Friday, 27 February 2009

Broadmoor to Moulsham Green (Three Castles Path 1)

We recently completed the BBC's Berkshire Way (and wrote a short review of it). It was a very enjoyable experience and we decided to follow it by doing the Three Castles Path, a sixty mile route between Windsor and Winchester which was inspired by the journeys of King John (the third castle is one he built at Odiham). Like the Berkshire Way, we can do it in stages from home.

As luck would have it, the first stages of the Three Castles path are the reverse of the last two stages of the Berkshire Way and part of a third. So we decided to begin our journey along the Three Castles path at the point at which it diverged from the Berkshire Way. This is towards the end of stage 4, just after the path leaves Windsor Forest and passes under the A3095. To get here, we walked along a length of the Devil's highway from Crowthorne. With these additions, the four miles of stage 5 became about 5.25.

Stage 5 proper begins at Broadmoor Farm on the edge of Crowthorne and continues along a pleasant track, where turning a corner we met these sheep ....

The route continues, with Broadmoor Hospital in view on the left - surprisingly large in view of that fact that it houses only 260 patients. It then passes through Wildmoor Heath The site is owned by the Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust and Bracknell Forest Council and is managed as a Nature Reserve. Traditional management practices such as grazing and scrub cutting are carried out to improve the quality of the heathland for biodiversity. These habitats are particularly rare in southern England due to the impact of agriculture, forestry and development.

After crossing a road the path leads into and through Little Sandhurst and thence to Ambarrow Court, a nature reserve on a much smaller scale. We did see some nice wild snowdrops here.

Crossing another main road, a couple of fields lead down to the entrance to Horsehoe Lake, part of the Tri Lakes Country Park, formed from a series of disused gravel pits.

Leaving Horsehoe Lake, the final - and best - part of the walk follows the winding River Blackwater for a mile or so.

It is a very unusual context for walking along a river bank, as there are lakes to both the right and the left for much of the way. We saw some widgeon the river which quickly flew off to join their brethren on the lake. You can also see the inevitable cormorants high in the trees on the little island.

You leave the river and lakes for the end of the stage at Moulsham Green, on the edge of Yateley.

From: The Three Castles Path by David Bounds for the East Berkshire Ramblers’ Association Group. Stages 4 (part) - 5.

Map: Explorer 160 (Windsor, Weybridge and Bracknell).

Rating: three stars. The route links what are probably the best bits of countryside in the area, but you are never far from a housing estate.

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