Last Sunday saw a quick foray down the Old Shaftesbury Drove. This Byway Open to All Traffic (BOAT) probably originated in Anglo-Saxon times, used by farmers to drive their livestock towards Salisbury from Shaftesbury. Today, it is a rough track that can legally be used by vehicles, although only certain lengths are really passable.
We started adjacent to Salisbury Racecourse (itself featuring stunning views back across the valley to the Cathedral), with the route taking us through a narrow strip of woodland, with farmland on either side. Its funny, but only in the last couple of years has this particular part of the Drove been made aware to us - now it's a familiar yomp!
Although you could just keep going until you presumably get to Shaftesbury (a walk I have not done), there are numerous footpaths and bridleways off the Drove, including through Forestry Commission and the private Wilton Estate (same ownership as Grovely Wood that features in an earlier post) woodland. Much of this is what is termed as 'Plantation on an Ancient Woodland Site' (PAWS). In effect, this means that the actual trees are a recent affair, but from the rich ground flora (usually featuring native bluebells, wood anemone, dog's mercury etc), you can tell that the site has been woodland for centuries. Already, the early signs of woodland plants were peeking through on our walk.
I'm venturing slightly further afield tomorrow, if the weather holds. Oh, and I swear I heard a skylark singing when I was in the garden just now - one of the perks of living so close to farmland (just across the road), with the grassland managed under an agri-environment scheme - surely one of the most beautiful sounds in nature.