Walk 362 - Reading to Pangbourne on the Thames Path
The foot and cycle bridge over the Thames at Reading.
It was the last Sunday of 2018 when five of us met up on a rather grey, but dry day in Reading. This 7¾ mile walk was a repeat of a walk I'd led three years ago, which follows the Thames from Reading to Pangbourne.
We set off from the railway station and made our way to the Thames Water building, where we joined the Thames Path. This follows the south bank of the River Thames through Reading and all the way to Pangbourne, before crossing to the north bank at Whitchurch-on-Thames.
Crossing the Reading foot and cycle suspension-bridge.
To add variety to the route, we crossed the Thames on the new(ish) foot and cycle suspension-bridge into the park on the Caversham side of the river. We walked through the park and passed the war memorial before crossing back over the river at the Caversham bridge and rejoining the Thames Path.
Crossing under this bridge on the Reading side, we emerged by the Reading Rowing Club, where we had to compete for path space with a large number of swans, geese, ducks and gulls. From here we stayed on the tow-path on the south side of the river, where we could see the gardens and boat-houses of the fancy houses on the Caversham side of the river.
A brass rhinoceros in a garden in Whitchurch-on-Thames.
Eventually the tow-path passed close to Tilehurst railway station. Soon after that, we left the water's edge, crossed the railway and walked through a housing estate in Purley-on-Thames. Emerging by Mapledurham Lock, we stopped here for our lunch, making use of the benches by the lock.
After lunch, we continued along the south bank of the river until we reached Pangbourne. Here we spotted a brass rhinoceros in a garden on the other side of the river.
As there was plenty of time before the 14:19 train to Reading, we stopped off at The Swan for a post-walk drink.
Walk 361 - Dinton Pastures and Hurst
Stopping for lunch by the pond in Hurst.
On Sunday 23rd December, the day after the pub crawl, seven of us including a regular visitor from Loddon Valley Ramblers, met up at the Museum of Berkshire Aviation for a repeat of a walk that Sue and Jane had led a couple of years ago, albeit in the reverse direction.
The previous week’s very wet weather had put part of the route under-water and impassable necessitating a hastily arranged detour for the last section of the walk.
A muddy path at Hogmoor Lane.
We set out anti-clockwise round Black Swan Lake in Dinton Pastures Country Park. As with most of the route, it was muddy in parts but not too bad.
After reaching the Visitor Centre and a welcome toilet stop, we headed across the former golf course to reach Sandford Lane and then followed the public footpaths to reach Lodge Road, which we crossed into Hurst.
An improvised bridging technique near Whistley Green.
A few hundred yards of quiet road walking took us to the village pond, where we rested for a lunch break before we convinced ourselves that we needed to visit The Green Man, just around the corner.
Suitably refreshed, we set off again heading along Hogmoor Lane and on to Whistley Green, tackling some partially flooded sections of path on the way. It was here that the original route had to be abandoned in favour of more passable terrain that took us parallel to Lodge Road again and back to Sandford Lane.
Turning north, we followed the edge of Lavell’s Lake back to our starting point. See our route on Google Maps.
Thank you to Colin and Sue for leading this walk, writing it up and providing the photos.
Walk 360 - Yateley Common and the Dog Walkers' Tree
Wyndham's Pool at Yateley Common.
On Sunday 16th December, ten of us met at Wyndhams Pool car park on Yateley Common for this 8 mile walk. We started with a short loop round the pond and almost back to the car park where were joined by a latecomer making 11 in total. The group included BWW members and several visitors from other Ramblers groups.
Following the loop round the pond we set off across the common towards Blackbushe Airfield. This was used as an RAF base in the Second World War but much of it is now a commercial airfield. There are also some abandoned runways, parts of which we walked along.
The Dog Walkers' Tree.
We stopped to look at the Dog Walkers' Tree by one of the paths. Each December, local people who regularly walk their dogs on the common bring Christmas decorations to hang in a holly tree making a festive display. At the beginning of January they take the decorations home again to put away for the next year.
After continuing past a go-cart track and former gravel workings we walked through Castle Bottom nature reserve. A boardwalk led to a small bridge across a stream followed by the only noticeable climb on the walk. At the top it was time for a short rest for a snack and drink and to admire the view.
Further footpaths and some road walking took us around the western side of Yateley towards the River Blackwater where we crossed a bridge to Moor Green Lakes.
Castle Bottom nature reserve.
Our route then followed the Blackwater Valley Path eastwards along the river where we spotted a heron standing motionless by the bank in wait for a fish.
Soon, we arrived at our lunch stop at Horseshoe Lake. The watersports centre and cafe were closed for the winter so we made use of the picnic tables outside.
The final section of the walk left the river and followed paths around the eastern part of Yateley, past the church and back to the common and the car park. See our route on Google Maps.
Thank you to Denise for leading this walk, writing it up and providing the photos.
Walk 358 - Maidenhead Thicket, aka The Turkey Walk
An emu at the Berkshire College of Agriculture.
On Sunday 25th, back by popular demand, we repeated the Turkey Walk. There were sixteen of us on the walk, which was on a very cloudy, but fortunately dry day.
Starting from the NT car park at Maidenhead Thicket, we set off through wooded areas and footpaths towards Stubbings Farm and Burchetts Green. Next stop was the Berkshire College of Agriculture to see horses, emu and wallabies. We we're unable to spot the pole cat or red squirrels on this occasion.
View from High Wood over Hurley.
The college leads to further farmland, taking us up to High Wood, with good views over Hurley and surrounding countryside.
Our first stop was on the River Thames at Hurley Lock for a drinks break and sampling of home-made gingerbread Christmas cookies, plus opportunity to use the conveniences. Back on the trail, our walk along the river had crossings both at Hurley and back over the wooden bridge at Temple Lock, providing much interest and good views of life along the Thames.
A warning notice about Red Kites stealing food.
We continued on good paths rebuilt over the last year into Marlow, with a short diversion on the small footbridge on entering the park, as it's being replaced. We had our lunch stop in the park which provides many benches, café and conveniences.
Despite our warning to members of the rogue kite, we found Julie and Chris had been targeted again! Quite incredible considering it was their voice that led to signs being placed to warn people of red kites stealing food!
Leaving Marlow over the road bridge, we headed for the steep climb up Winter Hill and on to Copas Turkey Farm. Family run and established 1957, this free range farm is always a place of great interest and amusement!
An emu at the Berkshire College of Agriculture.
We learn from a brochure there are turkey, goose and chicken on the farm, sold prepared in a variety of ways. For those so inclined there is a Turkey Cam, so next year you can watch the birds roam 24/7 from July to November!
After the farm our path led to Cookham Common then down Winter Road through woods and over Marlow Road onto Pinkneys Green. Keeping to the edge of the green, we reached a footpath that leads back to the Thicket, passing under the motorway first then back over on a footbridge to the car park and our starting point.
Thank you to Ann and Kathy for leading this walk, writing it up and providing the photos.
Walk 357 - Hartley Wintney and West Green
On the Brenda Parker Way, by the footbridge over the M3 motorway.
It was a sunny and dry day on Sunday 18th November when Denise led her Hartley Wintney and West Green walk for the second time. She had led this walk a year earlier when the weather was not so kind to us. In fact, the rain was so heavy, we decided to cut short the walk. This time we did the walk in full, and in reverse to freshen it up.
The twelve of us left the car park, crossed through Hartley Wintney Commons and into Phoenix Green, following the Brenda Parker Way (a long-distance path from Andover to Aldershot, named after a leading figure in the Ramblers Association). A footbridge took us over the M3 motorway and into Winchfield.
Alpacas in a field by Wintney Court.
We followed the Brenda Parker Way through Shapley Heath, passing under the M3 along the way. Then we crossed the A30 London Road and headed toward West Green Common, passing by Wintney Court, where we saw a number of alpacas.
On reaching West Green Common, we stopped in the woodland to eat our packed lunches. Some of us popped in to the National Trust gift shop at West Green House, while we were there.
Monument built by Lord McAlpine.
After lunch, we took a brief diversion from the Brenda Parker Way to look at the Lord McAlpine monument - an elaborately designed 50 foot high column bearing a Latin inscription, which translates to: "This monument was built with a great deal of money which otherwise someday would have been given into the hands of the public revenue."
Soon after leaving West Green, we also left the Brenda Parker Way to head north, crossing White Knights Farm and into the tiny hamlet of Dipley.
Dipley Mill on the River Whitewater.
Here we took a slight detour to Dipley Bridge to have a look at the picturesque mill that stands on the River Whitewater. This ancient flour mill was listed in the Doomsday Book (circa 1086).
From here, we headed up to Hazeley Heath, where we followed unmarked paths and tracks through the heathland and woodland to the large pond by Crabtree Lodge. Finally, we followed a well-worn footpath through the heath and into Hartley Wintney, where we had started. See our route on Google Maps.
Thank you to Denise for leading this walk.
Walk 356 - Lardon Chase and Hartslock Nature Reserve
A view of the Thames from Hartslock Nature Reserve.
Sunday 11th November was a gloriously sunny autumnal day; just perfect for our 9-mile hill and valley walk. Our party of twelve comprised nine regular members plus three locally-based walkers from the Goring ramblers.
Leaving the car park at the top of Streatley Hill, we immediately crossed Lardon Chase, taking time to admire the stunning views across the Thames to the Chilitern Hills, whilst dodging the grazing cattle. We descended Lough Down to reach the outskirts of Streatley where the group respectfully held two minutes’ silence for Armistice Day.
Our picnic lunch spot in Hartslock Nature Reserve.
We crossed the Thames into Goring High Street, then over the main railway line to pick up the Chiltern Way before heading eastwards across the large Sheepcot Recreation Field. It was here we had a short coffee stop before ascending our first hill up into Great Chalk Wood, full of autumn colours.
A short downhill stretch followed towards Gatehampton before reaching Hartslock Nature Reserve and a steep stepped climb to its summit. The sunshine and wonderful views up and down the Thames made this the ideal stop for a relaxed lunch.
Another view of the Thames from Hartslock Nature Reserve.
The second half of the walk started by following the muddy Thames Path back to Goring. We crossed the river back into Streatley and headed south through Common Wood to reach the National Trust land known as the Holies. A somewhat testing hill followed - with yet more grazing cattle - to get us back to the high ground on top of Streatley Hill with more glorious views, this time towards Reading.
A brief stretch of walking through the upper sections of Common Wood then saw us back to our start point. See our route on Google Maps. All in all a great walk, made all the better by the perfect weather conditions.
Thank you to Colin and Sue for leading this walk and to Colin for writing it up.
Walk 355 - Pangbourne and Whitchurch-on-Thames
A bit of up-hill from the Thames Path near Hattonhill Shaw.
On Sunday 4th November, eighteen of us met up in Pangbourne on an overcast but dry autumnal day. We set off up Station Road, crossing over as we passed under the railway bridge and taking the alley way to Whitchurch Bridge.
Crossing the bridge, we followed the Thames Path as it passed the church and joined the High Street. We stayed on this National Trail as it left the main road and followed the Hartslock Bridleway.
After leaving the bridleway, the Thames Path took a steep downhill then uphill and entered Hartslock Wood. The path followed the Thames from on high on the steep bank.
The Autumn colours of Great Chalk Wood.
Just as the path had descended to river level, we left it and headed up a small but steep hill near Hattonhill Shaw. We stopped at the top of the hill to admire the view and to have some cake made by one of our walk leaders. Very nice!
Down the other side of this hill, we joined a lane that led us up another steep slope to Upper Gatehampton Farm. Next was a footpath leading us into Great Chalk Wood.
It's easy to lose your bearings in woodland and we had to make a slight course correction to join the path taking us through Bottom Farm and Blackbird's Bottom. Who thinks up these names?
A life-boat covered in poppies in Whitchurch.
We stopped for our picnic lunch in woodland near a farm shop at Cray's Pond. A mixture of quiet lanes and footpaths took us through Great Oaks, Cold Harbour and Beech Wood. Passing Beech Farm and Stonycroft Plantation, we were heading back into Whitchurch.
Following the main road, we passed a life-boat covered in poppies. Obviously to commemorate the centenary of the armistice. Now retracing our steps, we passed the church again and crossed the bridge back into Pangbourne.
The walk finished outside The George, where some of us popped in for refreshment while others went straight back to the car park. See our route on Google Maps.
Thank you to Ann and Kathy for leading this walk.
Walk 354 - Silchester and Pamber Forest
Stopping at the North Gate of Calleva Atrebatum.
On Sunday 28th October, seventeen of us met up in the English Heritage car park near Silchester for an easy 6½ mile walk. There was a good mix of regulars, not-so-regulars, visitors from other groups and a couple of newcomers. We set off on a footpath that took us down to the remains of the city of the Roman town of Calleva Atrebatum.
Taking the footpath that runs along the top of the wall, stopping at the North Gate to look at the ruins and its information board, we continued until we reached East Gate. Here we stopped to look at the Roman Amphitheatre.
The Roman Amphitheatre at Calleva Atrebatum.
Next we passed the 12th century church of St Mary the Virgin, which is believed to have been built on the site of a Roman temple. There was a service taking place, so we passed straight through the grounds and into Manor Farm, where we saw some Alpacas grazing in a field.
Striking off through the centre of the site of the Roman town, we stopped to look at another information board, with an artists impression of what the place may have looked like in Roman times. In previous years, we've seen archaeologists from Reading University working away in these fields, but they've all gone now.
Passing through Early Bridge Copse on our way to Pamber Forest.
Leaving Calleva Atrebatum through the West Gate, we headed south, through Dicker's Copse, then south-west along quiet lanes to Early Bridge Copse and into Pamber Forest. We found an arrangement of logs to sit on for our picnic lunch stop before heading further into the forest.
Then we picked up the Brenda Parker Way, parts of which feature in many of our walks. This we followed through the forest until it emerged in Silchester village, by the Calleva Arms pub.
At this point, some of the group decided to head back to the car park along the Brenda Parker Way while the rest of us popped in for a swift drink before following on. See our route on Google Maps.
Walk 353 - Sonning Common and Henley-on-Thames
We passed Duckingham Palace on our way through Sonning Common.
We were much more lucky with the weather on Sunday 21st October when Mike led his walk. Sixteen of us, a mix of regulars, newbies and visitors from other groups, met up under the clear blue sky in Sonning Common.
Leaving the village, heading up Widmore Lane, we passed Widmore Pond with it's royal duck-house Duckingham Palace in amongst a floating carpet of autumn leaves. Stopping briefly to take off fleeces that were no longer necessary, we were soon crossing fields of crops and then of horses, stopping to say hello to a friendly equine local.
Stopping to say hello to one of the locals.
Heading toward Henley-on-Thames, we passed through a recently constructed and rather up-market housing estate. Skirting the edge of Henley, we turned north-west and back into countryside, through the valley of Lower Hernes. Then there was a bit of up-hill as we made our way toward Rotherfield Greys.
At the top of the hill, we stopped for our picnic lunch, with a good view across the valley we'd just walked through. The sky was still a clear blue and the sun felt warm on our backs as we ate our packed lunches. After lunch it was a short walk to The Maltsters Arms in Rotherfield Greys.
Leaving Rotherfield Greys, fully refreshed from the Maltsters Arms.
Here we stopped off for refreshments and drank them in their beer garden. There were plenty of other people sitting outside, as it was such a nice day.
Fully refreshed, we set off again, heading south-west, through Crowsley Park Woods. Then down-hill into Stony Bottom where we passed Sedgehill Spring, which is protected by an ornate brick structure featuring a stone carving of an elephant.
It was up-hill again, back into Sonning Common. A little bit of road walking was required to get us back to the main road, from where we had started. See our route on Google Maps.
Thank you to Mike for leading the walk.
Walk 352 - Finchampstead Ridges and Eversley
There were just 4 of us for the walk on the morning of Sunday 14th October. Something to do with the pouring rain that greeted us at Simons Wood car park in Finchampstead and was forecast to last all day. Nonetheless, undeterred, the hardy souls set out with the early conversation focussed on the relative efficiency or otherwise of our wet weather gear. The leaders very quickly made a note to re-waterproof their equipment...
The walk started across Finchampstead Ridges before ascending to Wick Hill and on to Finchampstead Church. The shortest coffee break ever at the Church then saw us on our way down to the hedge-lined path towards the Tally Ho pub, re-tracing the steps of walk 350 a couple of weeks earlier.
Heading east through Fleethill Farm, we arrived at Eversley Cricket Club for welcome shelter and a break for lunch. The rain had eased off by now, thank goodness. A short diversion was necessitated shortly after leaving Eversley when we discovered the watercourse by Cross Green which had been only a trickle a fortnight before, had turned into a major river which had flooded its banks and blocked the footpath.
The remainder of the route was relatively dry overhead and easy walking. We headed into Moor Green Nature Reserve and followed the Blackwater River to the Outdoor Centre and then northwards up Beech Hill back to our starting point. Lots of chat about baths and cups of tea on this last stretch. Despite the weather, it was an enjoyable walk and we all had a great sense of achievement at the end.
Sorry, no photographs - it was too wet - but you can see our route on Google Maps.
Thank you to Colin and Sue for leading this wet walk and to Colin for writing it up.