Friday, 6 February 2009

Shinfield and Three Mile Cross

Shinfield School

Driven by the desire to keep my step count up, I go out on a short (4.5 mile) local walk. The walk starts by the green in Shinfield, overlooked by the school. According to Pevsner, the middle section is the original school, dating from 1707. The extension on the left dates from 1860, and that on the right from 1898.

From here you walk, rather needlessly really, through some rather mixed housing developments, along a narrow path overlooking fields at the back of the village and eventually re-emerge on the main road.

Crossing this, you walk through the long-derelict huts of the National Institute for Research in Dairying. It feels more like a disused prison camp than a scientific centre.

However, you soon emerge into the churchyard of St Mary's Church...

The church was founded in the twelfth century, while the brick south chapel (on the opposite side) was added in 1596. The splendid brick tower was built in 1664.

I detoured from the official route at this point as the path opposite the church now goes through a new housing estate, and instead followed Church Road all the way to Three Mile Cross. This also involved ignoring a path which would have led to a tramp through a muddy field right beside the M4 - why would anyone want to do that?

Just along from the church stands the former vicarage, now L'Ortolan restaurant, one of Berkshire's finest.

From Three Mile Cross, the route leads through fields, skirts the playing fields of Ryeish Green school and follows a winding lane back towards Shinfield. I surprised a heron here in a flooded ditch by the roadside.

The final section leads back to Shinfield across open fields.

The new housing development can be seen beyond the fields and beyond it is a glimpse of the stalinist former County Hall. These fields are the subject of a planning proposal for 2500 houses, which would significantly reduce the separation of the currently discrete villages of Shinfield, Three Mile Cross and Spencers Wood - and end this as a country walk.

From: Rambling for pleasure Around Reading second series, by David Bounds for the East Berkshire Ramblers Association Group.

Map: Explorer 159 (Reading).

Rating: Two stars. I did rather enjoy the walk, but there are too many boring or disagreeable bits.


It is easier to reflect on walking when there is nothing else on your mind! Fairly adverse conditions and a walk with inherent limitations, but still enjoyable. Why? Shinfield school green is a delightful spot and the church has some character. There is always the potential for a chance encounter with nature - I don't know if my heron was more surprised or I was. But mainly today it was the just the joy of being active and being out in the fresh air.

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