The Woodford Valley in Wiltshire can be walked as part of the Wonders of Wessex independent walking holiday
The meandering River Avon threads its way south from Amesbury for 7 miles (11.3km), flowing through the Woodford Valley to Salisbury in the Avon Valley. Peaceful and protected, it holds some of Wiltshire's finest villages, notably the three Woodfords and Great Durnford. Our Wonders of Wessex independent walking holiday takes a route through the secluded Woodford Valley with its quaint villages, impressive manor houses and welcoming inns.
Great Durnford is a the quintessential English village with its pretty thatched cottages, impressive manor house, converted mill and old and beautiful Norman church sitting alongside the crystal clear waters of the Avon.
Great Durnford Manor is the family home of the 3rd Baron Tryon, Anthony George Merrik Tryon. For a time, up until 1990, the manor had been a public boarding school while the family lived in Ogbury House in the grounds of the 2,000 acre estate. In 1990, thanks to the business acumen of Lady Dale Tryon, the Queen Anne mansion was bought back and once again became the family seat.
Dale Elizabeth Tryon, Baroness Tryon (1948-1997), was a close friend of both Prince Charles and Diana, Princess of Wales, and a successful businesswoman in the international fashion world, with the fashion label "Kanga" and couture line "The Dale Tryon Collection". She was known to be a treasured confidante of the Prince of Wales and there were continual tabloid rumours that Dale-whom Anthony Tryon nicknamed "Kanga"-was in actual fact Charles's mistress. However, in all her publicised newspaper and television interviews, Dale never revealed the extent of their friendship; although Prince Charles publicly described Kanga as "the only woman who ever understood me." In 2008, she was the subject of a documentary on Channel 4 entitled Prince Charles' Other Mistress.
Lake House, the Elizabethan home of musician Sting and his wife Trudie Styler, overlooks the historic Wiltshire villages of Great Durnford and Little Durnford and backs onto the Great Durnford Manor Estate. Lake House was built in 1578 for George Duke, a wealthy clothier, shortly after he acquired the manor of Lake. In 1912, the house was completely gutted by fire and the architect Detmar Blow oversaw the restoration, altering the plan and using appropriate late 16th and 17th century chimney pieces and paneling salvaged from other buildings of the period. The house was purchased by Sting and Trudie Styler in the early 1990s. Sting wrote and recorded his albums Ten Summoner’s Tales and Mercury Falling at Lake House. “Fields of Gold” was inspired by his love of the surrounding fields and the wildflower meadow beside the house. In 1999 Trudie Styler co-authored The Lake House Cookbook, with her chef, Joseph Sponzo, which contains photographs and information about the house. The couple run an organic farm on the estate. Many of the animals are Rare or Native Breeds, such as the White Park cattle, the Gloucester Old Spot and Saddleback pigs and the Lleyn sheep, whilst the dairy herd is Guernsey. The farm markets its own brand of preserves, jams and chutneys, launched in 2007.
Little Durnford Manor is the current seat of John Nicholas Pelham, the 9th Earl of Chichester. Built in the late 17th Century, the manor house at Little Durnford remained unaltered until remodeling took place in about 1720-40, and again towards the end of the 18th Century. The cheque red stonework is of limestone and flint, with ashlar window surrounds. It occasionally opens its gardens to the public as part of the National Gardens Scheme, whereby gardens open for charity.
Heale House is one of the architectural treasures of Middle Woodford. Heale House was built in the latter part of the 16th century by Sir William Greene. It suffered considerable fire damage in 1835 when it was reduced by two-thirds, and was bought by the Hon. Louis Greville in 1894 - great uncle of the present owner. The whole house was greatly enlarged with taste and sensitivity by the architect Detmar Blow. There are eight acres of gardens, open weekdays from Easter to the autumn, including a Japanese park with the Nikka bridge that was made in Japan. There are many unusual trees, shrubs and plants, including a collection of musk roses.
Heale House is best known for sheltering King Charles II after the Battle of Worcester in 1651. It would seem that he was safe here in the Avon Valley for he was apparently able to visit Stonehenge on one of the few days he spent here. He took refuge here for six nights before riding on to Shoreham where he took a ship to France. The Gardens: Open from February to end of September. 10am - 5pm Wednesday - Sunday and Bank Holidays. Coffee Shop: The riverside coffee shop is open for refreshments from 10am with lunch menu including homemade quiches, ploughman's lunch, soups, baguettes and seasonal dishes as well as homemade puddings and scones.
It is fortunate that the two major roads to Salisbury in this area follow the ridges on either side of the Avon Valley, leaving this small section between West Amesbury and Old Sarum well off the beaten track. The only way to really see the Woodford Valley is to walk it and you can as part of our Wonders of Wessex independent walking holiday.
Other places of interest on the Wonders of Wessex Walking Holiday: Salisbury - Shaftesbury - Tollard Royal - Old Sarum - Old Wardour Castle - Gold Hill - Larmer Tree Gardens - Wilton House - Ashmore - Cranborne Chase - Wessex - Stonehenge
Trudie Styler's co-authored The Lake House Cookbook, with her chef, Joseph Sponzo, which contains photographs and information about the house
Lake House, the Elizabethan home of musician Sting and his wife Trudie Styler
Little Durnford Manor is the current seat of John Nicholas Pelham, the 9th Earl of Chichester
Heale House is one of the architectural treasures of Middle Woodford