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Ancient embanked hedgerow on southern slope of Freezing Hill (NGR: 372124,171141)
 
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The fast and busy road ascending Freezing Hill is probably the 'narrow and ill passage' where Waller's cavalry were 'cruelly galled' by the royalist musketeers as they tried to retreat to the safety of Lansdown Hill at the end of the first phase of the battle.
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Circular Walk

7.5 km (4.5ml): a more demanding walk which covers much of the scarp edge walk but also involves two long steep descents and ascents of Freezing Hill and Lansdown Hill and 2km of walking on narrow but very quiet minor roads. To avoid the very dangerous, busy and fast road from Freezing Hill to Tog Hill, which is narrow and lacks any verge, this walk requires a retracing of one's steps to and from Freezing Hill.

From the interpretation panels by the parking area walk to the Grenvile monument, clearly visible 100m to the north east. The path leads along the earlier route of the main road, which used to follow close to the wall. It is in this central area of the battlefield, just a short distance from the edge of the scarp, that Waller must have constructed the defences, between Beach Wood on the west and possibly another area of woodland to the east. The Grenvile monument, located on the very brow of the hill probably does represent the location where the Cornish commander fell in the second phase of the battle as his troops finally managed to secure their hold on the scarp edge against intense fire and cavalry charges.

Now retrace your steps, cross the road and follow the clearly waymarked Cotswold Way westward. Note that up here on the plateau the fields are bounded by stone walls rather than hedges, because limestone forms the plateau here and on Freezing Hill whereas the lower ground is largely on clay. Stone walls figured significantly in the action, but it is not yet clear which existed at the time of the battle and which are more recent in origin. Where the path follows the service road to the Fire Brigade Training Centre, before entering the gate next to Beach Wood, look to the left. There is a field of hills and hollows that is being rapidly encroached by small trees and scrub. These are the quarry pits into which the royalist musketeers threw themselves for cover on the evening of the battle, once the parliamentarians had retreated from their defensive work close to the scarp edge. We do not know whether there has been any further quarrying here since the battle or if, apart from the encroaching scrub, it is today very much as it was in 1643. This area is identified as Open Country in the new Access mapping and, although not at present (2004) publicly accessible, hopefully it will become so in the near future.

Follow alongside Beach Wood where parliamentarian musketeers were deployed to harry the royalist advance up the hill, but through which the royalist musketeers finally drove back Waller’s men. Continue down the lane past the Fire Station and out onto the open pasture field, which is also identified for future open access. Follow along the scarp edge, noting the uneven ground on the hilltop and towards the further end of the field running down the slope. These are yet more quarries, not as some say the gun emplacements for Waller’s artillery. Near the quarry pits there is also what appears to be a hollow way, a now abandoned lane, leading off obliquely down the slope to the west. This may have been one of the routes which the royalists took to ascend the hill and outflank Waller's forces.

At the western end of the field, known as Hanging Hill from the steepness of its slopes, is an interpretation panel and marker. Across the wall to the south east the plateau is almost perfectly flat, in contrast to the steepness of the slope to the north where it plunges down into the valley. From this scarp edge there are dramatic if somewhat distant views across the northern part of the battlefield in the valley and on Freezing Hill. It is clear how much higher Lansdown Hill is and thus how much more knowledge Waller would have had of the royalists troop deployments than they would have had of his.

Now descend by the edge of the spinney towards the end of Slaughter Lane. It is unclear whether this is one of the routes by which the royalists outflanked Waller, but the name may prove to be spurious later creation. From the bottom end of the wood cut across diagonally to the opposite side of the field to the top of the lane to Beach Farm. This lane also once gave access to the top of the plateau and may have been another route taken by royalist forces. At the bottom of the lane turn right along the road. This has very little traffic but is narrow and in parts lacks a verge. At the crossroads take great care as this is a busy, fast road. A stile on the opposite side of the crossroad leads across the fields towards Freezing Hill. This valley landscape between the two hills is still today one of small fields, high hedges and narrow roads as it did in 1643. This was ideal for infantry action and it was through this area that the royalists, in their counter attack, forced Waller’s men back onto Lansdown Hill in the first phase of the battle. In 1643 there may have been yet more small fields, for there is archaeological evidence of various former field boundaries, roads and other features in the surrounding pasture fields.

Cross the field and through the gate, heading towards the hill. In the next field, half way up the hedgerow on the right, there is a stile where the path crosses into the adjacent field. Now ascend directly by the hedge. Note the high bank with veteran trees which runs up from the next gate. Stay inside the field and follow the hedgerow up the steepest part of the hill. Just before the next stile you cross the ditch and bank of the prehistoric rampart which runs around the edge of the plateau. It is cut by a hollow way or deep ditch which is followed by your path. From here there are excellent views back to Lansdown Hill. Cross the stile and the flat top of Freezing Hill comes into view. It is possible to cross this arable field to the road, but it is too dangerous to take this road to link to the footpath which leads down into Lower Hamswell, to complete the walk. Instead retrace your steps down the hill, over the stile and through the gate and exit the field at the south east corner into the minor road.

Turn left along the minor road which runs eastward in the valley bottom between the two hills. It is quiet but narrow and so care must be taken, as it must at the next crossroads. There are good views here of the slopes of Lansdown Hill running up to Beach Wood. Cross the main road and continue on to Lower Hamswell. This landscape is one of narrow roads, high hedges and small fields, but there may have been even more hedgerows here in 1643. Pass through the straggling hamlet. At the end of the road take the path that leads on bearing right towards Lansdown Hill and on to the ford. Your path now joins the Cotswold Way, which leads you up onto Lansdown Hill and right back to the monument. As you ascend the hill there are excellent views across to Freezing and Tog Hills. At the top of the first ascent onto the spur you join a narrow lane, which might be one of the routes by which the royalist troops made their outflanking attack on Waller’s position on the hilltop. A little beyond the far end of the lane you will find an interpretation panel by a stone stile.

Do not cross the stile. Instead continue on beside the wall and through the gate, then bearing right cross the field diagonally to the opposite corner. It has been suggested that the northern wall of this field is the one behind which Waller’s troops took cover after their initial retreat. However as you approach the other corner of the field, if the grass is cropped low, it is just be possible to see the slight earthwork traces of an enclosure which spans the main road. It is slightly clearer in the field on the other side of the road. Was this a prehistoric enclosure or a was it a walled sheepcote still standing in 1643 within which some of the parliamentarians took cover?

Cross the road using the wide verge to walk north back to the starting point, noting the proximity of the quarry pits (which you passed at the beginning of the walk) to Waller’s possible position at the stone wall.

 

   
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