Off wandering around Wiltshire, with Wilton Windmill in sight

Wilton Windmill in sight through binoculars

It was Good Friday, and we were itching to get out into the countryside, rambling around on our day off to enjoy great sites, interesting attractions and natures tranquility. We were keen to try out a new walk roughly within an hour’s drive that had a mix of woodland, rolling hills and was a good 4+ miles long.

Out pops our Jarrolds Short Walks for Wiltshire & Salisbury

Knowing that these little walking guides are generally a great little resource for those quick-to-find leisure walks, we quickly narrowed down our options and picked the Great Bedwyn and Crofton walk.

It took a little longer to arrive, due to the bank holiday motorway pandemonium. Just before adjoining the motorway, we noticed the stationary traffic from the roundabout above and took the scenic route towards Hungerford! Hours saved already, which always put’s you in a good mood, despite the overcast skies.


Jarrolds Short Walks Wiltshire: from Salisbury to the Kennet

The Canals at Great Bedwyn were a hive of activity

After arriving, no longer had we crossed the old bridge over the canal, we were overrun with competition rowers, running alongside the bank in two man crews with their canoe’s above their heads.

Later we found out, that this was the annual Devizes to Westminster International Canoe Race, that runs every Easter! It’s an impressive 125 miles long with 77 portages.

Views of the Kennet & Avon Canal at Great Bedwyn, Wiltshire

Views of the Kennet & Avon Canal at Great Bedwyn, Wiltshire (Photo taken April 2015 by Piers Caswell)

Did you know

The Devizes to Westminster International Canoe Race (125 miles long) starts in Devizes, Wiltshire, finishing just downstream of Westminster Bridge in central London, opposite the Houses of Parliament.

The race has strong tradition and has been held annually over the Easter Weekend since 1948.

Up to the woods, a trudging we must go

After leaving the canal, you head up the hill passing a couple of very old tree’s and into Castle Copse, where it is extremely damp and muddy underfoot. This is no understatement; you NEED to be wearing decent walking boots! or be prepared to fill your socks, that’s if you don’t lose your footwear first!

You continue through a managed wood, up through Bedwyn Brail, passing plenty of log piles up-towards a lovely little double bench by a signpost for the Wilton Windmill and the Wilton Brail. This was the perfect opportunity for a (pre-half time) break and a light snack, whilst pondering the experience thus far.

We continued sticking to the instructions in our guide book

There were some lovely views, but the middle part of the walk was chalky track and not very inspiring despite some of the ancient fallen trees. However, as we left the forest track and entered a field (Dodsdown) full of shall we say rather fragrant tender-stem broccoli and after a short downpour, which tends to smell a little like wee.

We caught a glimpse of a large white barn owl swooping over the field at speed, though too quickly to react with the camera for good photo.

Wilton Windmill, Wiltshire

100 year old Wilton Windmill in Wiltshire (Photo taken April 2015 by Piers Caswell)

In the distance we could see Wiltshire’s Wilton Windmill

As you traverse the tender-stem fields, you have some fantastic views of Wilton Windmill, as it stands out clearly on the horizon in all its glory. The iconic white cap and four fantail blades stand out from the skyline with the 5 floor, faded red brick mill tower standing proud from the surrounding hills.

The 100 year old mill was listed as a Grade II Building of Special Architectural and Historic Interest in the 1960’s. Since has been restored to it’s former glory in 1976, now is a fully functioning mill.

Did you know

Built in 1821 the mill was the only working windmill in Wessex, constructed after the completion of the Kennet and Avon Canal to produce stone-ground wholemeal flower.

Visting Wilton’s Windmill

You can visit the Windmill at any time of the year, but I believe guided tours are from Easter to September from 2pm to 5pm.

  • Refreshments and gifts are available from the Shepherds’s hut shop
  • Picnic/Seating areas with breathtaking views of the Downs
  • Toilets available
  • Dog’s welcome on a lead
The Roman road & The Swan Inn at Wilton

As you leave the broccoli behind you enter an old Roman road uphill, with some lovely views of Wilton village below and an old sun bleached signpost to The Swan Inn at Wilton.

Afterwards I found out that it was a great pub to visit, hindsight is a wonderful thing and were tempted to stop by for a drink, but honestly we were getting tired, it was downhill and we still had a climb to reach the top of the Roman road, so we opted to continue walking on.

Faded signpost for the Swan Inn Wilton

See what i mean, faded! Signpost for the Swan Inn Wilton

Crofton Beam Engines, 200 years and still pumping

As we descended down the old Roman road towards Crofton, you can just make out a tall chimney in the distance, which is Crofton Beam Engines, an old water pumping station. Apparently the pumping station provided a supply of water to the highest point of the Kennet and Avon Canal through Savernake forest.

Entry is free for kids and around £4-£8 for adults, depending if the engines are in steam. There is an on-site Engineman’s Rest Cafe, gift shop and picnic area for an interesting afternoon out.

Visit Crofton Beam Engines
Crofton Beam Engines water pumping station

Crofton Beam Engines water pumping station in Wiltshire

Did you know

Crofton Pumping Station was built in 1807. It has international significance for industrial archaeology, a hand stoked old coal fired Lancashire boiler, with two beam engines, one of which is an original 200 year old Boulton & Watt!

Walk review: Great Bedwyn and Crofton via Wilton Windmill

Despite the weather being quite drizzly, the walk had plenty of interesting key points of interest toward the last two miles. However, the two Brail stretches through the woodland were not as exciting as would have liked (we do like a good overgrown wood without many wide open tracks).

On the upsides, the Wilton windmill and Crofton Beam Engines pumping station were interesting and worth a visit, whilst only adding a mile to your walk for a great day out.

In hindsight, we cannot comment on the two pubs along the route and wished we had stopped by for a cheeky pint. If anyone has experience of the local pubs, we would love to hear your thoughts.

3 Stars
3.5 Stars
Points of interest:
4.5 Stars
3.7 Stars
Great Bedwyn and Crofton walk details

Here are the walk specifics collated from several different written sources and maps, which include the readings from our pedometers on a typical ramble. For more detailed information please purchase one of these fantastic walking guides or source the information on-line.

  • Distance

    5.5 Miles (8.8km)
    Without visiting the points of interest

  • Time required

    2-3 hours on an average pace and fair weather conditions.

  • Gradient / Ascent

    56 Metres (184ft)

  • Parking

    Spaces available at Great Bedwyn train station car park, though we would advise being thoughtful to rail users and local residents.

  • Food / Refreshments

    Yes at The Swann Inn, Wilton or at The Cross Keys Great Bedwyn

  • Difficulty

    Mildly demanding, though becomes more challenging when it has been raining as it’s very muddy and there are plenty of ascents.

  • Acessibility / Path

    Not wheelchair friendly. Plenty of chalk/dirt tracks, paths, an old Roman road. Areas can get very muddy.

  • Dog friendly


  • Maps

    OS Explorer 157 Marlborough & Savernake Forest

    Landranger 174 Newbury & Wantage

  • Toilets

    At either pub, the Windmill (seaonsal) or Crofton pumping station, none on the route

I have included a link to the traditional walking guide map from the Jarrold Short walks guide book.

You can find detailed instructions of the walk on-line via:

Though personally we are a big fans of purchasing the walking guide books and ticking off the walks we have completed.

Map of Great Bedwyn, Crofton and Wilton

Source: Jarrolds Short Walks – Great Bedwyn and Crofton

Below you see the path we took on our Map My Walk app or click the link:

On the right is appropriate quick link Google map for Great Bedwyn, which is the starting point for the walk, as suggested by both guide books.

You can park for free in the train station car park, providing you respect the local residents. It is a short walk from the station to the canal, to start the walk.

This walk is accessible via public transport using the following services:

  • Train Station: Great Bedwyn
  • Bus services: Hungerford and Marlborough

Travelling by car, there is parking available at Great Bedwyn train station

  • Coordinates: 51.379643, -1.598675
  • Nearest post code: SN8 3PA
What did you think of the windmill or the walk?

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