Tuesday, 8 June 2021

Woolhampton and Douai Abbey


The Queen Victoria Drinking Fountain of 1897

Another walk with my friend Merv, this time starting at Woolhampton - specifically the Row Barge pub.

We crossed the railway line, wondering why the station was called Midgham, which is some way away. Later we chatted with a local chap doing his garden who explained that it was to avoid confusion with Wolverhampton. Was he pulling our leg or could this bizarre explanation be true? I am voting for it being true.

Now on the left was this fine house. The four storey tower was a later addition in 1897, again according to our friend.

We crossed right to cross the main road and then follow a path on the left uphill towards Elstree School. We could see that it was a sprawling establishment, built around the former Woolhampton House, but could not see enough to form an impression of it.

Next we passed the C of E primary school and St Peter's church of 1861.

Continuing on the same line we reached Douai Abbey, which we skirted. It is a large complex of red brick buildings. Its origins lie in a religious community founded in France in 1615. A new start was made in Douai in Northern France after the French Revolution, but in 1903 the community was expelled as a result of anti-clerical legislation and relocated at Woolhampton. A school was founded as part of the community, but eventually closed in 1999. As of 2020, the community consisted of 23 monks who serve parishes across five dioceses.

Facing the buildings above is this lovely thatched cottage.

We now ventured into High Wood and did well to follow the rather sketchy map without getting lost. One section was beside this beautiful field of buttercups, with just a few pink flowers for variety.

We left the wood and soon arrived at the Blade Bone pub, hoping for a refreshing beer, but it was sadly closed. We followed a meandering path through woodland to emerge at the edge of Bucklebury Common. Now along a lane, part of a walk around Midgham I did in April and then skirting a fine house called Woottens to reach Midgham. We walked across Midgham Park to return to Woolhampton.

On the right was the Gill Campbell Memorial, given by Miss Blyth of Woolhampton House in 1895 ...

... and then back past the Fountain and across the railway to the Rowbarge pub where we did have a refreshing draft. As we left I noticed for the first time - we have often eaten at the Rowbarge of an evening - that the car park contains a large concrete pillbox.

Conditions: bright and quite warm.

Map: Explorer 158 Newbury & Hungerford.

From: Walks in the Kennet Valley and beyond 9West Berks Ramblers).

Rating: 3 stars.

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