Monday, 30 November 2020

Blenheim Palace and Woodstock


The Great Court of the Palace

A birthday outing to Blenheim on rather a grey and misty day. The first thing to know about Blenheim is that it was built as a national monument rather than just a home. Queen Anne provide the land and money to build the palace to commemorate the defeat of Louis IV's army at Blenheim on the Danube in 1704. It was seen as a great victory and the first real check on Louis's attempt to dominate Europe. The architect was Sir John Vanbrugh.

We parked up and headed towards the Palace, soon arriving at the Kitchen Court, which sits on the west side of the Great Court. The gateway is certainly impressive and Pevsner describes it as having a rugged military character. Although the gate was half open it wasn't possible to explore the courtyards or the interior.

We turned right passing the large lake, the work of Capability Brown in 1764-74, who swept away Vanbrugh and Henry Wise's design for the grounds.


Having reach the Great Court we headed away from it ...

... crossing Vanbrugh's magnificent Palladian style bridge, which separate the two parts of the lake.

 Having crossed the bridge there is a view of the Column of Victory (1727-30).

Returning across the bridge, we found an interesting poster which showed Vanbrugh's beautiful original design for the bridge.

Heading towards the Palace we turned right to skirt the Stable Court and visit the formal gardens - which were a little disappointing.

We retraced our steps towards the car park and then turned left towards the gate which leads to Woodstock. This brought us a much more dramatic view of the bridge.


We went through the Italianate gateway into the main street of Woodstock ...

 ... and followed the road round to the right to pass the church of St Mary Magdalene, a medieval church almost completely rebuilt by A W Blomfield in 1878.

 A little further on is the the Bear Hotel ...

 ... and the Town Hall. The lower storey probably served as a market hall until it was enclosed in 1898.

We then did a loop around the main streets of the town and then returned via the Gate to the car park. Woodstock is a consistently Georgian town. It is a pleasant town,  although with no individual building being especially remarkable.

 Conditions: cold and grey.

Rating: five stars

Thursday, 19 November 2020

Wasing, Brimpton and Ashford Hill

                                                         Wasing Place

Another walk with my friend Merv under the dispensation for meeting a friend for the purpose of walking. We met up at Brimpton Common opposite the former Pineapple Pub, now an Italian restaurant, and headed northwards across a wet and muddy track. We then followed a track skirting Wasing Wood to reach Wasing Place. The house was largely rebuilt after the Second World War, re-creating the original Adam style building of 1773.

To the left of the house is St Nicholas's Church dating from the 13th century, but largely rebuilt in 1771.

 Further off to the left is an interesting miscellany of buildings, which may be part of the holiday lets offered by the Estate.


We had a very pleasant walk through the estate and left it to cross Shalford Bridge over the mighty Enborne, here fairly straight and calm.

Now we followed field paths to reach Brimpton and the gateway to St Peter's Almshouses (which date from 1854 but presumably are no longer in use as such).

We headed round the corner to reach St Peter's church of 1870. For the first time the sun came out.

We crossed a large field to reach Hyde End and pass Hyde End House and and then Hyde End Farmhouse. We passed an interesting house which was apparently once a trout farm ...

... and then walked along beside the River Enborne again for a short way before climbing through woodland, now briefly in Hampshire, to cross some very wet and muddy terrain and eventually emerge at the Ship Inn in Ashford Hill.

We now headed through the delightful - but also wet - Ashford Hill meadows, then climbed steadily through woodland and then across a large open area to return to Brimpton Common.

Conditions: Cool, often wet under foot.

From: Walks in the Kennet Valley and beyond (West Berkshire Ramblers).

Distance: 6.5 miles.

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

Rating: four stars.

Wednesday, 11 November 2020

Peasemore, Chaddleworth and Hill Green


Another walk with my good friend Merv, who planned the route.

We met up on the edge of Peasemore, north of Newbury, and without seeing anything much of the village headed off to the west. We followed a road, passed a nice looking pub, and then took a path to reach attractive open country.

We crossed the B4494 and followed a road to reach Cotswold Farm and a grassy track took us to Oak Ash Farm. From here we skirted Chaddleworth to head east again along a lovely green track marked on the map as Wick Lane. We turned briefly onto a road and then across a sequence of large fields to reach the  attractive Manor Farm on the edge of Leckhampton. We continued past the farm to reach the main street and this church which has been under restoration for many months. The latter section duplicated part of the Chaddleworth and Leckhampton Ange and I did in March.

We continued along the same line to descend to cross the B4494 again and then climb to reach the fascinating hamlet of Hillgreen. Immediately in our left was The Old Manor, a beautiful half timbered house.

 A short way further along was this splendid Georgian mansion, Hill Green House.

We turned right a few more cottages and headed up a field, which was surprisingly covered in a crop of Oilseed Rape. I seem to have seen much less rape than usual this year and it seems very odd to see it in November.


At the top we emerged through some trees to find a beacon in a large grassy field. 

Now along a short section of road, past a wrecked SUV which had driven into a tree, to cross a field and reach Peasemore. The path took us through the front garden of a house - the owners were enormously friendly and unfazed - to reach the church of St Barnabas.

The tower bears the inscription "1737 Will Coward Gent built ye tower" (Pevsner) but what you see now is largely the result of a remodelling in 1842 and the addition of a new longer chancel by G E Street in 1865.

As we returned to our cars we passed this lovely group of barns belonging to Peasemore Manor.

Conditions: cloudy, grey.

Distance: 6.5 miles.

Map: Explorer 158 (Newbury & Hungerford).

Rating: Four stars. Thoroughly enjoyable.