Ramsbury walks – Membury Fort Hike
Starting near Balak Farm, head up the byway (R#37 Ballyack) beside the farmhouse. Past a barn turn right over a stile, and head downhill (footpath R#25A) keeping north first of the hedge and then of the plantation at the bottom of the valley. There is a small hunting lodge here, next to a walled enclosure – go over the gate on the south side of the enclosure and take the obvious track (R#50) as it curves up and around the hill.
It’s a steepish climb to another gate, where a sharp left turn takes you through the “front door” into Membury Fort. As you cross the Iron Age ditch and bank – all dug by hand – notice how impressive they still are, even after 2500 years of use, abuse and weathering. Inside, follow the track directly across the vast enclosed space of the Fort and past the pond. It’s now thought that “forts” like this were not so much the castles of their day (many would have been impossible to hold defensively) but more like market squares or town halls – meeting places and symbols of local power and prestige.
Part of the fort (Walls Copse in the northeast corner) lies over the border in Lambourn and Berkshire, and the fenceline also marks the extremity of the “South West England” constituency of the European Parliament, which covers the whole of the West Country and Gibraltar!
Heading north on R#50 out of the “back door”, you can make a dash for the motorway bridge to wave at the cars, or head back to the start: Baydon#16, B#14A and R#25 (Ninicks Bottom bridleway) bring you along the valley to pick up R#25A again at the hunting lodge, or you can climb up bridleway R#21A (Paxlet) and come down R#37 back to Balak.