Last year, BCH Camping brought you a blog about 10 Outstanding Autumn Walks in which we told you about some of the most stunning autumnal walks to be found across the country. Well, we have an addition! Based on feedback from BCH Camping customers, this month we’re showcasing Stourhead Autumn Walk in Wiltshire.
Also known as King Alfred’s Tower Walk, this circular walk is 5.5 miles long and packed with historical landmarks, stunning views and autumnal colours. The terrain is classified as moderate, it’s dog friendly and should take approximately 2 hours to complete.
King Alfred’s Tower
The 2,650-acre Stourhead estate has miles of walking trails, so once the Stourhead Autumn Walk has been ticked off the list there are plenty of others to try. The walk takes you up through beautiful woodland to King Alfred’s Tower, a 160ft high folly designed for Stourhead’s owner Henry Hoare II in 1772. The Tower commemorates the accession of George III to the throne in 1760 and the end of the Seven Years War.
The Tower is believed to mark the site where King Alfred the Great rallied his troops in 878. There are spectacular views across the lake in the landscape garden and from the top of the Tower, with the deep autumnal colours of red, russet and yellow from the surrounding forests presented in all their glory. The shaded banks of the tranquil garden of the South Lawn run down to the lake and the Grotto, where you will find a statue of a sleeping nymph.
The Tower is not open to visitors every day, so you should check if it will be open at the time of your walk if this is of particular interest to you.
Terrain and footwear
The terrain consists mainly of woodland areas with gravel, grass and natural forest tracks. At the beginning of the walk there are some steep ascents, and the paths can be boggy at times, so it’s advisable to wear sturdy footwear.
BCH Camping stock a range of footwear suitable for different terrains, including fabric walking boots, leather walking boots, walking shoes and children’s footwear, along with various footwear accessories.
Any dogs taken along the route must be kept under control to preserve wildlife conservation and to avoid disturbing the cattle grazing in Six Wells Valley.
Stourhead Autumn Walk Route
The visitor reception leads you to the path that will take you down to the Spread Eagle Inn. After walking through the car park and courtyard turn left and walk down the road, passing St Peter’s Church on your left. Continue along the road until just beyond the Rock Arch, where you turn right.
Continue walking with Turner’s Paddock Lake and the waterwheel on your left. Turner’s Paddock is named after the landscape artist JMW Turner, who painted this spot in 1799. The waterwheel next to Turner’s Paddock Lake dates back to the 19th century. It provided water to the Stourton parish until the 1950’s, pumping it up from the lake. Historians would be keen to note that a watermill was recorded on the same site in the Doomsday Book.
Go past Beech Cottage on your right and over a stile. Where the track forks, take the right-hand track and go through the gate. Follow the track along the top of the field where you will find the ruins of Tucking Mill and cottages on your left.
Go over the stile at the gate and proceed through the woods, staying on the main track. After a steep climb of approximately 1 mile the track brings you on to part of the 18th century Terrace Ride which runs along the north-east boundary of the Stourhead park. Turn left here and walk for approx. ½ mile until you reach King Alfred’s Tower.
When you leave the Tower, follow the blue waymarkers back along the Terrace Ride to the end of the woodland area on your right. Turn right, down the track at the edge of the woodland, keeping the field on your left.
Keep following the main track as it bears to the right. After approx. ½ mile you will reach Park Hill Camp Iron Age Hill Fort, an Iron Age hill fort constructed in two phases. The first major structure was a large external defence, followed by the second construction phase of an internal ditch and bank for additional protection.
Go straight through the hill fort and come out near to an information panel. Please note if you have a dog with you, you should follow a clearly marked short diversion at this point if there are sheep grazing.
Keep on the main track for another ½ mile and then follow it round to the right. Go down the hill and through the gate into Turner’s Paddock. Continue the walk along the track, re-joining the main route by bearing left. Go through the gate beside the cattle grid, passing Turner’s Paddock Lake and the waterwheel on your right.
As you reach the road, go left under the Rock Arch and continue along the road passing St Peter’s Church on your right. At the Spread Eagle Inn, turn right and go through the courtyard and car park and follow the footpath up the hill, back to the visitor reception.
Even though this walk is not particularly challenging in terms of terrain and difficulty, you should still ensure that you’re fully prepared for the 5.5 mile hike with the correct clothing and footwear. Take a look at our previous blogs about layering your clothing, choosing a waterproof and finding the most suitable walking boots for your needs.
If there is a topic you would like us to cover in a blog, do get in touch to let us know. We’re always open to ideas, and likewise if you need any advice regarding any related purchases, our staff are always happy to help.