It’s something I’m rather proud of that didn’t involve feeding my face, so I’ll begin by saying that I walked over 14 miles on Sunday from Salisbury to Stone Henge. If you’re curious about the route, it’s something I found on the Saturday Walkers’ Club website. I was, I’ll admit, a little anxious about it because I’ve never walked that far before, but it was an amazing experience. Wiltshire is truly a magical and mysterious part of Britain and there is so much to see. Stone and wooden circles were our focus, and while we didn’t see it all by foot, we visited the West Kennet Long Barrow, Silbury Hill, Wood Henge and Avebury. Not quite the season for crop circles, the green and rippling fields of wheat and barley were breathtaking and my favourite element of the landscape. The barrow mounds, bridges over the Avon and stiles leading us into muddy fields were also a highlight. But as you can imagine, the long ascending approach to Stone Henge was spectacular. Flanked by fields, the unusually large by-way that leads up to the site is the stuff of dreams and in my opinion is the only way to get a true appreciation for the majesty of Stone Henge, and for the place and significance it may have held for our ancient ancestors.
As ever, when I’m away from home I always try to make each meal count. But when you’re on foot, your choices are limited. I won’t mention the forgettable meals, and I won’t over-dramatise my strange lack of appetite while walking that made even a Mars Bar feel medicinal, but I will mention two places that are worth seeking out if you’re in the area of Avebury and Devizes, whether it’s visiting Stone Henge, picnicking at the White Horse of Wiltshire or rambling for miles over the English countryside.
The Waggon and Horses at Beckhampton sits near the round about on the A4 that turns up into the A4361 towards Avebury to see the famous stone circles. Built in 1669 from local sarsen stone, the Waggon and Horses not only serves excellent food, but it’s a little piece of history famed for featuring in The Bagman’s Story from Charles Dickens’ Pickwick Papers. Recently taken over, by a couple whose name I didn’t catch, this pub serves food that is really well priced for what it’s serving up; which is fantastic, seasonal, traditional fare that is most importantly made with love. The day we ate there they were really busy, and so while we had to wait a little while for our food, it was well worth it. We ordered the The Waggon & Horses pie, which, we were told, is a recipe dreamed up by the new owner that they’re hoping to feature as their signature dish. The pie is a crumbling fat disc of pastry hiding slow-cooked honey mustard glazed West End Farm pork, with black pudding & leeks, adorned with roast baby vegetables, real gravy & creamy mashed potato. Nothing out of a packet or a box in this meal, just good, hearty fresh food. After one meal at this place, I’m a dedicated fan and advocate. If you’re ever going anywhere near Beckhampton – do not miss a meal at this pub.
And finally, for some sweet talk. On a previous trip to Wiltshire we discovered the Devine Cafe situated at the site of the Cherhill white horse in Wiltshire, and amongst the fields that are occasionally decorated with famous crop circles. Owned by a former Maidenhead Publican (The old Stag and Hounds at Pinkney’s Green), Devine Cafe is worth stopping at if just for the cakes that are all home made by one of the owners, Jane. Sadly, I didn’t sneak any photos of my experience at Devine Cafe, but I won’t forget the meal. We shared the almond and plum tart, the chocolate brownie and a slice of the Victoria Sponge. All of the cakes were delicious and so memorable because they weren’t sourced from a commercial bakery, they were all made in the kitchen that was voted as “The Best of Wiltshire Roadside Cafe” by the Gazette & Herald. Jane’s Victoria Sponge was THE best one I have ever tasted. I’ve made many in my own kitchen, and I’ve tasted many a National Trust and quirky British cafe, but Jane’s was without a doubt the best one yet. A firm favourite for bikers and cyclists, the Devine Cafe is worth a stop on the way home if you’ve been out and about exploring the wonders of Wilshire.