“ Address: Southampton Road / Salisbury / Wiltshire / England „
I've lived in West Grimstead for 8 years and only went to Pepperbox Hill with my dog for the first time last week. It certainly offers stunning views. I am so envious of when you used to be able to walk easily to the Hill - as you say, today it is all restricted by land owners. Sadly the way people drive on the country roads, means that a walk to Pepperbox is fraught with concerns about traffic. However, I'd definitely recommend stopping off the A36 for the views and a walk around Pepperbox from the carpark end.
Pepperbox Hill is a place I've known and loved for as long as I can remember. My grandparents and then my parents lived in West Grimstead in the shadow of the hill and my sister and I spent almost every weekend in the village when we were children. A standard Sunday morning during my childhood would be marked by my sister and I walking up to Pepperbox with my grandfather whilst my mother and grandmother cooked up a big roast dinner. A walk across the fields and up to Pepperbox was always needed to 'make room' for dinner and depending on the time of year, might be accompanied with blackberry picking or hunting for massive field mushrooms. My grandfather had known everyone in the village for decades so most people turned a blind eye to us traipsing through their fields, climbing over their fences and generally trespassing like criminals.
Last year my parents sold their house and moved to Salisbury, breaking the family ties with West Grimstead for the first time in more than 60 years. My mother had been born in a house no more than a hundred yards from where she'd been living and we were quite sad to see the house go. On the final Boxing Day before they moved, my sister and her partner, my husband and I and my sister's mad dog Finlay took our final walk up Pepperbox Hill.
Sadly in the decades since my childhood the freedom to roam which we enjoyed in a time when everyone in the village knew everyone else has been eroded. A big landowner who has never lived in the village now employs plenty of staff to keep walkers off his land. My sister has had some vociferous run-ins with some of them but these days it's just safer to stick to the rules and keep to the official footpaths.
On this occasion we took a circular route, heading through the south side of West Grimsted and out on the road that leads to West Dean. Off this road there's an official footpath that climbs up the back of Pepperbox hill. Once at the top, we then completed the circuit by heading down the busy Southampton Road and then then back down Windwhistle Lane.
The path up from Dean Road is long, fairly steep and very chalky underfoot. There had been a lot of rain in the weeks before our walk and it didn't take long for Finlay to get completely covered in mud. We weren't far behind him with our boots growing in size as the layers of mud built up until it looked as if we'd borrowed our feet from a herd of passing elephants. Once we reached the top my sister, who still lives in the area and knows it better than me, led us to the south side of the hill where the views towards the south were spectacular. She tells me that on a clear day you can see the flames of the oil refinery at Eastleigh which must be about 20 miles away. You might wonder WHY anyone would want to see the oil refinery, but that's the sort of thing people like to look out for. We were really lucky with the weather it was sunny and very clear but pretty cold and crisp.
The fields around the hilltop were filled with fluffy white sheep surprisingly fluffy given the amount of mud that four humans and a dog had managed to gather. From the north side of the hill you get stunning views towards Salisbury with the cathedral spire standing proud above the surrounding land. I have been around the world and seen many great buildings but I still remain unconvinced that there's a better church than Salisbury Cathedral.
After walking for more than an hour we finally reached the Pepperbox. It stands on a flat hilltop with plenty of clear land around it which makes it a fabulous place for summer picnics and games of football. Finlay the dog found an old tennis ball and chased around in a demented fashion whilst I stopped to think about how it is that such a strange building holds such a powerful place in my heart. The Pepperbox is a 'folly' - in other words a building of no real purpose. It is built of red bricks, stands three storeys high and is hexagonal in shape. When it was built back in 1606 it would have had a door and windows on each of the six sides but these were bricked up long ago. With windows you can imagine it might have been a great place to use as a lookout over the surrounding countryside although today the surrounding area is a bit too wooded to offer the best views. The man who built it, a gentleman by the name of Giles Eyre, is rumoured to have used the Pepperbox for spying on his neighbours. During my lifetime the Pepperbox has always been bricked up but it never seemed to matter to the overall magic of the place that I couldn't get inside and climb the stairs.
Most visitors will not go to the trouble to get to Pepperbox by the route we took and indeed there's no need to. Simply drive 5 miles out of Salisbury in a south-easterly direction on the A36 and you don't need to expend too much energy at all. At the crest of the hill there's a turn off to Pepperbox and a free car park where you can leave your car, put on your boots and find the dog's toys or your kids' footballs before you stroll to the Pepperbox and enjoy the surroundings. In the summer you might find an ice-cream van in the car park but don't count on it. Take care when you leave the car park, especially if you plan to turn back towards Salisbury as the road is very busy and the crest of the hill is blind to both directions. This is an accident black-spot and at busy times you may be better to turn left in the Southampton direction and turn back later when the visibility is better.
My sister and I both 'know' (by which I mean that we both came to the same conclusion without ever having discussed it with each other or with my mum) that if we ever have to scatter my mother's ashes it will undoubtedly be from the top of Pepperbox Hill. If I didn't have a complex 'round the world tour' in mind for hubby to dispatch little bits of me into significant places, I'd also be more than happy to spend eternity blowing around on top of Pepperbox Hill.
Guglielmo Marconi used this site as a receiving station for his demonstrations and experiments with regards to wireless telegraphy.