Maud Heath’s Causeway
2½ miles / 1 hour OS Explorer 156 (Chippenham/Bradford)
Interesting Wiltshire walks further afield this time – but well worth it for views and local interest. Start in Bremhill village itself (SN11 9LD) or at the nearby Dumb Post Inn (SN11 9JZ. Either way, make for St Martin’s Church (from the pub, go east across the road and follow the path along the top of the field, past Manor Farm).
William Lisle Bowles, a Victorian rector of St Martin’s, was a noted eccentric, carefully tuning the bells of the churchyard sheep and hanging out with luminaries such as Wordsworth and Coleridge. Apparently, his poetry isn’t all that bad, but you will find some fairly execrable examples along this walk, such as the memorial to Benjamin Tremblin on the south wall of the Church.
Bremhill means “bramble hill” – presumably a notable crop in times gone by? From the ancient market cross, head west out of the village and take the footpath north past Mount Farm. At the T-junction, go 100 yards past Monument Farm to the top of Wick Hill (“hill of the outlying settlement”) where you’ll find a plaque on the left marking the start of Maud Heath’s Causeway and, in the field to your right, Maud Heath’s Monument.
Maud Heath died in 1474, wealthy enough to pay for the construction of a safe causeway across the Avon floodplain for local folk to get to market in Chippenham. She is immortalised on top of her pillar (with some more of Rev Bowles’ doggerel!) wearing her shawl and bonnet and carrying an egg basket – legend has it that she earned her fortune making the arduous journey each day on foot to sell her eggs. Either she had extremely productive chickens, or the story has become embellished somewhat…
Back over the road past the plaque and take the path southwest along the ridgeline towards Bencroft Hill. There are great views out to the north through the trees – about 2 miles off you maybe able to see the sundial and the 60 stone arches where the Causeway crosses the Avon near Kellaways (if not, check it out on the way home).
Just before Bencroft Farm, take the path south, cross another road, and then either of 2 paths through Bencroft Ash copse lead back to the Dumb Post. The pub’s unique name is believed to derive from a post by the road where mailmen would leave letters for local people. In the 18th century, it was the HQ for the Dumb Post Friendly Society, one of whose traditions was the Whit Week Walk to church along the route described above.