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Exploring The Avon Valley Path

By Stefan Dunkerly, Assessor for the Duke of Edinburgh Award

When the DofE season ends in October (and doesn’t restart until March), assessors have to keep their skills up to date so that they can safely assess in the new season.

The impressive Salisbury Cathedral – its spire is the tallest in the entire UK!

This often means plenty of practice day walks and expeditions over lowlands and highlands – you name it, your assessors have to practice it! Whilst you can look far away from home for inspiration for walks, it’s sometimes nice to just look outside your window, pick a local city and go from there… so that’s exactly what I did last weekend when I walked around Salisbury and Old Sarum.

Sat in the heart of Hampshire’s Avon Valley (not Bristol’s!), Salisbury and Old Sarum have been inhabited since neolithic times and have plenty of history as a result. As well as a fascinating history, they also have numerous walks and pathways around rolling green fields and rich forests surrounding them.

One of my favourite routes around Salisbury is the Avon Valley Path, which takes you from the South to the North right through the centre of the Salisbury. Whilst the path is rather flat with only 400 metres elevation over the entire 35 kilometre route, the Salisbury section does not disappoint; with gorgeous views across the river Avon and the near-700 year old cathedral it is certainly not to be missed!

The walk itself is fairly tranquil with the river on your right side and farmers’ fields on your left, and can be easily walked by all abilities and experience levels. The section through Salibsury itself is short as it exits soon after passing the bulk of the city centre and market square, but it does take you past the cathedral with its spire being the tallest in the whole of the UK. The cathedral’s grounds are the perfect place to stop and have some lunch, especially if you’ve bought it from the markets that happen at least twice a week.

With the weather on my side I left the Valley Path and walked north towards Old Sarum, which has stood since the iron age. From the top of the hill-fort you can see swathes of English countryside with the occasional hamlet village below and aircraft flying over above. The walking routes around Old Sarum are plentiful with the most popular being the Monarch’s Way just north of the settlement itself – stretching East to West, it’s the
perfect route for someone who wants to practice their map work whilst also staying on an established path.

In summary, it’s really easy to forget sometimes that, just outside of your back door, there is an entire country that is rich with natural beauty and local attractions, and you really should begin your walking there first as you never know what you might find!

View D of E ‘s recommended kit here : https://bit.ly/2ttaXPT


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