Sunday, 29 June 2008
Eastbury, Lambourn and Lambourn Downs
This is a simple, basically triangular walk. It starts from the pretty village of Eastbury, north of Hungerford, and follows the line of the narrow but fast flowing River Lambourn to Lambourn itself. There is then a steep climb up the hill to reach the downs followed by an exhilerating walk up and down back to Eastbury.
The Lambourn is a very attractive stream, which although clear and fast flowing also has in places a carpet of flowers on top of the weeds.
Lambourn town is approached via a modern housing estate and a fish and chip shop, but soon reveals its racing heritage with a saddle maker's shop and signs to the equine hospital. There are some lovely Georgian and Victorian houses, one on the road in has a beautiful terracotta plaque on the corner. In the centre is a lovely old church and the amazing almhouses - see below.
Once on the downs, the sense of openness and sky is wonderful. The downland is punctuated by racing gallops - the curved route in the valley in the picture below.
A quite energetic six miles in all.
From: Nick Channer - Waterside walks in Berkshire (Countryside Books).
Map: Explorer 158 (Newbury and Hungerford).
Rating: Four stars. Next time I think I would start the walk from Lambourn. The only drawback with the walk is the long climb up from the racing gallops to the next ridge coming near to the end of the walk. I think I would prefer to have the flat bit along by the river at the end! However, I suppose it would be less obvious as a "waterside" walk then.
Lots of poppies in intense orangey-red. The corner of the field below is worthy of Monet and added an intense flash of colour to the usual variety of shades of green.
In the early part of the walk I came upon a hare at the edge of a field. How big! And what big ears! The picture reveals that there was also a deer, that I did not spot at the time, lurking in the background.
Apart from that, lots of brown butterlies: Ringlets in profusion, and the occasional Meadow Brown and Small Heath.
I spotted these quite by chance - I saw some beautiful brickwork and an imposing gatehouse behind the church. A passerby very kindly explained that the building was almshouses and showed me inside.
The lettering above the doorway says "By John Estbury AD 1502. Rebuilt by Henry Hippisley AD 1852". The initials JE and HH are visible higher up the wall. Pevsner describes the almhouses as "very picturesque", although he credits them to T Talbot Bury, so Mr Hippisley was presumably the builder. Pevsner also describes the interior cloister as "sweet", which is very apt.
He does not mention three sculptures of "green men" which my guide drew my attention to. One is round the left side of the gatehouse (below) and there are two others inside.