Walk 603 - Pitch and Putt in Wokingham
One of the nine greens on the course.
On Sunday 24th September, eight of us arrived at Wokingham Family Golf for a game of Pitch and Putt. A few of the team had some experience, but the rest of us had no ideas what to expect. We split into two teams of four and then we were off!
Teeing off on the sixth hole.
The weather was cloudy with sunny intervals and rather breezy, but fortunately the rain held off, with only a few drops in the air.
Each hole had a par of 3, but rarely did any of us come near that score. Lots of fun, banter and encouragement was given by our team-mates as we navigated the nine-hole course.
At the end of the 9th and last hole of the game, the scores for each team were announced with Jonathan and Mark taking the top spots in each team. (They both had some previous experience.)
The opposing (and slightly better) team.
A celebratory drink (and lunch) was taken at the on-site café and bar as the eight of us sat at an outside table discussing our games and swapping stories.
This had been a really enjoyable social event, with just as much fun to be had as with the Foot-Golf social event we held in July this year. See the write-up for Foot-Golf.
Many thanks go to Richard, our Social Events Co-ordinator, for organising this event, and to everyone who took part.
Thank you to Emma for taking the pictures and writing up this social event.
Walk 602 - Chobham Common
Walking through Rambridge Farm.
After several days of rain, we were lucky to have a warm and sunny day for this 7 mile walk, with a wonderful blue sky. On Saturday 23rd September, eleven of us met up at the Staple Hill car park on the edge of Chobham Common.
We crossed the road and started on a footpath that led to the left and followed alongside the road until we reached Long Cross car park. We headed right deeper into the common on narrower paths, flanked with gorse bushes and brambles, walkers had been advised to wear robust trousers today and everyone obliged! They were thankful later in the walk.
Crossing a stream infested with Himalayan Balsam.
I had discovered during my pre walk that some of the paths on this part of the common were very overgrown, so we veered right further to the right to join a wider path (which unfortunately did not have the views) heading alongside Butts Hill to the road.
We took the first footpath to the left and looped around several farms joining the road again. Just before reaching the road, we stopped for an early lunch by Little Manor Farm and sat on a patch of grass with several trees. It was a really nice place for lunch, we enjoyed the peace and the dappled sunshine from the trees.
Fighting our way through a gorse bush jungle.
At the road we headed towards Langshot Stud, where we crossed a small paddock on our left to the stile in the right corner. We headed left through the woods and back into the common, where everyone was glad to be wearing their long trousers as it was very overgrown and prickly from the gorse.
Returning to the car park on Staple Hill.
We turned left at the main junction along a wide path with Clearmount on our right. We took a right path heading towards Chickabiddy Hill, before reaching the hill we veered left, over the road and along the footpath at Walk End.
We crossed the bridge over the M3 and took one of several paths along the edge of Brick Hill, no pub stop today as the Bricklayers Arms was temporarily closed. We took a very small, wild, overgrown and barely visible path (the secateurs came out for the second time) to the subway under the M3 and headed left back to the car park.
See our route on Google Maps.
Thank you to Ann for leading this walk and writing it up. Rob took the photos.
Walk 601 - Finchampstead, Crowthorne, Wokingham
Passing Grays Farm on the way to Gardner's Green Farm.
On Sunday 17th September, Joy led her fist walk for our group. Choosing an area that she knew well, and having walked through the route a couple of times before leading, meant that the walk went without a hitch.
Nine of us met up in the Simons Wood National Trust Car Park on Wellingtonia Avenue in Finchampstead and set off soon after 10:30, heading northward though mixed woodland to King's Mere. Briefly joining Nine Mile Ride, we crossed the railway bridge and left the road for a footpath into the Gorrick Plantation. This was mostly pine forest followed by mixed woodland as we continued north to Chapel Green.
Walking through woodland on the way to Heath Lake.
Turning east, we approached Ludgrove School. A footpath heading south, past the school, took us through Grays Farm and Gardner's Green Farm, where there were a lot of poly-tunnels filled with strawberry and raspberry plants. The ones we could see were just getting ripe and looked quite tempting.
We resisted any temptation and were soon in back in the Gorrick Plantation again. Now heading south-east, we crossed Nine Mile Ride again and were in more woodland on our way to Heath Lake and our lunch-stop.
Stopping for lunch by Heath Lake.
We ate our packed lunches while sitting by the lake and watching the wildlife. A few of the trees were just starting to turn to their autumn colours and there was a feeling in the air that summer was retreating into the past.
After lunch, we followed a footpath through East Berkshire Golf Club's golf course and then into Crowthorne. Passing a parade of shops, we reached Crowthorne railway station and took a footpath that followed along the railway line towards Edgbarrow Wood Nature Reserve and then crossed the tracks into Ambarrow Wood.
Getting wet in the rain at Coalpit Copse.
We could now feel a few spots of rain falling on us. The weather forecast had predicted heavy rain in the afternoon, which was yet to come.
Now heading westward, into Coalpit Copse, the rain got heavier. Passing Beech Hill and heading toward Finchampstead Ridges, the rain got heavier still. Joy made a leader's decision to cut out the final loop through Finchampstead Ridges and take a quicker route directly back to the car park. A wise decision under the circumstances.
A woodland path took us back to Wellingtonia Avenue, which we crossed and another short woodland path got us back to the car park. See our route on Google Maps. A most enjoyable walk, only slightly marred by the downpour of rain at the end.
Many thanks go to Joy for leading her first walk for our group.
Walk 600 - Hook, Greywell and North Warnborough
Leaving Owen's Farm for Newnham.
Another heatwave arrived with September, so I decided to start my walk at 9:30 instead of the usual 10:30 on Sunday 10th to avoid the afternoon heat. As it transpired, the weather broke that afternoon, so the early start meant we nearly - but didn't quite - avoid the afternoon rain!
It was already 24°C when eleven of us (including two visitors) set off from the centre of Hook village, heading westward on the A30 London Road before taking Newnham Road and then a footpath through Owens Farm. A path through woodland brought us onto the A30, which we crossed and continued south on Heather Row Lane.
Mist on the water - Basingstoke Canal.
A bridge took us over the M3 motorway and after some more woodland, we reached the Basingstoke Canal near the small village Up Nately.
This part of the canal had not been restored and was left to nature, with trees growing out of its muddy bed. We walked along the edge of it until we reached the entrance to the Greywell Tunnel. This also is unrestored and home to a number of bat species. It has more roosting bats than any other site in Britain!
King John's Castle (hunting lodge) also known as Odiham Castle.
We followed the course of the tunnel through woodland. This would have been the route that the horses that pulled the barges were taken as the bargees legged the boat through the tunnel. The tunnel is over a kilometre long, so that would have been hard work.
We joined the towpath at the other end of the tunnel where the canal has been restored. There was an unusual mist over the water as we followed the canal to Odiham Castle. Here we met Greg, who had missed the start of the walk due to road closures and diversions. He had made his own way to the Castle by another route.
The rain started as we crossed Bartley Heath.
Now there were twelve of us looking around the ruins of the early 13th century hunting lodge and fortress built by King John. We continued on the canal towpath to the Lift Bridge at North Warnborough. Here we left the canal and followed Mill Lane as it crossed the River Whitewater through a ford. Our route more-or-less followed the Whitewater to Newlyn's Farm Shop, then a footbridge over the M3 motorway took us into Bartley Heath where we stopped for lunch.
It began to rain, so we rapidly finished our packed lunches and quickened the pace as we crossed the heath and emerged into Hook village. The rain got much heavier as we headed up Station Road, back at the car park. See our route on Google Maps.
Walk 599 - Yattendon, Ashampstead and a Brewery
Crossing a ploughed field in Yattendon Farm.
The walk that Jane led on Sunday 27th August was a walk with a difference. We started with breakfast at the Renegade Brewery in Yattendon. The breakfast was optional and eleven people out of the twenty-three that came for the walk also did breakfast - and very tasty it was too. The walk then started from the brewery car park.
The brewery is just outside Yattendon village, so we headed into the village and then out again through Yattendon Farm. Continuing northward through farmland and woodland, we came to Casey Fields Farm, where there is a large farm shop that has been selling all sorts of meat and veg since 2006, plus it has a tea shop with great cakes. We didn't stop for tea and cake as we were still full of breakfast!
A path through woodland near Casey Field Farm.
A footpath took us across fields towards Ashampstead village, where we stopped at the 12th century church of St Clement's. Inside were some 13th century wall painting that had been plastered over during the wave of Protestantism in the 16th century and remained hidden until the plaster started to peel away three centuries later.
Inside the church of St Clement's, Ashampstead.
From the church, we headed south and then east, through fields and woodland to Ashampstead Common.
A zig-zag path through the common took us to Burnt Hill Common. From there, we headed north-west to Calvesleys Farm before turning south-west and passing through Yattendon Park and the grave yard of St Peter & St Paul's church in Yattendon village.
Post-walk drinks at the Renegade Brewery, Yattendon.
After that, we retraced our steps from the village back to the brewery car park. See our route on Google Maps.
While some of us went straight home from there, quite a few of us (after changing out of our walking boots) popped back into the brewery shop/restaurant/bar for a drink.
Although we have done a few early-morning walks followed by a pub lunch, I don't remember us ever doing a walk preceded by a restaurant breakfast. I had wondered whether a cooked breakfast might lie heavily on the stomach while walking, but it didn't. In fact, it really was quite a treat. Perhaps we should do this kind of thing more often and Jane is leading the trend.
Thank you to Jane for leading this walk and organising the breakfast.
Walk 598 - Basingstoke and Old Basing
Coffee-stop at Lower River Row.
On Saturday 19th August, ten people and a well-behaved dog gathered outside an office building in Basingstoke View business park, about ten minutes walk from Basingstoke railway station. Pat, our walk leader today, had managed to organise some free parking at her place of work, which was much appreciated.
After introductions and a brief description of this semi-urban walk, we set off through the business park and over a bridge into Eastrop Park. An eleventh walker joined us as we left the park and passed under the elevated ring-road and joined Basing Road. This we followed eastward, leaving it for a footpath that passed by Barton's Mill pub.
Crossing the River Loddon at Upper River Row.
A footpath through Mill Field took us onto Bartons Lane. This joined Pyotts Hill, where we took another footpath, heading north-east through fields that approximately followed the the course of the River Loddon.
Pat's walks always have a coffee stop before lunch (bring your own coffee - or something else if you prefer) and so we stopped by a wood next to a field of long-stem clover at Lower River Row. After our break, we looped round south-westward, crossing the river on a footbridge and following alongside it to Lower Mill Farm.
Meeting a horse on Basingstoke Common.
Next we followed Newnham Lane into Old Basing village, passing the characterful cottages and church on The Street before leaving the village by the Old Basing Royal British Legion Social Club and entering Basingstoke Common.
Here there were a large number of horses, grazing on the common land. Most of them ignored us, but one was curious enough to wander slowly over to inspect us. Our dog (which as on a lead) and the horse didn't seem at all fazed by each other and we continued across the common, eventually reaching the A30.
The bird cage in War Memorial Park.
After crossing this busy road, we were in the Crabtree Plantation - a strip of land between the A30 and M3 motorway. This pleasant (apart from the sound of the traffic) stretch of land took us back to Basingstoke, where we passed under the link road again and entered Black Dam Park. There were benches by the pond and a picnic table on the grass, making it the perfect place for our lunch-stop.
After lunch, we passed over the link-road and into War Memorial Park. Walking through this historic Georgian park, we passed by outdoor gymnasium equipment, a bandstand and a bird cage. Leaving the park, we followed roads back to Eastrop Park and retraced our steps back to the car park. See our route on Google Maps.
Thank you to Pat for leading this walk.
Walk 596 - Windsor and Eton Walk plus a Picnic in the Park
Gathering together on the edge of Datchet Golf Course.
After a sodden Saturday, we were fortunate to have a relatively dry and pleasant Sunday walking along the Thames (dodging the coach parties) and enjoying the picturesque Eton College buildings. Most of us battled with the car park machines whilst a couple of enlightened folks took the bus from Bracknell for relatively modest fees compared to the car parking - I must remember to highlight this for future walks!
In the end fifteen of us convened at the bandstand in Windsor’s Alexandra Gardens, which was built in 2016 to commemorate the late Queen Elizabeth’s achievement in becoming the longest serving Monarch. More on the bandstand later!
We departed promptly after 10:30, passing through the throngs of tourists, with plenty of ducks, swans and river cruisers on the Thames and the buzz of overhead airliners to add to the buzzing atmosphere.
Posing on the footbridge over the Jubilee River.
We then proceeded down the Romney riverside walk, past the Riverside station, to reach Romney Lock, and then continued the river walk in Home Park. The crowds quickly diminished, and we saw an excellent view (the first of three) of Windsor Castle. We then crossed the river via the Victoria Bridge built in 1861.
We walked along the boundary of Dachet Golf Course and then navigated our way across a bridge over the Jubilee River. This was completed in 2002, to alleviate the flood risk to Maidenhead, Bray and Windsor. Richard read out a few salient facts after a hasty download from Wikipedia the night before. This river is in fact a hydraulic channel and is 11.6 km (7.2 mi) long and is on average 45 metres (148 feet) wide. However, during our pre-walk its modest proportions caused confusion as was assumed to be part of river itself, we had been over-reliant on our ageing Rambling for Pleasure Thames book that had been published in 1993!
A statue by Anthony Gormley in Common Lane, Eton.
We continued our route away from the Thames and eventually reached a cricket ground and buildings of Eton college (founded 1440 by Henrry VI). The buildings were magnificent, and the grounds were immaculate.
Walking through Common Lane we saw Anthony Gormley statue high above us at right angles to the pavement! This is an example of many of his sculptures which Wikipedia alleges are based on moulds taken from his own body. The most famous example of his work is the Angel of the North in Gateshead.
We left Eton through a pleasant field, with an allotment and viaduct on right, and with a further excellent view of the Castle on left. We reached the river for our return to Windsor, over the decorative Victorian decorative cast iron bridge. See our route on Google Maps.
The Woodley Concert band, playing in Alexandra Gardens, Windsor.
The majority of us stayed on in Alexandra Gardens for our picnic and there was the occasional shower but not too disruptive.
Some of us also enjoyed some tipples at the Windsor and Eton Brewery taproom, and also stayed on at Alexandra Gardens Bandstand to listen to the excellent Woodley Concert band, playing a set list for which our Chairman Rob managed to identify all the numbers in the first half apart from “Omens of Love”, composed by one Hirotaka Izumi.
Many thanks to Petrina Steele for doing the actual leading of the walk with only limited support received from Richard.
Thank you to Petrina for leading the walk and to Richard for organising the afternoon's activities and writing it up.
Walk 595 - Waltham St Lawrence to Maidenhead - Linear
St John the Baptist church in Shottesbrooke Park.
The weather forecast for Saturday 5th August was surprisingly autumnal for the time of year. The Met Office had predicted heavy rain, thunder, high winds, and had issued an amber warning of flash floods. Not a good day for a walk in the countryside you might think, and you wouldn't be alone. Unsurprisingly, attendance for this walk was low. Only three of us met up at the Teapot Café bus stop in Maidenhead.
We caught the little village-hopping bus to Waltham St Lawrence. For half of the ride, we were the only passengers onboard. We alighted outside The Bell Inn in Waltham St Lawrence for the start of this linear walk. An early decision was made to put on waterproof over-trousers. (We'd already put on our waterproof jackets while waiting for the bus in Maidenhead.) It was the right decision.
Walking through the nature reserve in Ockwells Park.
A short walk down "The Street" brought us to a footpath that took us past Burringham Wood and through a short tunnel into Shottesbrooke Park. We took a detour to look at Manor House, where we saw two robot lawn mowers. It almost seemed as if they were robot guard dogs, as one of them came right up to us as we looked over the fence. Although the heavy rain hadn't started yet, there had been a persistent drizzle all morning, and the robots were struggling to mow the wet lawn.
Leaving Shottesbrooke Park, we passed a couple of fields of sheep and emerged at the edge of the cricket ground in White Waltham. A footpath through an upmarket housing estate and then across fields took us to Waltham Place, a 220 acre organic and biodynamic farm and garden.
Can't use that path. Time to find an alternative route!
Skirting around Waltham Place Farm, we found lots of ripe blackberries along the bramble-lined footpaths. We sampled quite a lot of these before stopping for lunch in a grassy field. The rain had eased up, which meant we could safely eat our sandwiches without them getting soggy. The M4 motorway could clearly be heard, as we were now close by, and would be for much of the rest of the walk.
After lunch, the rain started again as we headed north to Heywood Farm, seeing several deer along the way. Then heading east, we followed footpaths into Ockwells Park Estate. Much of this parkland is now a nature reserve in which Neil, our walk leader, has done voluntary work, planting suitable indigenous wild plants and trees. We joined Thrift Lane and followed it to a bridge over the M4 motorway.
Crossing the A404 on a footbridge.
Without crossing, we left Thrift Lane and briefly followed the edge of the motorway before looping around through more woodland. Now we were following the course of The Cut, a river through the nature reserve. We had to stop when the path we wanted to take was completely flooded. Our leader had anticipated this, so we back-tracked and took an alternative route up to Ockwells Park playground and café.
The rain was heavy and now accompanied by thunder as we followed Ockwells Road to a footbridge over the A404 dual carriageway. This we crossed and followed a mix of footpaths and roads back into Maidenhead. Following Shoppenhangers Road down to the railway station was quite hazardous as this busy main road was flooded in several places and passing cars were creating tidal waves over the pavements. Back at the car park, we said our goodbyes and headed home - just as the rain stopped and sun came out! See our route on Google Maps.
Thank you to Neil for leading this walk.
Walk 594 - Great Bedwyn, Bagshot, Ham and Shalbourne
Ian, our walk leader, in Gully Copse.
July has been a busy month, often with two walks and other events each weekend, but we found ourselves with nothing in the programme for the last weekend of July. Ian, who has led many walks for us over the five years he's been staying in the UK, came to the rescue with a rapidly prepared walk at short notice to fill the gap. It was a medley of bits of walks he's led before in the West Berks and Wilts area.
Only four of us made it to the walk, which started from Great Bedwyn railway station. Perhaps it was too shorter notice, or people were put off by the industrial action by railway workers. (Despite the strike, the trains in our area were actually running.)
Do you ever get the feeling you're being watched?
We started by taking a path past the rather smart cricket ground in Great Bedwyn - somewhere we not walked before. We then joined a familiar track called Galley Lane, taking us to Jockey Green. From here, we headed east to Foxwood Farm, north to Burridge Heath and then east again into the Polesdon Estate.
On the way, we passed through Gulley Copse where the path became rather muddy, so we took a diversion into the wood only to realise that we had lost the path. After stopping to scrutinise our maps, we were soon back on track.
The long driveway through Mount Prosperous Estate.
A rather circuitous route took us through the Polesdon Estate and into the Prosperous Estate. (The most direct route had no public access.) Here we crossed more farmland and then passed by Mount Prosperous House, where we stopped to admire their walled rose garden using a small public viewing platform.
Crossing more farmland, we arrived in the tiny village of Ham. The last bit of footpath took us through the large back garden of a big house. Ian told us that the first time he'd used this footpath, he'd gone the wrong way through the garden and instead of exiting into an adjacent field, he ended up at kitchen door of the house!
Entering Birch Copse for the second time!
We stopped in Ham to have our packed lunches on a picnic table by the green. Ian kindly bought a round of drinks at the village pub, after which we headed west through fields into Shalbourne.
Next we crossed Newton Farm, where another walker pointed out some enormous puffballs (spherical fungi) in a field. Then we made a slight error. After walking through Birch Copse, we followed what looked like the footpath only to find ourselves back at the point where we first entered Birch Copse! So we went through it again and got it right second time, passing Folly Farm and heading west toward Great Bedwyn.
Bedwyn Church Lock on the Kennet & Avon Canal.
A mixture of fields and woodland took us to the Kennet and Avon Canal, which we crossed on a bridge by Bedwyn Church Lock. Then we crossed the railway line and another field, arriving at St Mary's Church. Upkeep of this large church is partly funded by a tea and cake stall inside the church. We stopped here and enjoyed several types of cake before leaving a generous donation and then following Church Street back into the village centre. See our route on Google Maps.
Here we said goodbye to Ian, without realising this was the last walk he'd lead for us before returning to Australia. He had planned to tell us but, not being fond of farewells, didn't find the right opportunity. We shall miss his willingness to lead so many interesting walks for our group, his jovial nature and his intelligent conversation.
Thank you to Ian for leading this walk and all the others he's led for us.
Walk 593 - Crowthorne Woods, Caesar’s Camp & the Devil’s Highway
Walking into Caesar's Camp from the north.
On Sunday 23rd July we had a morning walk, which was five miles and started at 9:30 - a bit earlier than our usual walks. It was quite a nice morning, being sunny and warm but not too hot. Fourteen of us, plus two dogs, met up at Great Hollands recreation ground car park. Another caught us up and joined us soon after we started.
We set off along a woodland path that brought us out by the road junction of Nine Mile Ride and Foresters Way, near the Golden Retriever pub. Crossing this complicated junction, we continued to follow Nine Mile Ride eastward, not on the pavement but parallel with it along a wooded footpath.
Following a wide path through Crowthorne Wood.
After a short while, we crossed the road and headed south into Caesar's Camp - an Iron Age hill fort around 2400 years old and probably wasn't used as a Roman camp, despite its proximity to the Roman Road known as the Devil's Highway. This road connected Calleva Atrebatum (Silchester) to Londinium (London).
Leaving Caesar's Camp, we headed east, south-east and then south to some buried reservoir tanks. Just behind them was Upper Star Post (also known as Roman Star Post) - a junction of six paths, including the aforementioned diabolical Roman road.
Upper Star Post, also known as Roman Star Post.
So we joined the Devil's Highway and followed it westward for about a mile, sharing it with cyclists and dog walkers alike. We stopped at the point where the Roman Road passed under the somewhat more modern A3094 Foresters Way. Turning right, we walked through mixed woodland to Wickham Bushes.
Wickham Bushes is known to be the site of a small Roman settlement, as plenty of pottery and other Roman artefacts have been found here to prove it (unlike Caesar's Camp where there is little evidence of Roman occupation, despite the name!)
Approaching Wickham Bushes, the site of a Roman settlement.
On the way there, we passed the remains of a reboubt that had been part of a defence line built in 1792 in preparation for the Napoleonic Wars. It was now very overgrown and could easily have been missed if our leader hadn't stopped us and pointed it out.
Leaving Wickham Bushes, we headed north through Scots pines to Hut Hill. An open clearing at the top allowed us to see quite a few identifiable buildings in Bracknell, plus a few in Reading and Wokingham.
Stopping for refreshments just before the end of the walk.
From Hut Hill, we descended northward, back on to Nine Mile Ride. We followed this to the junction with Foresters Way and, while standing on a large traffic island, split up. Those wanting to stop off at The Golden Retriever for refreshments went one way, while those wanting to go straight home retraced our outgoing route back to the car park. See our route on Google Maps.
Being a warm day, if a little overcast, we sat outside The Golden Retriever and enjoyed our drinks. Having started at 9:30 and because the walk was just 5 miles, without a lunch-stop, we'd finished the walk at 11:30, just in time for the pub to open!
Thank you to Sue for leading this walk and Jonathan for back-marking.
Walk 592 - Turville Heath Circuit
Walking through Pishillbury Wood on the Oxfordshire Way.
On Sunday 16th July, ten of us met up in the Warburg Nature Reserve car park. It's an interesting drive to get there, along a twisty, narrow and potholed lane, but we all found it in time for a ten o'clock start. This seven-mile walk promised lots of hills and a cooked lunch at The Barn at Turville Heath. A table had been booked for us by our walk leader, Ann. Normally we all bring packed lunches to walks, so this was a treat.
We set off and immediately went uphill on a steep footpath through the nature reserve to Lodge Farm, gaining 275 feet of height on the way. Our route then joined the Oxfordshire Way, crossing a field and entering more woodland at Maidensgrove.
Crossing Balham's Farm on our way from Pishill to Turville Heath.
Soon we were heading downhill through Pishillbury Wood. Then it was uphill again through a field up to Pishill House. There seemed to be a big party going on here. A track had been laid to allow cars to enter a field behind the house, where there was a makeshift car park and a number of large bell-tents.
Heading downhill from the big house, we passed Pishill church, tucked away in woodland, and crossed the B480 road. Leaving the Oxfordshire Way we headed east and uphill along a narrow footpath that brought us out on to Hollandridge Lane.
Following the Shakespeare's Way to Stonor Park.
Crossing the road, we descended into a farm and then uphill again across a large field. From the top, we could see Stonor Park, a game of cricket being played near Stonor, and the neat rows of tents at Pishill House.
Passing through a wrought iron gate, we crossed parkland into Turville Heath. Here we found a wooden bus stop that had a long shelf of books. We briefly sifted through the titles and one of our members found a book suitable for his grandchildren. Turning left at Turville Grange, we soon arrived at The Barn at Turville Heath.
Some fallow deer and a whiter deer in Stonor Park.
We had an excellent lunch at this unusual restaurant. There were wooden tables in one barn, and some outside. The food was prepared in another barn. Repurposed vehicles were used throughout the place. A barbecue had been made from the front-half of a Land-Rover, the cake counter was made from a tractor and there were sections of a Morris 1000 Traveller decorating the quadrangle!
After lunch, we crossed though Summer Heath to Southend, where we joined the Shakespeare's Way, which took us through Kildridge Wood and into Stonor Park.
Stonor House as seen from the Shakespeare's Way in Stonor Park.
Stonor Park is a deer park and we did see a few. A small group of Fallow Deer and a White Deer were grazing quite close to the footpath. They must be used to people walking by as they casually looked at us and carried on grazing.
Stonor House looked impressive and there was a family-friendly play area next to it. I haven't been inside the house, but I'm told it's worth a visit. As we passed through the park, we saw that a circus was set up at the edge of the park by the B480 entrance. A strangely out of date form of entertainment, but just about still going.
The Chilton Way near Upper Assendon Farm, near Stonor.
A walk along the road through Stonor village brought us to a footpath that was part of the Chiltern Way, which we followed westward and uphill (again) though wheat fields and pasture up to Park Wood.
Emerging from the other side of Park Wood, we were back at Lodge Farm, and a few of us recognised that we'd been here in the morning. Soon we were descending the steep hill we'd come up at the start of the walk. The walk finished about ten minutes before the rain started, so we'd escaped getting wet, despite the forecast.
Our walk was 7.2 miles with over 1000 feet of ascent in total. A good workout, plus a good lunch! See our route on Google Maps and OS Maps.
Thank you to Ann for leading this walk and organising the lunch.
Walk 591 - Eastbury and Lambourn Downs
Following the gallops at Eastbury Down.
The weather forecast for Saturday 15th July was for a bit of everything. Light and heavy rain, very high winds, thunder and lightning, with sunny intervals. Just a bit off-putting! Despite that, four people turned up for a repeat of the first ever walk led by the Berkshire Weekend Walkers, when it started up on Sunday 15th July 2012.
Although there were several rain showers, some heavy, while travelling to Lambourn, the sun was out as we assembled in the free car park on Lambourn High Street, ready for the walk. After the usual introductions and a welcome to a visitor from the Oxford Weekend Walkers, we set off up the High Street and turned right onto Newbury Street. A footpath through the grounds of the Lambourn Sports Club took us onto Bockhampton Road, where we stopped to admire the chalk-stream River Lambourn.
Wading through tall grass on a footpath on Eastbury Down.
Now heading up a lane called Long Hedge, we were gaining height and heading up onto Eastbury Down. The byway connecting Beachdown Farm to Eastbury Grange seemed to be heavily populated by butterflies. Andrew, our visitor from the OWW, was very knowledgeable about these creatures and identified Marbled White, Tortoiseshell, Painted Lady, Comma, Red Admiral, Gatekeeper, Brimstone and Skipper varieties. They all seemed to be going about their business despite the strong wind.
The original route would leave this byway and go through a now nettle-infested footpath. When we did the pre-walk some weeks back, we'd tried and failed to use this path, so a detour was taken, adding slightly to the total length of the walk. We turned south at Grange Farm, and re-joined our original route further down.
A memorial sculpture to Captain Ken Potter.
The footpath to Eastbury was rather variable. Some of it had been recently cut back but one section was totally overgrown with tall grass, which was though going.
On arriving in Eastbury village, we walked up the road, admiring the many thatched cottages before reaching an interesting memorial sculpture of a Concorde aircraft and vapour trail carved from a Redwood tree. I'd done my research as was able to tell the others about how and why this had been created. See https://lambourn.org/flight-captain-ken-potter-1930-1977/ if you're interested in its story.
We stopped by a War Memorial near the church to eat our packed lunches. As we sat, two on a bench and two on the stepped base of the memorial, we commented on how different the weather had been to the forecast. No thunder and virtually no rain so far, but the wind was beginning to pick up, quite noticeably.
Having a drink at the Eastbury Plough.
After lunch, Andrew declared that it was his birthday and bought us all a drink at The Eastbury Plough, which was much appreciated. On leaving the pub, we followed a byway, heading south-west on to the Lambourn Downs. These were quite different to the Eastbury downs, with much more evidence of the recent heavy rain. Paths were muddy and often covered with loose stones, washed up by torrents of rainwater that must have flowed along these paths.
Much of the byway was enclosed by trees, whose leaves rustled loudly during the strong gusts of wind that the forecast had correctly predicted for the afternoon. We also had to skirt around some large puddles in the dips of the path. These got worse as we headed further south, toward Burgess's Farm.
Crossing a wheat field on Lambourn Downs.
During the pre-walk, which was in the middle of the June heatwave, this part of the route was the only section that was muddy, so I expecting this to be much worse after the recent rain. Today, we cut off the corner of the byway by crossing a wheat field and re-joining it after it turned northward.
Heading downhill now, again the path looked like it had been a river the previous day, with grass bent over and loose stones in evidence. At a crossing of tracks outside Cleeve Cottage, we took a track called Stony Lane. This was more muddy than stony today and there were the occasional flooded sections to skirt carefully around. Stony Lane ended as White Shute, another track, began. The ground beneath us was distinctly chalky, which may explain the name of this track.
Skirting around some large puddles on Stony Lane.
Passing gates to a nature reserve we went uphill again. We could now see the TV mast at Membury - a landmark we'd seen many times on this walk. Downhill again, we stopped at Hungerford Gap were we could look down on Lambourn and across to Eastbury Down, where we'd been that morning.
As we approached Lambourn, the rain began. A few light drops at first and then heavier ones. We were only ten minutes away from the end of the walk, so we pressed on and got to the car park before the rain was heavy enough to need waterproof jackets. In fact, our jackets had not needed to come out of our rucksacks all day, despite the depressing weather forecast. We'd done 9 miles with 488m (1,600ft) of ascent in total. See our route on Google Maps and OS Maps.
Thank you to Emma for co-leading the walk with me and providing a picture for my write-up.
Walk 590 - Aldworth, Streatley Warren and The Ridgeway
Assembling outside The Bell Inn.
On Sunday 9th July, twenty-two eager walkers met up at The Bell Inn in Aldworth on an overcast morning. Mike, the leader, was keen to try the Five Giants ale but after talking to the publican he noted that he had 150 pints of another ale to go through before switching barrels. The overcast day was suggesting that sales may be slow! Mike provided us a rundown on the well, which is opposite the pub. With Aldworth being on the top of a ridge, water was at a premium and in 1867 a well of 373 feet was dug making it one of the deepest in the UK. Next move was down to the nearby 14th Century St Mary's church. The church has a number of attractions including the grave of the poet Laurence Binyon who wrote The Fallen: They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old...
St Mary's Church, Aldworth.
Lord Tennison's in-laws are buried at the Church as is Marianne Faithfull's mother, Eva Hermine von Sacher-Masoch. Marianne was Mick Jagger's girlfriend for four years and the song, “As tears go by”, is based on her.
Probably the main feature of St Mary’s are the "Aldworth Giants". They are unique in being all of one family and were made in the late 13th and early 14th centuries. The family lived at the now defunct La Beche Castle in the parish and held many high offices at Court, particularly Lord Nicholas who became Seneschal of Gascony and Constable of the Tower of London. His father, Sir Philip, is the huge man in the north-east corner with a dwarf companion at his feet to show off his height. Hence the monuments' nickname. Elizabeth I visited this early tourist attraction with the Earl of Leicester, but unfortunately, the effigies were subsequently mutilated during the Civil War and buried in the church grounds, but were dug up in later centuries. Well worth a visit!
Streatley Warren on the way to The Ridgeway.
We then headed down Townsend Road towards The Ridgeway, which rewarded us with some wonderful views, now that the sun was fully out. After joining The Ridgeway, we passed the entrance to the Well Barn Estate, which I believe is owned by the former Pizza Express director, Hugh Osmond. The security cameras were pointed in our direction but that is only to keep a watch on those entering the property to use the footpaths that traverse the estate. I would recommend walking these footpaths as they cross some beautiful countryside.
Lunch in the garden of The Bell Inn.
After following The Ridgeway we joined Rectory Road, which follows The Ridgeway. We then turned south into a footpath/laneway that took us to Kiddington Cottage where a barbecue was in full swing; not quite Australian quality but it did smell great. We then followed the footpath across fields followed by a short walk along a track and then joined another footpath for our final stretch to Aldworth. The sun was warming and the pub was heaving, which meant a wait for our filled rolls and drinks, which we enjoyed on the numerous seating available for patrons. Only 70 pints had been consumed so Mike missed out on the Five Giants ale.
Thanks go to Mike for leading this walk, to Ian for writing it up, to Ian and Susie for the photos.
Walk 589 - Aldermaston, Cake and Thunder
Liz's homemade cakes. Don't they look professional?
The weather forecast for Saturday 8th July wasn't very inspiring. Rain and thunder were on the way. In fact, a few drops just started to fall as seven of us assembled in the car park by Rosebourne Garden Centre on the edge of Aldermaston village.
The walk description in the programme promised a cake-stop as well as a café-stop en-route, and the instructions were for us to bring some cake to the walk. Therefore, it was quite unexpected when Liz, the walk leader, offered us all cakes that she's made herself to a most professional standard. She'd made rock cakes and lemon cupcakes, and had even invested in colourful cardboard packaging!
The lock at Aldermaston Wharf.
With our chosen cakes safely in our rucksacks, we followed the pavement by the A340 Basingstoke Road until it diverged into the Aldermaston Cycleway - a combined cycle and footpath. We followed this to Aldermaston Bridge, where we crossed the River Kennet and left it for Frouds Lane, which took us to Froud's Bridge and the Kennet & Avon Canal. The sky looked foreboding and we could hear the odd rumble of thunder as we followed the canal towpath.
After a mile, we reached the lock at Aldermaston Wharf. We crossed to the other side of the canal on a swing-bridge shared with road traffic. Back on the towpath, we stopped at the Aldermaston Wharf Tea Rooms. The rain began to fall more heavily as we were ordering our various drinks, hot and cold. Luckily there were tables inside.
Oh dear! We were supposed to be using this path.
Suitably refreshed, we donned our waterproofs and continued along the towpath, but just after passing Padworth Lock, there was a temporary fence blocking the path and signs saying "Danger - Construction Site - Keep Out". Liz now had to come up with a detour to her planned route, which involved doubling back to Aldermaston Wharf and taking Mill Lane down to Padworth Mill.
From here, a footpath crossed the River Kennet on a couple of bridges over the weir and then took us south to Aqua Vitae Copse where we joined a quiet lane. This we followed to Upper Church Farm, where we took a footpaths across fields and into a strip of woodland containing a large stream, or small river (take your choice) complete with water lilies and bull rushes. Very picturesque.
A woodland stream/river near Upper Church Farm.
The rain had stopped before we reached an old oak tree in a field - the location of the planned cake-stop. When Liz did the recce for this walk, there had been a great big log, which we could have used as a bench. It had gone, so we stood as we ate the amazing cakes that Liz had made for us. They tasted as good as they looked.
Invigorated by the sugar rush, we crossed a couple more fields and emerged onto Red Lane. At this point, it looked like there might be a footpath that would take us back into Aldermaston without having to walk along the lane. A quick exploration of the woodland opposite failed to reveal a suitable footpath, so we walked along Red Lane for half a mile. On reaching Aldermaston village, we headed up Basingstoke Road back to the car park. See our route on Google Maps. After thanking Liz for the walk and the cakes, a few of us went into the garden centre while the rest went home.
Thank you to Liz for leading this walk and making the lovely cakes. Thank you to Emma for the photos.
Walk 588 - Streatley Hill and the River Thames
A view of Moulsford Downs from Unhill Wood.
Sunday 2nd July was pleasantly cool compared with June's unusually high temperatures. Ten of us (including two visitors from other groups and a newcomer trying us out) met up in the car park on Streatley Hill. The walk started be descending through Goring and Streatley golf course and joining Rectory Road, which is part of The Ridgeway national trail. We followed this westward and upward onto the downs.
After a couple of miles, we left The Ridgeway turning north-east through Town Copse and into Unhill Wood. It was obvious from our surroundings that 'Unhill' did not mean 'not hilly' so I looked it up. It is an old English word meaning to uncover or reveal. This sort of made sense, as we got brief but frequent views across the valley to Ham Wood and then Moulsford Downs as we walked along the path through Unhill Wood.
On the Thames Path between Moulsford and Cleeve.
Crossing the road on Shortlands Hill, we were shouted at by a cyclist hurtling down the hill towards us at a phenomenal speed. He was recklessly going flat-out down hill, perhaps to achieve his personal best top speed, but he would not have been able to stop if there had been something in the road that didn't respond to his shouting.
Now heading for Moulsford, we stopped along the path to have our packed lunches and enjoy the views of this rural part of the Thames Valley. After lunch, we headed into Mouslford village and then down Ferry Lane, where we joined the Thames Path by the Beetle and Wedge riverside inn and restaurant.
Cleeve Lock and Weir.
We passed some fancy houses that backed onto the river and pondered on how much these properties must be worth. We could only dream of moving in to one of these places without the help of a substantial lottery win.
Heading south along the Thames Path we left Moulsford behind us and covered a mile or so before reaching Cleeve Lock. Here we watched a boat entering the lock and observed people carrying their paddle-boards and kayaks along the towpath from one side of the lock to the other.
Lardon Chase with Streatley and Cleeve in the background.
A bit further south of Cleeve Lock, the Thames Path leaves the river to skirt around The Swan at Streatley hotel and restaurant. Here we took the opportunity to have refreshments in their riverside garden, which was nice.
Leaving The Swan at Streatley, we followed the narrow and ancient High Street up to the junction with Reading and Wallingford Roads. Crossing at the lights by The Bull pub, we walked up the road a bit before branching off through a small close and then a gate, to the foot of the steep hill up Lardon Chase. This was hard work, but the views of Streatley, Goring and Cleeve from the top were our reward. Following the path along the top took us back to the car park. See our route on Google Maps.
Thank you to Rosy for leading this walk.
Walk 587 - A Game of Foot-Golf at Wokingham
Preparing for our first ever game of Foot-Golf.
On Sunday 1st July, six of us quite literally kicked off the BWW 11th birthday celebrations at Wokingham Family Golf Centre. None of us had ever played Foot Golf before and the more familiar looking adventure golf course looked tempting, being similar to what we probably played on holidays when we were younger.
The weather that morning was unpromising with a steady drizzle but by the time we tee'd off (in golf parlance) it had cleared up and turned into a pleasantly summers day with a cool breeze and an occasional glimmer of sun.
Teeing off for the first hole.
We probably could have all gone round in one group but being newbies, we dutifully complied with the rule that no more than 5 could play in any group and split ourselves into two groups of three. We had great fun negotiating the fairways (the hole lengths ranging between 60 and 160 yards in length) and trying to kick the ball in the hole in as few shots as we could.
On the Green - So near and yet...
Leaving the tee off area were natural obstacles in the form of tall rough grass either side of the grass fairways and patches of rough ground in front of the greens with more unmown grass. People finding the rough either took a penalty to get out or hopefully hacked the ball out a few yards in Tiger Woods style (with our foot of course, not a 9 iron).
Having reached the greens, we were confronted with artificial greens with slight and subtle undulations in the manner of St Andrews with the pace of billiard tables and a slightly awkward breeze. This meant that seemingly good “putts” veered off course at the last moment and went off the green.
Back at the Clubhouse for drinks and lunch.
There was a fine margin between achieving a par score of 3 or 4 (which we occasionally achieved with woops and roars all round!) or more frequently we battled gamely to get a score in single figures before the course-imposed maximum score of 10 kicked in (if you excuse the pun).
Lots of fun was had by all and afterwards we settled at the nearby café for lunch and drinks, and some friendly socialising. Thanks for everyone who came along for their Foot Golf efforts and their friendly chat and banter on and off the course. Maybe, just maybe, we might repeat this event next year!
More details on the next social event will be shared soon. Let's hope the weather continues to be accommodating as it was today.
Thank you to Richard for organising this social event and writing it up, and to Emma for the photos.