Miles without stiles – a stile free parish

Until recently the footpaths in Great Bedwyn parish had a selection of squeeze stiles, wooden stiles and many awkward to use and in disrepair stiles. These have been replaced in the last 2 years with 9 gates – kissing gates or pedestrian gates depending on location.

The replacement gates have been installed by a team of Bedwyn Footpaths Group volunteers, aided and supervised by our local Countryside Access Officer, and with the cooperation of landowners. Funding for the purchase of the gates was obtained from several sources; the Pewsey area board, the parish council, North Wessex Downs AONB, and private donations.

Stiles can have their own charm, sometimes with a quirky or unique design but they are all too often in poor repair. Nimble walkers who enjoy a challenge will find that there are still plenty left to negotiate in the surrounding countryside.

However the 20 miles of rights of way in Great Bedwyn village can now be walked without the hindrance of stiles, of benefit to those whose mobility might be compromised by uncooperative knees or hips.

It is believed that Great Bedwyn could be the first parish in Wiltshire to be able to make the claim to be stile-free.

North Wessex Downs Walking Festival

Book now for the North Wessex Downs Walking Festival 11 -26 June – celebrating the 50th Anniversary as a protected landscape! All spaces already taken on The Bedwyn Footpaths walk but there are 27 other walks with opportunities for you to seek out wildlife, history or culture, visit a farm, follow an accessible trail, picnic with the family, improve your navigation skills or simply to soak up the views from the top of the downs. Many of the walks are free. Join knowledgeable and welcoming guides to discover more as they bring alive some of their favourite places.

Walkers are Welcome

My last blog entry started with the words ‘2020 didn’t quite go to plan’ and much the same could be said for 2021 as the pandemic continued to impose many restrictions to our lives. However, we kept our distance, donned our masks, sanitised our hands and got on with things as best we could.

One of the achievements of last year was to gain Walkers Are Welcome accreditation. Pewsey Vale Tourism Partnership led an application for the Vale which, with residents’ support, we finally achieved in autumn last year.

Walkers are Welcome is a nationwide community-led network of over 100 accredited towns and villages, helping its members to assist with their community’s economic, physical and mental well-being through walking. All of which have become all the more important since the pandemic. The Pewsey Vale is one of only 3 areas in Wiltshire to have achieved Walkers are Welcome status. The other two are Corsham and Bradford on Avon, with nearby Whitchurch being a member too – so Pewsey Vale is in good company.

Walkers are Welcome members encourage walking by providing excellent information on local walks, ensuring that the footpaths are maintained, improved and well signposted, and promoting the health benefits by increased participation.

The local economy also benefits by being a Walkers Are Welcome destination. When visitors see the distinctive logo they will know that they will find all the facilities walkers might need, cafes, pubs and accommodation, public transport links, all along with a friendly welcome and some great walking countryside.

Bedwyn Footpaths Group walk leaflets have been included under the scheme, as have published routes around Ham and those of Pewsey Valle, so we had no difficulty in demonstrating to the Walkers are Welcome committee that we have some amazing walking routes. You can check out the map of walks and download them here: Leaflets can be picked up in the red information kiosk in Bedwyn village centre, at other venues in the area or downloaded from our Local walks to download page.

Bedwyn Footpaths Group walks were suspended or limited in numbers on government advice for most of last year but we are up and running (walking!) again now so watch our events page for details of our walks, see local notice boards or join our Facebook group. All welcome!

Catching up

2020 didn’t quite go to plan, but despite the restrictions the group managed some surprising successes so here’s a quick summary of what we got up to last year:

Lockdown gave the opportunity for some necessary website maintenance, apologies for the lack of blog entries and gallery photos, more coming soon. In the all-too-brief respite between lockdowns we were able to begin our project to renovate the old faded metal path signs. This task continues into 2021. Volunteers temporarily removed the fingerposts for cleaning, preparation and repainting. Each restored sign has a special little touch added to the original design, thanks to the talents of one of our group members.

The Canals & Rivers Trust repaired the canal bank alongside the towpath near Mill Bridge and Wiltshire Council have resurfaced an area of St Mary’s churchyard footpath to cover the exposed tree roots and mud. Both these issues were first raised by members in 2018 so it was pleasing to see them reach a conclusion. Volunteer working parties were suspended for much of 2020 but we are grateful to our Parish Council who have provided some financial support for help with the clearance of the paths that we would normally regularly keep clear ourselves.

Group walks were suspended in March 2020 and briefly resumed for two walks in September, held under Covid pandemic restrictions and with limited numbers. The successful Bedwyn Health Walks scheme has now been adopted as part of the Wiltshire Walking for Health programme These short health walks, with the option to be taught to use walking poles, are proving very popular and like our longer walks will be resuming – but we just don’t know when yet.

In the meantime, keep a look out for the renovated way-markers when you are out walking our parish paths – if permitted, socially distanced, and with mask and hand-sanitiser at the ready too of course!

Litter picking equipment

This spring, over the course of 4 weeks, our group members collected over 50 bags of rubbish from about 5 miles of roadside verge on the approach roads to our village.

Our litter picking activities qualified us to apply for equipment under a local government scheme and we were successful in receiving enough equipment to allow for a group of 10 litter pickers to go out fully equipped with litter picker sticks, bags on hoops, gloves and Hi Viz vests. This will mean we can continue our litter picking efforts without the need to collect and return equipment from Devizes. Thanks Wiltshire Council for the equipment and for disposing of the collected litter.

We’d like to share our good fortune with any other local groups or individuals. If you live locally and would like to borrow this equipment to clear your own area of rubbish, please send an email to

North Wessex Downs Walking Festival

8th – 23rd June

‘ Top class walking country – big skies, wooded valleys, stunning landscape – we have it all here in the North Wessex Downs!’  Head over to North Wessex Downs website to see the wonderful variety of walks offered in their very first walking festival. A chance to explore lesser known parts of the countryside in this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Click here to choose a walk

In case of emergency

After a recent incident on one of our walks, members have kindly sent in a few suggestions of services that might help in an emergency and I’d like to share these suggestions here, along with a few of my own.

Consider carrying an ICE card (In case of emergency card) giving details of any medical issues and emergency contact numbers. There are many websites that offer templates for these cards and suggestions for what to include, just search online for ICE card templates or contact the group for an example of one. Keep the card in the outside pocket of your rucksack or coat.

On some mobile phones you can put your emergency contact number on the front screen of your phone so that your phone does not have to be unlocked to call your emergency contact person and some phones will alert your emergency contact number when you have called the emergency services and give your location. Whether you can do this will depend on your phone model so you’ll need to check instructions for your particular phone.

There is a system available that allows you to send a text if the phone signal is too weak. It was originally set up for people who are hard of hearing or have speech impairments but the system can be used by others. You do need to pre-register. Details here:

A grid reference could help the emergency services find you if you are in an isolated location. There are phone apps which can give your location as a Grid reference. GridReferenceFreeOS is one app that has been suggested but there are others including Ordnance Survey. Check out the app store on your phone for a suitable one.

This video, suggested by one of our members, shows how 112 is a useful alternative to dialling 999 from a mobile especially if travelling abroad.

Defibrillators: Find out where the local ones are. Bedwyn’s are located outside the village hall to the left-hand side, and outside the surgery in Church St, also to the left of the building. Look for the yellow boxes. 999 operators will help you find and access the machines. If necessary they will advise you but the machines speak for themselves and will tell you what to do when opened. Our local surgery regularly runs sessions to familiarise people in the use of defibrillators so ask at the surgery if you are interested in these.

A lot of the suggestions above rely on a phone (and a phone signal!) and of course this is no substitute for a good map so I’d suggest that you always carry one with you too when out walking to help direct any services to your location. If walking with a group, please tell the leader or backmarker if you wish to leave the group to walk ahead or behind the group. The leader will be carrying maps, first aid kits etc to help you if necessary but can only do so if they know where you are!

First Aid courses are offered by many services. Always worth doing one whenever you have the opportunity to learn or refresh your skills, or have a look online for videos demonstrating what to do in an emergency. Some very useful ones here from British Heart Foundation:

Hopefully you will never need to use any of the above but best to be prepared, especially if walking alone or in remote areas. As our amazing group of walkers showed, the more people that can help in any way possible in an emergency, the better the outcome. Safe walking!

Bedwyn Health Walks

Bedwyn Health Walks launched this week when residents met the team on Sunday at the village hall and tried out Nordic walking poles. Health walks offer short weekday local walks in a secure environment with a supportive, friendly and sociable group. Whatever your ability the benefits of walking are many in terms of health and wellbeing, as well as the sheer enjoyment of being outside in the countryside. The scheme will need volunteer walk leaders as well as participants so why not get involved? It is well known that the feel-good factor of volunteering benefits the health of the volunteers almost as much as those they help. For Health Walks info contact Jude on 07444 642309.

This new scheme means that walkers in our area are now fortunate enough to be able to enjoy the countryside and walking whatever their ability. Get fit and increase your confidence with the health walks, then when you feel able, come and join Bedwyn Footpaths Group monthly walks (see the events page) or if you are an independent walker then check out our self-guided walks and archive page for suggestions of local routes. Our group also hold special events through the year so enter your email at the bottom of this page if you’d like to receive notification of these.

A blog about a blog

Have got the New Year resolutions off to a good start by doing something on my to-do list since last February! Thank you Glyn for your patience in waiting for my promised blog entry about our group. Here’s the result I hope you all feel I’ve done the group justice – I could have blown the suggested 500 words many times with all the great stuff we’ve done together in last 4 years. Here’s to 2019! Well worth checking out Glyn’s award winning blog for info and features on walking. I have to say he seems much keener on walking uphill than I tend to be 🙂