Local Area - Warminster


By SPP Reporter


Warminster Festival Street Fair
Warminster Festival Street Fair

Warminste r is situated at the west end of Salisbury Plain, and is in West Wiltshire close to the Somerset border. It was an important market town on a main crossroads. The A36 is the trunk road from Bath to Salisbury running southeast and the A350 runs north to south from Chippenham and Trowbridge (the county capital) to Shaftesbury and the south coast 40 miles away. Weymouth, Poole and Bournemouth are the nearest coastal resorts.

The road to Salisbury follows the picturesque Wylye Valley and thence on to the New Forest and Southampton. Lord Bath’s Longleat Estate occupies a large area southwest of the town, and much of it is open to the public, but there is a road toll for cars to enter the area around Longleat House. The long leat or stream, which has been widened to form a series of ornamental lakes, gives the name to the house. On the site of the house was a small Augustinian priory founded by Sir John Vernon in the late 13th century When the monasteries were dissolved it was sold to Sir John Thynne who spent much of his time improving his property, and added to the estate after his marriage to a Miss Gresham who was the daughter of a rich London merchant. In 1670 the estate was reputed to cover 10,000 acres.

The Roman road from Poole to Bath is thought to have passed across Prospect Hill, which is known locally as Heaven’s Gate. From this point there is a magnificent view for about 25 miles westward across Somerset and Glastonbury Tor can be seen on a clear day. In May the azaleas and rhododendrons on the approach green walk are a wonderful sight, and there is another mass each side of the main drive to the house. The entrance is on the Frome road under the shadow of Cley Hill.

Salisbury with its famous cathedral and old market is 20 miles southeast. On the way is the village of Wilton with Wilton House open to the public. There are glorious gardens and the house is one of the ‘stately homes’. There is also the Wilton carpet factory open for visits or purchase of carpets and souvenirs.

Bath is 20 miles north-west and has many attractions including the Roman Baths, the river gardens, the Abbey, and the Assembly Rooms. There is a small theatre and a variety of shops which vary from multiple stores to branches of London establishments, and there are plenty of good places for a meal out. Parking of cars in both these towns is severely restricted, and traffic wardens are in attendance; however, there are several car parks of large capacity and also an excellent park and ride scheme.

Bristo l is only 30 miles north-west and is a city of some 450,000 people. All forms of entertainment are available including the Zoo, Hippodrome, Theatres, and the Colston Hall where shows range from wrestling to orchestral concerts. The best route to Bristol runs south of Bath starting in the village of Wolverton along the B3110 road. A drive along the Avon Gorge via the Avonmouth road unrolls some unusual and beautiful scenery, and a visit to the Leigh Woods on the other side of the river is a treat for children of all ages (the property is owned by the National Trust). There is also extensive Durdham Downs near the Clifton Zoo, with a magnificent view from the Sea Walls above the Avon Gorge. If you visit the Zoo you must leave time for a look round the Downs.

The ruins of Tintern Abbey make an interesting excursion and will be found 10 miles north of Chepstow on the way to Monmouth along a pretty road through the hills.

The Cheddar Caves, near the west end of Cheddar Gorge, are owned by the Longleat Estate, and are open to the public on payment of a charge. There are two, large caves. A smaller one, known as Wookey Hole, is situated 4 miles north-west of Wells where there is a famous cathedral. The 3 caves are in the Mendip Hills which have the dubious honour of carrying the BBC 1,000 ft mast for TV transmissions.

For people interested in motor racing there is a choice of Thruxton near Andover, where some excellent BARC meetings are held, and the track at Castle Combe some 18 miles north of Warminster. Stock car racing at Matchams Park near Ringwood and at Shipham in the Mendips, which is about an hour’s drive, is held about once a month. Programmes may be obtained from the track offices. A private flying club operates on the Thruxton aerodrome.

Sailing on Shearwater Lake, three miles south of Warminster, is available, and there are several clubs around Poole harbour giving tidal water sailing. The coast between Christchurch and Weymouth has extensive sandy beaches, but the traffic and parking space is often a problem during the season. A rock climbing club organises climbs in the Avon Gorge. During the summer many villages put on shows, fairs, traction engine rallies etc, whilst the Frome Show, usually in September, is a well-known event in agricultural circles. Advertisements generally appear in the Wiltshire Times and the Warminster Journal, all published weekly.

County class tennis may be seen at Bristol and Bournemouth.

The countryside abounds with public footpaths and details can be obtained from the appropriate council, footpath preservation society, or ramblers association. Stonehenge is 17 miles along the Amesbury road, and there are several fortified hills in this district which date back to the pre-historic era. One is Battlesbury Hil l near the Land Warfare Centre, another is Cley Hill on the Frome road, and the third is White Horse Hill near Westbury, which has one of several horses cut into the chalk in Wiltshire and is reputed to commemorate King Alfred’s victory over the Danish invaders.



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