Sunday, 27 July 2008

Combe Gibbet to Hamstead Marshall (Berkshire Way 3)

Descent of Walbury Hill, looking north

This is the third leg of the BBC's splendid Berkshire Way, from Combe Gibbet to Hamstead Marshall (4.75 miles - though it seemed longer).

The first stage of the walk follows the Wayfarers' Way over Walbury Hill, the site of an iron age hill fort. It is also the highest point in Berkshire (arguably not much of a distinction) at 297m.

The walk then descends to pass between the villages of Inkpen and West Woodhay through fields and lanes to Hamstead Marshall.

The view from Walbury Hill suggested a wooded route and this was largely borne out. We were especially taken with this fir.

Approaching Hamstead Marshall you pass the "re-homing" centre of the Dogs Trust (once the Canine Defence League) which was predictably noisy. A helpful sign in the car park explained the steps in the process of adopting a dog.

Rating: three and a half stars. A very pleasant, quiet ramble through a less well-known corner of Berkshire.

Map: Explorer 158 (Newbury and Hungerford).


On closer inspection the yellow in the picture above proved to be a field of ragwort. It looked very pretty - a yellow field which for once was not rape. However, it turns out that it is a most pernicious weed. A quick search on the internet reveals that it is toxic, a threat to horses, ponies and other animals and one of only five weeds covered by the provisions of The Weeds Act 1959.

Under the Weeds Act 1959 the Secretary of State may serve an enforcement notice on the occupier of land on which injurious weeds are growing, requiring the occupier to take action to prevent the spread of injurious weeds. The other injurious weeds are Spear Thistle, Creeping or Field Thistle, Broad leaved Dock and Curled Dock. Contrary to some accounts, the act does not impose any obligations on owners of land where injurious weeds are growing.

However, a site called published by (which claims to be one of the largest wildlife sites on the internet) seeks to debunk what it sees as hysteria about ragwort and offer a calmer more scientific assessment. There is also a Dutch site called ragwort myths and facts.

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