The story of Bladud and the pigs
Back in 2017, I wrote a book called Guide to Bristol & Bath Pub Walks published by countryside Books of Newbury. It has since had a few reprints and has proved to be one of the publisher’s best sellers. This week’s walk from Swineford features in the book.
Place names reveal a great deal. In the case of Swineford, the tale is legendary. Prince Bladud and his pigs were both the victims of leprosy. crossing the shallows in the village, the pigs swam upstream to what is now Bath, rolled around in the mud by the city’s springs and were miraculously cured. Bladud founded a city at Bath and dedicated its curative powers to the celtic goddess Sul, and 900 years later the Romans named the city aquae Sulis or the ‘Waters of Sul’.
From Swineford, the walk climbs on to Lansdown Hill via Upton cheyney. The views are immense and encompass Salisbury Plain and the Mendip Hills, Bath and Bristol, the Bristol channel and the Welsh coast. all of this from a ‘Prospect Stile’ – now a gate - that lies in close proximity to Little Down Hillfort.
The descent back to Swineford is by way of North Stoke, where Nikolaus Pevsner was much taken with “several nice houses, one with a shell-hood” as well as St Martin’s church, described as “short, broad and with a two-storeyed west towe”. a magnificent walk with views, that is surprisingly close to both Bath and Bristol with their huge populations.
and the pub? The review of the Swan at Swineford in the Good Pub Guide reads: “Popular c19th roadside pub, well kept Bath ales and guests, local ciders, decent wines and good range of spirits including Penderyn Welsh whisky and Tarquin cornish gin, enjoyable food from lunchtime sandwiches up, efficient friendly staff.
“Updated interior with quarry tiles and light wood floors, pastel walls and bluey-green panelling, raised back dining area, open fire; background music; children and dogs welcome, wheelchair access to main bar, picnic-sets out at front and in large grassy garden with play area, open all day, food all day weekends.”
■ Nigel Vile’s books, together with many other local interest books, can be found by visiting www.countrysidebooks.co.uk
■ Follow the A431 from Bath out through Kelston to Swineford where the Swan Inn is on the right-hand side. On the left is a rough unmetalled parking area.
■ Facing the pub, follow the A431 to the left before taking the first right, an access road leading to Swineford picnic area. Walk up the left edge of the picnic area to a handgate on the left. Enter a field, turn right and follow the edge of the field up to a gate. Continue up hill on an enclosed path to join a road in Upton Cheyney in 350 yards. Turn right, pass the Upton Inn and continue for 200 yards before turning right into Lansdown Lane, a cul de sac, ignoring the earlier North Stoke Lane. Follow Lansdown Lane for just over one mile until it ends at a gate just past a cottage. Beyond this gate, follow what becomes a track up hill for ¼ mile to a gate on the hilltop by a row of conifer trees.
■ Beyond this gate, follow the track ahead across Lansdown Golf Course for 350 yards to a point where the woodland on the left ends by a Cotswold way marker post. Turn right and follow a track for ¼ mile to a gate on the edge of the golf course. Continue downhill, enjoying the stunning view, to a junction in 200 yards. Veer left off of the track to a gate and follow a flat grassy path ahead, keeping to the left of a field, to reach a marker post in 200 yards. Turn left and walk uphill to a gate and Little Down Hillfort. Walk across the hillfort’s enclosure to a gap opposite before turning right to walk down to the bottom right corner of a field. Turn left in the corner and walk along to a gate and Bath Race Course. Walk ahead to the corner of the field and a topograph at a point known as ‘Prospect Stile’ – now replaced by a gate.
■ Pass through the gate and follow a path to the left downhill to another gate and Shiner’s Wood. Walk down the left edge of this recently planted woodland to the next gate and a track. Follow this track to the right across the hilltop for one mile to a road junction in North Stoke. Turn right and, in 100 yards, by the entrance to Chestnut Barn, follow a byway on the left. Keep on this byway, it shortly bears left by the Coach House. Continue on this byway as it bears right in 200 yards and continue downhill for ¼ mile to a gate and hillside field. Walk across two fields, passing through gateways along the way, to return to the picnic area.