Walk 313 - Beech Hill and Stratfield Mortimer
The first Sunday of 2018 saw thirty people turn up at Beech Hill for a short (6 mile) walk, which for some of us, would be followed by a pub lunch. Although not a record for our group, thirty is a pretty big turn-out. Perhaps this was the result of some people's New Year's resolutions?
We started off heading more-or-less south from Beech Hill until we joined the Devil's Highway. Following this dead-straight Roman road, we came across an obstacle. A large tree, covered with a substantial creeper, had fallen across the path. Probably a result of the recent Storm Eleanor. It took a bit of time for all thirty of us to climb over it.
The Devil's Highway soon turned from a track into a lane, which we followed briefly before heading north on a footpath that crossed the railway on a steel bridge. Turning right, we joined one of the many Berkshire Circular Routes, which appear on Ordnance Survey maps of the area. I have yet to find anyone who knows the origin of these routes.
We stopped for a snack-break. Flasks were opened and coffee cups steamed in the cold air. Some people had brought mince pies, left-over from Christmas. This would keep us sustained until the end of the walk as, unusually, there would be no picnic lunch-stop today. Instead, lunch would be at the pub!
Continuing on our Berkshire Circular Route, we headed up to Stratfield Mortimer, where we left it for the road. After some careful walking along the road, we joined another footpath that crossed the railway and headed into Great Park Farm. Weaving our way through the cattle sheds, we left the farm by crossing muddy fields of crops. There was some debate on whether they were turnips or sugar beet plants that we were stepping between.
We seemed to cross dozens of muddy fields, some with crops and others just mud, but it was only about five of them. Eventually we emerged between two houses on Beech Hill Road and we were back at the start. See our route on Google Maps.
After removing muddy boots (and gaiters) we made our farewells to half of the group while the rest of us headed for the Elm Tree pub for food, drink and warmth. Not only had Kathy and Ann planned and led the walk, but they'd booked a table for Sunday lunch at the pub! (Normally we bring packed lunches and eat alfresco at a convenient stopping point on the route.)
Thank you to Julia Coombes for providing these photographs of the walk.