Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Hurst and the River Loddon

St Nicholas, Hurst

Late afternoon, maybe the heat of the day will decline soon, but anyway time for a walk. This walk officially starts from the Green Man pub in Hurst, but I foreshortened it slightly by starting from the village hall, so avoiding a stretch of road.

You quickly reach St Nicholas church, which he walk book describes as 11th century - Pevsner however refers to its as mostly Victorian, although the brick tower, like others in the area, is 17th century - 1612 in fact.

Opposite the church are the handsome Barker's Almshouses. The white stone tablet over the main doorway reveals that they were founded in 1664 by "William Barker of Hurst in the county of Wilts". This just seems to have been a mistake - Berkshire is described as one of the oldest counties, I can find nothing to suggest that Hurst was ever in Wiltshire.

Fields and a lane lead down to Dinton Pastures Country Park. You walk along the lakeside away from the sailing club. I enjoyed this flotilla of Canada Geese.

After diverging from the lake edge for a while, you reach the river Loddon and then walk for a while along a wide track with the Loddon on the left and White Swan Lake on the right. This is a route we took earlier in the year as part of the Woodley to Wokingham section of the Berkshire Way. It must be said that it is much more inviting in June sunshine than in February snow.

Last time we saw a black swan near Black Swan lake, today there was family of white swans on their eponymous lake.

Further along you pass Sandford Lake nature reserve, where a heron was strategically placed to guard the narrow passage between two islands.

The next main section, after crossing the road follows the Loddon for over a mile along a narrow, somewhat overgrown path, with lots of butterflies and dragonflies enjoying the evening sun. A backwater had a lovely collection of yellow waterlilies.

Reaching Whistley bridge you leave the river and I followed the road back to Hurst village hall.

From: Pub walks for motorists: Berkshire and Oxfordshire by Les Maple (Countryside Books).

Map: Explorer 158 (Reading, Wokingham and Pangbourne).

Rating: three and a half stars.


This book of pub walks is rather good, but starting and finishing at a pub is slightly distorting - the pubs are not always in the right places to start walking from, and you have to add "unnecessary" bits of road. Not a problem if you actually want to go to the pub of course.


Another Kite. Further evidence that in Berkshire, every walk has its Kite.

But much the most exciting was a number of commas gliding in the evening sun. Then two flew passed joined to each other and then settled on some grass for a spot of mating, tantric style, with periods of stillness followed by little bursts of movement. The white comma marks on the underwings which give the butterfly its name are clearly visible in the photo.

Flower of the day

I haven't been able to identify what this splendid specimen is.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Wargrave and Hennerton backwater

St Mary's, Wargrave

Another sultry afternoon and a walk beside the river seemed the perfect choice. This 5 mile walk begins in the centre of Wargrave with a quick tour of its quiet streets. You soon reach the very pleasant church green with the church today being prepared for a medieval flower festival. The church itself was rebuilt after a fire in 1916, the early 17th century brick tower being the only part to survive.

We made a detour down Ferry Lane to see the public landing stage. It was striking how little of the village can be seen from the river. Then in School Lane we came on the Woodclyffe Hostel, now the public library, an art nouveau-influenced building of 1905.

Round the corner in the High Street we were staggered by the Woodclyffe Hall - having driven past several times before without ever noticing it. We were not surprised to learn from Pevsner that both these buildings were the work of the same architect, Cole A Adams.

After continuing along the main road for a while, the route turns left into Willow lane, and you cross the Hennerton Backwater, which is apparently the longest on the Thames. Its appearance is fairly nondescript, resembling perhaps a narrow canal. Continuing along Willow Lane, a road of large houses, you eventually turn left down a small path and emerge on the river bank, which looks very inviting.

We walked along the bank pondering the large houses on the Shiplake side opposite: lovely houses, but lacking in privacy and exposed to noise from people on the river, for example the three young lads in kayaks who were going on and on about the difficulties of kayak travel.

Eventually an island in the river enabled us to enter a quieter more rural section ....

... and very soon we were in deeper undergrowth as we skirted Wargrave Marsh. The final section through woodland brought us to our destination: the point where the Hennerton backwater departed the main river, prior to its return at Wargrave. This could only we described as an anticlimax: there was nothing to see and the woodland was so dense that there was nowhere to see it from.

Then we retraced our steps.

From: Rambling for Pleasure Along the Thames by David Bounds for the East Berkshire Ramblers Group.

Map: Explorer 159 (Reading, Wokingham and Pangbourne.

Rating: two stars. Wargrave is certainly an interesting place and we did see some nice things, but there was too much road and and a there-and-back walk really needs a bit of a wow factor when you get there.


We startled a heron into flight as we went along the bank and we saw a pair of kites flying low over Wargrave. The reintroduction of kites in our area has clearly been extremely successful - it as rare walk in Berkshire now where you don't see one, or more usually a pair.

Flower of the day

We didn't see many flowers at all, but this Great Yellow Cress caught the eye in a couple of places on the river bank.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009


New Mill ford

A lovely sunny afternoon and a new relatively local walk. This 5.5 mile walk begins near Bramshill, at the edge of Bramshill Forest.

You walk initially along a forest track, rich in butterflies, with St Neot's school playing fields on the right. You emerge onto a residential street and reach the river Blackwater at New Mill ford. Turning off just before the ford, you follow the line of the river through a series of meadows to reach Eversley. Unfortunately, the river itself is largely invisible.

Along the main road and past the entrance to Warbrook House, now a conference centre. Part of the refurbishment has been to open up the vista from and to this lovely house. Pevsner tells us that it was built in 1724 by the architect John James for himself and describes it as "impressive" and "remarkably individual".

A lane and fields now lead to Eversley church and the section of the walk from there back into Bramshill Forest is one I had already done as part of the Three Castles Path (reviewed here). However, on reaching a large cross roads, our route goes off to the right along the Welsh Drive, which apparently is a remnant of the traditional route which Welsh cattle drovers took to London.

The Drive is a pleasant winding track, which gets progressively narrower until it reaches a junction where you turn right to return to the start. The Forest is surprisingly quiet and lifeless - hardly a bird to be heard, let alone seen, and no butterflies even in the clearings.

From: Blackwater Valley circular walks (Blackwater Valley Countryside Partnership.

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

Rating: three and half stars. The walk is an offshoot of the Blackwater Valley Path, but the section along the Path is sensibly in the reverse direction to the recommended one for the Path itself.


A very good selection of butterflies: lots of small skippers, meadow browns and commas, the latter intensely coloured. A few large whites, a speckled wood, a red admiral and a painted lady (so common this year).

At one point, the route passed a duck pond with a couple of statues of herons - it was excellent to then see a real heron land and quickly depart, possibly in disappointment. Later I saw a Greater Spotted woodpecker and a couple of yellow wagtails.

Flower of the day

The sides of the butterfly path at the start of the walk had a profusion of this Tormentil.

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Silent fields by Roger Lovegrove

In "Silent Fields" Roger Lovegrove describes how for centuries man has killed native mammals and birds on a massive scale. This was sanctioned - and indeed required - by legislation, beginning with the Vermin Act of 1532. The aim was the eradication of vermin species in order to protect increasingly scarce supplies of food. The second half of the sixteenth century saw the beginning of the "little ice age" with a series of long bitter winters from 1564-5 and in 1566 a second more comprehensive Vermin Act was passed. This placed a duty on local churchwardens to raise money and then pay out bounties for each of a long list of creatures on evidence of their being killed. This process continued until the early nineteenth century, with the Act being repealed finally in 1869.

Perhaps the most annoying thing about the book is that although it takes its scope the list of species defined as vermin in the 1566 Act, the list itself is not presented until page 82 - and then in a block of solid text, with many of the names in their original English form.

So what were these "vermin"? Among the birds were all the birds of prey, eagles, kites, ospreys, buzzards, as well as all the corvids - but also, more surprisingly green woodpeckers, kingfishers, sparrows and bullfinches. The mammalian list included pine martens, polecats, foxes, rats, badgers, hedgehogs, moles and the mustelids.

What Lovegrove has done is to review parish records in no less than 1579 parishes and build a statistical picture of what creatures were killed at different periods of time in different parts of the country. This represents about only 14% of all parishes, but it is still an extraordinary achievement. Most parish records for the period under study are in any event missing and there was little point in looking in urban parishes.

The data shows firstly that large numbers were killed, but also that in the great tradition of local government, there was wide variation between parishes in which animals were targeted. Partly this reflected the nature of the local countryside and agriculture, but much of the variation has no obvious cause and can only be put down to local idiosyncrasy.

However, this licensed killing under the Vermin Acts was by no means the end of the matter. Lovegrove also shows how the growth of estates used for game hunting, protected by a new army of gamekeepers, led to a further determined assaults on the raptors especially.

Other factors are also addressed: the enclosure movement in the eighteenth century and changes in farming methods, which materially altered the available habitats for some species. In other cases species were hunted for fur (e.g. pine martens) or for sport (e.g. perhaps surprisingly, otters). And others were subject to losses to egg hunters and trophy collectors.

The upshot of all this is that many species (e.g. wildcat, pole cat, red kite, hen harrier) were massively reduced in numbers and driven to the most remote parts of the country and some (notably sea eagle and goshawk) were completely eliminated. Lovegrove comments that it is a sad indictment of past abuse of animals that much of modern conservation is concerned with the recovery of such species. Where I live this has happily been very successful in the case of the red kite.

But this raises a key question. There is a degree of uncertainty about whether the book is about vermin or "vermin" - Lovegrove is ambivalent about whether he accepts any legitimacy for the killing he describes. For the most part his tone is of strong moral outrage: there are frequent uses of emotional words like "persecution", "slaughter" and "appalling carnage". However, the excellent sections on individual species offer a more balanced view and a concluding chapter seems to accept that control of some species is absolutely necessary. He is also well aware of the danger of applying modern concepts and standards to very different historical periods.

Overall this is an important book. It is solidly based in painstaking research, perhaps a little repetitive and maybe too detailed in parts, but it provides a comprehensive and thought-provoking account of man's relationship to wild animals.

Roger Lovegrove - Silent Fields. The long decline of a nation's wildlife. Oxford University Press, paperback edition 2008.

Friday, 19 June 2009

The Three Castles Path: A review


We have described our experiences of walking the Three Castles Path in a number of postings (listed below). The route links Windsor and Winchester, via the third castle, Odiham.


The Three Castles Path was "inspired by the well-documented 13th century journeys of King John via the castle he built near Odiham" and the guide to it was first published in 1992. The initial stages are in semi-suburban east Berkshire, where as I noted in one post, "you are never far away from a housing estate".

However, once you get into Hampshire things become much more interesting as you walk along the delightful and little-known Basingstoke Canal, through a whole series of pretty villages with half-timbered thatched cottages and Norman churches. The fields in Hampshire are bigger too and the paths very often have a copse on one side and a field edge on the other, with views over gently rolling hills.

As you approach Winchester you follow the fast-flowing Itchen and then reach that fascinating city with its magnificent cathedral and all sorts of historical sites.

Although the route is perhaps a little contrived, there are several sections of sustained track and overall it feels reasonably like a single path.

The walk book (The Three Castles Path by David Bounds for the East Berkshire Ramblers’ Association Group) is excellent with very clear maps and very precise directions, as well as helpful comments on points of interest along the way - the hallmark of the East Berkshire Ramblers series of walk book books. The only flaws are that there are no suggestions for parking places at the start of each stage and because the maps overlap at the starts and finishes it is sometimes difficult to calculate the distance accurately.

One thing puzzled me. The route of the Three Castles Path is clearly marked on the OS Explorer maps, but is nowhere acknowledged on the ground by named way marks or footpath signs. No doubt there is a story behind this.

The best bits? The Odiham to Tunworth stage had great variety: the canal, Odiham Castle, the pretty village of Greywell, the river Whitewater and the wonderful Five Lanes End junction. Winchester was wonderful and well worth allowing a separate day for.

So, a good easy Long Distance Path which has helped to cement our desire to do more. Next up, the Ridgeway?


1 Broadmoor to Moulsham Green (Stages 4-5)

2 Moulsham Green to Hazeley Heath (Stage 6)

3 Hazeley Heath to Odiham (Stages 7-8)

4 Odiham to Tunworth (Stages 8-9)

5 Tunworth to Ellisfield (Stage 10)

6 Ellisfield to Upper Wield (stages 11-12)

7 Upper Wield to Abbotstone (Stages 12-13)

8 Abbotstone to the edge of Winchester (Stages 14-15)

9 Winchester (Stage 15)

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Audley End

Audley End

Returning from a visit to Cambridge, we decided to follow our usual policy of finding a walk. This one around Audley End was inspired by an internet search.

It begins near to Abbey Farm, south of Audley End house. We walked along a lane past redbrick Jacobean almshouses, now the College of St Mark and rather hard to get a clear sight of. Soon we entered the tiny village of Audley End with its mainly identical whitewashed Georgian cottages and tiny post office. It was a planned community built as part of the estate.

From here we walked east along Audley End road and turned through an iron gate to enter Audley Park: a typical great house park. We descended along the east side of the park and turned sharp left to follow the north side through first woodland and then grassy meadows.

We saw a bit of a nature drama at the edge of the woods: first we noticed a small rabbit in a clearing and then a flash of orange with a clear black end to its tail, as a stoat hurtled across the track we were following. There followed brief sounds of a struggle in the undergrowth and then silence.

The fields gave way to a wooded path around the wall of the estate and then we reached the B1383. Turning left along the road soon yielded a wonderful view of the house, with the 1790 folly known as the Temple of Concord visible on the hill behind.

Now we turned left again, crossed the stone bridge designed by Robert Adam, and reached the main entrance. After exploring the grounds and taking a very interesting and enjoyable tour of the house we returned through the village to the car.

Map: Explorer 195 (Braintree and Saffron Walden).

Rating: three and a half stars. The house is a wonderful sight, but the walk was a bit disappointing, there being less open park land and views than expected - and more road.

Audley End house

A very interesting house with impressive Jacobean plaster ceilings, interior features by Vanbrugh and Robert Adam, some nice paintings (Canaletto, Holbein, Lely) and landscaping by Capability Brown.

The most staggering discovery however was that the house we see today represents only about a sixth of the original structure. The site originally accommodated a monastery and was given to Sir Thomas Audley by Henry VIII after the Dissolution of the Monasteries for services rendered. These included presiding over the trials of Sir Thomas More and Anne Boleyn. He converted the monastic buildings into a substantial house.

However, within 50 years ownership had passed to Thomas Howard, who was created the first Earl of Suffolk by James I in 1603. Suffolk wanted to cement his new found position by creating a prodigy house and so razed the old buildings and had a magnificent palace constructed. The house consisted of two courtyards, one behind the other, and was completed in 1614. However, only a bit over a hundred years later the house had become too big to be affordable and was in poor repair. So it was drastically reduced in size and remodelled. The house which remains formed the axis between the two courtyards of the original prodigy house.

Apart from the house itself, the park includes the splendid Jacobean stables ...

... and Robert Adam's exquisite Tea House bridge, a sort of gazebo over the river.

Flower of the day

Not in truth a good day for flowers. But Herb Robert hasn't previously been flower of the day, so here it is.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Cambridge: Round Church to Clare College

The Round Church

We were in Cambridge for the St John's May Ball - the first time for 38 years! The idea was to do a city walk on the afternoon after the Ball and I had prepared a circular route to take in pretty much all the central colleges.

As it happened however we were tired having stayed up all night, hung over (for obvious reasons) and it was raining a bit, so we gave priority to having a substantial lunch, on the carbohydrate theory of hangover treatment. And then severely curtailed the planned walk. Nonetheless, we still followed our core principle of city walking: even if you know the city well, behave like an inquisitive stranger who is seeing it for the first time.

We started at the Round Church - Holy Sepulchre, to give it its correct name - and quickly learned from Pevsner that "round churches as a rule are connected with the Orders founded to guard the Holy Land and the Holy Sepulchre". This church was built by an otherwise unknown "fraternity of the Holy Sepulchre" not later than 1130 and the round part at least presents a wholly Norman appearance.

Here is the interior which now displays a series of panels telling the history of Cambridge.

We then walked a few yards down St John's street to enter by the magnificent main gate (1511-1520). Inside the cleaning up operation was in full swing and already much of the evidence of last night's ball had already vanished.

We left through the backs, intending to visit Trinity College next door, but we told that the College was closed on account of clearing up after its ball, also last night.

So instead we walked back into town along Garret Hostel Lane and turned into Caius College. I don't recall ever being here before so the inquisitive stranger role was easy to adopt. The most initially striking thing was the very pleasant trees in the first court - which is, rather wonderfully, named Tree Court. Cambridge colleges normally just have grass so this was a lovely departure from the norm.

Then in Caius court we saw the marvellous renaissance style Gate of Honour, one of three meant to symbolise the life course of a student. Pevsner again offers a fascinating insight: the Italian renaissance, he says, came to England as an ornamental fashion, rather than a serious architectural style. The Gate of Honour was completed in 1575 and, although ambitious in its conception, looks wrong because the actual entrance is extremely small.

Next we had a look at the Senate House, which can be seen in the background above. It dates from 1722-30 and in light of our relatively recent walk in Palladian London we were easily able to spot the Palladian influences, especially the alternating pediments over the ground floor windows.

We looked across to Great St Mary's, rebuilt from 1478-1536, in the late Perpendicular style of East Anglian wool churches. Sadly it too was closed, so our plan to see the elegant interior was frustrated.

Our final stop was Clare College where the gateway of the seventeenth century Great Court caught our eye.

Rating: Four stars. Short but full of interest.


You can still discover new perspectives on familiar things, especially if you have as good a guide as Pevsner. On the other hand, the day after a ball is a daft choice for a challenging city walk. We hope to do it justice on another occasion.

Sunday, 14 June 2009


Looking back from Wick Hill

A lovely Sunday morning and we decided to stretch ourselves a bit with this 7 mile walk around the sprawling village of Finchampstead. It starts by the Queen's Oak pub opposite the church. You soon ascend - if that's the right word - Wick Hill (86m) by means of a lovely field-side path. Soon after, you enter an area with more houses, including this one with a splendid gryphon on its ridge.

After walking along Heath Ride, a leafy road of large houses, you enter Simon's Wood and pass the delightful Heath Pond nature reserve. A family of Canada geese had taken up residence on the island.

The waterlilies were especially impressive ...

.... and the was another group of them, not so fully in flower, in one corner of the lake.

From here, a lovely track through the woods leads to Finchampstead ridges and then descends to reach the Moor Green Lakes nature reserve, where I walked recently in the reverse direction.

At the end of the reserve the path continues alongside the Blackwater river, with very extensive new gravel works on the right. A planning application sign indicated that these will become further natures reserves in due course. Where the new works were just starting it was interesting to see just how close to the surface the gravel deposits are.

The final section goes through the recreation ground, which is the closest Finchampstead has to a centre, and climbs a shady track back to the church.

From: Pub walks for motorists: Berkshire and Oxfordshire by Les Maple (Countryside Books).

Map: Explorer 159 (Reading and Pangbourne).

Rating: three and a half stars. Some really lovely bits, but some suburbia as well, and too many gravel works.


We came on this new-born foal. Local residents who had come out to see it said it had been born only a hour previously.

Flower of the day

We saw a lot of this very pretty plant which looks like a wild geranium in the more wooded sections of Heath Ride. It is actually ...

Common Mallow

Friday, 12 June 2009

Swallowfield and the Blackwater Valley

Ducks on the Blackwater

We had a friend to stay and wanted a walk which was both local and full of interest. This 4 mile walk absolutely hit the spot. It begins just outside Swallowfield on the road to Farley Hill. You walk back along the road towards Swallowfield and turn up a lane. At the top you turn right and wend your way down to the bank of the Blackwater. The route then follows the left bank of the river for a bit over a mile, passing the point where the Whitewater joins, and Thatchers Ford where the river is crossed by the Devil's Highway, the old Roman road from Silchester to London.

The section from Thatchers Ford is a little further away from the river, but we were struck by the clouds of dragonflies taking flight as we passed along the narrow path.

This section along the river is the end (or start, depending on your perspective) of the Blackwater Valley Path, which runs from Aldershot. The Blackwater itself goes on past Swallowfield bridge and shortly flows into the River Loddon, which in turns joins the Thames near Wargrave.

Leaving the river at Jouldings Farm, alternating lanes and tracks take you back to the beginning, passing just beside Chill Hill, which on the route of one of the first walks reported on this blog.

From: Village walks in Berkshire by Berkshire Federation of Women's Institutes (Countryside Books)

Map: Explorer 159 (Reading, Wokingham and Pangbourne)

Rating: four stars. Exceeded expectations.


We saw this wonderful duck leading his family along the river (see also photo above).

I couldn't find him in my bird books and the excellent RSPB bird identifier did not yield an answer either. However, a direct email to the RSPB produced the answer: an Egyptian goose. Closely related to the Shelduck, it was originally introduced as an ornamental wildfowl species and has escaped into the wild, now successfully breeding in a feral state. Well done to them for a quick and very helpful response.

He didn't seem too well and his attempts to quack came out as hoarse-sounding rasps - as though he had some sort of respiratory disease.

Flowers of the day

There were some lovely water lilies in spots of slack water in the otherwise free-flowing Balckwater. The lily pads create an almost abstract image.

I have only seen isolated poppies so far this year, but today there were several clumps. These, at the edge of a field of barley, had a Impressionist quality and contrasted beautifully with the different shades of green.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009


Ufton Court

A cool, cloudy afternoon, with the threat of rain - but also the only chance of getting out for a mid-week walk this week. So I decided on this short (4 miles), local walk.

It begins at the Round Oak pub on the road from Burghfield to Tadley. The first section of the walk follows two wide trails through an area of pine woods called Roundoak Piece. You pass a small pond, Oval Pond, which had some nice waterlilies on the far side.

You leave the wood and follow the road round to the entrance to Ufton Court. We passed Ufton Court on an earlier walk from Ufton Nervet - that posting has some notes on its history.

A sunken lane leads past medieval fish ponds to Old Farm, and from here a mixture of lane and woodland lead back to the start. The map - and indeed the terrain - shows an earthwork named Grimm's Bank, and maybe this is fanciful naming echoing the Grimm's Ditches and Dykes in other parts of the country.

From: Village walks in Berkshire by Berkshire Federation of Women's Institutes (Countryside Books)

Map: Explorer 159 (Reading, Wokingham and Pangbourne)

Rating: three stars. Did the job.

Flower of the day

Very little to choose from, although I did see a couple of wild honeysuckles. The signature plant for this walk was the foxglove which could be seen throughout and which provided intense bursts of colour on what was otherwise a very drab afternoon.


Saturday, 6 June 2009


Steady rain this morning, but we decided to believe the weather forecast and go for our planned walk anyway. The walk starts in the centre of Pangbourne, notionally at the Cross Keys pub, and involves a clockwise circuit. It is largely the Pangbourne College and River Pang walk I did in 2007.

You leave Pangbourne by walking east through Pangbourne Meadows beside the Thames, and then head south to the water meadows of its tributary, the Pang. You then follow the line of the river to reach Tidmarsh.

There are a number of attractive Victorian buildings in Tidmarsh. The one one the left can only be a former school, but the one on the right, now known as The Round House, has a more interesting history. It appears that it is a former toll house, built to house a toll collector on a turnpike, and that the polygonal shape is typical of such buildings. It probably dates from the 1820s and would have ceased its original functions when the Turnpike Trusts were closed in the 1870s. My search for information found a website on turnpikes which although having some design flaws is very informative. Tollhouse Alan, whose website this is, has also taken a load of photos of tollhouse which are available on flickr.

From Tidmarsh, a winding field edge path and then a hedged track lead to the grounds of Pangbourne College. After a short stretch of road, further fields lead to the delightful Berry's Copse.

You then cross under the railway bridge and walk along the pavement beside A329 with the Thames on your left to return to Pangbourne.

From: Pub walks for motorists: Berkshire and Oxfordshire by Les Maple (Countryside Books).

Map: Explorer 159 (Reading and Pangbourne).

Rating: three and a half stars.

Flower of the day

We spotted this climbing/trailing plant at the base of a hedgerow. I couldn't identify it from my wildlife book, but an excellent website for flower identification, Botanical keys, revealed it to be White Bryony. It will later have shiny red berries.

White Bryony


Some fairly obvious ones. I have driven through Tidmarsh many times, and walked through it three or four times, but never previously noticed The Round House. And having noticed it, taking the trouble to do a little searching revealed an interesting historical story.

Doing a walk you have done before in reverse feels very like a new walk, since, evidently, you see everything from a different perspective.

Thursday, 4 June 2009


Manor Farm near Chaddleworth

A sunny afternoon and enough time to venture a little further afield than usual - to Chaddleworth on the Lambourn Downs.

The walk begins by the Ibex pub at one end of this sprawling but pretty village. As you leave the village you pass the delightful manor house. It looks Georgian, but Pevsner dates it to about 1830 and comments on the Tuscan porch.

The route leads across fields, across a road and then down a flowery green lane to reach Manor Farm which nestles in a dip in the downs. From here there is a climb to a ridge at about 185 meters above sea level. (In the photo above Manor Farm is seen from the return route.)

The route descends to pass a horse stud at Whatcombe and then a cinder track leads up to Kite Hill at 175 meters. At this point you turn left and follow a hedged track eastwards towards Chaddleworth.

I slipped through the hedge to follow a field edge for part of the way and enjoyed some delightful views over the downs as the sun shone.

This track descends to a road and shortly another track climbs to reach the outskirts of the village. Here a short detour reveals the church of St Andrew with its Norman tower and and other Norman details - and its jarring 19th century chancel. It is the work of GE Street, dating from 1851, and shows an extraordinary disregard for any consideration of matching or harmony.

From: 50 walks in Berkshire and Buckinghamshire (AA).

Map: Explorer 158 (Newbury and Hungerford).

Rating: Four stars. Wonderful downland, with only the sounds of nature and farming. Repeated climbs and descents, so quite a good work out too.


Lots and lots of Painted Ladies - certainly 20 or more at a number of different points on the walk. Fascinating to observe their rapid, almost frantic flight, followed by sudden descents to roost on a leaf or on the ground.

Apart from the usual butterfly suspects, I also saw a Small Skipper and a Small Tortoiseshell.

Flower of the day

There was a good selection of flowers at different points in the walk, but today's signature plant was this bright pink Bloody Cranesbill, which along with a proliferation of buttercups and some others provided a vibrant wall of colour on the climb from Whatcombe to Kite Hill

Bloody Cranesbill