Wednesday, 28 January 2009
Aldermaston (Padworth Lock and Jacob's Gulley)
This six mile walk starts at Aldermaston Lock on the Kennet and Avon Canal. You walk the short distance along the canal to Padworth Lock - very tranquil this morning - and then head south. The path goes between some abandoned 1940s gravel pits, which are eerily full of trees and shrubs growing out of the water, with some mallards, swans and tufted ducks in the areas of open water.
The next landmark is Padworth Mill on the river Kennet, with its surprisingly vigorous and noisy flow of water through the wear.
Across fields and then into Great Fishers wood for a gruelling climb up a muddy track and then, after a short stretch of road, the descent to the pretty Jacobs Gully, where an artificial lake has been created, presumably by damming a small stream.
From here, a few more fields lead to St Mary's church on the edge of Aldermaston, with its Lych Gate built in 1920 as a war memorial. The church itself consists of a Norman nave, which was extended in the thirteenth century
Just along the road you pass the imposing gates of Aldermaston Court.
At this point we decided we had had enough of muddy fields and embarked on a detour by road down into Aldermaston Village. This added about a mile to the official length of the walk, but enabled us to see Lodges of Aldermaston Court, and to walk along the main street of the village and enjoy the splendid array of red brick houses and cottages. Many had diaper patterns in the brickwork, gothic window arches or porches and other detailing.
After a walk on down the main road we rejoined the route and swung west along the Kennet as far as Wickham Knights Bridge. Crossing the bridge, the final leg of the walk was a mile and half along the opposite bank of the Kennet and Avon Canal back to Aldermaston Lock.
Map: Explorer 159 (Reading, Wokingham and Pangbourne).
From: Rambling for Pleasure: Kennet Valley and Watership Down by David Bounds for the East Berkshire Ramblers Association Group.
Rating: three and a half stars.
It was a dull wet, day with constant drizzle throughout the length of the walk. One obvious question was "Why are we doing this?" The health benefits of walking remain valid no matter what the conditions, but it is much harder to enjoy a walk when you are wet. We took satisfaction however from this walk's contribution to our fitness programme.
Walking down Aldermaston's main street, which I have driven along many times, brought a strong reminder of one of the other benefits of walking: you engage much more closely with the environment, whether built or natural. It was always obvious that Aldermaston is a pretty characterful village, but at walking pace you can observe and enjoy the details.
The original house of 1636 was destroyed by fire in 1843 and the park now houses offices and a hotel. The hotel (Aldermaston Manor) is the Tudor-style mansion built in the 1840s to replace the original house. It contains the grand staircase from the original house, as well as some of its windows and chimneys.
The Lodges, pictured below, date from 1636 and were originally the wings of a house.