The first of our new series of weekly walks, provided by the National Trust, is a ramble around mysterious Durrington Walls in Wiltshire, with views towards Stonehenge.
View Durrington Walls: Walk of the week in a larger map
THE EXPERT'S VIEW
Mike Dando, Head Warden: "The walk starts at the largest henge monument in the country and takes you past ancient monuments such as Round Barrows and the 'Cuckoo Stone' where it is easy to imagine the landscape as it was some 4,000 years ago. The walk takes in beautiful grazed grassland, strips of mature Beech trees and offers fantastic views across the Stonehenge Landscape.
Download an OS map of this walk
"My favourite part of this walk would have to be walking past the New King Barrows, the large Bronze Age burial mounds. A stop here on a warm summers' day, listening to the skylarks and the beech leaves rustling, is hard to beat, especially on top of the view over to Stonehenge itself.
"Unique to this walk is the sense of being in an ancient and sacred place; the combination of the natural and historic sights is simply spectacular. My top tip for first time walkers would be to bring binoculars to take in the wildlife and views."
Start: Woodhenge car park
Grid ref: SU151434
Map: OS Landranger 184
Bike: National Cycle Network route 45 runs south-east of the property. See www.sustrans.org.uk
Bus: Wilts & Dorset 5 or 6, between Salisbury, Pewsey, Marlborough and Swindon. Service 16 from Amesbury, request stop at Woodhenge
Rail: Salisbury station, 9 miles from Woodhenge car park
Road: Woodhenge car park is 1¾ miles north of Amesbury, follow signs from A345
Distance, terrain and accessibility
4 mile (6.4km) across open access land, including Rights of Way, with gates, at several points. The ground is uneven in places, with a few short, steep slopes. Sheep graze the fields and there are ground-nesting birds, so please keep dogs under control.
Picnic area (not NT) and information panel at Woodhenge car park
Picnic area (not NT) at Stonehenge car park, 0.75 miles from this walking route.
THINGS TO LOOK OUT FOR
Durrington Walls: The largest complete henge in Britain is 500m in diameter and encloses a natural valley. It once contained timber circles and what appear to have been shrines. The area outside the ditch and bank was once a settlement, perhaps containing hundreds of houses, making Durrington Walls potentially the largest village in north-west Europe at the time. People travelled for miles to feast and take part in ceremonies, probably at the midwinter solstice. Woodhenge stood nearby as an impressive timber circle surrounded by a bank and ditch.
The Cuckoo Stone: This standing stone now lies on its side, but over millennia it has been a focus for Bronze Age urn burials, an Iron Age boundary line and Roman remains. It is made of sarsen, a kind of sandstone, the same as the largest stones in the Stonehenge stone circle. The reason for its name remains a mystery.
The Stonehenge Avenue: A two mile long ceremonial way linking Stonehenge with the River Avon and crossing King Barrow Ridge. Interestingly, Durrington Walls is also connected to the river, leading experts to believe the Avon symbolically linked the two monuments, forming part of a ritual journey; maybe leading to the afterlife.
Download an OS map of this walk
1. At Woodhenge car park, go through the gate nearest to you and into a field. Walk downhill into Durrington Walls (taking care of rabbit holes).
2. At the centre of Durrington Walls, looking around you, you can appreciate the nature of the henge as an enclosed valley. Standing here 4,500 years ago, you would have been viewing several "shrines" around the slopes. Next, turn left and walk to the corner of this field. Pass through gates either side of the road, heading towards a low rock.
3. The Cuckoo Stone is one of very few stones in the area that is made from sarsen – most local rock is chalk or flint. From here, continue forwards to the next gate.
4. You are now on the route of the old military railway between Amesbury and Larkhill; turn right and follow the path.
5. When you reach a crossroads and National Trust sign to King Barrow Ridge, turn left and follow the shaded bridleway.
6. At the junction, turn right through a gate to continue along the ridge, crossing the Stonehenge Avenue on your way to a line of 200-year-old beech trees and a fine view of Stonehenge. At winter solstice, Neolithic people may have marked the occasion of the midwinter sunset at Stonehenge, before travelling to Durrington Walls to celebrate the new sunrise.
7. Continue forward to New King Barrows, a fine row of Early Bronze Age burial mounds, originally capped in white chalk so they would have been visible from a far distance. Return to point 6, turn right and follow the stony track to point 8.
8. Take a left turn through a gap in the hedge, to join the old military railway once more. This leads back to the gate in the corner of the Cuckoo Stone field.
9. Head across the grassland to Woodhenge and back to Woodhenge car park.
STONEHENGE STONE CIRCLE