North Wessex Downs
The North Wessex Downs are a range of hills spread across Wiltshire, Berkshire and Hampshire, consisting of the Marlborough Downs in Wiltshire to the west and the Berkshire Downs in Berkshire to the east, and the downland ridge on the border of Berkshire with Hampshire.
The name is of recent coinage, to yolk the two sets of downs together, to provide a name for an 'Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty'. The ranges are nevertheless much of a piece; the Berkshire Downs differentiated from the Marlborough Downs by no more than the county border, and the chalk downland on the Hampshire boundary are cloven from the Berkshire Downs themselves by the Kennet Valley.
The groups of hills within the North Wessex Downs provide a special and quite spectacular landscape, in which are found tranquil, rolling, open downland, ancient woodland and clear, chalk streams.
The hills give the impression of endless open, grassy hillsides, with uninterrupted vistas from the hilltops, and open skies rent with the cries of skylarks and lapwings, and the broad wings of buzzards. Between the main rises though are wooded denes and forests. Beech woodland crowns the tops of many of the downs too. Thinly populated, the downs project a feeling of remoteness and timelessness.
A network of footpaths and bridleways link the hills and the valleys between. The Kennet and Avon Canal, below the downs, in Wiltshire and Berkshire, provides a leisurely route by water on towpath.
Around and about
Sights amongst the hills include:
- The Avebury Stone circle, Wiltshire
- The Uffington White Horse, Berkshire
- The Ridgeway path, along the highest ridge of the Berks’ Downs
- The Kennet and Avon Canal
- Highclere Castle
It is a place of small market towns, including: