website title Steve Davison photographer and writer

The North Wessex Downs

The Areas of Oustanding Natural Beauty have been described as the jewels of the English landscape and the North Wessex Downs, the third largest AONB, is no exception. Its predominant feature is the underlying chalk geology and it covers one of the most continuous tracts of chalk downland in England.

The rolling chalk downland stretches west from the River Thames in a broad arc to the south of Swindon, including the Berkshire and Marlborough Downs, with a steep scarp slope looking out over the Vale of White Horse, and then sweeps south and east to include the Vale of Pewsey and the North Hampshire Downs before circling round Newbury back to the Thames.

Although the downs are termed ‘hilly’, they don’t rise to any great height, however, the AONB includes the highest chalk hill in England (and highest point in Berkshire), Walbury Hill (297m), but also the highest points in three other counties - Milk Hill in Wiltshire (295m), Pilot Hill in Hampshire (286m) and Whitehorse Hill in Oxfordshire (262m).

This book explores the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in depth, covering the geology and landscape, prehistoric treasures and more modern developments, from the Kennet and Avon Canal to crop circles.

Publisher: Robert Hale Ltd (now Crowood Press)

ISBN: 9780719805813

Publication Date: November 2013

The book is available from local bookshops, direct from Crowood Press at, or through online sellers, including
North Wessex Downs cover
The archaeology of the area is both rich and varied, with a number of impressive monuments, including the Neolithic stone circle at Avebury, along with the mysterious Silbury Hill and West Kennet long barrow; the truly beautiful 3000-year-old stylised galloping figure of the Uffington White Horse close to the magical Wayland's Smithy, the remains of a Neolithic long barrow; plus a myriad of Bronze Age barrows and Iron Age hill forts with commanding positions looking out over the chalk landscape.

More modern developments include the 200-year-old Kennet & Avon Canal – the super highway for trade in its heyday. Whilst hidden amongst the folded contours of this chalk countryside are picture-postcard villages with thatched cottages, historic churches dating back to Norman times and magnificent stately houses, including Highclere Castle.
Sir Nicholas be la Beche, St Mary's Church, AldworthAshdown HouseWest Kennet Avenue, AveburyChurch of St Mary the Virgin, Great BedwynSt Mary's Church, Great SheffordHighclere CastleRoman mosaic, LittlecoteDonnington CastleCottington Hill, North Hampshire DownsMartinsell Hill, Vale of Pewsey
1 Geology and the Landscape

2 History from the Stone Age to the Present Day
  - Archaeology Uncovered - from Causewayed Camps to Medieval Castles
  - North Wessex at War

3 North Wessex at Work
  - From the Land to Science
  - Boats, Trains and Cars
  - Tourism

4 Towns and Villages
5 From Stately Homes to White Horses
  - Stately Homes
  - Interesting Churches
  - Monuments, White Horses and Crop Circles

6 Writers and Artists
  - The Bloomsbury Set
  - Writers of Prose and Poetry
  - Artists of Land and Light

7 Wildlife
  - The Flora and Fauna
  - From National Nature Reserves to Wildlife Trust Reserves
North Wessex Down overview map