A Walk Through Time
Distance: 4 miles. Time: 2 hours
Start: Milford Mill Road bridge.
This Grade 1 Listed structure dates from the 1490s. The coping stones are 18th century. There were earlier bridges crossing the Bourne at this point, and a ford took the minor Roman road over to what is now Queen’s Manor Road.
Cross the bridge and take the boardwalk alongside Milford Mill Road. The part of the field to your immediate right is the site of the Deserted Medieval Village (DMV) of ‘Meleford’ which was recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 but is now reduced to shallow ridges and shadows. The fields on the other side of Milford Mill Road have evidence of pottery kilns dating from the 12th to the 14th centuries. As you walk towards Milford House Care Home, this latter part of the field on the right has yielded potsherds from the early to late Saxon periods.
At the end of the boardwalk turn left and continue with caution along Milford Mill Road and under the rail bridge. Then immediately take Petersfinger road to the left until reaching a Bridleway sign 300 yards on the left.
Take that route and having passed under the rail bridge there is a quarry up to your right (now partially occupied by Travellers and behind fencing) which is the site of an early (6th century) Anglo-Saxon cemetery. Digging in the late 1940s, Stuart Piggott found 64 warrior burials here, many furnished with swords. Follow the track past a concrete bollard for 150 yards and then take the muddy track on your right that passes round the quarry. This footpath skirts Ashley Hill on the summit of which scattered Roman building material indicates a farmstead or minor villa.
Continue for ten minutes to Ranger’s Lodge Farm. Turn left onto the Clarendon track and then almost immediately right onto the footpath. After 50 yards or so take the left fork and pass the farm cottages. Climbing steadily, carry straight on past the permissive path. Three hundred yards further on the left and close to the wire fence are two low mounds – these are probably post-medieval rabbit warrens. A little further along the track, the field to the left has vestigial features of a field system – best seen in low, slanting light. The system is undated, but the ridge patterns suggest a 13th century date.
Walking along this path you will glimpse Burrough’s Hill House. There is evidence of a Neolithic flint quarry here. Also, there is a mound immediately in front of the house called 'Byrhtferth's Low'. As 'Byrhtferthes Hlaewe', this tumulus is mentioned in King Eadred's Anglo-Saxon charter of 949 AD and defines the parish boundary of Laverstock and Ford.
Follow this path until reaching a metal kissing gate on the right. Take this footpath along Laverstock Down towards Cockey Down. This is an archaeologically rich area. On the slope to your left as you leave the gate, sherds of Roman pottery were found in the 1990s. Continuing down the path for 200 yards, the hilltop to your right and above the belt of trees is the site of a Late Bronze Age (1000- 800 BC) inhumation of a new-born child.
Walking steeply for perhaps 450 yards, Cockey Down is now above you among woods.
(A detour can be made at this point and the hilltop reached. The fields invisibly beyond the woods here constitute a major archaeological site. During pipeline work in the 1990s a complex continuity of remains was uncovered: Late Bronze Age and early Iron Age pottery; evidence of a long-lived Romano-British settlement and an extensive cemetery nearby.)
Our walk skirts Cockey Down and follows an obvious track running gently downhill for 300 yards. If the light is right, the large field to your left has the faintly raised marks of a field system. Go through the kissing gate on your left and walk along the fence line beside the school playing fields. In the middle of the field with the traces of the field system, a Bronze Age drinking vessel was found in the 1950s. It is possible this was the site of a small settlement, and whose people worked these ancient fields.
Follow the fence line until reaching the byway. Turn right and walk down to Church Road. Turn left and visit the foundations of the medieval St Andrew’s at the rear of the Victorian church. Somewhere among the weeds at the very back of the site are the fragments of a Roman sarcophagus which was found when builders were laying out Greenwood Avenue in the 1930s. Unbelievably, the coffin was broken up and the greensand pieces scattered.
Cross the road and take the first road on the left. This is Duck Lane. Follow this lane past the Duck Inn until reaching Queen Manor Road. Duck Lane and its continuation as Gypsy Lane are ancient trackways which conceivably marked the boundary between villa estates.
Turn right at Queen Manor Road and back to Milford Mill Road bridge.