Thursday, 22 May 2008

Baughurst and Ashford Hill Meadows

Baughurst - Smithley's Copse

The walk starts by the village hall in Heath End, between Tadley and Baughurst, but quickly escapes the rather suburban beginnings. The first part is over fields with pleasant views towards the north Hampshire Downs. Here we saw a Jay perched tantalisingly on a fence post. The remainder passes through a chain of copses and the Ashford Hill Meadows nature reserve to return to the start.

Smithley's Copse is the first of the copses and here the path descends to a crossing over the Sandford stream. As the photo above shows, this a pretty spot with tall trees - enhanced today by a lone deer, who studied us for a moment before loping off.

Woodland path

Later the path passes between Butlers Cope and Sleepers Copse, creating a very pleasant ride, home to more deer. This gives way to the nature reserve.

Ashford Hill Meadows

Apparently it is home to 32 species of butterfly, although none were in evidence today. The carpet of wild flowers was very impressive though.

Rating: three and a half stars. Nicely varied, but not so interesting at the start and finish.

From: Rambling for Pleasure: Kennet Valley and Watership Down, by David Bounds for the East Berkshire Ramblers’ Association Group.

Map: Explorer 158 (Newbury and Hungerford).

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Bracknell - Swinley Forest

Trail through the woods

The walk begins on the edge of Bracknell at the Lookout Centre. As we arrived the car park was full of cars disgorging cyclists, kids, joggers .... However, the route quickly left the holiday camp atmosphere of the Lookout to advance on a series of pleasant woodland trails, the peace of which was only occasionally interrupted by a gaggle of cyclists or joggers.

After a while the route reaches "Caesar's Camp". In fact, as the helpful information boards reveal, this is an iron age hill fort. It was once home to a substantial community. It seems that the iron age gave way to the Romans - but there was no information on when Caesar camped here.

Caesar's Camp

The later stages of the walk involved a sustained stretch of the old Roman road, known perhaps equally fancifully, as the Devil's Highway (why?).

The final leg back towards the Lookout Centre was evidently the main drag for families out for a Sunday stroll.

Rating: three stars. Surprisingly lovely in places, but a bit crowded and over-civilised.

From: Pub walks for motorists: Berkshire and Oxfordshire by Les Maple (Countryside Books)
Map: Explorer 160 (Windsor, Weybridge and Bracknell).

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Aldworth and the Ridgeway

The Goring Gap

This is a very simple but glorious walk which starts from Aldworth Church. You follow the track beside the church until you reach the Ridgeway Path, turn right for a mile or so, and then take another track back to Aldworth, arriving in the centre of the village, by the Bell Inn. Enjoyed on a lovely sunny day, just a bit hazy.

From: Village walks in Berkshire – Berkshire Federation of Women’s Institutes (Countryside Books). Well not so much from as inspired by. The walk in the book starts by the church and follows three sides of a rectangle (a muddy track, field edges) to join the track from the church, and doesn't quite reach the Ridgeway before returning by a circular route through more fields. Pleasant enough, and it opened up this more satisfying route.

Rating: Four stars. I have come to the view that walks on tracks are generally much to be preferred to walks through fields, and fields (with odd bits of woodland for variety) are the staple of walks in Berkshire. The other great joys of this walk is feeling of being if not on top of the world, at least above much of it, and the lovely views over open country. The view east towards the Goring Gap is a particular pleasure.

Maps: Irritatingly on the join of two maps: Explorer 159 (Reading, Wokingham & Pangbourne) and Explorer 170 (Abingdon, Wantage & Vale of White Horse)

The Goring Gap from a few hundred yards further South


It's the Rape season of course and I continue to be struck by the almost abstract impact of its blocks of seemingly solid colour on the landscape.

Rape fields near Aldworth

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Shaw and Ashmore Green

Kennet Valley from Ashmore Green

In Newbury on business, I then bunked off for the rest of the afternoon to enjoy this walk from Shaw, on the north west corner of the town.

This is very much a walk in two halves, forming an ellipse either side of the B4009 which goes from Shaw to Curridge. The first half involves the classic Berkshire combination of fields and copses, with short stretches of road in between. The route goes to the small village of Ashmore Green and then swings back towards the B4009. All very pleasant, but a bit suburban.

The second half is very different, much simpler but more rewarding. After crossing the "main" road, a tree-lined track passes between open fields, with views of open country all around. It feels much more light and open - and rural - than the earlier stretch.

Track between open fields

Then the route swings left on another track and carries straight on for a couple of miles back to the start in Shaw. This route is mainly through grassy rather than arable fields, and there are pleasant views all around with common land and woods on the right initially.

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.

Map: Explorer 158 (Newbury and Hungerford).


Nothing startling, but lots of incidental pleasures: orange tip butterflies, a pair of buzzards circling overhead, a distant deer standing surveying the world, a cuckoo, a rabbit getting a shock as he ran towards me along the path.


Rape much in evidence. I still like the intense yellow (I pondered this last year), but I was acutely conscious today of the cloying, rather unpleasant smell.

Monday, 5 May 2008

Upper Woolhampton, Douai and Beenham

Douai Abbey

This is an interesting short walk which begins outside Elstree School in Upper Woolhampton. A track and a path through a wood take you to the hamlet of Kiff Green, and then another track skirts Douai Abbey, passes through High Wood and brings you to a housing estate on the edge of Beenham. This is the low point of the walk, but the route soon passes the peaceful St Mary's Churchyard and a sequence of tracks, copses and farms to return to Upper Woolhampton by St Peter's Church. It was a muggy afternoon, with birdsong and bluebells being the dominant themes.

Bluebells in High Wood

Below are St Mary's church Beenham and its churchyard


Rating: three and half stars.

Rambling for Pleasure: Kennet Valley and Watership Down, by David Bounds for the East Berkshire Ramblers’ Association Group.

Map: Explorer 159 (Reading, Wokingham & Pangbourne).


Yes, it is a wolf. The walk passes the Wolf Conservation Trust. The sign is quite discrete, so the first sight of this creature and his two mates was quite exciting.

Douai Abbey

The Benedictines were expelled from their Community in Douai in northern France in 1903. This sounds like an event from much earlier in history. A bit of internet research reveals that Republican politicians in France passed the Law of Associations which provided that all congregations of religious had to apply for authorisation or be dissolved. The full story can be found here.

The Abbey Church was consecrated in 1933 on completion of the neo-Gothic sanctuary and choir (see photo above). The church was completed in 1993. It is in truth an odd-looking structure.

More information on the Abbey can be found on the Abbey's website.