Walk 312 - Chapel Row and Frilsham
Avoiding some large puddles in Bucklebury Lower Common.
'Twas the sixth day of Christmas (or Saturday 30th December, if you prefer) when twelve of us (including two new members and a couple of visitors from other groups) met up in Chapel Row on a warm but windy morning. Mike and Alison, the leaders, greeted us with the news that the original 7¾ mile route would have to be slightly lengthened to avoid certain paths that, after the previous night's heavy rain, would be impassable.
Heading west through Chapel Row Common, we followed soggy footpaths and forestry tracks into Bucklebury Lower Common before heading north past the Bucklebury Farm and Deer Park.
Bucklebury Farm and Deer Safari Park.
Here we could see a metal framed enclosure containing people, surrounded by deer of various breeds (and some geese). After turning north, toward Redhill Copse, we stopped for a “festive treat”. Mike and Alison had brought a selection of Mince Pies and Stollen Cake.
These were consumed with much appreciation before we continued along muddy footpaths through mixed woodland, and arriving at the village of Bucklebury. Here we followed the footpath through the churchyard and then left the village along a quiet lane.
Gentle inclines felt steeper on the slippery mud.
Berkshire is considered to be a rather flat county but this part of West Berkshire is on the North Wessex Downs and there were some gentle inclines, made more noticeable by the slippery state of the footpaths. Entering Burgess' Copse, we headed west, through more woodland, to emerge in the village of Frilsham.
Following some quiet roads through small village, we left it via a footpath through some more woodland, where we stopped for lunch by St Frideswide's Well. The brick wall surrounding the well was just the right height to sit on while we ate our packed lunches. Continuing to follow the footpath, we arrived at the Pot Kiln pub, where we stopped for a drink.
Oh dear! Our footpath crosses under the River Pang.
Refreshed, we left the pub on a footpath through High Copse and then re-joined our outward route through Burgess' Copse. From there we took a more direct route back to Chapel Row Common, through Rushdens Farm and Hillfoot Farm. On the way, the footpath appeared to vanish under the River Pang at a ford. Luckily there was footbridge, hidden behind trees and shrubs.
We re-joined our outward route again in Chapel Row Common, retracing our steps back to the start of the walk. See our route on Google Maps. The total distance was around 8½ miles, after modifying the route, but we all felt like we'd been on a much longer walk. The muddy hills had given us a good work-out.
Walk 311 - Hartley Wintney and West Green
Heading north-west, from Hartley Wintney toward Hazeley Heath.
On Sunday 17th December, fifteen of us (including members of the Berkshire Walkers 20s & 30s group and a visitor, trying out the Ramblers) met up in Hartley Wintney for an eight-mile walk.
This was a new walk devised and led by Denise, which follows the Brenda Parker Way for part of its route. You may have noticed a theme running through several of our recent walks, which have included other sections of this long-distance path.
The weather was a but dull but dry as we headed north-west through woodland from Hartley Wintney to Hazeley Heath, where the terrain became a mixture of woodland and open heath.
Posing for a group photo by the mill at Dipley Bridge.
Crossing the B3011, we made our way out of Hazeley Heath and followed a route through farmland to the hamlet of Dipley. Here we took a little detour to see Dipley Mill, now a country house but formerly a flour mill on the River Whitewater and old enough to be listed in the Doomsday Book.
A combination of footpaths and quiet lanes brought us to West Green, just as the rain began to fall. Stopping in woodland outside West Green House, we put on waterproofs and found logs to sit on while we had our lunch. A few of us popped into the gift shop at West Green House, which was holding a mini Christmas Fair, while others checked their mobile phones for the latest weather forecast.
Leaving West Green in the rain.
A straw poll was taken and a majority decision was made to take a shorter route back to Hartley Wintney, as the forecast was for the rain to get heavier later. Two of the group, who knew the area well and had good waterproofs, decided to follow the originally intended route and set off along the Brenda Parker Way to Winchfield. The rest of us took a much more direct route back to the car park. See our route on Google Maps.
This change of plan meant that we missed out the Brenda Parker Way altogether, but Denise said she will lead this walk in full at a future date. Cutting it short proved to be a good idea, despite the rain easing up as we reached the car park, it got much heavier soon after.
Walk 309 - Sherfield on Loddon and Rotherwick
Heading toward the Brenda Parker Way on a rather muddy path.
On the first Sunday in December, fifteen of us (including two visitors, trying out the group) showed up on a rather dull day for an 8 mile walk. This was a new walk that I'd devised only a few weeks ago, which follows the Brenda Parker Way for part of its route. We had followed another section of this long-distance path on a walk last month and I wanted to explore a bit more of it.
We started from the car park by the sports field in Sherfield-on-Loddon and followed the old Reading Road up to the newer A33 between Reading and Basingstoke. Crossing this busy road took a little patience, but we were soon on a grassy footpath that followed the River Loddon past Longbridge Mill.
Leaving the Brenda Parker Way at the Church in Rotherwick.
Leaving the river and crossing a rather muddy field, we joined the Brenda Parker Way, which followed the edges of several crop fields before joining a lane by Hays Farm. A short walk along this lane brought us to Mill Farm, where the Lyde River ran alongside the lane. We crossed it on a narrow footbridge and crossed a field to follow the River Loddon again.
The Brenda Parker Way led us away from the Loddon, through woodland and fields, past Summerstead Farm, and through the grounds of Rotherwick Church. Here we left the long-distance path, at the same point that we'd reached on my Hook, West Green and Rotherwick walk, last month.
Stopping for lunch in Long Copse. Fallen trees acting as convenient benches.
We headed west, out of Rotherwick and past the northern edge of the Tilney Park Golf Course before crossing Summerstead Farm and Wildmore Farm. We had not needed to cross a single stile while we were on the Brenda Parker Way, but now we were making up for it, with stiles on every field boundary.
Soon we found ourselves in Long Copse, where a couple of fallen trees provided us with convenient benches to sit on while we ate our packed lunches.
A woodland path passing by Moulshay Farm.
After lunch we continued crossing fields and stiles until we reached the woodland by Moulshay Farm. The woodland path became a grassy path between hedges and eventually a lane as we approached A33, south of Sherfield-on-Loddon. Crossing the busy road again, we walked up to St Leonard's Church, round the back of Sherfield Court and then north to Goddard's Farm. We then followed quiet roads back into Sherfield-on-Loddon, crossing Sherfield Green. See our route on Google Maps.
After changing out of our boots, some of the group went home, while the rest of us visited the Four Horseshoes for a post-walk drink. A nice walker-friendly pub with wooden floors and hot drinks available.
Walk 307 - Marlow and Burchetts Green
Lots of turkeys, enjoying life before Christmas comes.
On Sunday 19th November, we had eighteen people (including three visitors from other groups) for a new version of an old favourite - The Turkey Walk. We were very fortunate to have a beautiful sunny autumnal day, particularly lucky as the previous day was rain soaked.
A turkey playing the cymbals!
Setting off from the NT car park at Pinkney's Green, we headed briefly through woods to the green, and then along tracks and lanes towards Cookham Dean. We made our way over the Common and then into the Copas Turkey Farm.
A turkey playing the xylophone!
The turkeys were in fine voice, and interestingly, around their paddocks there were musical instruments - drums, cymbals, tambourines and xylophones, which they appeared adept at playing, much to our amusement! There were also Llamas present, though we didn't spot them today.
Leaving the farm, we headed to Winter Hill, through a wooded area, and made the steep descent into Marlow for our lunch stop in Higginson Park by the river.
The rogue Red Kite, waiting to swoop on Ramblers.
Whilst we were here, an unusual and surprising event happened. Two of our members had a Red Kite swoop down on them, scratching their hands! We believe this was an attempt to snatch food, although one of the two wasn't actually eating at the time. We have a picture of the rogue who lay in wait in a nearby tree!
Is it an Emu or a Cassowary?
After applying some first aid and plasters, we took the Thames Path, heading towards Hurley crossing at the wooden Temple Bridge. Leaving the river, tracks lead us to the back of Hurley, where we arrived in the High Street.
From the village, we crossed the main road to climb up into High Wood and were rewarded with excellent views over the countryside. Through woods, we then made our way through Stubbings Farm and on into the Agricultural College. We didn't manage to see the red squirrels but had good sightings of the Scottish large cat, wallabies and cassowary.
Leaving the college, we crossed fields heading back to the edge of Maidenhead Thicket and returned to the start at Pinkney's Green.
Thank you to Ann and Kathy for leading the walk, writing it up and for the excellent wild-life photos.
Walk 306 - Hook, West Green, Rotherwick and Newnham
Walking through Bartley Heath, on Holt Lane.
On Saturday 11th November, I opened the curtains to some wet and miserable weather. The forecast wasn't very optimistic either. Nonetheless, seven people turned up at Hook railway station for my nine-mile walk. But, as so often happens with wet autumn mornings, the rain died down to a fine Scotch mist as we set off and had stopped before lunchtime.
The walk started soon after the 10:31 had deposited a number of people on the platform, none of which were joining us for the walk. We're occasionally criticised for not starting walks from places accessible by public transport, but experience has shown that when we do start them at railway stations, nobody arrives by train anyway.
Following the Brenda Parker Way near West Green House.
Leaving the station and walking down Station Road, we entered Bartley Heath, where we joined the tail end of Holt Lane. This track through Bartley Heath became a proper road as it entered Hook. It ended at the A30, where we took a footpath that passed Hook Mill and the farm at Borough Court.
Crossing the farm, we made our way to West Green House, the gardens of which are open to the public during the summer months. They seemed to be open as we arrived, despite it being November, with Christmas decorations clearly visible in the gift shop. Here we joined the Brenda Parker Way, a long-distance path stretching from Andover to Aldershot, named after a lady who helped maintain footpaths and lobbied for countryside access for more than 30 years.
A bridge over the River Whitewater, near Mattingley.
We followed this long-distance path for about three miles from West Green to Rotherwick, through farmland and woodland, stopping for our picnic lunch by the River Whitewater. We stopped for a drink at the Coach & Horses in Rotherwick before leaving the Brenda Parker Way and crossing a golf course on our way into Tylney Park.
Our route now passed behind Tylney Hall, a Grade II listed mansion house, which is now a fancy hotel. The house, mostly hidden by trees, suddenly comes into view as the footpath passes the end of a very long lawn. There's a short tunnel between the footpath and the lawn. Perhaps this was to keep Ramblers out of view as they passed by.
A group photo with Tylney Hall in the distance.
The footpath became a lane as we left Tylney Park and entered the tiny, picturesque village of Newnham. From there, we followed a footpath through Naishes Farm and Owen's Farm, back into Hook. See our route on Google Maps.
Although I have led this walk a couple of time before, parts of it may look rather different if I lead it again in a year's time. At least two sections of the route pass through land on which houses are planned. The land north east of Hook, and Owen's Farm to the west of Hook, are being developed. We desperately need more housing in this country, so I won't make too much fuss, especially as they have been developing nearby brown-field sites first.
Walk 305 - Hambleden and Henley-on-Thames
Heading down to Mill End, with Hambleden village behind us.
Eighteen of us (plus a dog called Alfie) met up on Sunday 5th November at the car park behind The Stag & Huntsman in Hambleden for a ten-mile walk. As it was Guy Fawkes day, our leader (Mike Dean) had devised a set of quiz questions for us to answer during the walk. At each stop along the walk, he would ask a Guy Fawkes related question after giving us the answer to the previous question.
After the first question, we set off from Hambleden, following a footpath through open fields down to Mill End. Here we crossed the Thames on the metal walkway over the weir at Hambleden Lock, then we made our way to The Flower Pot at Aston.
Crossing the Thames at Hambleden Lock.
We didn't stop for a drink - it was too early - so we stopped for another quiz question before joining the Chiltern Way, heading east toward Remenham and then into Henley-on-Thames. Another stop for a quiz question was made before crossing the river into Henley. We walked through the town and out the other side, now following the Oxfordshire Way and heading uphill to the deer park at Fair Mile.
At the top of the hill we stopped to have lunch. There was a large, fallen oak tree, which provided seating while we ate our sandwiches and pondered over yet another quiz question. The sky darkened ominously as we set off after lunch, but it came to nothing and the blue skies returned for the rest of the walk.
Heading back to Hambleden through Great Wood.
Leaving the Oxfordshire Way, we followed quiet lanes through Fawley before joining Shakespeare's Way, which we followed through Great Wood and into Hambleden again. See our route on Google Maps. After changing out of our muddy boots and returning our rucksacks to the cars, most of us popped into The Stag & Huntsman for a drink and chat before going home.
Mike's questions: "In what year was the Gunpowder Plot? Who was the leader of the plotters? Which King survived the attempt on his life? How many barrels of gunpowder were discovered in the cellars of Westminster? Where was Guy Fawkes born? The art of making and using fireworks is known as what?"
Walk 304 - Frilsham and Bucklebury Common
Walking through Burgess Copse, near Frilsham.
We joined up with the Pang Valley group on Sunday 29th October, for a ten mile walk around Frilsham, Bucklebury and Bucklebury Common. There were twenty-four of us in total, with our group making up the bulk of the numbers.
We set off from the Pot Kiln pub, near Frilsham, following Peter (of the Pang Valley group) as he led us south, through mixed woodland. The bright Autumn sunshine cast long shadows through the trees, while beams of sunlight flickered over our faces as we walked through the woods. I instinctively reached for my sun-glasses, but was stopped by Julia, in case the very act of wearing them would cause a change in the weather.
Bracket fungus growing inside a dying tree in Fence Wood.
Passing through Bucklebury, we stopped outside the church to remove the jackets and fleeces we had thought would be necessary at this time of year. On the way into Bucklebury Common, we took a little diversion along a sheep track to the corner of a field, with no exit. Peter had already led this walk earlier in the year and had decided to reverse the route for variety. I know from my own experience how unfamiliar a route can look when following it the other way around. Anyway, a quick look at the map and we were on course again, making our way through farmland and woodland.
Following Fence Lane into Fence Wood, we stopped for lunch where stacked logs provided plenty of seating for all. Sitting still in the shade over lunch had reminded us that this was the end of October, and fleeces were going back on as we prepared to continue the walk. Carrying on through Fence Wood, part of the intended route was closed off, so we continued up to Marlston Road, which we followed as far as Boar's Hole Farm. At West Wood, we were now very close to the spot where we'd stopped for lunch, having done a 2 mile loop.
Walking past a cow field near Bucklebury Common.
Now heading north-west, we passed through more farmland, then some woodland, and finally a rather marshy field before the Pot Kiln hove into view. Arriving at the pub, the walk was complete. (See our route on Google Maps) Some of the group said their goodbyes and left, while the rest of us stayed for a drink. We sat outside the pub and gently toasted our retinas in the low, afternoon sun.
Many thanks to Peter for inviting us along to this most enjoyable walk and I hope we didn't intimidate the other Pang Valley walkers with our sheer numbers. We've had a few joint walks with other groups this year, which have all been successful, and we hope to organise more of them in the not-too-distant future.
Walk 303 - Padworth and Wokefield Common
Passing in front of Ufton Court.
On Sunday 22nd October, twelve of us met up in a small car park in Padworth Common for an easy, eight-mile walk around Burghfield Common, Wokefield Common and Mortimer Common. What a lot of commons! We began by heading north along a quiet lane to the Old Rectory, where we then headed north-east along footpaths, past the fish ponds, to Ufton Court.
Continuing along footpaths through fields and woodland, we made our way to Burghfield Common. Here we followed a road past the Rising Sun, which like many pubs is now sadly closed down. Then we turning off the road and onto a footpath through the mixed woodland of Wokefield Common and Starvale Woods.
Stopping for lunch near Mortimer Common.
We stopped for lunch where a large fallen tree made a useful bench for us to sit, before heading into the village of Mortimer Common. During a short section of road walking, we stopped off at the Turners Arms for a drink.
Leaving the pub and heading into Mortimer West End, we followed footpaths through woodland and fields. We passed Mortimer West End Farm and Mortimer West End Cricket Club before crossing Welshman's Road and heading back to Padworth Common.
One of many danger signs near Stockwell's Piece.
On the way, we passed Stockwell's Piece. This had once been woodland but now replaced by a number of artificial ponds. These were fenced off and surrounded by danger signs, warning us of deep water, cold water and contaminated water. One sign even warned of snakes! Clearly, they didn't want anyone going near their ponds.
On the final leg of the walk, heading back to the car park, I noticed a few beads of water appearing on my glasses. Either my glasses were sweating or it was just starting to rain. Anyway, we reached the car park and said our goodbyes before the rain got going. See our route on Google Maps.
Walk 302 - Odiham, Greywell and Mapledurwell
St Mary's Church, Greywell. Parts of this church date back to 13th Century
On Sunday 15th October, four of us met at the Deer Park View car park, off Odiham High Street, for a walk that replaced one which had been cancelled at short notice.
We started off across fields to join a short stretch of the Basingstoke Canal before heading away again towards Greywell Moors. This is an interesting area managed by the Hampshire Wildlife Trust and is known for rare wildflowers, although unfortunately this was not the time of year to see any of them!
Stopping by Mapledurwell Village Pond for our picnic lunch.
After crossing the River Whitewater via a small bridge, we continued past Greywell Church and then followed the river along a boardwalk before arriving at Greywell Mill. This is now a private house but the disused waterwheel can still be seen from the path.
We then followed tracks beside fields and a gentle ascent to reach Five Lanes end with good views of the surrounding countryside. Our lunch stop was by Mapledurwell village pond. After lunch, the next point of interest was Little Tunnel Bridge, a grade 2 listed structure through which the canal once flowed.
The western entrance to the Greywell Tunnel.
The footpath goes over the top of this but there is a vantage point from which the eastern side of the bridge can be seen. A short road section took us past an alpaca farm and to the point where the Basingstoke Canal now ends. The path then followed the canal through woodland - after a dry few months much of it was reduced to mud but this will probably refill over the winter.
We then arrived at the western portal of the Greywell Tunnel. Most of this has collapsed but it is possible to look into the bore of the tunnel through a safety cage. A small boat could be seen in the water at the entrance which is probably used to check the condition of the tunnel and the bat roost for which the tunnel is now well known.
Remains of Odiham Castle - also known as King John's Castle.
We continued over Greywell Hill to return to Greywell Village and our pub stop at the 16th Century Fox and Goose Inn. This is very close to the eastern entrance to the Greywell Tunnel which, in contrast to the western entrance, is still intact. Soon after the tunnel, the towpath goes past the ruins of Odiham Castle where we stopped to look and find out about its history from the information boards.
We took a route back to Odiham leading to the church, where we saw the village stocks (dating from the 14th century) which are on display at the front. A short walk along the High Street took us back to our starting point.
Many thanks to Denise for leading this walk at such short notice and for writing it up.