Salisbury – Broken Bridges and Harnham Circular Walk

2018 was a challenging year for my home city of Salisbury. It’s been well-documented what went on and it’s become more important than ever that us local people help support the area and continue to visit.

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A great way to warm up on a cold January day is to embark on a long walk so today I did just that. I started my walk at Harnham, an area just south of Salisbury. From here, I picked up the Broken Bridges walk which weaves its way across tributaries of the River Nadder before it joins in with the River Avon. As the name of this walk depicts, there are several bridges along the way, although no of them appeared broken! I’m not sure where exactly that aspect of the name comes from!

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Very shortly after leaving the residential area behind I spotted my first wildlife for the day, a small herd of deer in a nearby field that didn’t seem at all disturbed by my presence.  

Above one of the first bridges I stopped at I could see long tailed tits, coal tits, robins and blue tits darting around the branches. The river was clear and fast-flowing at this point, you can often spot brown trout under the surface but there’s was no such luck with this today.

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Continuing along the path I passed several dog walkers taking their four-legged friend for their morning outing, this is a popular walk with the locals and with all the wildlife and views around it’s no wonder why really.

In one of the fields which was edged by the meandering river there was a small herd of Highland cattle with their long horns and brightly coloured coats, not your average sight for the south of England but beautiful nonetheless.

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The next part of the walk takes an interesting turn as you follow along the perimeter of Salisbury’s main industrial area, Churchfields. The path literally skims the estate and yet for the majority of the walk you can easily forget that the factories and businesses are there, as you look to the right you are following the water’s edge and the views across some of the city’s water meadows.

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A signpost as you approach this area indicates some of the wildlife that you might be lucky enough to spot here including kingfishers and otters as well as easier-to-spot species including mallard ducks. I would say it was surprisingly peaceful here despite it’s location however the trees were chirping with the sounds of blackbirds, robins, wrens and many other birds. I was even lucky enough to hear a Cetti’s warbler singing from the reed beds and spot a treecreeper scurrying its way up one of the bare branches before discovering a woodpecker up in one of the trees too. And all this beside an industrial estate?!

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Further along the route you pass by larger reed bed areas where the flash of turquoise went past as a kingfisher darted downstream. From here you begin to get views across the water meadows towards Salisbury Cathedral. You could easily spend a lot of time here just absorbing the views and taking in the nature all around you.

The next section of the walk takes you back into Churchfields, past the railway station and then into Queen Elizabeth Gardens. In the summer, these gardens are filled with flower beds, families enjoying a picnic or an ice cream and it’s a nice spot to stroll around whatever the season.

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From here, you can either pick up the walk back towards Harnham via the Town Path footpath or you can make the short walk into the city centre.

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Given the time was nearly lunchtime, I decided to make a visit to the Refectory at Salisbury Cathedral after taking a quick look at the Cathedral’s current art installation – From Darkness to Light.

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Even after having grown up in Salisbury, I never get tired of the view of the Cathedral – the architecture is simply spectacular and it’s amazing to think that the building of it was achieved several hundred years ago. Top tip: if you have the time and you don’t mind heights then book onto one of their Tower Tours for some amazing views over the city and beyond.

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Suitably filled, I began my route back, following down the High Street before heading back into Queen Elizabeth Gardens to pick up the Town Path. This tarmacked route leads you alongside the Harnham water meadows, used to graze sheep in times gone by and an area with an interesting history. At certain times of the year, the meadows were flooded by specialist skilled workers and farmers known as ‘drowners’. This technique was used to irrigate the land for farming. The Harnham Water Meadows Trust, which looks after this land today, offers a couple of dates a year when you can go along and learn more about the history here.

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Along the Town Path are views that are often very familiar to people of Salisbury Cathedral, it is from along here that John Constable painted one of his most famous paintings of this magnificent building. Don’t forget your camera – the views here are stunning!

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Towards the end of the walk I passed by the Old Mill, a riverside pub, before picking up a footpath through Middle Street Meadow. Ok, so the meadow didn’t look its finest at this time of year but I’d imagine in just a couple of months it will be teeming with wildlife.  

If you fancy doing this walk for yourselves then it’s shown on the Salisbury and Wilton Walking map available to download on Visit Salisbury. All in all, the walk I did is probably about four miles in total, however you can easily shorten or lengthen it depending on how energetic you are feeling.

Written by Emma Kirkup

Emma hails from the south of England, having lived in Wiltshire, Dorset and Hampshire. She previously worked at VisitWiltshire and likes to think of herself as a bit of a guru on the local area. Her scratch map of the world is gradually being rubbed off and her recent overseas travels have been to Corsica and Malta. Favourite destination ever: New Zealand.

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