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Our Scrapbook of Previous Walks

To give you an idea of what our walks are like, we have put together a scrapbook featuring some of the walks that we've done so far. We have been walking since July 2012 and our ever-growing scrapbook is divided into quarterly volumes.

Volume 8: April to June, 2014

Walk 109 - An Evening Walk in Swallowfield

Clarks Farm, Swallowfield
Walking along the edge of a maize field on Clark's Farm.

On the evening of Wednesday 25th June, eight of us plus a small Jack-Russell terrier gathered by the George & Dragon pub in Swallowfield for a 4¾ mile walk followed by a pub supper. What a pleasant way to unwind after a day at work and to make the most of the long hours of daylight at this time of year.

We started the walk by crossing the pub's beer garden and passing through a gate onto a footpath heading north. This soon joined another footpath running north-east along the edge of Swallowfield Park. We couldn't see the stately home from where we were, just the grounds with sheep and piles of logs.

Wheeler's Copse, Swallowfield
Walking along a track through Wheeler's Copse.

A short bit of road-walking came next and then we were following a track through woodland going roughly south. This emerged onto a country road, which we followed briefly before turning off onto a track through Clark's Farm.

Leaving the track we crossed between fields where maize was growing. This must have been planted fairly recently as it was still quite small. Some more road-walking on Sandpit Lane was followed by a long track through Wheeler's Copse emerging onto Jouldings Lane.

Broadwater, Swallowfield
Freddie leading the way on the Blackwater Valley Path.

We only walked a few yards along this lane before leaving it at a bridge over the River Blackwater for a footpath that roughly followed the course of the Blackwater going westward. We followed this for about a mile, during which time the footpath varied in quality from good to seriously overgrown. At one point the path was surrounded by cow parsley and nettles taller than us.

Somewhere along this path the River Whitewater joined the River Blackwater to form the Broadwater. The path then left the river and joined Nutbean Lane, which we followed until it joined Church Road, very close to the pub from where we had started.

A couple of the group left us as we reached the pub, while the rest of us changed out of our boots and went in. See our route on Bing Maps.

We were joined at the pub by another member of our group who hadn't made it to the walk. After getting in a round of drinks, we sat down to a late supper. The walk had sharpened our appetites and the excellent food was much appreciated.

Walk 108 - Aldermaston Wharf and Padworth

Overgrown Footbridge, Padworth
A rather overgrown footbridge across a stream near Padworth.

The longest day (21st June) saw sixteen of us assemble at Aldermaston Wharf for Mike's walk around Padworth; mostly BWW regulars plus a visitor from another group and a couple of newcomers.

We set off from the railway station, crossed the Kennet & Avon Canal at the lock, and joined its towpath heading westward. Following this out of the village, we continued on the towpath until we reached the Frouds Lane Bridge, where we left the canal and followed Frouds Lane to the south.

Fisherman's Lane, Padworth
Fisherman's Lane (Track) near Padworth.

Frouds Lane joined the A340 Basingstoke Road, which we followed westward until it crossed the River Kennet, where we left the road for a footpath through fields. A number of streams separated the fields and the route crossed these by way of footbridges.

The banks of these streams were rather overgrown, with all sorts of vegetation, including nettles. Some care was required when crossing, especially for those of us wearing shorts! Luckily some of the better protected walkers went first and attempted to clear the way for us.

Zebra or Horse?
Is it a zebra or a horse in disguise?

Next we joined a well maintained track called Fisherman's Lane, which took us north-eastward, running roughly parallel with the River Kennet, although not close enough to see it.

We branched off the track to take a footpath through a field of barley and then uphill through Home Farm stables, near Padworth College. From a distance, we saw what looked like a zebra amongst the horses. As we got closer, it was revealed to be a horse clad in a stripy blanket!

We left the stables and joined a quiet lane called Raghill, which we followed up to Old Farm.

Canal, Lower Padworth
Following the Kennet & Avon Canal, north-east of Aldermaston Wharf.

Crossing the farm, we continued on a practically invisible footpath through large pasture fields, heading north and downhill. From here we gained a good view of West Berkshire.

We stopped for our picnic lunch in the lower corner of the field before joining a more obvious footpath heading north-east along the edges fields and woodlands. This footpath ended at Middle Farm where we continued our walk along a quiet lane heading more-or-less northward to Ufton Green Farm.

From there we followed Ufton Lane as far as Ufton Bridge, which crossed both the River Kennet and the Kennet & Avon Canal.

Tea Shop, Aldermaston
We stopped for ice creams, tea, coffee and scones.

After crossing this bridge, we re-joined the canal towpath heading south-west, back towards Aldermaston Wharf. En-route we passed the lock at Towney Bridge and Froude's Swing Bridge where Padworth Lane crosses the canal.

Passing a number of moored narrow-boats, some of which were for sale, we entered the village of Aldermaston Wharf where we stopped at the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust Tea Room. Between us, several ice creams, cups of coffee, tea, milkshakes and cakes were consumed before finishing the walk with the short distance back to the railway station. See our route on Bing Maps.

On such a pleasant, warm, dry day, the flooding that had prevented us from doing this walk earlier in the year seemed like a distant memory.

Walk 107 - Walk Number 107 - The Test Way - Part 2

Harewood Forest
Walking through Harewood Forest on the Test Way between St Mary Bourne and Longparish.

On Sunday 15th June we completed part two of the Test Way, which started at St Mary Bourne and ended at West Down, near Chilbolton. Four of us met up at West Down, where we left three of the cars and travelled to St Mary Bourne in the fourth.

We joined the Test Way by the village shop and playing field. We followed it southward to Berrydown Farm and then south-west to Lower Wyke Farm, where it joined a lane, which crossed over a railway line on a small road bridge.

Middleton Mermaid
Walking through Middleton, we came across a mermaid!

Continuing south-east, past Faulkner's Down Farm, we entered Harewood Forest on our way to Middleton, near Longparish. We stopped for lunch by a field of broad beans in Middleton Farm.

After lunch we followed the edge of a wheat field into the village of Middleton, where the Test Way turned south-west again. Following a lane through the village, we came across a mermaid in someone's garden!

On leaving Middleton, we followed an official detour of the Test Way. This took us onto a road bridge over the busy A303. The original route of the Test Way actually crossed the dual carriageway! There are signs on the road warning motorists of pedestrians crossing but I still think they'd be pretty surprised to see people walking across it. The detour seamed a very sensible alteration to the route.

Crossing the A303
The original Test Way crossed the busy A303 road. We took the bridge over the road.

After struggling along an overgrown footpath that ran alongside the road, we turn off westward following a footpath by Pachington Farm. This deserted place felt slightly sinister as there were odd 'Keep Out' signs that mentioned biocontainment areas. There was also a large piggery that was deathly silent.

Anyway, we carried on following the Test Way through the southern part of Harewood Forest, then south and downhill into Wherwell - a very picturesque village full of old thatched cottages. Following the markers for the Test Way through the village, we approached the River Test.

Crossing the River Test
A bridge over the River Test at Wherwell.

This was the first part of the walk where we could actually see the River Test close up. In fact the Test Way crossed the river on a long wooden bridge, taking us into Chilbolton Cow Common. This is obviously a popular spot for families to enjoy the countryside. We saw children playing in and around the river, and a small boy with a plastic toy lawnmower trying to mow the meadow.

From there it was less than a mile to the car park at West Down. See our route on Bing Maps. After the walk I drove our leader, Diane, back to her car in St Mary Bourne while the other two drove straight home. The Test Way is certainly varied, but we saw surprisingly little of the River Test. I believe that part three follows the river much more closely.

Walk 106 - Avebury and the Ridgeway

The Ridgeway
Walking along the start of The Ridgeway at Overton Hill.

If you don't like the British weather then just wait for a couple of hours. I woke up to thunder and rain this June morning. At one point on the journey to the start point of this walk, the rain was so heavy that I expected to be overtaken by Noah's Ark, but the rain stopped completely about half an hour before the walk started.

The weather clearly put a lot of people off as only six people turned up for Sue's walk - three regulars and three guests. We assembled at the start point and donned our waterproofs, expecting more rain, but had to remove them after less than an hour of walking because it was getting rather warm.

Wick Down Farm
Following a farm track along Wick Down towards Hackpen Hill.

From the car park we set off north along The Ridgeway, which starts here at Overton Hill and makes its way north-east through Wiltshire and the Chilterns, finishing at Ivinghoe Beacon in Buckinghamshire, covering a distance of 87 miles.

We only stayed on it for a couple of miles before diverting off to the east on the Wessex Ridgeway for about a mile and then heading north to join the White Horse Trail. This route took us up and down, through farmland and some rather muddy woodland, eventually arriving on the other side of Hackpen Hill in a field of buttercups and the White Horse.

White Horse
The White Horse on Hackpen Hill. Not very easy to see when you're this close.

Despite sounding like the name of a pub, the White Horse is a large figure of a horse, carved into the chalk of the hillside. Its origin is uncertain but it is believed to have been cut in 1838 by Henry Eatwell, a Broad Hinton parish clerk, with the assistance of the landlord of a local pub, to commemorate the coronation of Queen Victoria.

We stopped here to have our picnic lunch and admire the view. After lunch we re-joined The Ridgeway along the top of Hackpen Hill, this time heading south, but before reaching the intersection with the Wessex Ridgeway, we diverted south-west.

Avebury Standing Stones
A view of some of the standing stones at Avebury.

This short-cut took us through another farm and back onto the Wessex Way, which we followed into the picturesque village of Avebury, built within a Neolithic Henge composed of three circles of standing stones.

Our first stop was the Red Lion pub, where we rehydrated and rested our legs before further exploring the village. The reputation of the cakes in the Circles Café decided our next stop. After indulging ourselves, we continued our walk with a tour around the standing stones before leaving the village on a footpath heading south alongside the River Kennet.

Silbury Hill
A view of Silbury Hill from West Kennet Long Barrow. Big, isn't it!

We passed Silbury Hill on our way to West Kennet Long Barrow. Silbury Hill is possibly the largest Neolithic man-made mound in the world, being similar in size to some of the smaller Egyptian pyramids at Giza. Its purpose is not known. It is not a burial mound, unlike most of the other barrows in the area.

West Kennet Long Barrow, on the other hand, is a Neolithic tomb, and this was our next stop after crossing the A4 and walking up the hill between fields of barley and of wheat. This chambered long barrow is believed to have been constructed around 3600 BC. Archaeological excavations have found at least 46 burials, ranging from babies to elderly persons.

West Kennet Long Barrow
A view of the accessible part of the interior of West Kennet Long Barrow.

We explored the accessible part of the interior of the long barrow. Then we went back down the hill we had just come up and took a footpath going east that ran roughly parallel to the A4. This took us through farmland and on more muddy paths before turning north back to the car park where we'd started.

Just before reaching the car park, we passed the site of a stone circle known as The Sanctuary. We stopped to look at it. There were small wooden markers indicating where the stones had once stood, with an information board in front. This seemed a little unimpressive compared to what we had already seen today.

We'd taken our time on this 14½ mile walk as there were so many interesting things to see, not to mention having stopped at the pub and the café. We finished around 6pm. See our route on Bing Maps.

Walk 105 - Basingstoke Canal, Figure-of-Eight

Basingstoke Canal
Boats on the Basingstoke Canal, near Broad Oak Bridge.

Some nice weather and the option to do a long or shorter walk attracted seventeen people to our walk on Sunday 1st June.

This was almost a repeat of our 11th walk, which we did in September 2012, expect for some minor changes to the route and some major differences in the weather! Last time round we had heavy rain all morning. This time we had sunshine all day.

We set off from Odiham Wharf car park and followed the canal tow-path going east towards Winchfield Hurst. On the way we were passed by the occasional canoe or boat.

Equestrian Statue
A bronze equestrian statue, grazing by the Basingstoke Canal. (The ducks are real.)

As we approached Winchfield Hurst we saw a horse in someone's garden by the canal. On closer inspection it proved to be a life-size statue.

On our arrival at Winchfield Hurst, we were obliged to leave the tow-path. There was a landslip last year on the Dogmersfield loop where trees and soil slid down the bank and pushed the tow-path into the canal. Although the canal is now open to navigation, the tow-path is still closed, so we followed a mixture of lanes and footpaths through Dogmersfield and back on to the tow-path further south.

Cow in Food Trough
Walking through Dogmersfield Park we came across a cow lying down in a food trough!

Doubling back up the tow-path, we crossed the canal and entered Dogmersfield Park, where we stopped by Tundry Pond to eat our picnic lunch and watch the swans.

After lunch we walked through the park estate and came across a cow lying in a food trough. It seemed happy enough and didn't appear to be stuck so we didn't worry ourselves about it. Perhaps it was cooler in the food trough than in the field.

Broad Oak Meadow
Walking through Broad Oak Meadow.

We left Dogmersfield Park, made our way through a rather muddy woodland path and emerged into a sunlit meadow, filled with buttercups, large daisies, and an almost hidden stream running across the middle of it.

After walking through Broad Oak, a single lane with its handful of houses, we crossed the canal over Broad Oak bridge and re-joined the tow-path, heading west back to Odiham Wharf. On reaching the car park, most of the group elected to finish the walk there, having done 7½ miles. Six of us continued with the second loop of this figure-of-eight walk.

Rope Swing
Walking through Warnborough Green, we discovered a rope swing hanging from a tree.

Heading west along the tow-path for about 1km, we diverted through a farm to the Derby Inn for a relaxing drink in their beer garden before crossing through Warnborough Green. We came across a rope swing hanging from a tree, and as no one else was there to see us, we thought we'd try it out. It took my weight OK but no one else was brave enough (or childish enough) to try it.

Next we crossed the River Whitewater at a ford before re-joining the Basingstoke Canal tow-path by King John's Castle (also known as Odiham Castle). We took a look at the ruins before continuing along the tow-path towards the Greywell Tunnel.

We saw several fish swimming in the Basingstoke Canal.

The last half-a-mile of canal before the entrance to the Greywell Tunnel is a nature reserve and not open to boats. As a result, the water is very clear and fish can easily be seen. The tunnel is also closed to water-born traffic and is home to several species of bat.

As we walked alongside this section of the canal we saw quite a few examples of the local wildlife. These included fish (we also saw fish in the River Whitewater) swans with their cygnets and some baby moorhens on a nest.

The the tow-path stops at the tunnel entrance, so we followed a short footpath into Greywell and then walked along a lane heading out of the village, going south-east.

Swan and Cygnets
A swan and her cygnets on the Basingstoke Canal near the Greywell Tunnel.

The lane crossed the River Whitewater before we left it for a footpath that took us through fields back to the canal at the Warnborough Green swing bridge. (Actually it's a lift-bridge.) Back on the tow-path again, we followed the canal through North Warnborough and back to Odiham Wharf.

It was after 5pm by the time we got back to the car park and the weather was still warm and sunny. The average pace on the second half of the walk was much slower than on the first, because we kept stopping to look at our surroundings, and so it took longer than the first half despite covering fewer miles. See our route on Bing Maps.

Walk 104 - Waltham St Lawrence in the Evening

Waltham St Lawrence
Walking from Waltham St Lawrence to Cold Harbour.

On Thursday evening, 29th May, Ian led our first evening walk of the year, which was attended by fourteen people and a dog. After gathering in the little green outside St Lawrence church and the Bell pub, we set off promptly at 6:45pm to make the most of the remaining daylight.

With the sun breaking through the clouds, we followed Halls Lane off to the north-east of the church and then left the road for a footpath through a wheat field that took us to a bridge over the railway. This looked rather new and must have replaced the old bridge quite recently.

Shottesbrooke Park
The pond in Shottesbrooke Park.

After crossing it we continued heading north-east through a field of oilseed rape, which had finished flowering and was now going to seed. There were a number of Flanders Poppies flowering along the edge of the field.

Our route joined Bottle Lane, where we took an abrupt turn to the south. We walked along this quiet lane, which crossed the railway and became Butchers Lane. This took us into White Waltham, where we stopped by the cricket pitch to let everyone catch up and to take a swig of water before continuing the walk.

From there we took a footpath heading west into Shottesbrooke Park, which looked splendid in the evening light, with its pond and 14th century church.

Shottesbrooke Park
The church of John the Baptist in Shottesbrooke Park.

Continuing westward on rather muddy footpaths through fields and woods, we made our way back to Waltham St Lawrence. Crossing Halls Lane we headed south-west through more fields and woods, emerging onto The Street. This we followed, heading north straight back to where we had started, outside the Bell pub. See our route on Bing Maps.

The pub was open so we went in for a post-walk drink. Sitting in the beer garden we chatted away as the light faded. We finished our drinks and said our goodbyes just as the rain started to fall. We'd timed it just right as the rain got quite heavy as we departed from Waltham St Lawrence.

Walk 102 - Berkhamsted and Gaddesden

Berkhamsted Hill
Heading up Berkhamsted Hill with the town of Berkhamsted behind us.

On Sunday 25th May, five of us turned up in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, for an 11½ mile walk led by Ian, who grew up in this town. With much local knowledge, Ian was able to provide plenty of information about the history, ancient and modern, of Berkhamsted during the walk.

We started the walk by the remains of the motte and bailey castle, built during the Norman conquest of England in 1066. From there we headed north east and up Berkhamsted Hill, where we had fine views of the town and its surrounding countryside. We could also see a cricket match in progress.

Wheat Field
Walking through a wheat field between Nettleden and Little Gaddesden.

Then into the woodlands of Berkhamsted Common, we continued upwards past Berkhamsted Golf Course to the War Memorial. We passed through the hamlets of Frithsden and Nettleden before turning north-west on a path through wheat fields taking us up to Little Gaddesden.

As we approached Little Gaddesden, we crossed a field with a few horses in it. One of them was very curious and became obsessed with Sue's rucksack. (She had some fresh mellon in it.) This was both comical and intimidating. I made some attempt to distract this young horse. Although I'm quite good with dogs, I know nothing about horse psychology and only succeeded in getting the horse to take an interest in my rucksack.

Hudnall Common
Walking through the mixture of woodland and meadow that is Hudnall Common.

Leaving Little Gaddesden and the horses, we headed north-east again, into Hudnall Common where we stopped to have our picnic lunch in the corner of a field of buttercups.

After lunch we set off westward back to Little Gaddesden again, where we stopped off for a drink at the Bridgewater Arms Hotel - named after Francis Egerton, 3rd Duke of Bridgewater, an 18th century nobleman famous as the originator of British inland navigation and the commissioner of the Bridgewater Canal.

Suitably refreshed we continued our walk heading south-west to Pitstone Copse where our route followed the edge of the driving range at Ashridge Golf Club.

Deer in Pitstone Copse at the end of the driving range at Ashridge Golf Club.

We were amazed to see so many deer congregating on the edge of the woods at the end of the driving range. There weren't any golfers using the range at the time. Nonetheless the deer seemed remarkably tame and we were able to get quite close before they fled into the woods.

Our route zigzagged south-east and south-west, through Ashridge Park and Berkhamsted Common, taking us back to the castle.

Ashridge House
Ashridge House, owned by the National Trust and occupied by the Ashridge Business College.

On the way we passed Ashridge House, a splendid mansion house now owned by the National Trust and occupied by the Ashridge Business College. This was commissioned by the 7th Earl of Bridgewater and was built on the site of a 13th century priory, which had been demolished in 1800.

Another cricket match was taking place on the fields opposite Ashridge House, and we could also see Bridgewater Monument in the distance.

This had been a very pleasant and educational walk with a good mixture of undulating countryside and fascinating facts. The weather had been good to us too, with no rain - unlike the rest of the Bank Holiday weekend. See our route on Bing Maps.

Walk 101 - Walk Number 101 - The Test Way - Part One

The Test Way is a 49 miles (79 km) long-distance footpath that starts from Walbury Hill in West Berkshire and heads roughly south to Eling Quay in Hampshire. The route passes through the towns of Romsey and Totton and the villages of Linkenholt, Ibthorpe, Hurstbourne Tarrant, St Mary Bourne, Longparish, Forton, Wherwell, Chilbolton, Stockbridge, Horsebridge and Mottisfont.

Diane, the leader, has divided the Test Way into four sections, of which this is the first. She will be leading us through the remaining sections in the coming months.

Walbury Hill
A view of West Berkshire from the top of Walbury Hill.

On Sunday 18th May, ten of us met at St Mary Bourne in Hampshire at 9:30am for the drive to Combe Gibbet, near Inkpen, to start our walk. The weather was perfect with blue sky, little cloud, temperatures in the 20s and a light breeze. Just what the doctor ordered.

Test Way
Heading south into Hampshire on the Test Way.

The walk took in just about everything from the lovely flora and fauna of May, (especially bluebell woods), to thatched cottages, converted chapels, meandering streams, horses, cows and pigs.

River Swift
The River Swift running right through somebody's front garden.

The walk was long, being 11 miles, and had a few cheeky upward slopes but was generally flat. The areas varied as much as the sights from open meadow to woodland to villages. The views over the Berkshire Downs were stunning.

We finished the walk beside the cricket pitch in the village, dodging the balls during a game...a lovely British scene to close the day, with part one over and three parts to go.

Thank you to Diane for the write-up and to Sue for the pictures.

Walk 100 - Hill Bottom, Whitchurch Hill

Thirty people turned up on Sunday 4th May at The Sun pub in Hill Bottom for our centennial walk. Our group has been going since July 2012 and in that time we've done 100 walks (including this one).

Path Hill
Crossing from Path Hill to Collins End on the Chiltern Way.

This walk was led by Tim, who joined our group in April last year and has already led several walks for us. We set off from the pub heading east along the road before turning south along a footpath enclosed by hedges. With a little bit of incline to start with, the path soon levelled out and we were on Whitchurch Hill, which wasn't much of a hill compared with other high points on the walk!

We then joined the Chiltern Way (the long-distance path that we see a lot of on our walks) heading east toward Collins End. Before reaching Collins End, we diverted from the Chiltern Way and descended into Bottom Wood, where there were plenty of bluebells in flower.

Mapledurham Lock
View of the River Thames and Mapledurham Lock from Straw Hill.

Ascending out of Bottom Wood onto Straw Hill, we were confronted with a view of the River Thames. We could see Mapledurham Lock and some of Reading. The wind-powered electricity generator at Green Park was visible, as was the water tower at Tilehurst.

We carried on walking east along the top of the hill, where we saw a man with a paraglider, waiting for the right wind conditions for take-off. Turning north, we descended into a valley and then up the other side to Whittle's Farm. This was the steepest hill on our route although I can't find a name for the hill on my map.

Sow and Piglets
A sow and her piglets, suckling on a farm near Abbotsfield.

Continuing north, down the other side of the unnamed hill, we entered Nuney Wood. Some of the paths were a bit muddy, but nothing too difficult. Changing direction to the west and into Holme Copse, we stopped to have lunch where there was a convenient fallen tree to sit on.

After the picnic was over, we continued our walk, emerging from the wood and crossing a farm. There were some piglets and sows in little sheds in a field we were passing, so we stopped to take a look.

Mapledurham Lock
One of the piglets came out to investigate us.

One of the piglets came out to investigate us but suddenly decided it didn't like the look of us and ran behind the shed. The piglet soon regained its courage and sauntered out from behind the shed and walked round to the front entrance to re-join its Mum and siblings.

Further on in the same farm we saw a small group of lambs enjoying the rich green grass. With the recent mix of sunshine and rain, everything was growing well.

Sheep and Lambs
Sheep and lambs on the same farm near Abbotsfield.

Heading north now, and into more bluebell filled woodland, we continued our walk. Once in the wood, we followed a path to the west until we came across a road. We followed the road north-west and then found another footpath heading south-west through more woodland.

At this time of year the woods show all the signs of life returning after winter. New leaves are sprouting from the skeletal trees with that bright green colour they have before they reach full size. While the new leaves are still small there is much more light in the woods for the wild flowers to enjoy. There was still quite a lot of mud on the paths, making some of them a little challenging.

Birthday Cake
One of the delicious treats waiting for us at the end of the walk.

At one point in Little Oaken Wood, our leader gave us a choice of taking the short way or the long way back to the pub. As the weather was so pleasant, we opted for the long route. This took us south-west out of the wood towards Blackbird's Bottom (Where do these names come from?) and on to Cold Harbour before turning south to Coombe End Farm.

From there we crossed Beech Wood and Beech Farm on our way back to Hill Bottom village. A bit of road walking got us back to the pub where we had started the walk. See our route on Bing Maps.

To celebrate our 100th walk, two of our members (Sue and Julia) had made a lemon layer cake, some chocolate muffins and some Mars bar crispy cakes. Also, the two members of the BWW Co-ordination Team that were on this walk (Jane and I) bought a large round of drinks for everyone. We gathered round a few picnic tables in the pub garden where I was cajoled into making a totally unprepared speech before we cut the cake and got stuck in.

Walk 99 - Wittenham Clumps and Thames Path

Waterlogged Gate
The puddle was deeper than it looked.

On Sunday 27th April, twelve of us gathered in the Oxfordshire village of Dorchester. It was typical April weather with a mix of sunshine and showers so we were togged up in waterproofs and sunglasses.

We set off heading south out of the village, towards the Thames. Our first obstacle was a swing-gate with a rather deep puddle under it - evidence of the recent rain. On reaching the river, we followed the Thames path heading west until we reached Little Wittenham Bridge. On the way we encountered our next obstacle - a barge, in the field, on the footpath!

Beached Barge
An unexpected sight along the Thames Path.

After a short break to remove the waterproofs (the rain had stopped and it was warming up) we crossed the bridge that led into Little Wittenham. From there we headed for Wittenham Clumps. Round Hill, the taller of the two "clumps", was directly ahead of us as we left Little Wittenham, but rather than walk straight up the obvious route, our leader took a more interesting route diagonally across into Little Wittenham Wood.

After crossing part of the wood, we began the uphill route to Castle Hill, the shorter of the two Clumps. Emerging from the wood, we crossed the ditches around the summit that form part of an ancient hill fort. Initially Bronze Age in origin, it is believed that further fortification was added in the Iron Age and the site was used later by the Romans.

Castle Hill Fort
Crossing the ditches of the Bronze Age fort on Castle Hill.

We followed the circumference of the earthworks about three-quarters of the way round before crossing over to Round Hill. From there we stopped to admire the view of Day's Lock and the River Thames before descending back to Little Wittenham.

Next we followed a footpath that took us through the beautifully kept back garden of a rather large house, then through a meadow and into a farm. Our next obstacle was a stretch of muddy track by some farm buildings. The mud was very slippery, and it became obvious as we waded through it that it wasn't just mud! The field of cows nearby confirmed our suspicions.

Mud and Something
Carefully crossing through the mud. (It wasn't just mud!)

From the farm, we made our way to the village of Long Wittenham and then to the Thames Path again. We stopped at a suitable point along the path to have our picnic lunch. A few spits of rain threatened to spoil our lunch but came to nothing.

We followed the Thames Path for a couple of miles to Day's Lock, where we crossed over the weir and the lock. One of us noticed that we hadn't seen a single boat on the river all day.

We made our way across fields back to Dorchester, where we changed out of our muddy boots before going for a post-walk drink at a local pub. See our route on Bing Maps.

Walk 98 - Henley, Bix and Greys Court

Descending to Middle Assendon on the Oxfordshire Way.

Despite the forecast of heavy rain, fifteen walkers turned up at Henley-on-Thames on a rather cold and cloudy Easter Sunday. This was quite a contrast to the recent long spell of sunny and dry weather we'd been enjoying.

Once the train had arrived, bringing a few of our walkers, we set off from the station down to the waterfront, which we followed as far as the bridge before heading into the town. We headed north along the main road before joining end of the Oxfordshire Way - a 68 mile long distance path from Bourton-on-the-Water in Gloucestershire to Henley-on-Thames.

Middle Assendon
A tree-lined footpath from Middle Assendon to Bix.

After the steep ascent onto The Mount, the path through the deer park took a more gentle ascent, past Henley Park to Crockmore Farm, totalling 100m (330ft) of ascent from Henley town-centre. Of course this meant a steep descent of 80m (260ft) into the village of Middle Assendon.

No sooner than we entered Middle Assendon, we left it again on an uphill tree-lined footpath. Apart from a few drops, we'd escaped the predicted rain so far, but now it began to rain quite heavily. Hoods went up, over-trousers were donned, and we carried on regardless.

Lawrence Farm
The bluebells were flowering in the woods by Lawrence Farm.

The tree-lined footpath led us onto a lane, which continued uphill to the tiny village of Bix, 70m (230ft) above Middle Assendon. Passing the Bix Manor Farm and joined the Chiltern Way - a long distance footpath that runs through the Chiltern Hills, passing through parts of the counties of Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and Oxfordshire.

The Chiltern Way snaked through farmland, woodlands full of flowering bluebells, and through the grounds of Greys Court. The rain stopped as we reached Greys Court, which looked busy with a full car park and plenty of visitors enjoying their Easter holiday.

Greys Court Bluebells
A sea of bluebells in the woods by Greys Court.

Leaving Greys Court, we stopped for lunch by a sports field in the village of Greys Green. The rain held off while we ate our packed lunches. Apart from a few brief showers the rain held off for the rest of the walk and, luckily for us, the real storm came along after we'd gone home.

Once the picnic was over, we continued on the Chiltern Way for a short distance before leaving it for another footpath, which took us through Rotherfield Greys and eventually back to Henley. We entered Henley near the college and then walked through the streets back into the town centre. See our route on Bing Maps.

Unusually for us, we decided against a pub stop in Henley as we were rather wet and muddy. This is not normally a problem when we visit country pubs but we thought we might feel out of place in a town pub full of people enjoying their Sunday lunch.