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Walking in Berkshire

BerkshireWest Berkshire, famous for the open expanse of the high chalk Berkshire Downs, provides invigorating walking with freedom, space and wide vistas. The Ridgeway National Trail, an ancient path dating back to iron age times, provides a good route from which to explore the Downs and their fascinating history. Notable sites include the Iron Age hill fort at Segsbury Camp, remains of the mysterious Grim's Ditch and the burial mound of Scutchamer Knob as well as bronze-age barrows and Roman field systems. Lambourn, home to some of England's finest thoroughbred horses, is a good base from which to visit many of these pre-historic sites, including The Seven Barrows just to the north. You can follow the Ridgeway east across North Berkshire via East Ilsley, Compton, Aldworth and Streatley, following in the footsteps of Neolithic ramblers.

Berkshire ViewFurther south the landscape falls from grassy chalk downs, through birch and oak woodland and across commons to the Kennet Valley. Here the countryside is soft and tranquil with green meadows edged with willow. This is a more populated area dominated by the historic market town of Newbury, with the Kennet and Avon canal running through its centre. Newbury has a special claim to historic fame as being the location for two important battles in the Civil War. Donnington Castle, not far north of the town, was besieged during the War for nearly two years during which time Oliver Cromwell's forces destroyed much of the castle, although the royalist Sir John Boys held out. Only the 14th century Gatehouse remains, which can be visited in a walk from Snelsmore Common Country Park. Return via the picturesque Watermill Theatre on the river Lambourne. A relaxing day can be spent walking along part of the Kennet and Avon Canal discovering some of the villages and open countryside of the area and enjoying lunch at one of the canal-side pubs. For example take a circular route such as one from Woolhampton and including Midgham.

South of the Kennet Valley the chalk escarpment rises again to new heights, reaching nearly 1,000ft. at Inkpen Hill and nearby Walbury Hill. From here there are spectacular views across the Kennet Valley, but they would not have been appreciated by felons hanging from Combe Gibbet, the grisly landmark used to hang highwaymen in earlier times. From Inkpen Beacon the Wayfarer's Walk heads south into Hampshire.

East BerkshireEast Berkshire, from Reading to Windsor, is a landscape in which the River Thames features prominently. Here the mature river has a beauty and stature worthy of its destination, flowing through the nation's capital. Walking a part of the Thames Path National Trail past pleasant meadows, beech woods, locks and weirs is relaxing and interesting. Cookham is especially charming, with its lock set among woods and attractive backwaters, and its village green surrounded by pretty houses. The hanging beech woods of Clivedon Reach nearby crowd the waters edge and are magnificent in autumn.

South of the River Thames Windsor Great Park and adjacent Windsor Forest offer lovely scenery and walking opportunities. Near Wokingham the Finchampstead Ridges (NT) provide splendid walking with views over Berkshire, Hampshire and Surrey, with heath, woodland and the Blackwater Valley. Bradenham and West Wycombe are good centres for walking through some of the beautiful local beech woods.

Kintbury

kintburyKintbury is a village located on the River Kennet and although there are some modern estates built above the valley to the south, the old part has retained its ancient charm. In the middle ages Kintbury's main industries were cantered around the mills of the River Kennet. At one time it held a weekly market and compared with Hungerford in importance. The opening of the canal in 1810 brought new industry to Kintbury including iron working, although the town's main source of income was still agriculture, controlled by the large manor houses in the surrounding countryside. St Mary's church dates from the thirteenth century, although an extensive restoration in 1859 effectively made it into a Victorian church. From Kintbury there are good walks along the Kennet and Avon Canal and south of the village to Inkpen, Templeton, Hamstead Marshall and St Cassian's.

A Walk from Kintbury [385673]

This walk explores the pastoral farmland between Kintbury and Newbury before returning along the Kennet and Avon Canal. As well as views across to Walbury Hill, the walk includes Hamstead Marshall where the pairs of gateposts standing in the middle of a field are the only remains of the seventeenth century Hamstead Lodge. Kintbury is famous for the Kintbury Witch and the legend of the 'Kintbury Great Bell'.
Best Pubs for this walk
Dundas Arms, Kintbury Tel: 01488 658263 (Good Pub Guide)
Lovely pub with a riverside terrace. Partly panelled bar popular with locals. Good choice of excellent bar food.
The Red House, Marsh Benham Tel: 01635 582017 (Good Pub Guide)
Smart thatched dining pub, although there is a comfortable bar and terrace. Excellent food in the restaurant.
This walk is fully described in the guidebook 'Walking in Berkshire' by Robert Wilson.

 

 

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