Westbury to Warminster via Imber Range walk

Westbury White Horse, 5 hills (3 of which Iron Age Camps), pristine chalk downland on Salisbury Plain, an abandoned village on the rarely open Imber Range

Westbury Hill, with White Horse SWC Walk 286 Westbury to Warminster (via Imber Range)

Westbury Hill, with White Horse

SWC Walk 286 Westbury to Warminster (via Imber Range)

02-Jan-17 • thomasgrabow on Flickr

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Imber Village, Traffic Sign SWC Walk 286 Westbury to Warminster (via Imber Range)

Imber Village, Traffic Sign

SWC Walk 286 Westbury to Warminster (via Imber Range)

02-Jan-17 • thomasgrabow on Flickr

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Imber Village, Shells of Houses used for combat training SWC Walk 286 Westbury to Warminster (via Imber Range)

Imber Village, Shells of Houses used for combat training

SWC Walk 286 Westbury to Warminster (via Imber Range)

02-Jan-17 • thomasgrabow on Flickr

walkicon swcwalks swcwalk286 33225814260 G-T-TG

Ruined Farm Buildings on Salisbury Plain, off American Road SWC Walk 286 Westbury to Warminster (via Imber Range)

Ruined Farm Buildings on Salisbury Plain, off American Road

SWC Walk 286 Westbury to Warminster (via Imber Range)

02-Jan-17 • thomasgrabow on Flickr

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Young green growth on red soil, near Reeves Farm SWC Walk 286 Westbury to Warminster (via Imber Range)

Young green growth on red soil, near Reeves Farm

SWC Walk 286 Westbury to Warminster (via Imber Range)

16-Apr-17 • thomasgrabow on Flickr

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Cley Hill beyond Warminster SWC Walk 286 Westbury to Warminster (via Imber Range)

Cley Hill beyond Warminster

SWC Walk 286 Westbury to Warminster (via Imber Range)

16-Apr-17 • thomasgrabow on Flickr

walkicon swcwalks swcwalk286 33736198250 G-T-TG

Battlesbury Camp SWC Walk 286 Westbury to Warminster (via Imber Range)

Battlesbury Camp

SWC Walk 286 Westbury to Warminster (via Imber Range)

16-Apr-17 • thomasgrabow on Flickr

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Danger Area

You must check the Imber (Salisbury Plain) firing range is open before doing this walk.
Open Days are usually: Christmas and New Year, Easter (Good Friday to Easter Monday inclusive) and some weeks in August (usually leading up to the Bank Holiday weekend).
The only source for definitive dates is the SPTA Newsletter linked above. All Open Days can be rescinded at short notice.

Length

30.3 km (18.8 mi), with 553/494m ascent/descent. For a shorter walk see below Walk Options.

Toughness

8 out of 10, with 7 hours walking time. For the whole outing, including trains, sights and meals, allow at least 12 hours.

Walk Notes

Bookended by urban stretches through Westbury and Warminster, this walk is a fascinating journey across the Imber Live Firing Range on Salisbury Plain to the abandoned village of Imber, nestled in a secluded wooded downland valley. The Plain is full of pre-historic sites and the Range an accidental wilderness as it’s been MoD property since 1898, out-of-bounds for most of the year apart from short stand downs over Christmas and Easter and for some weeks in August (most years). Either side of the Plain the route crosses five hills, three of which with notable remnants of Iron Age hillfort sites: Bratton, Scratchbury and Battlesbury Camps, and it also passes Wiltshire’s largest White Horse, at Westbury.
You get superb views across Salisbury Plain and of the surrounding countryside of Wiltshire and Somerset.
Imber was abandoned in 1943 at 47 days’ notice for training house-to-house combat in preparation for the invasion of Continental Europe and it is a haunting and evocative place like no other.

Shorter walks, starting from Bratton or Edington, or finishing in Heytesbury, involve short bus journeys.

Note: Before embarking on this walk, please read below chapters on Public Safety and Access Rights on Salisbury Plain/Imber Range and on General Health & Safety Rules for military areas and ranges

Walk Options

Alternative Start from Bratton, a 12-minute bus journey from Westbury on line 87/87A (Trowbridge – Devizes) with 5 buses on weekdays and 7 on Saturdays (01/17 price: £1.90), cuts 5.5 km/3.4 mi and 67m ascent. This cuts Westbury, the White Horse and the Bratton Camp Iron Age hillfort site. Rated 7/10.
Alternative Start from Edington, further along the same bus line (01/17 price: £2.40), cuts 5.9 km/3.7 mi and 94m ascent. This also cuts a stretch of the Imber Range Perimeter Path. Rated 6/10.
Alternative Ending at Heytesbury, a 13-minute bus journey to Warminster on line 24 (Salisbury–Westbury) with a two-hourly service Mondays to Saturdays (01/17 price: £2.70), cuts 8.0 km/5.0 mi and 300m ascent at the end, i.e.: the most scenic part of the walk: the succession of Cotley, Scratchbury, Middle and Battlesbury Hills, two of which are notable Iron Age hillfort sites. Rated 4/10.
Edington Start + Heytesbury Ending: 16.4 km/10.2 mi with 198m ascent. Rated 2/10.

Maps

OS Explorer: 143 (Warminster & Trowbridge)
OS Landranger: 183 (Yeovil & Frome) & 184 (Salisbury & The Plain)

Travel

Westbury Station is a stop on the Paddington to Taunton Great Western Main Line, the Bristol to Weymouth Heart of Wessex Line (via Bath Spa) and the occasional service from Waterloo via Salisbury, journey time from 77 mins Mon-Fri, 74 mins Sat and 70 mins Sun. Warminster is a stop on the Bristol to Portsmouth Wessex Main Line (via Bath, Westbury and Salisbury) and also served by occasional direct services to Waterloo, journey time to London from 109 mins Mon-Fri, 97 mins Sat and 123 minutes Sun.

Saturday Walkers’ Club: Both stations are outside the Network Southeast. Singles or split tickets may be cheaper than a simple return, advance booking is recommended. Take the train closest to 08.00 hours.

Lunch

Picnic
Tea and Biscuits are sold at St Giles, Imber church on most of the Open Days (14.4 km/9.0 mi).

Tea

Heytesbury
The Angel Inn High Street, BA12 0ED (01985 841 790).
The Red Lion 42A High Street, BA12 0EA (01985 840 333).

Warminster
The Masons Arms 34 East Street, BA12 9BN (01985 877 188).
The Old Bell Inn 42 Market Place, BA12 9AN (01985 216 611).
The Bath Arms 41 Market Place, BA12 9AZ (01985 853 920).
Coffee #1 30 Market Place, BA12 9AN (01985 213 118).
Gusto Divino 23 Market Place, BA12 9BA (01985 988 060).
La Dolce Vita 28 High Street, BA12 9AF (01985 988 090).
The Taphouse 9-10 George Street, BA12 8QA (01985 217 700).

Imber Range

Public Safety and Access Rights on Salisbury Plain/Imber Range

The current status of access rights on Salisbury Plain should be checked at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/public-access-to-military-areas#contents [under ‘Locations in South West England – Salisbury Plain]

At time of writing the rules relevant for this walk are as follows:

  • A variety of access is available on DTE SP including the Imber Range Perimeter Path (IRPP), a waymarked route ...
  • No access to the Imber Live Firing Range is granted to the public and all Danger Area notices and safety signs must be obeyed at all times. Nevertheless, on a limited number of days each year (usually around Christmas and New Year, over Easter and for some parts of August), access is granted to the public. The MoD publishes a monthly newsletter where details of access days can be found.
  • Note that these open days can be rescinded at short notice!
  • Further information about Public Safety at Imber can be found in this leaflet (pdf)
The main points:
  • Stick to public rights of way (i.e. the four access tracks outlined on the map in the linked leaflet); note that there are additional concrete MoD roads on the ground not shown on the OS Explorer maps, so care should be taken to ensure that you are on the designated route;
  • Don’t enter buildings marked ‘unsafe’;
  • Don’t approach disused tank hulls (they are targets, not playgrounds);
  • Don’t stray from the path.

General Health & Safety Rules for military areas and ranges

  • Keep away from all buildings unless marked otherwise;
  • do not touch any military items;
  • wash your hands before you eat;
  • clean your shoes and boots before you enter your car or home.
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Start BA13 4HP Map Directions Return to the start:

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National Rail: 03457 48 49 50 • Travelline (bus times): 0871 200 22 33 (12p/min) • TFL (London) : 0343 222 1234

Version

Apr-22 Thomas G

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Walk Directions  

Full directions for this walk are in a PDF file (link above) which you can print, or download on to a Kindle, tablet, or smartphone.

This is just the introduction. This walk's detailed directions are in a PDF available from wwww.walkingclub.org.uk