Local Family Rambles

A wander around Lower Pertwood Farm
(A special walk around an organic farm to enjoy nature and some magnificent views)

By John Price

Starting Point and Parking

This walk starts from the farm entrance called (and labelled) Falconers, on the west side of the A350 about
3 miles south of Longbridge Deverill (OS Grid Reference ST 887374). The map shows the start point.

The start point

Distance and Time:

Allow 2 hours (includes time for a picnic break). The distance is 4.0 miles.

Safety and Comfort:

I advise wearing long trousers for our walks. They minimise the chances of a bite from a tick that could
infect you with Lymes Disease. Also, you will be protected from stinging nettles and brambles. Take care
parking and leaving the Falconers lay-by as traffic moves very fast here, and visibility of oncoming traffic is

Date of My Walk:

23rd August 2022


Ordnance Survey Landranger 1: 50 000 Series – Sheet 183
Ordnance Survey Explorer 1: 25 000 Series – Sheet 143

Refreshment Possibilities:

The closest places are the George Inn at Longbridge Deverill. Also, the Lamb and the Grosvenor Arms at
Hindon. There are also several points on the walk with wonderful views, so why not take a picnic?

The view from the picnic spot.

A Little Background…..

This month’s walk is a very special short ramble around Pertwood Organic Farm. I say special, because the owners of the farm have kindly marked out some special permissive paths that enable us to complete a circular route and gain access to access land created under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000. The provision of these temporary paths enable us to complete a short circular walk around the farm and they provide access to an excellent spot for a picnic lunch with the most beautiful view. The landowners have kindly mown the permissive paths to make the route easier to follow. Please note that the permissive paths will only be open until the end of November. After that it will only be possible to walk on the public rights of way and access land.

The farm is situated in some of the most beautiful rolling downland in the county. There are ancient field systems visible on the hillsides, and the old Roman road that runs through the farm is clearly shown on the Ordnance Survey map and in places is faintly visible on the ground. This road was not one of the main lines of Roman communication which were built for reasons of military strategy or administration purposes. It ran from Old Sarum to Pertwood Down in Brixton Deverill and from there it is thought to have continued to the lead mining district of the Mendip Hills, and it was unique in being the only Roman road in Wiltshire thought to have been built primarily with an economic purpose.

The organic farming model of Pertwood Organic Farm was started by Mark Houghton Brown, largely to conserve the soil and was continued by him until 2005, and has since been continued under the ownership of the present custodians. The farm covers an area of 2,600 acres. Pertwood was purely a sheep farm until, like many farms in the chalk downlands of Wiltshire, the outbreak of WWII brought the need to plough up more land for food. Since then, the farm has operated a classic mixed organic farming programme of grains, legumes, and grass leys grazed by sheep and beef cattle.

So, firstly what is organic farming? Well, a useful, but probably over-simplified definition is an agricultural system that uses ecologically based pest controls and biological fertilizers derived largely from animal and plant wastes and nitrogen-fixing cover crops. Modern organic farming was developed as a response to the environmental harm caused by the use of chemical pesticides and synthetic fertilizers in conventional agriculture, and it has numerous ecological benefits. Chalk downland is naturally a thin poor soil and in its original natural state, supports a proliferation of flower species. Historically, to enable it to make effective crop yields farmers have used synthetic fertilisers, and this has the effect of reducing the diversity of wild flowers and wildlife.

One of the attractive features of organic farms is often the introduction of wild flower strips. These are sections of land set aside to grow wildflowers. These may be at the edge of a crop field to mitigate agricultural intensification and monoculture; along road medians and verges; or in parkland. Such strips are an attractive amenity and may also improve biodiversity, conserving birds, insects and other wildlife. On your walk around the farm, you should be able to see various strips. An attractive flower that you will see growing in strips is phacelia, which is a rapidly growing, high biomass plant. It is a nitrogen holder and weed suppressor. Its eye-catching purple flowers are particularly good at attracting bees and other beneficial insects. It is used as a soil-improving green manure.

A wild flower strip with an Owl perch in the background.

So, what benefits will you experience on your walk through the use of organic farming? Aside from wild flowers, there is also the greater evidence of a greater diversity of bird species. One example of bird song that has seemed to become much rarer in recent decades in chalk downland is the corn bunting. It is such an unusual song and so associated in my mind with hot summer days, and to my ear it sounds like a set of keys being jangled. The increasing numbers of corn bunting at Lower Pertwood over recent years is one of the benefits of agricultural diversity. As with any species the availability of food is paramount for their winter survival and corn buntings feed mainly on seeds all year round, favouring cereal grains and the seeds of grasses and arable weeds.

Finally, if you would like to sample some of the food produced at Lower Pertwood Farm, then call into the farm office while you are in the area and buy some of their organic porridge oats or muesli – delicious!

Click here for more information.  Our Cereals – Pertwood Organic Farm

Map courtesy of Ordnance Survey. Licence No. 100059319

The Walk…..

This is a hilly walk, so you will feel well-exercised by the end. The wide green 8-barred metal gate at Falconers will be left open so you can park safely away from the A350. If not open, park in the “lay-by” area and climb the informal stile (take care as there is no foot platform). Initially this is very easy walking as you walk along the stony track, which is a permissive path away from the road. You will see a strip of phacelia growing on the right, but it will probably be over its best by the time of the walk. Walk along the track for about 650 yards, and with Summerslade Reservoir on your right, swing left to follow the permissive path. You will pass two barns on your left, and after about 100 yards, you will be presented with a lovely view in front of you and two wide double gates.

A wild flower strip with Sunflowers along the way

Climb the stile on the right of the two double gates, and turn right to follow the edge of the field parallel to the beech tree avenue on the right, as far as you can. Then, turn sharp left and continue to follow the edge of the field down the hill. Ignore the seven-barred silver colour metal gate on the right, walk past the pair of Scots pine trees growing in the hollow. A little further if you look to the right, you will see a bee box high up in a tree. When you are almost at the bottom of the hill, turn right into the woodland strip through the pedestrian gate. Interestingly, for a brief moment you are on the old Roman road here. Walk through the strip and pass through an identical pedestrian gate to enter the field. You may see a “bull in field” sign here, or maybe elsewhere on your walk. Do not worry as this will be a beef bull and as it is accompanied by heifers and cows it is completely safe. Head towards the barn in the distance.

Leaving the strip and entering the field from the strip.

About 100 yards after the barn, climb the stile to enter the field and turn back on yourself to follow the edge of the field, and then turn left to climb the hill with a woodland strip on your right. Keep to the wide track ignoring the stiles off to the right, and at the end of the track, climb the stile which is to the left of the left hand gate and continue straight on towards the green barn in the distance ahead of you.

When you are almost at the top of the hill (the green barn will be about 100 yards away to the right), pass through the wide five-barred metal gate or stile, turn right and follow the public bridleway past the barn. In the barn you will see a mass of grain for the wild birds, and two owl nest boxes.

One of the Owl boxes.

Follow this flinty track for about 500 yards, gradually climbing the hill. When you are at the first farm track on the left, I suggest that you turn left here to take a little detour to enjoy one of the best views in the West Wiltshire Downs. So, assuming you turn left, walk for about 250 yards and you will see a place to rest awhile, by the green trailer.

Some sights along the walk

Apples galore!


A Dog Rose

A Wayfaring Tree

Retrace your steps back to the main route, and swing left to continue on the original route, and you will soon find yourself back by Summerslade Reservoir. From here retrace your steps back to your start point at Falconers.

Retrace your steps back to the main route, and swing left to continue on the original route, and you will soon find yourself back by Summerslade Reservoir. From here retrace your steps back to your start point at Falconers.

This article was originally published in the Warminster Journal.

All photographs courtesy of John Price.

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