Walk 506 - Great Bedwyn and the Savernake Forest
The King of Limbs oak tree.
On a cool Mother's Day Sunday we met at Bedwyn Station and headed off towards Savernake Forest. The recent sunshine and wind had dried out the paths so mud was almost non-existent as we moved through Bedwyn Common, a predominately flat area that can be quite wet and muddy. Upon entering Savernake forest, at its extreme South Eastern point, we begun the hunt for "the king of limbs". This 1,000 year old tree is immortalised in the Radiohead Album, "King of Limbs". For those interested it can be found on google maps, a rare tribute to a tree!
After a failed attempt, blocked by a huge fallen tree, we quickly found the track that led us to the tree. Radiohead, a band from Abingdon, recorded this album at the nearby Tottenham House. Apparently it is the only British Album named after a tree. The tree is feeling its age and many limbs have broken off - as to be expected of such an old tree.
The Ailesbury Column on Three Oak Hill.
We then made our way to the Grand Avenue before heading off on a side track where we had lunch on a fallen tree. We then moved onto 8 ways, an intersection of 8 roads that all span out at 45 degree angles. We then decided to head along Great Lodge Drive before heading off onto grass tracks. Fortunately the tracks had dried out as the tracks can quickly deteriorate into mud.
Inside St Katherine's Church.
The grass tracks took us deep into the forest and we were blessed with a collection of magnificent old Beech and Oak trees - all twisted and gnarled. Fortunately the sun had broken through the clouds and this provided an excellent temperature for our walk.
Onward we ventures and over Sawpit drive and then joining Pig Stye before heading down Charcoal Burners Road where we saw the remains of a second world war ammunitions dump. Apparently Savernake was used for this task during the war. We then reached the rather formidable Column which is a tribute to George 3rd.
We then made our way through Tottenham ground, the site of extensive ground works, for what we were not sure. Onward to St Katherines, built for the Lady of the House, where we had a quick look at this beautiful church. We then made our way down to Great Bedwyn and went our seperate ways - some of us to the nearby Three Tuns pub whilst waiting for the train. The length of the walk was clocked at 12.2 miles.
Thank you to Ian for leading this walk and writing it up.
Walk 505 - Eversley and the Blackwater Valley
Walking through Heath Warren Wood.
On Saturday 26th March, seven of us set off from the parking area near St Mary's Church in Eversley. The weather was glorious! Blue skies, sunshine and golden daffodils painted a picture of the perfect spring day, all accompanied by plenty of birdsong.
Drink stop by the River Blackwater.
Our route took us along Church Lane where we joined the Three Castles Path and the only ascent in the walk. From there we entered Heath Warren Wood and made our way through the plantation using the wide forest paths, soon passing the bronze-age bowl barrow called Cudbury Clump. Woodland maintenance in Heath Warren Woods has been ongoing for a couple of months, with areas of trees having been cleared; neatly stacked tree trunks and branches were seen at the side of several paths.
Climbing over fallen trees.
Crossing Bramshill Road, we then followed a line of pylons through Bramshill Plantation, where we had to navigate around several large puddles, as the ground was still fairly muddy in places. We left the plantation near to the ford at the New Mill sluice, where we joined the Blackwater Valley Path along the River Blackwater. As this was a short five mile walk, there was to be no lunch stop, but a drink/snack stop was made by the river. Paths through fields then took us to the busy A327, where there was a short stretch of road walking before heading off on another footpath. Since pre-walking the route, Storm Eunice had left a trail of destruction and we were met with large trees that had fallen across our path, which we had to climb over.
A Llama at a farm near Eversley.
The final section of the walk passed two small farms with bearded goats, llamas and a large pond which attracted many ducks and geese, including Muscovy Ducks, Graylag Geese and Egyptian Geese. A short walk through a field led us back to St Mary's Church, where we were able to see Charles Kingsley's grave and the Wellingtonia tree that his daughter planted in his memory; the tree having been grown from a seed that she had brought back from her travels. Charles Kingsley was the rector at the church for 31 years between 1844 and 1875; he also founded the local school and it was while living in Eversley that he wrote The Water Babies. On finding the church open, a few of us explored the interior before heading back to our cars.
Thank you to Sue from leading this walk, for writing it up and providing the photos.
Walk 504 - Basingstoke Parks and Old Basing
A sea of crocuses in War Memorial Park.
On Sunday 20th March, we had thirteen people (mostly regulars plus a few visitors) turn up at Basingstoke railway station for the start of a walk I have led before that largely follows the Basing Trail. We walked through the town to the War Memorial Park, where we saw a sea of crocuses emerging from a lawn near the bird cage. The park keepers won't be able to mow that bit of grass for a few weeks now.
From there, we passed through some playing fields and stopped at an orchard. The apple trees had only been planted a decade ago so weren't that large yet. An information board nearby indicated which varieties were planted where and invited people to pick a few fruit when they are ripe.
Leaving Basingstoke behind as we cross Crabtree Plantation.
Crossing over the ring road, we were now in Black Dam park, where we stopped to watch the ducks before crossing under the link road to the M3 and leaving the town for the Crabtree Plantation.
On reaching the other end of the plantation, I was about to lead the group across the A30 when Jackie, one of our visitors, showed me a better route that allowed us to use a traffic island to cross the busy road. We entered Basingstoke Common and then into Old Basing, where we followed The Street with its thatched houses and cottages.
Stopping for a drink at Barton's Mill.
Continuing along the Basing Trail through Old Basing and Lychpit Recreation Ground, we stopped to use the toilet facilities at the Cricket Club before stopping for our picnic lunch at Oliver's Battery, Motte & Baileys.
After lunch we crossed the River Loddon near Lower Mill and crossed some heathland to Barton's Mill where we stopped at the pub for a drink (and cake in some cases).
One of the ponds in Eastrop Park.
Suitably refreshed, we followed the river as far as Basing House and then made our way back to Basingstoke Common. We stopped at the amphitheatre at Basing Lime Pits. There was some debate as to whether we were looking at a lime pit, now filled in and grassed over, or the remains of a Roman Amphitheatre. A nearby information board settled the argument. It was both.
Finally, we crossed a piece of moorland back into the town, emerging at Eastrop Park - a pleasant civic park with various ponds for wildlife and boating. It was then a short distance back to the station. See our route on OS Maps.
Walk 503 - Cholsey, Aston Tirrold and Blewbury
Beautiful blue skies on the Cholsey, Aston Tirrold and Blewbury walk.
On Saturday 19th, twelve brave souls, a mixture of BWW members and from other Ramblers groups, lined up on a bright and sunny Saturday morning for a 12 mile walk on the hills around Cholsey. Whilst largely tree less the hills provide an attractive location for a walk on a sunny day. The day did not start well with the station carpark being bituminised, which did cause some concerns re parking. Participants were able to find parking in local streets, and in the additional station parking, and the walk commenced only 10 minutes past schedule.
Passing by thatched walls in Blewbury.
After heading out of Cholsey, on tracks that had dried out with the recent wind and sunshine, our leader took us up an additional path to provide views over Cholsey and onwards to Didcot Parkway. We then proceeded to Aston Tirrold recreational ground for a quick drink stop before commencing our gentle climb towards Lowbury Hill, the sight of major celebrations for our Queen Victoria's golden jubilee.
After wandering down the Fair Mile we traversed the Ridgeway for a short time before heading up a footpath which is due to be closed for a short time for filming. A couple of the more extroverted walkers were keen to participate in the filming but common sense prevailed.
Saint Michael's Church, Blewbury.
Next stop Blewbury for a coffee and cuppa stop and the group took the opportunity to buy bread and cakes etc from Blewbury Bakery, a small concern which sells bread locally and had set themselves up in the pub carpark. Next was a short visit to St Michaels, Blewbury, a 11th Century Grade 1 listed building; well worth a visit if in the local area.
Onward to the two Astons where the group checked out the two historic churches before heading onwards to Cholsey. Disappointingly a railway bridge was under repair and this prevented our visit to Agatha Christie's grave. All in all a good walk with minimal mud.
Thank you to Ian from leading this walk and for for writing it up.
Walk 502 - Nuffield, Elephants, Wells and a Warrior
No. Not elephantine ghosts, but wireframe sculptures.
On Saturday 12th March, twelve walkers met on a clear and beautifully sunny day at Nuffield Church for the wells, elephants and warrior walk. A mixture of regulars, visitors from other ramblers groups and a couple of first timers. This was the second walk from Nuffield, superbly planned and led by Ruth.
Before leaving Nuffield we checked out the 12th century church and surrounds. Viscount Nuffield is buried in the grounds. Turns out he is England's greatest ever philanthropist who gave away 700 million pounds in todays money.
The Maharajah's Well at Stoke Row.
Born William Richard Morris he established Morris Motors after being born into a poor family. Sadly David Frost and his much younger son are also buried here.
We then followed the route of one of a very impressive Grims Ditch's before stopping for a break at our first well at Ipsden Church. Standing next to the well is a warrior from Xian, the home of the Terracotta Warriors. The church has a unique toilet, but that is another story.
The walk in the attractive Yew Tree Brow woods brought us to our lunch stop where we were surrounded by the bluebells breaking through the soil.
A woodland setting for our lunch stop.
Onward to the Black Horse pub for a cuppa and drink and another toilet stop. The mens brought back memories from primary school.
The Maharajah's Well at Stoke Row was an unexpected sight and is situated next to the well keepers house - which is still occupied.
Next stop was the English Farm with some very impressive old barns. They are underutilised today but the timber frame was a sight to behold - as were the rather dangerous looking English Longhorn cattle. Long horns they do have.
Elephants? Yes, we saw at least four on our trip and we may have missed a few.
Thank you to Ruth for leading this walk and to Ian for writing it up.
Walk 500 - Calleva Atrebatum and Pamber Forest
The Southgate in the City Wall of Calleva Atrebatm.
Sunday 27th February was a real treat compared with the previous weekend, which saw storms Eunice, Dudley and Franklin bring very high winds and plenty of rain. Today we had a cloudless sky and relatively low wind. Ideal winter walking weather.
Twenty-four people joined me for a modified version of a walk I'd led before around Silchester. Of those twenty-four, we had a few visitors trying us out and a few familiar faces from the past who haven't walked with us in quite a while.
We set off from the English Heritage car park to remains of the Roman town of Calleva Atrebatum. Originally the iron-age settlement of the Atrebates tribe, it became the site of a walled town during the Roman conquest.
The Amphitheatre at Calleva Atrebatum.
It's quite amazing how well these Roman walls have lasted over two millennia since they were built. We followed the wall from the west gate, past the south gate and the water gate to the 12th century Church of St Mary the Virgin, which was built on the site of a Roman temple.
We then went an had a look at the remains of the amphitheatre, just outside the walled town. After a coffee break, we left the amphitheatre and followed the wall from the east gate, past the north gate to the west gate, where we'd come in.
Crossing Silchester Brook near Early Bridge Copse.
Now heading south, past Dicker's Copse, we saw a massive fallen oak, victim of the recent storms, crossing the stream right next to the bridge we were to use. If it had landed a few feet further south, our walk would have had to take a massive detour.
We followed Byes Lane through fields to a small group of houses, where we took a footpath into Early Bridge Copse and then to Pamber Forest. Here we met a massive obstacle - a large oak tree and a beech tree had fallen across the footpath in Gravelpit Copse. This time we did have to take a significant detour.
A fallen oak tree, completely blocking the path in Gravelpit Copse.
A muddy path brought us into Pamber Forest where we followed a long, well-made path until we saw some logs and tree stumps to sit on and eat our packed lunches. After lunch, we headed for Silchester, via Beggars Bridge Copse, which was much more muddy!
This time of year, with the trees still mostly bare, a lot of sunlight gets into the woods giving them a wonderful airy and spacious feel that will be gone by the end of spring.
Emerging into the village close by the Calleva Arms pub, we decided not to stop for a drink as there were too many of us. So we followed the Brenda Parker Way out of the village and back towards the west gate of the Roman town, turning off just before reaching it and retracing our steps to the car park. See our route on Google Maps.
Thank you to Sue for back-marking for me on this walk.
Walk 498 - Nuffield, Swyncombe Down, Ewelme and cake!
A woodland path down Gangsdown Hill, near Nuffield.
Saturday 12th February started off cold and windy, but the sun broke through and the sixteen of us soon warmed up as we got walking. Ruth led us from outside the Norman church of the Holy Trinity in the village of Nuffield through the Huntercombe golf course on Nuffield Common, following The Ridgeway long-distance path.
Crossing the main road at Gangsdown Hill, we continued on The Ridgeway, passing through woodland and fields as we made our way to Swyncombe.
Crossing a field on The Ridgeway near Nuffield.
Here we stopped at the church of Saint Botolph to admire the architecture of the early Norman church that had been heavily restored in 1850 in the Gothic Revival style. On Ruth's advice, we had elevenses as the lunch stop would not be until much later. It was a pleasant place to stop, with a carpet of snowdrops blooming in the church grounds.
Lots of snowdrops at St Botolph's Church.
Continuing north, we soon left The Ridgeway to join the Chiltern Way, crossing the Swyncombe Downs. Now very high up, we could see great views and feel the force of the wind.
The Chiltern Way gradually descended to the village of Ewelme, close to RAF Benson. Passing through the picturesque lanes, we stopped by the watercress beds where there was a useful amount of outdoor seating to have our picnic lunch.
Watercress beds at Ewelme.
After lunch we doubled back through the village and departed on a track called Potter's Lane, following the course of the Chiltern Way. This changed from track to footpath at Potter's Farm and continued, gradually increasing in elevation, until it crossed The Ridgeway at a point we'd passed on our outward journey.
Our return to Nuffield along the outward route included a detour to the Maker Space Café, where we enjoyed tea, coffee and some delicious cake! An excellent way to recharge after a 17km (10½ mile) walk that involved 595m (1,950 ft) of ascent in total. See our route on Google Maps.
Thank you to Ruth for leading this walk.
Walk 497 - Kintbury, Inkpen and Walbury Hill
On Saturday 5th February, sixteen brave souls joined Ian at the Kintbury railway station. They were a mixture of regulars, members of other Ramblers groups, and newcomers trying out our group. The morning air was crisp but looking fine which was a good start to the day.
After heading down the canal for 100 metres we crossed over and went past the impressive vicarage, once home to Jane Austen's sister who was married to the local vicar - apparently a favourite riding partner of George III.
A couple of ponies waiting to use the phone.
Next stop was the Blue Bell pub, a location rich with history from the swing riots after the Napoleonic wars.
After walking down Wallingtons Road we turned left as we reached the gates for Saint Cassian's and followed footpaths to Inkpen Common and then a short bridle-way to the Crown and Garter. The young assistant was enjoying a quiet morning until 17 of us put in our orders. Covid-19 has reduced available staff and the café was closing at 12 noon so we arrived just in time.
We then headed to Walbury Hill and our first undulation. Most were pleasantly surprised at the gentle nature of the climb.
Combe Gibbet, between Inkpen Hill and Walbury Hill.
Once reaching the peak we could feel the full force of the wind as we headed down Wayfarers Way towards Combe Gibbet where we sheltered below the peak and ate lunch.
We left the Wayfarer's Way via a rarely use bridleway and headed down to Saint Michael's church at Lower Green. The door was open and gave us a chance to have a look inside at what is a beautiful 12th Century church.
After leaving Lower Green we headed past the impressive Saint Cassian's monastery before returning to Kintbury at 3:15 pm. All in all a good day out and only a brief touch of drizzle during lunch. Thankyou to Keith for riding shotgun at the rear of group.
Thank you to Ian for leading this walk, for writing it up and providing the photos.
Walk 496 - Pangbourne and Tidmarsh
Crossing the common south of Pangbourne.
It was perfect walking weather on Sunday 30th January. Cold but dry with next to no wind and blue skies. 35 people turned up for my walk at Pangbourne. So many that the car park became full and quite a few people had to find places elsewhere. We had a few newcomers trying out our group and a few visitors from other groups. There were a few people there that I hadn't seen since before the pandemic.
We started from the village hall car park and walked into Pangbourne, holding up the traffic at the zebra crossings. Soon we were out of the village and heading south onto a common by the River Pang. Then we headed east and into Sulham Wood, on a very steep, but mercifully short path.
Heading out of Mosshall Wood, near Purley-on-Thames.
Taking a more level path, we walked round Mosshall Wood and back out into the open fields near Purley-on-Thames. Heading gently uphill, we made our way toward Little Heath before turning back to the southern end of Sulham Wood. We stopped for lunch in an open area of the wood where there were plenty of logs and fallen trees to sit on.
After lunch, we left the woodland for a meadow, which brought us into Tidmarsh. I had planned a pub stop at The Greyhound Inn but with 35 people, that was now quite impracticable. Crossing the main road we headed uphill through farmland on a zig-zag route that brought us to Pangbourne College.
Making our way from Tidmarsh to Pangbourne College.
Following the footpath signs through the college, we did a short stretch of road walking before getting back into open fields at Lower Bowden. It was downhill now, through the mixed woodland of Berry Copse. The mixture of trees gradually changed from mostly deciduous to mostly firs as we descended into the Pang valley.
Crossing under the railway line at Sot's Hole, we emerged onto the main road from Lower Basildon to Pangbourne. We followed this road into Pangbourne village and back to the car park. See our on Google Maps.
There was 472m (1550 ft) of ascent in total on this 13.3km (8.25 mile) walk, so we got a reasonable amount of exercise as well as a nice dose of winter sunshine.
I'd like to thank Alastair for back-marking my walk so efficiently.
Walk 495 - Upper Bucklebury and Frilsham
Crossing farmland at Marlston Pightle.
Twenty people (including the two leaders and a few prospective new members) turned up on Saturday 22nd January at a small car park in Upper Bucklebury. After taking an attendance register for track and trace purposes, we set off northward through the mixed woodland of Upper Bucklebury Common.
St Frideswide's Well in Frilsham Common.
Emerging from the common, we splodged our way over farmland and through woodland on more muddy paths.
Reaching the village of Frilsham, we stopped off for our picnic lunch in Frilsham Common, next to St. Frideswide's Well. The well dates back to the 7th century and the water is supposed to have healing properties. Rebuilt in 2007, the well now has a solid plastic cover with a small hole in the middle with a removeable lid. Under this lid is a chain and a scoop, allowing people to try the water.
Stopping for refreshments as The Pot Kiln in Frilsham.
No one wanted to try the well water. Instead, we headed down to The Pot Kiln pub for more hygienic refreshments. Leaving the pub, we headed south through High Copse, with its mixture of fir trees and rhododendrons. It had some very muddy paths, made all the more tricky by the steepness of some of the inclines.
The Church of St Mary the Virgin, Bucklebury.
Leaving the muddy paths of the woodland, we followed quiet lanes to the tiny village of Bucklebury with it's generously sized Church of St Mary the Virgin. We entered the village through the church grounds.
Leaving the village almost immediately, we headed uphill to Redhill Copse. Then, more muddy woodland paths took us back to Upper Bucklebury, where we'd started. Our eight mile walk had been quite varied and also quite hilly, with 427m (1400 ft) of ascent in total. See our route on Google Maps.
Thank you to Mike and Alison for leading this walk.
Walk 494 - Ibstone, Turville and Fingest
Turville Hill and its Windmill.
Sunday 16th January: It was great to see nineteen people gather on Ibstone Common despite an unpromising, misty, January morning. Our optimism was soon rewarded as the sun came out, enabling splendid views of the Chiltern valley as we walked through fields and woodland on our way to Turville. We stopped a while by the Vicar of Dibley church then made our way, passing the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang windmill.
The church at Fingest.
The next village was Fingest where we stopped for lunch in the sunny grounds of the church.
It was lovely to have such a mixed group, comprising of regular walkers along with members that had recently joined us and complete newcomers. Everyone enjoyed the views on a fabulous day and I think that we all relished the hill challenges!
Thank you to Alexandra for joint leading with me (Rosy) as last-minute stand-ins when Jane was unable to lead it. Thank you to Jane for planning the walk in the first place, and thank you to Ian and Nigel, our magnificent back markers.
Thank you to Rosy for writing up the walk, and thank you to Alexandra for providing the photos.
Walk 493 - Theale, Englefield, Sulham and Wilder's Folly
Wilder's Folly at Nunhide, near Sulham.
Saturday 8th January was wet and windy, but that didn't deter six walkers from going on an eight mile circular walk from Theale railway station. The route included the villages of Englefield and Sulham, and the nearby Wilder's Folly. This walk was a last-minute substitute for another walk that had to be cancelled. Lawrence very kindly volunteered to fill the gap in the programme.
I didn't go on this walk so I can't describe it for you, but Lawrence forwarded this photo of Wilder's Folly taken by one of the other walkers. In the foreground Lawrence is no doubt explaining the history of the folly, which was built in 1769 by the Reverend Henry Wilder. The tower originally contained a first floor room with glazed windows, which was accessed by wooden stairs. The windows were bricked up in the late 19th century and the tower was converted into a dovecote.
Thank you to Lawrence for leading this walk at short notice.
Walk 492 - Hook, Sherfield-on-Loddon and Rotherwick
Standing by the Ha Ha at Tylney Hall.
Sunday 2nd January was surprisingly warm for the time of year, with temperatures in double figures, but was otherwise uninspiring. Overcast and tending to drizzle, we had glimpses of blue sky in the morning and rain in the afternoon. Nevertheless, we had eleven people assembling outside Hook railway station, keen to do my ten mile walk.
Leaving the village to the west, we crossed Owen's Farm on muddy paths that would be the signature of this walk. Reaching Newnham, we turned north along Park Lane, which soon became a footpath leading us through woodland in Tylney Park. We got a good view of Tylney Hall as the path crossed a Ha Ha wall at the end of a long lawn, which was built to create the illusion (from the house) of a continuous strip of land extending beyond the boundary. This also concealed a WWII air raid shelter.
An oak tree infested with gnomes!
The path then crossed Tynley Park golf course. Golf courses would also be a signature of this walk. Being careful not to disturb any golfers putting on the greens or to get in the way of any high-speed golf balls on the fairways, we followed the path across the course.
Heading west along Strouds Green Lane, we turned off into more muddy woodland only to emerge on the north-west edge of Tylney Hall golf course. A small bridge allowed us to cross the Lyde River and a muddy path took us to Wildmoor Farm. Leaving a farm track for a particularly waterlogged field, I nearly had a "Vicar of Dibley" moment as I stepped into a puddle that was much deeper than I had anticipated! Those behind me sensibly took a different route.
Back on solid ground, we briefly followed Wildmoor Lane as it passed by one of the two golf courses that belong to Sherfield Oaks Golf Club. Then we took a small lane called The Welly Wash where we saw an oak tree that was host to a collection of garden gnomes!
Crossing the River Loddon.
More muddy woodland awaited us as we passed though Bramble Copse and into Gravel Pit Copse, where we found some fallen trees to sit on while we had our packed lunches.
After lunch we left the woods to join another section of Wildmoor Lane and passed by the other course belonging to Sherfield Oaks Golf Club. Crossing the River Loddon on a substantial wooden footbridge we then followed the course of the Lyde River on a path laden with obstacles created by fallen trees and deep muddy puddles.
Washing our boots.
We crossed to the other side of the Lyde River on a smaller bridge and followed the Brenda Parker Way to Summerstead Farm and across two large, open fields of waterlogged mud. A third and smaller field brought us into the church yard of Rotherwick Church.
One more muddy field led down to Runten's Farm and then is was grassy fields up to Great Nightingales Copse and down back to Hook. A very conveniently placed stream allowed us to wash our boots as we left the muddy footpaths for the paved paths of the village. (Our legs were still muddy though!) It was then a short walk back to the station. See our route on Google Maps.