Wiltshire is a county in South West England with an area of 3,485 km2. It is landlocked and borders the counties of Dorset, Hampshire, Gloucestershire and Berkshire; the county town was Wilton, after which the county is named, but Wiltshire Council is now based in the county town of Trowbridge. Wiltshire is characterised by its high wide valleys. Salisbury Plain is noted for being the location of the Stonehenge and Avebury stone circles and other ancient landmarks, as a training area for the British Army; the city of Salisbury is notable for its medieval cathedral. Important country houses open to the public include Longleat, near Warminster, the National Trust's Stourhead, near Mere; the county, in the 9th century written as Wiltunscir Wiltonshire, is named after the former county town of Wilton. Wiltshire is notable for its pre-Roman archaeology; the Mesolithic and Bronze Age people that occupied southern Britain built settlements on the hills and downland that cover Wiltshire. Stonehenge and Avebury are the most famous Neolithic sites in the UK.
In the 6th and 7th centuries Wiltshire was at the western edge of Saxon Britain, as Cranborne Chase and the Somerset Levels prevented the advance to the west. The Battle of Bedwyn was fought in 675 between Escuin, a West Saxon nobleman who had seized the throne of Queen Saxburga, King Wulfhere of Mercia. In 878 the Danes invaded the county. Following the Norman Conquest, large areas of the country came into the possession of the crown and the church. At the time of the Domesday Survey the industry of Wiltshire was agricultural. In the succeeding centuries sheep-farming was vigorously pursued, the Cistercian monastery of Stanley exported wool to the Florentine and Flemish markets in the 13th and 14th centuries. In the 17th century English Civil War Wiltshire was Parliamentarian; the Battle of Roundway Down, a Royalist victory, was fought near Devizes. In 1794 it was decided at a meeting at the Bear Inn in Devizes to raise a body of ten independent troops of Yeomanry for the county of Wiltshire, which formed the basis for what would become the Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry, who served with distinction both at home and abroad, during the Boer War, World War I and World War II.
The Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry lives on as Y Squadron, based in Swindon, B Squadron, based in Salisbury, of the Royal Wessex Yeomanry. Around 1800 the Kennet and Avon Canal was built through Wiltshire, providing a route for transporting cargoes from Bristol to London until the development of the Great Western Railway. Information on the 261 civil parishes of Wiltshire is available on Wiltshire Council's Wiltshire Community History website which has maps, demographic data and modern pictures and short histories; the local nickname for Wiltshire natives is "Moonrakers". This originated from a story of smugglers who managed to foil the local Excise men by hiding their alcohol French brandy in barrels or kegs, in a village pond; when confronted by the excise men they raked the surface to conceal the submerged contraband with ripples, claimed that they were trying to rake in a large round cheese visible in the pond a reflection of the full moon. The officials took them for simple yokels or mad and left them alone, allowing them to continue with their illegal activities.
Many villages claim the tale for their own village pond, but the story is most linked with The Crammer in Devizes. Two-thirds of Wiltshire, a rural county, lies on chalk, a kind of soft, porous limestone, resistant to erosion, giving it a high chalk downland landscape; this chalk is part of a system of chalk downlands throughout eastern and southern England formed by the rocks of the Chalk Group and stretching from the Dorset Downs in the west to Dover in the east. The largest area of chalk in Wiltshire is Salisbury Plain, used for arable agriculture and by the British Army as training ranges; the highest point in the county is the Tan Hill–Milk Hill ridge in the Pewsey Vale, just to the north of Salisbury Plain, at 295 m above sea level. The chalk uplands run northeast into West Berkshire in the Marlborough Downs ridge, southwest into Dorset as Cranborne Chase. Cranborne Chase, which straddles the border, like Salisbury Plain, yielded much Stone Age and Bronze Age archaeology; the Marlborough Downs are part of a 1,730 km2 conservation area.
In the northwest of the county, on the border with South Gloucestershire and Bath and North East Somerset, the underlying rock is the resistant oolite limestone of the Cotswolds. Part of the Cotswolds AONB is in Wiltshire, in the county's northwestern corner. Between the areas of chalk and limestone downland are clay vales; the largest of these vales is the Avon Vale. The Avon cuts diagonally through the north of the county, flowing through Bradford-on-Avon and into Bath and Bristol; the Vale of Pewsey has been cut through the chalk into Greensand and Oxford Clay in the centre of the county. In the south west of the county is the Vale of Wardour; the southeast of the county lies on the sandy soils of the northernmost area of the New Forest. Chalk is a porous rock, so the chalk hills have little surface water; the main settlements in the county are therefore situated at wet points. Notably, Salisbury is situated between the chalk of marshy flood plains; the county has green belt along its western fringes as a part of the extensive Avon green belt, reaching as far as the outskirts of Rudloe/Corsham and Trowbridge, preventing urban spr
Sussex, from the Old English Sūþsēaxe, is a historic county in South East England corresponding in area to the ancient Kingdom of Sussex. It is bounded to the west by Hampshire, north by Surrey, northeast by Kent, south by the English Channel, divided for many purposes into the ceremonial counties of West Sussex and East Sussex. Brighton and Hove, though part of East Sussex, was made a unitary authority in 1997, as such, is administered independently of the rest of East Sussex. Brighton and Hove was granted City status in 2000; until Chichester was Sussex's only city. Sussex has three main geographic sub-regions, each oriented east to west. In the southwest is the fertile and densely populated coastal plain. North of this are the rolling chalk hills of the South Downs, beyond, the well-wooded Sussex Weald; the name derives from the Kingdom of Sussex, founded, according to legend, by Ælle of Sussex in AD 477. Around 827, it was absorbed subsequently into the kingdom of England, it was the home of some of Europe's earliest recorded hominids, whose remains have been found at Boxgrove.
It is the site of the Battle of Hastings. In 1974, the Lord-Lieutenant of Sussex was replaced with one each for East and West Sussex, which became separate ceremonial counties. Sussex continues to be recognised as cultural region, it has had a single police force since 1968 and its name is in common use in the media. In 2007, Sussex Day was created to celebrate history. Based on the traditional emblem of Sussex, a blue shield with six gold martlets, the flag of Sussex was recognised by the Flag Institute in 2011. In 2013, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles formally recognised and acknowledged the continued existence of England's 39 historic counties, including Sussex; the name "Sussex" is derived from the Middle English Suth-sæxe, in turn derived from the Old English Suth-Seaxe which means of the South Saxons. The South Saxons were a Germanic tribe that settled in the region from the North German Plain during the 5th and 6th centuries; the earliest known usage of the term South Saxons is in a royal charter of 689 which names them and their king, Noðhelm, although the term may well have been in use for some time before that.
The monastic chronicler who wrote up the entry classifying the invasion seems to have got his dates wrong. The New Latin word Suthsexia was used for Sussex by Dutch cartographer Joan Blaeu in his 1645 map. Three United States counties, a former county/land division of Western Australia, are named after Sussex; the flag of Sussex consists of six gold martlets, or heraldic swallows, on a blue background, blazoned as Azure, six martlets or. Recognised by the Flag Institute on 20 May 2011, its design is based on the heraldic shield of Sussex; the first known recording of this emblem being used to represent the county was in 1611 when cartographer John Speed deployed it to represent the Kingdom of the South Saxons. However it seems that Speed was repeating an earlier association between the emblem and the county, rather than being the inventor of the association, it is now regarded that the county emblem originated and derived from the coat of arms of the 14th-century Knight of the Shire, Sir John de Radynden.
Sussex’s six martlets are today held to symbolise the traditional six sub-divisions of the county known as rapes. Sussex by the Sea is regarded as the unofficial anthem of Sussex. Adopted by the Royal Sussex Regiment and popularised in World War I, it is sung at celebrations across the county, including those at Lewes Bonfire, at sports matches, including those of Brighton and Hove Albion Football Club and Sussex County Cricket Club; the county day, called Sussex Day, is celebrated on 16 June, the same day as the feast day of St Richard of Chichester, Sussex's patron saint, whose shrine at Chichester Cathedral was an important place of pilgrimage in the Middle Ages. Sussex's motto, We wunt be druv, is a Sussex dialect expression meaning "we will not be pushed around" and reflects the traditionally independent nature of Sussex men and women; the round-headed rampion known as the "Pride of Sussex", was adopted as Sussex's county flower in 2002. The physical geography of Sussex relies on its lying on the southern part of the Wealden anticline, the major features of which are the high lands that cross the county in a west to east direction: the Weald itself and the South Downs.
Natural England has identified the following seven national character areas in Sussex:South Coast Plain South Downs Wealden Greensand Low Weald High Weald Pevensey Levels Romney MarshesAt 280m, Blackdown is the highest point in Sussex, or county top. Ditchling Beacon is the highest point in East Sussex. At 113 kilometres long, the River Medway is the longest river flowing through Sussex; the longest river in Sussex is the River Arun, 60 kilometres long. Sussex's largest lakes are man-made reservoirs; the largest is Bewl Water on the Kent border, while the largest wholly within Sussex is Ardingly Reservoir. The coastal resorts of Sussex and neighbouring Hampshire are the sunniest places in the United Kingdom; the coast has more sunshine than the inland areas: sea breezes, blowing off the sea, tend to clear any cloud from the coast. Most of Sussex lies in Hardiness zon
The Berkshire Downs are a range of chalk downland hills in southern England, part of the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The Berkshire Downs are wholly within the traditional county of Berkshire, although split between the current ceremonial counties of Berkshire and Oxfordshire; the western parts of the downs are known as the Lambourn Downs. The Berkshire Downs run east–west, with their scarp slope facing north into the Vale of White Horse and their dip slope bounded by the course of the River Kennet. Geologically they are continuous with the Marlborough Downs to the west and the Chilterns to the east. In the east they are divided from the Chilterns by Goring Gap on the River Thames. In the west their boundary is taken to be the border between Berkshire and Wiltshire, although the downs in Wiltshire between the Berkshire border and the valley of the River Og are sometimes considered to be part of the Berkshire Downs. English downland has attracted human habitation since prehistoric times.
The ancient track known as the Ridgeway runs along the Berkshire Downs. Prehistoric sites in the Downs include Wayland's Smithy, numerous tumuli, Uffington White Horse, Liddington Castle and Uffington Castle, Segsbury Camp and Grim's Ditch, it is thought that in Anglo-Saxon times the downs were known as Æscesdūn or Ashdown, that it was here that the Battle of Ashdown was fought in 871. Downland pasture is firm and suited to grazing sheep and grazing and training horses. Horse racing is a major business in the area, with much of the downs covered with training areas, stables centred on the village of Lambourn; the Berkshire Downs can be accessed from various cities via the Great Western Main Line and its current single operator runs localised stopping trains as well as the high-speed trains along the Vale of White Horse calling at major stops Swindon and Didcot Parkway. From Reading to Newbury trains run along the Reading to Taunton Line in the River Kennet Valley to reach Devon on the quickest route from London.
From Reading there are the scenic Thames Valley stations of Pangbourne, Goring & Streatley and Cholsey
The Weald is an area of South East England between the parallel chalk escarpments of the North and the South Downs. It crosses the counties of Sussex, Hampshire and Surrey and has three separate parts: the sandstone "High Weald" in the centre; the Weald once was covered with forest, its name, Old English in origin, signifies "woodland". The term is still used today, as scattered farms and villages sometimes refer to the Weald in their names; the name "Weald" is derived from the Old English weald, meaning "forest". This comes from a Germanic root of the same meaning, from Indo-European. Weald is a West Saxon form; the Middle English form of the word is wēld, the modern spelling is a reintroduction of the Anglo-Saxon form attributed to its use by William Lambarde in his A Perambulation of Kent of 1576. In the Anglo-Saxon period, the area had the name Andredes weald, meaning "the forest of Andred", the latter derived from Anderida, the Roman name of present-day Pevensey; the area is referred to in Anglo-Saxon texts as Andredesleage, where the second element, leage, is another Old English word for "woodland", represented by the modern leigh.
The adjective for "Weald" is "wealden". The Weald is the eroded remains of a geological structure, an anticline, a dome of layered Lower Cretaceous rocks cut through by weathering to expose the layers as sandstone ridges and clay valleys; the oldest rocks exposed at the centre of the anticline are correlated with the Purbeck Beds of the Upper Jurassic. Above these, the Cretaceous rocks, include the Wealden Group of alternating sands and clays – the Ashdown Sand Formation, Wadhurst Clay Formation, Tunbridge Wells Sand Formation and the Weald Clay; the Wealden Group is overlain by the Lower Greensand and the Gault Formation, consisting of the Gault and the Upper Greensand. The rocks of the central part of the anticline include hard sandstones, these form hills now called the High Weald; the peripheral areas are of softer sandstones and clays and form a gentler rolling landscape, the Low Weald. The Weald–Artois Anticline continues some 40 miles further south-eastwards under the Straits of Dover, includes the Boulonnais of France.
Many important fossils have been found in the sandstones and clays of the Weald, for example, Baryonyx. The famous scientific hoax of Piltdown Man was claimed to have come from a gravel pit at Piltdown near Uckfield; the first Iguanodon was identified after a Mary Mantell unearthed some fossilised teeth by a road in Sussex in 1822. Her husband, Gideon Mantell, noticed they were many times larger; the area contains significant reserves of shale oil, totalling 4.4 billion barrels of oil in the Wealden basin according to a 2014 study, which Business and Energy Minister Michael Fallon said "will bring jobs and business opportunities" and help with UK energy self-sufficiency. Fracking in the area is required to achieve these objectives, opposed by environmental groups; some of the following notes in the early part of this section are taken from the High Weald website. Prehistoric evidence suggests that, following the Mesolithic hunter-gatherers, the Neolithic inhabitants had turned to farming, with the resultant clearance of the forest.
With the Iron Age came the first use of the Weald as an industrial area. Wealden sandstones contain ironstone, with the additional presence of large amounts of timber for making charcoal for fuel, the area was the centre of the Wealden iron industry from through the Roman times, until the last forge was closed in 1813; the index to the Ordnance Survey Map of Roman Britain lists 33 iron mines. The entire Weald was heavily forested. According to the 9th-century Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, the Weald measured 120 miles or longer by 30 miles in the Saxon era, stretching from Lympne, near Romney Marsh in Kent, to the Forest of Bere or the New Forest in Hampshire; the area was sparsely inhabited and inhospitable, being used as a resource by people living on its fringes, much as in other places in Britain such as Dartmoor, the Fens and the Forest of Arden. The Weald was used for centuries since the Iron Age, for transhumance of animals along droveways in the summer months. Over the centuries, deforestation for the shipbuilding, forest glass, brickmaking industries has left the Low Weald with only remnants of that woodland cover.
While most of the Weald was used for transhumance by communities at the edge of the Weald, several parts of the forest on the higher ridges in the interior seem to have been used for hunting by the kings of Sussex. The pattern of droveways which occurs across the rest of the Weald is absent from these areas; these areas include Ashdown Forest and Dallington Forest. The forests of the Weald were used as a place of refuge and sanctuary; the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle relates events during the Anglo-Saxon conquest of Sussex when the native Britons were driven from the coastal towns into the recesses of the forest for sanctuary,: A. D. 477. This year came Ælle to Britain, with his three sons and Wlenking, Cissa, in three ships. There they slew many of the Welsh; until the Late Middle Ag
England is a country, part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to Scotland to the north-northwest; the Irish Sea lies west of England and the Celtic Sea lies to the southwest. England is separated from continental Europe by the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south; the country covers five-eighths of the island of Great Britain, which lies in the North Atlantic, includes over 100 smaller islands, such as the Isles of Scilly and the Isle of Wight. The area now called England was first inhabited by modern humans during the Upper Palaeolithic period, but takes its name from the Angles, a Germanic tribe deriving its name from the Anglia peninsula, who settled during the 5th and 6th centuries. England became a unified state in the 10th century, since the Age of Discovery, which began during the 15th century, has had a significant cultural and legal impact on the wider world; the English language, the Anglican Church, English law – the basis for the common law legal systems of many other countries around the world – developed in England, the country's parliamentary system of government has been adopted by other nations.
The Industrial Revolution began in 18th-century England, transforming its society into the world's first industrialised nation. England's terrain is chiefly low hills and plains in central and southern England. However, there is upland and mountainous terrain in the west; the capital is London, which has the largest metropolitan area in both the United Kingdom and the European Union. England's population of over 55 million comprises 84% of the population of the United Kingdom concentrated around London, the South East, conurbations in the Midlands, the North West, the North East, Yorkshire, which each developed as major industrial regions during the 19th century; the Kingdom of England – which after 1535 included Wales – ceased being a separate sovereign state on 1 May 1707, when the Acts of Union put into effect the terms agreed in the Treaty of Union the previous year, resulting in a political union with the Kingdom of Scotland to create the Kingdom of Great Britain. In 1801, Great Britain was united with the Kingdom of Ireland to become the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
In 1922 the Irish Free State seceded from the United Kingdom, leading to the latter being renamed the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The name "England" is derived from the Old English name Englaland, which means "land of the Angles"; the Angles were one of the Germanic tribes that settled in Great Britain during the Early Middle Ages. The Angles came from the Anglia peninsula in the Bay of Kiel area of the Baltic Sea; the earliest recorded use of the term, as "Engla londe", is in the late-ninth-century translation into Old English of Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People. The term was used in a different sense to the modern one, meaning "the land inhabited by the English", it included English people in what is now south-east Scotland but was part of the English kingdom of Northumbria; the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle recorded that the Domesday Book of 1086 covered the whole of England, meaning the English kingdom, but a few years the Chronicle stated that King Malcolm III went "out of Scotlande into Lothian in Englaland", thus using it in the more ancient sense.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, its modern spelling was first used in 1538. The earliest attested reference to the Angles occurs in the 1st-century work by Tacitus, Germania, in which the Latin word Anglii is used; the etymology of the tribal name itself is disputed by scholars. How and why a term derived from the name of a tribe, less significant than others, such as the Saxons, came to be used for the entire country and its people is not known, but it seems this is related to the custom of calling the Germanic people in Britain Angli Saxones or English Saxons to distinguish them from continental Saxons of Old Saxony between the Weser and Eider rivers in Northern Germany. In Scottish Gaelic, another language which developed on the island of Great Britain, the Saxon tribe gave their name to the word for England. An alternative name for England is Albion; the name Albion referred to the entire island of Great Britain. The nominally earliest record of the name appears in the Aristotelian Corpus the 4th-century BC De Mundo: "Beyond the Pillars of Hercules is the ocean that flows round the earth.
In it are two large islands called Britannia. But modern scholarly consensus ascribes De Mundo not to Aristotle but to Pseudo-Aristotle, i.e. it was written in the Graeco-Roman period or afterwards. The word Albion or insula Albionum has two possible origins, it either derives from a cognate of the Latin albus meaning white, a reference to the white cliffs of Dover or from the phrase the "island of the Albiones" in the now lost Massaliote Periplus, attested through Avienus' Ora Maritima to which the former served as a source. Albion is now applied to England in a more poetic capacity. Another romantic name for England is Loegria, related to the Welsh word for England and made popular by its use in Arthurian legend; the earliest known evidence of human presence in the area now known as England was that of Homo antecessor, dating to approximate
The North Downs are a ridge of chalk hills in south east England that stretch from Farnham in Surrey to the White Cliffs of Dover in Kent. Westerham Heights, at the northern edge of the North Downs, near Bromley, South London, is the highest point in London at an elevation of 245 m; the North Downs lie within two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Surrey Hills and the Kent Downs. The North Downs Way National Trail runs along the North Downs from Farnham to Dover.'Downs' is from Old English dun, amongst other things, "hill". The word acquired the sense of "elevated rolling grassland" around the 14th century; the name contains "North" to distinguish them from a similar range of hills – the South Downs – which runs parallel to them but some 50 km to the south. The narrow spine of the Hog's Back between Farnham and Guildford forms the western extremity of the North Downs, whilst the cliffs between Folkestone and Deal terminate the ridge in the east. There are two distinct aspects, the steep south-facing escarpment and the gentle north-facing dip slope.
The southern boundary is defined by the foot of the escarpment which gives way to the flat, broad clay lands between the Downs and Greensand Ridge known as the Vale of Holmesdale. The northern boundary is less apparent but occurs where the chalk submerges below the more recent Paleocene deposits; the Downs are highest near the Kent–Surrey border reaching heights in excess of 200 m above sea level at the crest of the escarpment. The highest point is Botley Hill in Surrey at 269 m; the County top of Kent at Betsom's Hill, with a height of 251 m is located nearby, the highest point in Greater London, Westerham Heights, at 245 m is on the northern side of the same hill. East of the Medway Valley the Downs become broader and flatter, extending as far as the Isle of Thanet; the ridge is intersected by the valleys of a series of rivers: the Wey, Darent and Stour rivers. These drain much of the Weald to the south; the western rivers are tributaries of the Thames. In addition to existing rivers, the Downs are crossed by a number of wind gaps – prehistoric river valleys no longer occupied by rivers – including those at Farnham, Caterham and Hawkinge.
Except for the river valleys and wind gaps, the crest of the escarpment is continuous along its length. The dip slope is dissected by many small dry valleys, in the broad eastern part in Kent, by further river valleys such as that of the Little Stour. Leith Hill is sometimes incorrectly referred to as part of the North Downs, but it is located on the parallel Greensand Ridge and does not consist of chalk; the Downland of the North Downs consists of distinct lithostratigraphic units: The more level tops of the Downs are covered by acidic strata including a layer of Clay-with-Flints, a sandy clay with many flints, or various sands and gravels. The Chalk Group, composed entirely of chalk, a kind of soft fine-grained limestone, it is formed of three parts, the Upper Chalk, which has many flints, the Middle Chalk, with fewer flints, the Lower Chalk or Coombe Rock, with few flints. The chalk is most exposed on slopes or as cliffs, where the overlying acidic strata have been quarried or washed away.
The buried upper surface of the chalk beneath the acidic strata is eroded into pipes and pinnacles, sometimes visible in road cuttings and quarries. The Upper Greensand Formation, a whitish, limy sandstone used for building, for which it has been mined from beneath the chalk; the Upper Greensand of the North Downs is a thin bed of one or two metres thickness, it is visible at the surface. The Upper Greensand marks the southern edge of the Downs, being underlain by: The Gault Formation of stiff blue clay; the Lower Greensand Formation of the Lower Cretaceous period, containing greensand, a glauconite sand or sandstone, as well as a certain amount of silts, clays and limestone. The topography of the North Downs consists of the Chalk Group, the rock strata of the Upper Cretaceous period which in certain areas is overlain by superficial deposits of gravels or clay-with-flints. Citing Dr D. T. Aldiss of the British Geological Survey: The Greensand Ridge is separate from the Downs. Again, one has to be aware of the distinction between'greensand' and'the Greensand', a lithostratigraphic term which refers to the Lower Greensand Group.
The Lower Greensand does contain some greensand, but much silt and limestone: most of it is neither green nor sand. It forms a distinct layer below the Gault Formation and the Upper Greensand Formation which directly underlie the Chalk Group. The'Greensand Ridge' refers to one of a series of escarpments formed by the Lower Greensand. In Surrey, the Upper Greensand is thin and is not separately marked by rising ground, but elsewhere it too forms an escarpment; these groups and formations each occur in separate layers. In Surrey these dip northwards at an angle of 2 degrees or less but increasing to as much as 55 degrees in the Hog's Back area, west of Guildford; the North Downs support several important habitats. The most distinctive of these is chalk grassland, limited to steep escarpment and valley slopes; this semi-natural habitat is maintained through sheep and rabbit grazing
Salisbury Plain is a chalk plateau in the south western part of central southern England covering 300 square miles. It is part of a system of chalk downlands throughout eastern and southern England formed by the rocks of the Chalk Group and lies within the county of Wiltshire, but stretching into Berkshire and Hampshire; the plain is famous for its rich archaeology, including Stonehenge, one of England's best known landmarks. As a result of the establishment of the Defence Training Estate Salisbury Plain, the plain is sparsely populated and is the largest remaining area of calcareous grassland in north-west Europe. Additionally the plain has arable land, a few small areas of beech trees and coniferous woodland, its highest point is Easton Hill. The boundaries of Salisbury Plain have never been defined, there is some difference of opinion as to its exact area; the river valleys surrounding it, other downs and plains beyond them loosely define its boundaries. To the north the scarp of the downs overlooks the Vale of Pewsey, to the north west the Bristol Avon.
The River Wylye runs along the south west, the Bourne runs to the east. The Hampshire Avon runs through the eastern half of the plain and to the south the plain peters out as the river valleys close together before meeting at Salisbury. From here the Avon continues south to the English Channel at Christchurch; the Hampshire Downs and the Berkshire Downs are chalk downland to the east and north of Salisbury Plain, the Dorset Downs is to the south west. In the west and north west the geology is of the clays and limestones of the Blackmore Vale, Avon Vale and Vale of Wardour. Amesbury is considered the largest settlement on the plain, though there are a number of small villages, such as Tilshead and Shrewton in the middle of the plain, as well as various hamlets and army camps; the A303 road runs along the southern area of the plain, while the A345 and the A360 cut across the centre. Salisbury Plain is famous for its archaeology. In the Neolithic period Stone Age people began to settle on the plain, most centred around the causewayed enclosure of Robin Hood's Ball.
Large long barrows like White Barrow and other earthworks were built across the plain. By 2500 BC areas around Durrington Walls and Stonehenge had become a focus for building, the southern part of the plain continued to be settled into the Bronze Age. Around 600 BC Iron Age Hill forts came to be constructed around the boundaries of the plain, including Scratchbury Camp and Battlesbury Camp to the south west, Bratton Camp to the north west, Casterley Camp to the north and Vespasian's Camp to the south, Sidbury Hill to the east. Roman roads are visible features serving a settlement near Old Sarum. Villas are sparse and Anglo-Saxon place names suggest that the plain was a grain-producing imperial estate. In the 6th century Anglo-Saxon incomers built planned settlements in the valleys surrounded by strip lynchets, with the downland left as sheep pasture. To the south is the city of Salisbury, whose 13th and 14th century cathedral is famous for having the tallest spire in the country, the building was, for many centuries, the tallest building in Britain.
The cathedral is evidence of the prosperity the cloth trade brought to the area. In the mid-19th century the wool and cloth industry began to decline, leading to a decline in the population and change in land use from sheep farming to agriculture and military use. Wiltshire became one of the poorest counties in England during this period of decline. There are a number of chalk carvings on the plain, of which the most famous is the Westbury White Horse; the Kennet and Avon Canal was constructed through the Vale of Pewsey. In September 1896, George Kemp and Guglielmo Marconi experimented with wireless telegraphy on Salisbury Plain, achieved good results over a distance of 1.25 miles. Media related to Army Training Estate Salisbury Plain at Wikimedia Commons The military training area covers half of the plain; the army first conducted exercises on the plain in 1898. From that time, the Ministry of Defence bought up large areas of land until the Second World War; the MoD now own 150 square miles of land, making it the largest military training area in the United Kingdom.
Of this, around 39 square miles are permanently closed to the public, access is restricted in other areas. As of 2016, the largest camps and barracks are at Larkhill, Tidworth, Trenchard Lines and Warminster. Several installations have been built and since removed, including a railway line and aerodrome that were constructed next to Stonehenge. In 1943 the village of Imber and the hamlet of Hinton Parva were evacuated to allow training for Operation Overlord to be conducted. Whilst the inhabitants of Hinton Parva were allowed to return at the end of hostilities, Imber village has remained closed, except for an annual church service and some bank holidays; the Royal School of Artillery is based at Larkhill, live firing is conducted on the plain for 340 days of each year. Military personnel from the UK and around the world spend some 600,000-man days on the plain every year; the DTE SP is located close to other military facilities including the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down, Boscombe Down airfield and Middle Wallop Army Air Corps Base, where pilots train on the Westland Apache.
20,000 hectares are designated Sites of Special Scientific Interest and Special Areas of Conservation, the entire SP is a Special Protection Area for birds. BFBS Radio broadcasts from studios on Marlborough Road, Bulford, on DAB, FM and satellite