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Roundway Down


The walk up to Roundway Down is delightful, not for its droving content so much as for the 85-acre SSSI it takes you through.  Choose a day in mid-June for the flowers, another a month later for the flutterbies; any date you like for the scenery.  Once you leave the SSSI, it’s a bit bleak but until then it’s a nature-lover’s paradise.


The Old Bath Road: important in early coaching days but you wouldn't know it now.  It was superseded by the route through Box in the mid-C18 and has not been maintained since 1755 - though it was still used by some travellers, with beasts, maybe...


We started at Turnpike Farm at ST 982663 (#1).  There’s an interesting lay-by for beasts early on (#2) but once you start climbing the views are the main item on the menu.  Beacon Hill gave us a good view of Oliver’s Castle (#3), where in 1643 the Royalist forces routed the Roundheads.  The name “Oliver’s Castle” is ironic, I suppose, because Cromwell didn’t occupy it for long…


The Swindon & Wilts. Historical Soc. has a good article on the internet about the end of the Battle of Roundway Down, quoting Sir Henry Slingsby, the Royalist commander:

We could see the enemy’s whole body of horse face about and run with speed… and our horse in close body firing in their rear, till they had chased them down the hill in a steep place, where never horse went down and up again.


Our photo #3 seems to have been taken (accidentally) from the edge of the Bloody Ditch, where so many Roundheads came to grief.   


We missed the first milestone at SU 003653 but got the second at SU 017658 (#4).  The markings have long gone, blast it, but "London 86 miles" was the original inscription, according to Geoffrey Wright ("Roads & Trackways of Wessex"). 


We stopped where a North-South byway crossed ours, not far on from the milestone.  The road to Beckhampton looked a long one and we were over the boundary of the SSSI (#5). 


15,000 pigs went through Beckhampton in 1830 alone.  How did they do that?  Whip, bribery, or just bucketloads of patience?


Note: if you follow the road a mile north-west from Turnpike Farm, you'll see Bell Farm, formerly The Bell Inn, where coachmen & servants were accommodated.  (Their employers enjoyed greater comfort at The Bear, now a private house next door and once used by Queen Anne, according to Geoffrey Wright.) 

Roundway Down image 1
Turnpike farm
Roundway Down image 2
The Lay-by, possibly
Roundway Down image 3
Oliver's Castle
Roundway Down image 4
Second Milestone
Roundway Down image 5
On into the Sunset...