but the mosaic is in the Salisbury Museum and is well worth a visit. You can however visit the nearby Rockbourne Roman Villa for a good idea as to how it may have looked. The Castle Just adjacent to the site of the villa is the Moot. Moot is a Saxon word for meeting place, which the area may well have been, but the earthworks you see there today are from a Norman motte-and-bailey castle. Downton, recorded as Dunton in the Domesday Book, was owned by the bishops of Winchester from at least the late 8th century. It is believed that Henri de Blois, the Bishop of Winchester, brother to King Stephen and grandson of William the Conqueror, built the castle in 1138 during the civil wars of 1135 – 1153. Known as ‘The Anarchy’, the civil wars saw the Bishop support his brother’s quest to usurp the throne and altogether he built six castles in 1138. The site controlled the crossing of the river Avon, a valuable asset for church funds in times of need. The area was famed for its sheep and wool, exporting as far afield as Italy, and movement of the flocks would depend on the river crossing, making the area vital for trade. The bridge in the Moot was built in 1815 and spans the inner ditch of the castle. The castle was probably built of wood, as no traces of Norman masonry have been found. The Earl of Salisbury captured the castle in 1147 until he was later starved out in a siege led by the Bishop, but in 1155 the castle was one of 375 which were ordered to be slighted (have their fortifications removed) by Henry II. The bishopric lost the estate in the 16th century and nothing is known of the land until 1650 when Moot House was built, its land encompassing the remains of the castle. In 1725, the owners had the grounds landscaped into pleasure gardens which included an extensive planting of trees, a stone bridge, a temple, loggia and amphitheatre. For many years towards the end of the Victorian period to the Edwardian period, the Moot was used by locals for fairs and entertainments, with thousands of people arriving from Salisbury and beyond to join in the festivities. Shakespeare’s plays were regularly performed in the amphitheatre, with the legendary Sybil Thorndike playing Adriana there in A Comedy of Errors in 1908. The house and gardens were separated in the 1970s, and the gardens entered a period of decline and vandalism, with the follies being destroyed and many of the trees being lost in the hurricane of 1987. In 1988 the land was transferred to the Moot Preservation Trust, and they started the painstaking process of restoration, trying to return it to its appearance in 1909, when the Moot featured in an article in Country Life magazine. The pond is an unusual trilobate shape – a three leaf clover, and has an imitation loggia at the back, where the original 18th century loggia once stood. There are plans to replace this with a modern loggia when funds allow. Limited excavations and surveys were carried out on the area in the 1990s, which confirmed the outer and inner ditches, but failed to clarify if the castle was set in a horseshoe shape open on the river side, or whether it was fully encompassed. They are also uncertain as to the presence of the motte, with the most likely conclusion being that it is the elevated ground which is now called Bevis Mount and which may have been eroded away over the years, or reduced in height when the castle was slighted. MAP OF DOWNTON MOOT VISITING THE MOOT AT DOWNTON How to get to The Moot Postcode: SP5 3JP what3words: decorator.woven.yacht Parking: There is a free car park on site Public transport: Catch the X3 bus from Salisbury and get off at The Bull in Downton, then walk 15 minutes to The Moot – it is a lovely walk past some very old houses and cottages. When is The Moot open? The Moot is open from dawn till dusk How much does it cost to visit The Moot? The Moot is free to visit, but they are always grateful for online donations to pay for the upkeep of the site. Are there any facilities at the Moot? There are no loos or refreshments, but there are some good cafes and pubs in Downton. I particularly recommend The Borough Café which is an 8 minute walk away and does an excellent hot chocolate and some lovely food. Which is the nearest town to Downton Moot? Salisbury is the nearest town. See our Salisbury City Guide for details on how to get to Salisbury, locally owned accommodation, restaurants and shops, further places to visit and things to do.
- FIGSBURY RING: A PREHISTORIC SITE FOR A PEACEFUL WALK
Just outside the city of Salisbury, Figsbury Ring is a Neolithic and Iron Age hillfort which is a beautiful spot for a walk or a picnic. It has impressive views over Salisbury from the top of the ramparts and is a site of special scientific interest, filled with grasslands and wildlife including butterflies, orchids, fireflies and skylarks. It is owned by the National Trust but is free to visit and is open all year round. Just outside the small village of Firsdown 5 miles from Salisbury, Figsbury Rings lies at the end of a rather potholed track in the middle of the countryside. You enter through a latched gate and walk down a wild hedge-lined path before emerging into a wide open space with ramparts rising up in front of you. You can wander at will, explore down in the ditches or walk the narrow chalky path at the very top of the ramparts. The views are lovely from the top, a patchwork of hills and farmland, the odd farm building dotted amongst them, with distant glimpses of Salisbury Cathedral or Old Sarum. The area is home to a wide variety of orchids, butterflies and insects, including the elusive glow worm. Skylarks swoop and sing in the skies above and the enclosures are filled with a carpet of wildflowers in the summer. A small herd of nine or ten colourful cows graze the landscape, but they are well used to sharing the site with people and there is plenty of space for everyone. There are never more than a handful of people there, usually just a few dogwalkers, and often you can have the whole place to yourself. Kids love Figsbury as they can run up and down the banks and ditches. Usually there is a makeshift rope swing which hangs from one of only two trees on the ramparts, and this will keep them amused for ages as they launch themselves off the bank and into the air. If you visit at the right time of year, the edge of the ring at the back of the site has a wealth of blackberries and rose hips for picking if you are keen on foraging. There are also several geo-cache sites in the area, which are always fun to find. A footpath, part of the 625 mile Monarch's Way, leads off the site at the back, down through farmland to the village of Winterbourne Earls. HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF FIGSBURY RING What you see first when you approach the site is the univallate hillfort, an oval enclosure defended by a single line of 18 metre high ramparts, surrounded by a ditch. The site was excavated in 1924, which recovered Iron Age pottery, leading archaeologists to conclude that the site was an Iron Age hillfort. Within the ramparts is a Neolithic henge with an oval enclosure and a single ditch, nearly 5 metres deep. This ditch produced animal and human bones as well as Beaker and Grooved Ware pottery, dating it to the late Neolithic. Archaeologists believe that it was probably originally a causewayed enclosure, which would have later been modified into a henge monument. Causewayed enclosures were not permanent homes for the Neolithic population but rather a meeting place possibly used for social, ritual or trade centres in the nomadic society, providing a place of stability for people who were just starting to put down roots. Over time, many causewayed enclosures became settlements, which may well have been the case here, with its transition to henge and then hillfort. Figsbury Ring was known in antiquity as ‘Chlorus’ Camp’, suggesting that the site was also occupied by the Romans at one point, and it does sit near the Roman road. Chlorus Constantine was an Roman Caesar from 250 AD, and it is known that he campaigned in Britain in 305 AD, dying here a year later, so it is entirely possible, although no evidence of the Romans has been found in excavations of the site. The site has only been partially excavated. In 1704, a late Bronze Age sword was found by a farmer which is now in the Ashmolean Museum. Excavations in the 1980s produced flint artefacts, showing that the area had been occupied for longer than was originally thought. If you like hillforts, try Danebury, which is ten miles away and is considered by many to be the definitive hillfort, as much of our understanding of them comes from Danebury. It is also a beautiful place filled with wildlife and has extensive countryside walks. VISITING FIGSBURY RING How to get to Figsbury Ring Postcode: SP4 6DT what3words: firming.mills.headline Public Transport: There is a bus stop, called Figsbury Ring, at the turn-off to the site on the A30. You can catch either bus number 87 or the Park and Ride PR7 bus from the centre of Salisbury. The journey takes about 20 minutes. Find timetable >> Parking: If you are driving, Figsbury Ring is off the A30 between Salisbury and Firsdown. It is well signposted and leads you up a narrow track past a few houses. Keep going until you reach the car park. Parking is free in the National Trust car park, whether you are a member or not. When is Figsbury Ring open? The rings are open from dawn until dusk How much does it cost to visit Figsbury Ring? The site is free to visit and there are no charges for parking either. Are there any facilities at Figsbury Ring? There are no facilities here other than a car park, the site is not staffed and there are no loos or refreshments. Useful tips for visiting Figsbury Ring The track and car park are filled with large potholes so drive very slowly and carefully. The site is exposed and can get windy, and in bad weather you will definitely need walking boots or wellies. Dogs are welcome so long as you clean up after them. In fact, some kind person has added a wooden tennis ball dispenser next to the sign, so you can borrow and return a tennis ball for your dog to play with. Figsbury Ring is on the boundary of the Salisbury Plain Training Area, so don’t be alarmed if you see red flags flying on the nearby MOD land. Just stay out of the MOD land (clearly signposted) and you will not have any problems. One of the homes on the track up to the car park, sells Figsbury Ring honey. Have some cash handy in case there is some available, as you won't get a more local product than that. Find it at what3words: eradicate.puffed.trusts Which is the nearest town to Figsbury Rings? Salisbury is the nearest town. See our Salisbury City Guide for details on how to get to Salisbury, locally owned accommodation, restaurants and shops, further places to visit and things to do.