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  • Writer's pictureMotobiters - Rides

Bite-Sized Rides 1 – Wiltshire

Updated: May 17, 2021

Trip tasters to look forward to after lockdown

Trip 1 – Calne – Avebury – Marlborough (including a bike fest too) View part of the route here in our video

Best time to do this ride: July and August

Worst Time: The winter and summer solstices

Length: 14 miles

Bike Type: Good for all.

Fuel stops: There are 3 petrol stations in Calne, 2 in Marlborough and one in between, on such a short ride it would be inexcusable to run out of petrol!

Top tips: Keep your speed down if visiting Calne at the time of the bike festival or Avebury at the summer solstice, you’ll either get a ticket, or run over a stoned weirdo dressed as Gandalf the Grey respectively.

We are lucky that we live in a part of the world with a beautiful prehistoric landscape of rolling open fields that often confuses, captivates and engulfs your imagination. Positively bleak in the winter, beautiful and abundant in the summer, you can’t fail to appreciate the chalkland downs full, as they are, of Neolithic monuments, stunning views and white horses. With all that open countryside it is of course a pretty handy place to ride a motorbike too.

This ride takes you on through a small section of that landscape extending across central Wiltshire; a short hop from Calne, across to Avebury, only 7 miles away, then on to the market town of Marlborough a further 7 miles down the road. We are hoping by covering several micro-journeys like this you can pick and choose where you wish to ride, and, if you like, join up sections to make a ride of your own. The whole place is a biker’s playground and littered with great places to eat and stay, you can’t really go wrong.

Our starting line is at the Lansdowne Strand in Calne where each year on the last Saturday of July there is a bike meet which is a really friendly and fun event. Covid permitting, it’ll back this year and you’ll be able to enjoy it. Bikes and bikers line the streets and traders sell everything motorbike-related to the smell of street food and the sound of live music. It claims to be the largest free motorbike festival in Europe, and the range of motorbikes on display is astonishing – you can find out more here.

From Calne take the London Road (A4) towards the small village of Cherhill. This is the start of a road to Marlborough which with its wide, fast mixture of straights and rolling curvy bends is one of the best short stretches of road in the county.

Passing through Cherhill, you will see an escarpment on your right with the first of the historical landmarks on top, Oldbury castle, an iron age hill fort. The Lansdowne monument is also highly visible and indeed being so prominent it is an easy place to see for miles around, so it’s a really great landmark. You can’t get lost if you can see it!

The monument was built as an ‘eye-catcher’ in 1845 by 3rd Marquis of Lansdowne, when it was at the edge of the Bowood estate. The story goes that the Marquis needed something interesting on the horizon to point out from his garden to visitors. The stone obelisk is 120ft high and was designed by Sir Charles Barry (architect of the Houses of Parliament).

To the left of the monument is the Cherhill White horse. It is the second oldest in Wiltshire being cut in 1780. This horse was made under the guidance of Dr Christopher Alsop of Calne who gave instructions by megaphone from a distance.

At one time there were 13 white horses in Wiltshire, now only 8 survive due to lack of maintenance. This horse underwent its last bi-annual restoration in 2019 when the local community come together to whiten up the horse with chalk.

In the Summer (bring on Summer, by god we miss it!) you frequently come across crop circles, while it does make the local farmers somewhat irate, but they are always a huge tourist attraction, especially with visiting Americans.

We recommend you stop and take the walk up to the monument, you will discover breath taking 360 degree views across the surrounding countryside. Sunrise and sunset are definitely the best times for this. Below are a couple of recommended walks – short and long. You could of course spend a day walking from this point in a variety of directions.

Back on the bikes you continue your journey along the A4 and the road opens up a bit, so it’s a smooth high-speed blast towards Avebury from here. As you continue you will pass the Beckhampton gallops on the right where race-horses are trained and exercised.

There is a layby on the right (before you get to the roundabout), within the woods you will find lots of tree carvings dating from the 1930s to the present day. There are lots of names, texts and romantic arborglyphs. Carvings dating to the Second World War have been discovered which may be associated with RAF Yatesbury which was operational during the Second World War and continued as a Radio School until the 1960s. (You are not advised to add your own!)

Continuing along the road you take a left turn at the roundabout towards Avebury, a little way on there is another layby on the right and you can get a really great view of Silbury Hill from its northern aspect.

Arriving into Avebury you can choose to park in either the national trust car parks or the Red Lion Pub car park in the village. It can be busy around the pub but there is usually a place to tuck a motorbikes in the High Street.

So what does Avebury offer you?...

Avebury has a World-famous stone circle and on-site museum owned and managed by the National Trust. It has been designated a Scheduled Ancient Monument, as well as a World Heritage Site.

Constructed over several hundred years in the 3rd millennium BC, during the Neolithic (New Stone Age) the monument comprises a large henge (a bank and a ditch) with a large outer stone circle and two separate smaller stone circles situated inside the centre of the monument. Its original purpose is unknown, although archaeologists believe that it was most likely used for some form of ritual or ceremony.

The Avebury monument is a part of a larger prehistoric landscape containing several older monuments nearby, including East and West Kennet Long Barrows, Windmill Hill, Silbury Hill and Oldbury Castle. There are also dozens of smaller bronze age burial sites dotted around in fields but by the Iron Age, the site had been effectively abandoned, with some evidence of human activity on the site during the Roman occupation.

During the Early Middle Ages, a village first began to be built around the monument, eventually extending into it. In the Late Medieval and Early Modern periods, local people destroyed many of the standing stones around the henge, both for religious and practical reasons. The antiquarians John Aubrey and William Stukeley, however, took an interest in Avebury during the 17th century, and recorded much of the site before its destruction.

Archaeological investigation followed in the 20th century, led primarily by Alexander Keiller, who oversaw a project which reconstructed much of the monument. The Millionaire archaeologist Alexander Keiller who excavated here in the 1930s has a museum bearing his name. Arranged in two parts, the Alexander Keiller Museum is divided into the Stables, displaying archaeological treasures from across the World Heritage Site, and the Barn, a 17th-century threshing barn housing interactive displays and children's activities that reveal the story of this ancient landscape.

Avebury Manor, on the edge of the village, was transformed in a partnership between the National Trust and the BBC, creating a hands-on experience that celebrates and reflects the lives of the people who once lived here.

When you have had enough of prehistoric sites the road to Marlborough along a row of standing stones called the Avenue and back to the A4.

From here the road is fast and fun to the ancient market town of Marlborough which we will tell you all about in a future blog. We hope you have had a great day out.

Where to eat

We would recommending staying away from the Avebury pubs and restaurants as they wouldn’t be our first choice and can be quite touristy. Instead try the nearby White Horse at Compton Bassett or the Bell at West Overton. Both offer good quality food but are not cheap, if you need a more budget option there are a wide range of pubs and restaurants in Marlborough.

Where to Stay

We’d stay in Marlborough for its greater range of restaurant and accommodation. There are lots of each and some are very good. Take your pick!

If you would rather camp

Try the campsite at the Golden Swan, Wilcot near Marlborough which is very biker friendly and not a bad pub at all.

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