With its picturesque cottages, surrounded by fields, and the River Avon running through it, Upavon is one of the most eye-catching places in the Wiltshire area. Wiltshire is one of the hidden gems of England. The less discerning traveller often foregoes it in favour of the more obvious charms of the Cotswolds to the north. Or considers it as a place to pass through on the congested A303 on their long and crowded way to Devon or Cornwall. But a quick look at the Visit Wiltshire or Visit Pewsey Vale websites (https://www.visitwiltshire.co.uk or www.visitpewseyvale.co.uk) will show that it is not only a timeless and enchanting county, it also has plenty of things to see and do.
Although Upavon feels like a million miles from the hustle and bustle of London, it is only about 4 miles (6.4 km) south of the nearest train station in Pewsey. Travel on one of the new Great Western Trains takes just over an hour to London Paddington. Upavon is nestled perfectly half-way between the prehistoric monuments of Stonehenge, 10 miles south, and the equally impressive but less well-known stone circle at Avebury to the north. It’s an easy 20-mile journey to the world-famous cathedral city of Salisbury, home to Britain’s tallest church spire and a place of pilgrimage for over 750 years. Salisbury Reds X5 buses provide an hourly service between Swindon and Salisbury, calling through Upavon on the way.
You can spend hours walking undisturbed across the vast expanse of Salisbury Plain – taking care to avoid the impact area – with glimpses of Wiltshire’s famous white horses on distant hills. In September 2021, new Itineraries for the Vale of Pewsey were launched by the Visit Pewsey Vale association. The Mid-Wilts Way and Kennet & Avon Canal walking routes are complete. The third walking and cycling route is the Pewsey Vale Circular Way – a new route which is currently being way-marked, so will be launched later this year. Check them out on www.visitpewseyvale.co.uk/
Upavon is known as the birthplace of the RAF over a hundred years ago. A visit to the village cemetery shows several neat gravestones of young men killed in early flying accidents. The RAF handed over Upavon camp to the army in 1993 but their legacy lives on in the gliding school that is open to the public. There’s something magical watching a glider being released into the air as the wire dragging it airborne snaps off and snakes to the ground – the glider swoops and swirls silently over the skies of Upavon, like watching a giant bird circle for prey overhead (www.armyglidingclubwyvern.co.uk). For the even more adventurous – or foolhardy – there is also the opportunity to jump out of a plane at Netheravon with the Army Parachute Association (www.netheravon.com).
Another legacy of the RAF is the 18-hole golf course that perches above Upavon village. Its chalk soil and high position mean it is never waterlogged and is playable all year round, with unparalleled views over the Vale of Pewsey and far away over Salisbury Plain. It’s a friendly club with an excellent Pro shop and team and very competitive rates (www.upavongolfclub.co.uk).
There are plenty of places on the river Avon to indulge a love of fly-fishing before retiring to the Ship to talk about “the one that got away’. Contact Peter Prince at Upavon Farm, Rushall (07770925544) or Manningford Trout Fishery (www.manningfordtroutfishery.co.uk). If you fancy practising some shooting skills, try Widdington Shoot, established by Jeremy Horton on his working beef and arable farm. They offer a partridge shoot from September to January, and a clay ground with varied targets between March and August. (www.widdingtonshoot.co.uk).