Distance – 6.5 miles there and back, climbing 450 feet and taking 3-3.5 hours. Quiet country lanes to start then downland tracks to the Ridgeway National Trail and a permissive path to the iron-age hill fort of Liddington Castle, the prototype for Pendon’s Pen Tor. Starting in the hamlet of Badbury the route passes several cottages modelled at Pendon before rising onto the Downs with the sound of skylarks filling the air. The views from Liddington Castle are far reaching and it seems a world away from Swindon which can be seen spread out below.
Suggested map – the walk starts on OS Explorer 170 Abingdon, Wantage & Vale of White Horse and goes on to OS Explorer 157 Marlborough & Savernake Forest.
Buildings in italics are modelled in Pendon’s Vale Scene. The numbering of the description is noted on the map.
- From the Bakers Arms Car park walk Right, up Berricot Lane which climbs gently. Pass Badbury Farmhouse on the left shortly followed by Sarsen Cottage and White Cottage. At a footpath sign on the Left divert from the lane to see the rear of the cottages and Liddington Cottage, tucked away behind the others. Between White Cottage and Liddington Cottage is a space that was occupied by the Methodist Chapel. Returning to the lane continue ahead, bearing Left where the lane splits by the Telephone Box.
- Leaving Badbury, views ahead open up and the distinctive earthworks of Liddington Castle come into sight on the skyline, half left ahead. It looks quite close but the route will take you to the south west, then turning east to pass behind the Castle before curling round to approach it from the west. The route is rather like a question mark.
- Reaching a larger road at a T junction, turn Left along the verge then in just 20 yards turn Right up a narrow lane. Folly Farm written on a large boulder and a footpath sign saying 1.3 miles to the Ridgeway confirm the route. Continue up the lane until it is blocked by the iron gate of Folly Farm.
- Now the tarmac is left behind as you follow the track, still signed to the Ridgeway. In spring and summer listen for the distinctive song of the male skylark – then see if you can spot it high in the sky. The track turns into a path and follow it through three gates. There may be livestock in these fields. After the third gate the track turns Left and shortly joins the Ridgeway.
- The Ridgeway is a National Trail, joining Overton Hill in Wiltshire with Ivinghoe Beacon in Buckinghamshire, a walk of 87 miles. Anyone spotted carrying a large rucksack is probably walking the full length! Turn Left and follow the trail. A field on the Right often contains a herd of ponies.
- Continue for about ¾ mile until a path to the left is reached, signed to Liddington Castle. This is a Permissive Path and so is not shown on the OS map. Follow the path, through a kissing gate and turn Left. The Castle is soon reached and a Trig Point can be seen.
- The Trig point gives a good view of the earthworks and the path all around the top is very tempting, with expansive views to the north. The buildings of the Great Western Hospital are prominent.
Retrace your steps back to Badbury, enjoying both the views and the gentle downwards slope. Arriving back at the Bakers Arms you will certainly deserve a drink, maybe even their ‘famous fish and chips’.
LINKS WITH PENDON
The buildings mentioned in the walk are all modelled in the Vale Scene. Fuller descriptions and many more photographs of the original buildings and the models can be found in Friends Place on the Pendon website.
Bakers Arms This building dates from before 1841 and for a period in mid 19c was a bakers and then a beer house. It subsequently received a full licence as a public house.
Badbury Farm ceased to operate as a farm in the 1950s and was subsequently sold. The house was remodelled, the stable converted to a garage and all else was razed to the ground with the yard becoming lawn terraces.
Chapel Group This is a term used at Pendon to include 5 buildings of which 4 remain today. High Hatch was demolished and was next to Sarsen Cottage in the direction of Baker's Arms. Sarsen Cottage (Middlecot in the model) was originally two cottages, the right hand one was a general store and butcher’s shop. White Cottage has been considerably refurbished, and partly rebuilt after a chimney fire. As in the model, a track leads to Liddington Cottage (modelled as Little Chapel Cottage). Behind Sarsen Cottage and White Cottage is an area that was the site of the demolished Primitive Methodist Chapel.
Pen Tor is a Ridgeway feature in the model and is based on Liddington Castle.
Start / finish - Grid Reference SU196805. Parking - in the village street or ask to use the Bakers Arms Car Park if finishing the walk with a drink or meal. Refreshments – Bakers Arms, Badbury.