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This Week's Walks - Archive

Please see the Saturday Walker's Club This Week's Walks page.

This is an archive of walks done by the Saturday Walker's Club. You should only need to use this page if the SWC website is down.

Blog Archive

Saturday, 2 April 2016

Saturday Third Walk [New Walk] - Quiet and scenic West Berkshire Downs. One of Britain's best pubs for game.

SWC Walk 260 – Aldermaston to Woolhampton [Midgham Station] (via Frilsham): woodlands, fields, commons, chalk stream valleys (Kennet, Bourne, Pang), heathland. 

Length: 22.7 km (14.1 mi) [longer walk possible, see below]
Ascent/Descent: 430 m; Net Walking Time: ca. 5 ¼ hours
Toughness:  7 out of 10 

Take the 09.30 Bristol Temple Meads train from Paddington, arriving Aldermaston at 10.25; change at Reading: arrives 10.05, departs 10.12 (Newbury Train, usually departing from Platform 1). [!] NOTICE: as of today Bakerloo Line trains are [!] non-stopping at Paddington [!] (until mid-August), you have to walk from Edgware Road or Warwick Avenue stations (ca. 10 mins), or use other tube lines.
Return trains: XX.24 until 19.24, then 20.10, 21.17 hours (change at Reading, 65-79 minutes journey time)
Buy a Midgham return.

First posting of this former map led walk (SWC 117 old), now newly re-routed, split into two walks and fully written up, we will take the opportunity to check the walk directions of this second walk.

To quote the write-up: “This walk explores a surprisingly quiet part of the commuter area that is West Berkshire, less than an hour from Central London. It is an undulating landscape with some fine views over unspoilt countryside - the West Berkshire Downs, which are part of the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and consist of a mix of ancient woodlands, commons, fields and pretty villages with pleasant, historical pubs. The route passes through the chalk stream river valleys of the Kennet, the Bourne and the Pang, where you’ll also find some evidence of traditional water meadows. A long section of the walk leads through the elevated Bucklebury Common, one of the largest commons in Southern England. In the main this consists of a variety of woods, but you’ll also walk through one of Berkshire’s largest heathlands and see part of a famous Avenue of Oaks.
At the end there is a choice of finishes either through the landscaped Midgham Park or along the Kennet & Avon Canal. 
Carrying map and compass is recommended, as there are plenty of paths in the woods and on the heath.
An optional westerly extension leads through more fascinating, undulating woods and the large and impressive Neolithic hillfort site of Grimsbury Castle.
This version of the walk (26.8 km/16.7 mi, more if you lunch in Hermitage) is rated 8/10.

The recommended lunch options are The Pot Kiln in Frilsham (9.7 km/6.0 mi), regarded as one of Britain's best country pub restaurants, or (at good pace) The Cottage Inn in Upper Bucklebury (17.2 km/10.7 mi). The Pot Kiln does not normally take bookings for groups larger than 6 on weekends, but we have two tables of 6 lined up...there are also endless seats outside. On the extended walk, two other lunch options exist in Hermitage, but they are off-route and add 2.3 km (more for the 2nd pub). 
For tea The Rowbarge Inn in Woolhampton, 2 minutes from Midgham station, is the only option.

For walk directions, map, height profile, and gpx/kml files click here.


Paul said...

I'm planning to do this walk but.... it's 4 trains and 3 hours, so I'm planning to drive, should be able to park at Aldermaston Station. If anyone would like a lift from Tadworth, then please let me know. Room for 4 passengers, depart Tadworth 0900 ish. Return from Aldermaston 1600 latest.
Paul (Porky)

DAC said...

Intend going.

Marcus said...

n=24 w=glorious-sunshine-warm-with-light-breeze-perfect-walking-weather

A record turnout for a Thomas walk on a lovely sunny day - tempting at least one walker to don shorts, although the pink knees will have scared the horses otherwise engaged in churning up the fields and pastures we had to cross. The muddy fields and heavy duty mud in the woods encountered all day would have made today's walk very tedious if it had not been for the perfect walking weather and the fine views we enjoyed over the West Berkshire Downs and river valleys.
Thomas had kindly booked the gourmet lunch pub for us - the Pot Kiln in Fresham - and 18 sat down in anticipation of the fine food promised. We were not let down nor disappointed. The Venison scotch egg starters were to die for, and hats off to those who shared vast venison haunches, washed down with a surfeit of wine and beer, and then managed to walk afterwards. Indeed I believe at least 3 succumbed to the indulgent occasion and gave up on the walk: how sensible of them.
Over-fed and over-watered in the nicest possible way, our walkers then split up into small groups, setting off at different times, some doing the standard walk of 14 miles and some the longer version, still in glorious sunshine. Our picnickers set off first, on the long walk, and they managed to go off piste to such an extent they chalked up 18 miles by the time they staggered into the Angel pub at walk-end for a much needed pint. The rest of us made it at various times back to the Rowbarge Inn, next to Midgham railway station, where refreshments were duly taken. We were concerned that the trains back to town would be chocker full of race goers having had a good liquid day at Newbury Racecourse but we need not have worried, the trains were not full, although on my train a good few racegoers had enjoyed a sherbet or two.
As for the walk, the weather saved the day. Wednesday walkers had tried out the twin to today's walk 260- walk 117 - some six weeks ago in wet conditions. Not a lot to choose between them and both shared the traverse of Bucklebury Common towards walk-end, although today conditions under foot were soggy rather than in flood.
Signs of Spring - 5 % of bluebells open in woods, not many wood anemones, some wild garlic, no drying out of paths !
Having well-indulged over lunch and a day spent in lovely warm sunshine, I expect our walkers slept well last night. And maybe the pink knees had gained some colour?

Karen said...

Really liked this walk. The afternoon, in particular, was lovely. The walk took us through lots of woodland. In fact, I guess through clever routing, it felt like we were walking through one large forest with a nice bit of heathland thrown in at the end. Sure, it was muddy in places, but it's what one would expect at this time of year.

Five of us did the extension and suggested diversion into Fence Wood. A map, GPS and compass proved very useful there; we took a few wrong turns, but got back on track easily enough.

The only letdown of the afternoon was the discovery that the much ballyhood Neolithic hillfort site at Grimsbury Castle is, in fact, Iron Age. A disappointment, for sure, but the Iron Age has its charms, so we didn't let it get us down for long.