The direct route from Salisbury to Amesbury is (or was) the loneliest seven miles of highway in Wiltshire. No villages are passed and but one or two houses; thus the road, even with the amenities of Amesbury at the other end is, under normal conditions, an ideal introduction to the Plain. The parenthesis of doubt refers to that extraordinary and, let us hope, ephemeral transformation which has overtaken the great tract of chalk upland encircling Bulford Camp. The fungus growth of huts which, during the earlier years of the Great War, gradually crept farther and farther from the pre-war nucleus and sent sporadic growths afield into unsuspected places, will undoubtedly vanish as time passes, just as the unnaturally busy traffic of the road will also disappear. Some of the gaunt incongruities visible from near Stonehenge have, happily, already vanished and in this brief description they will be, as far as is possible, ignored. Certain it is that those readers who have had the misfortune to be connected with them by force of “iron circumstance” will not wish for reminders of their miseries.
Old Sarum is on the left of, and close to, the road. It can be most conveniently visited from this side. At present the most interesting part of the great mound is the actual fosse and vallum. The interior, while excavations are in progress, is too much a chaotic rubbish heap to be very inviting. But again this is merely a passing phase and soon the daisy-starred turf will once more mantle the grave of a dead city. The valley road turns off to the left a short distance past the railway and goes to Stratford-sub-castle, just under the shadow of the great mound to the west. This forms a pleasant enough introduction to the scenery and villages of the Upper Avon. The Manor House at Stratford is associated with the Pitt family, for the estate came by purchase to the celebrated Governor Pitt, the one-time owner of the diamond named after him. His descendant, the Earl of Chatham, was member for Old Sarum when it was the most celebrated, and execrated, of all the “rotten boroughs.” For many years the elections took place under a tree in a meadow below the hill. This tree was destroyed in a blizzard during the winter of 1896. The Early English and Perpendicular church is quaint and picturesque. On its tower will be seen an inscription to Thomas Pitt and within, an ancient hour-glass stand. The old Parsonage has the inscription over the entrance:—
PARVA SED APTA DOMINO
The road now crosses the Avon bridge at a point where the western road from Old Sarum once forded the river, and follows the valley to the three Woodfords, Lower, Middle, and Upper. Just past the middle village, in a loop of the Avon, is Heale House, now rebuilt. In the old mansion Charles took refuge during his flight after Worcester. The secret room in which he hid was preserved in the reconstruction. Lake, a beautiful old Tudor House, lately burned, but now restored, stands near the river bank south of Wilsford, through which village we pass to reach West Amesbury, eight miles from Salisbury. The fine modern mansion not far from Wilsford is the seat of Lord Glenconner.