Walk 420 - Earley and Arborfield
The Ramblers Association suspended all group walks when the UK government's social distancing measures were put in place on 16th March to help prevent the spread of Covid-19. Since then the BWWs haven't done any group walks, hence this rather empty volume.
During June, the government relaxed its lock-down rules enough to allow people to go out for a walk with up to five other people from different households.
Lawrence, an experienced walk leader, invited members of the BWWs to join him for an informal 6.5 mile walk with a maximum of six people (including himself). This was not an official BWW walk, but was a gathering in line with current government guidelines. Even so, I've written up this walk as it is effectively a prototype of the type of walks that the Ramblers Association are going to allow from 1st July - i.e. no more than six people (inc leader) on the walk and all of them 'booked in' beforehand.
Five of us met up in the car park outside the Suttons Bowls Club house in Earley, having first accepted the invitation from Lawrence to join the walk.
Starting at 11am, we walked through Chalfont Park, then through a housing estate and crossed the M4 motorway on a bridge. Now we were following footpaths and lanes through farmland and countryside, making our way to Arborfield. We stopped to look at the remains of the original church of St Bartholomew near Hall Farm, now almost totally covered with vines and creepers.
A replacement church of the same name was built nearer to Arborfield Cross in 1863. We made our way there and stopped in its grounds to have our packed lunches (after cleaning our hands). Then we followed lanes and footpaths leading us to the cattle sheds that belong to the Dairy Research Centre where we watched the cows feeding before heading back to Hall Farm.
We retraced our steps to Shinfield Grange and then took a different route back to the car park, this time through a new housing estate at Shinfield before crossing the M4 on the old road bridge by the Black Boy pub. Then we crossed the new road junction of the A327 and B3270 before joining a footpath through the woodland by the B3270.
Finally we wove our way through another housing estate and arrived back at Chalfont Park and the car park. See our route on Google Maps. The weather had been sunny but windy during the walk and the showers just held off until we finished the walk.
During lock-down I have either walked on my own or with one other person. I felt rather cautious about walking with a group again (albeit a small one) but I felt quite safe on this walk. It was quite easy to keep a sensible distance from other people and still enjoy some conversation.
Thank you to Lawrence for organising and leading this walk.