July 24, 2005
Again, instinct led us, and we stumbled across a sign pointing towards a "river walk" past the Norman Church, which was once part of a much bigger abbey complex. Once you’re off the main highway, the walk is not well signed, but if you keep the river on your left and the town in sight, you’ll achieve a very pleasant circular walk around the outskirts. Make sure you close the gate behind you, as the meadows are full of grazing sheep. They looked at us very warily, and if we approached too closely, they interrupted their mastication, bleated plaintively, and headed away. When at a safe distance, they settled down again and continued chewing.
We did have to pick our way across a fairly overgrown rack at the side of the fields, but despite the intruding nettles, we managed to progress the route. It is well worth it, because there are some superb views of the river with a small island and the sounds of the gushing water as it changes course and rushes over rocks under a small pedestrian bridge. At the end of this walk, a left turn will take you back to Amesbury town centre and its small local shops, some selling locally crafted goods.
Amesbury is an ancient market town, and despite large modern developments, retains its early history. Amesbury Abbey (a mansion, not a religious building) is an impressive classical building operating as a private nursing home. But, as you walk around this busy market town, spot the original architectural features on the late 17th/early 18th-century properties on Salisbury Street, Smithfield Street, and the High Street, notably the very small windows and half-hipped roofs. There are the original lamp brackets from the days of oil lighting and a couple of fascinating thatched cottages
Amesbury also boasts an original coaching inn, modified, but retaining some of its earlier characteristics.
As you leave Amesbury, to the west, near the A303, is a small group of beech trees. These were planted 200 years ago to represent the English and French ships at the Battle of the Nile in 1798. It is alleged Lady Hamilton arranged for them to be planted after Nelson’s death at Trafalgar. They are affectionately known locally as "The Trafalgar Clumps."
Whilst here, spend a moment or two at West Amesbury (previously known as "Little Amesbury"). Here you’ll find some super thatched and timbered cottages and the 17th-century West Amesbury House with mullion windows and the remains of a medieval house.
The Amesbury’s are not massive tourist attractions, but they cling to their earlier traditional charm. It’s worth half a day if you’re in the area
From journal A Leisurely Weekend Break in Wiltshire