Sunday, 23 March 2014


Maidenhead Bridge

This week I am supporting Ange in the Walk in her shoes challenge: to walk 10,000 steps a day for a week to raise money for Care International to provide water sources. The underlying idea is that in many parts of the women and girls have to walk up long distances each day just to get water when they could be being educated.

It is a challenge in itself to find new 5 mile walks to do locally - with a very few exceptions, I would always rather do a new walk than repeat an old one. I have come up with this walk from Maidenhead to Bray which we first did exactly seven years ago.

You start at Guards Club Park near Maidenhead Bridge. I am guessing that it was once the grounds of the Brigade of Guards Boat Club, whose impressive Edwardian building is now flats. There is a fine view of the bridge (above) from the little bridge which leads out to Guards Club Island. The bridge dates from 1772-9 and is by Sir Robert Taylor.

On the river bank I spot an Egyptian Goose, once rare but now increasingly common.

We leave the park, walk up to the main road, cross the bridge and head along the river bank on the other side to soon reach Brunel's railway bridge of 1837-8. A helpful plaque explains that the brick arches are the widest and flattest in the world. It now seems to be called the Sounding Bridge. Pevsner adds that it is the bridge which appears in Turner's Rain, Steam and Speed.

At Harefield we head inland across fields. It is surprising how rural it suddenly feels, although the country is flat and not very inspiring. We rejoin the river just past Bray Lock, pass under the motorway and soon pass Monkey Island. It is now a hotel, but originally contained just a pavilion and lodge built for the 3rd Duke of Marlborough in 1774 - I hope this building glimpsed through the trees is one or the other.

We cross the river head towards Bray on the other side. St Michael's church is described by Pevsner as "remarkably large"and is 14th century in origin. The massive square tower seems oddly placed relative to the rest of the building.

In one corner of the church yard is the handsome Lich Gate, dating from 1446 - the house at the back looks rather later.

We emerged onto the High Street and made a detour from the route to see Jesus Hospital, a substantial almshouse of 1627, consisting of 28 dwellings around a quadrangle. I am surprised our walk book doesn't even mention it.

Just as we reached the hospital a hailstorm arrived at we were forced to seek shelter in the nearby pub. We resumed our walk after a very pleasant half an hour or so reading the Sunday papers over a glass of wine.

When the rain stopped, we followed a path away from the centre of Bray and emerged at the pleasant Victorian terrace. The central pediment made me wonder if they were former almshouses, but I can find nothing out about them.

We now crossed the road to follow a pleasant path through Braywick Park and then walked along the road back to the car.

Conditions: grey and not too cold, apart from the hailstorm.

Distance: 5 miles.

From: Rambling for pleasure along the Thames by David Bounds for the East Berkshire Ramblers Group.

Map: Explorer 160 (Windsor, Weybridge and Bracknell.

No comments: