|Shipton Bellinger: Neighbours and Nearby|
Our closest neighbour to the south is the village and parish of Cholderton, though Tidworth has a few shops and amenities to the north. The NE of Tidworth is Ludgershall, at which can be found the few remains of an old hunting lodge - almost a small castle.
We are also bordered by the parishes (and villages) of Kimpton, Thruxton and Quarley - the village church is part of a combined benefice (super-parish) with Kimpton, Thruxton, Fyfield and Appleshaw. The nearest railway station is Grateley, 4.5 miles away the other side of the old hill-fort of Quarley Hill. Stonehenge and the small town of Amesbury is about 7 miles west of us, on the edge of Salisbury Plain.
As of February 2003, Grateley have a non-commercial web site - it is built very differently from the Shipton site, with plenty of Macromedia's Flash so may take longer to load, though is undoubtedly much more graphics-intensive!
East, at Thruxton, is an Aerodrome and racing circuit - on racing bank holidays the noise of the cars or bikes comes over the hill and can be heard in the village! Towards Stockbridge and the Test Valley can be found the Middle Wallop airfied and the Museum of Army Flying. This is close to the pretty villages of Over Wallop and Nether Wallop, both of which still have houses built in the classic, local Hampshire style - Wood-frame with Brick and Flint in-fill and thatched rooves. In places the old chalk walls with thatched tops can still be seen.
Near the Thruxton turn-off is the bird of prey centre, the Hawk Conservancy. This is well worth a visit, especially with a family, as they do flying demonstrations several times a day, have a bird hospital and display a wide range of hawks, eagles, kites, vultures, kestrels, falcons and owls.
In Cholderton is a Rare Breeds farm, just off the old Amesbury road (the A303 is now the main route to Amesbury). This contains a "Rabbit World", with a wide range of rabbits - some of which children are allowed to hold - and several varieties of Pigs and sheep. Early in the year the lambing and the new-born lambs are apparently quite a sight.
Tidworth was the site of one of the earliest recorded investigations into the paranormal: a strange drummer was heard at an inn after a death in the family in the C18. An investigator came down from London and announced the affair was a hoax....
Andover is the nearest town and is the main site for the Test Valley Borough Council offices (governing Andover, Romsey and the parishes in this NW part of Hampshire. There is a website and online forum focussed for Andover, and the TVBC site is very informative.
Salisbury is also nearby and is well worth a visit. The street plan is still that of the original medieval town, and the spire from the magnificent cathedral can be seen from a long way off.
The area has a large number of hill-forts, whether Bronze-, Iron-age or Celtic. The closest is Quarley Hill and the earthworks and dykes originating from Quarley extend up to the W of the village - the Devil's Dyke. These ditches and dykes are assumed to have marked boundaries or to provide paths for cattle to be driven down. The dykes have eroded over the centuries and many of the ditches have silted up, though they were originally about 6 foot (2m) deep.
Towards Andover there is Bury hill fort and just the other side of Middle Wallop is the extensively excavated Danebury Hill fort, the finds from which can be seen in the Andover Iron Age Museum.
Further towards Salisbury, of course, is Old Sarum which is well worth a visit. Once a small fort, William I gathered his army there after conquering England to distribute the wealth and allocate land. The fort was extended over the next 300 years and a medieval castle and cathedral erected (the latter twice) before the town moved into the valley and pastures below.
On the Salisbury-Andover road is the enigmatic Figsbury Ring, which seems never to have been used as a fort, but maybe as a huge cattle pen or ritual area.
Durrington Walls, an old ringed settlement, and the nearby Woodhenge are just north of Amesbury. Woodhenge is nowadays marked by some posts and the main road goes through Durrington Walls: it's recent expansion allowed some useful archeological work to be carried out.
Ludgershall Castle isn't a hill fort but the remains of an old castle, used as a lodge for hunting and recreation.
There is a lot of Army-owned (Crown) land in and around the village - we are on the edge of Salisbury Plain, after all. The Army Air Corps occasionally overfly us on low-level training, and the ranges to the west often have flags flying. When the flags are not flying the ranges are wonderful places to walk or cycle over as, on the whole, the countryside is gently rolling, beautiful and unspoilt, dotted with woods and tumuli, and crossed with tracks. It must even be said that the army are quite reasonable in regards to training and manouevres, normally keeping overhead flights to a minimum and only rarely firing on the nearby artillery and rifle ranges. Crises, of course, are a different matter.
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