A far from civil bat­tle

Bath Chronicle - - NIGEL VILE’S WALK -

Lans­down Hill may be a place of rest and re­lax­ation to­day, whether it be the golf course, the race­course or sim­ply dog walk­ing across the hill­top fields, but things were not al­ways this way. Three hun­dred and sev­enty-five years ago, on 5th July 1643 to be pre­cise, this was the scene of one of the most fa­mous bat­tles in the English Civil war. Thou­sands of horsemen, foot sol­diers and dra­goons fought on this hill­top, with the out­come be­ing a pyrrhic vic­tory for the Roy­al­ists un­der the com­mand of Lord Hop­ton. Es­ti­mates sug­gest that as many as 300 Roy­al­ists were killed in the bat­tle, com­pared to maybe as few as 20 of sir william waller’s Par­lia­men­tar­i­ans. This walk ex­plores many of the lo­ca­tions of this Bat­tle Royale, start­ing with Hang­ing Hill where hun­dreds of the Par­lia­men­tar­i­ans were en­camped. Fur­ther on is Freez­ing Hill, from where the Roy­al­ist forces started their ad­vance on Lans­down, hav­ing grouped at nearby Marsh­field. There is the main bat­tle­field site it­self, now a quiet pas­toral spot where cat­tle graze without so much as a thought about the hor­rors that once oc­curred here. and there is a mon­u­ment to Bevil Grenville, a Cor­nish­man who be­came a noted Roy­al­ist Com­man­der. Even if mil­i­tary his­tory is not your thing, this is a fine walk in its own right. The views are stun­ning, that from Hang­ing Hill for ex­am­ple en­com­pass­ing much of Bris­tol, the sev­ern Vale and the hills of south wales. From above Lower Ham­swell is an out­look that is cen­tred upon Freez­ing Hill, with its iconic line of beech trees, while from the bat­tle­field site is a vista that in­cludes st Cather­ine’s Val­ley and the dis­tant hills of sal­is­bury Plain. Views do mean hills, re­mem­ber, so this is far from a stroll in the park! This is a ‘dry’ walk without a cafe or pub along the way. Head back to­wards Bath, how­ever, and you will shortly pass the ever pop­u­lar Blath­wayt arms, de­scribed as ‘a clas­sic coun­try­side free­house’ with food served all day and where well-be­haved dogs are wel­come. Head fur­ther back to­wards Bath and you pass the Hare & Hounds in Lans­down with its unrivalled views. and as a bonus, this pub is open from 9am each day serv­ing break­fast op­tions that in­clude por­ridge or break­fast butties, smoked salmon & scram­bled eggs as well as the al­most oblig­a­tory Full English.

FOOTNOTE

In dr John wroughton, Bath has one of the lead­ing English Civil war ex­perts. It is well worth seek­ing out a copy of his book The Bat­tle of Lans­down 1643 ... a de­fin­i­tive ac­count of what hap­pened on that lonely hill­top all those years ago.

GET­TING THERE

Fol­low the road out of Bath on to Lans­down Hill. Hav­ing passed the en­trance to Bath Race­course on the left, con­tinue for ¾ mile to a rough park­ing area on the right op­po­site a left turn lead­ing to the avon Fire & Res­cue’s Com­mand de­vel­op­ment Cen­tre.

LANS­DOWN HILL

Fol­low the ac­cess road lead­ing to the avon Fire & Res­cue com­plex. Bear right in front of this com­plex along a pri­vate drive be­fore veer­ing left in 40 yards on to a foot­path. Con­tinue to a gate be­fore walk­ing ahead across Hang­ing Hill to reach the se­cond gate on the left along­side a water trough. at this point fol­low a faint path on the right, drop­ping down­hill to a gate in the bot­tom left cor­ner of the field. Fol­low a rough track be­yond this gate down to a lane. Turn right and, at a cross­roads in ½ mile, fol­low the lane op­po­site. In 250 yards, a stile hid­den in the hedge on the left gives ac­cess to a foot­path that climbs to the top of Freez­ing Hill, a steep but worth­while de­tour.

BE­LOW FREEZ­ING HILL

For the main walk, con­tinue along the lane for ¼ mile to the next cross­roads, be­fore fol­low­ing the lane op­po­site sign­posted to Lower Ham­swell. In ½ mile, hav­ing passed Brook Cot­tage on the left, con­tinue ahead on a pri­vate road sign­posted to Goudie’s Farm. Hav­ing crossed two cat­tle grids, en­ter a field and turn right to fol­low the sign­posted Cotswold way up­hill to a gate in the top right cor­ner of the field. walk up­hill in the next field, bear­ing right all the while, to a gap in the tree cover op­po­site and a con­ve­niently placed seat. Con­tinue across the field, still bear­ing slightly right, to a gate in the op­po­site field bound­ary. walk around the left edge of the next field to a handgate and a track.

TO THE BAT­TLE­FIELD

Turn right and fol­low this en­closed track for 300 yards to a gate and hill­top field. Fol­low the foot­path ahead along to a stile in the wall on the right by a Civil war in­for­ma­tion board. Cross the stile to en­ter a field, the site of the Bat­tle of Lans­down. walk along the right edge of this field, a wall on the right. at the end of the field, con­tinue along a path that bears left through wood­land to reach a stone slab stile in 200 yards. Con­tinue along the path as it bears left to climb up to a Civil war mon­u­ment. Con­tinue across the field ahead back to the park­ing area on Lans­down Hill.

Clock­wise from be­low: View to Freez­ing Hill; old road sign; Civil War mon­u­ment; bat­tle­field site

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