West Berkshire Downs: ancient woodlands, commons, pretty villages, historical pubs, chalk streams, water meadows, heathland, finishes via landscaped park or the Kennet canal.
|Length||22.7 km (14.1 mi), of which 4.1 km (2.5 mi) on tarmac or concrete. Cumulative ascent/descent: 430m. For a longer and a shorter walk, see below Walk options.|
|Toughness||7 out of 10 Time: 5 hours 15 minutes walking time. For the whole outing, including trains, sights and meals, allow at least 8 ½ hours.|
|Map||OS Explorer Map: 159 (Reading, Wokingham & Pangbourne) & 158 (Newbury & Hungerford). OS Landranger Map: 174 (Newbury & Wantage) & 175 (Reading & Windsor)|
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 youll 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.
An optional westerly extension leads through more fascinating, undulating woods and the impressive Iron Age hillfort site of Grimsbury Castle. This longer version of the walk adds 4.2 km/2.6 mi and 68m ascent, and is rated 8/10 (and a diversion to a late lunch stop in Hermitage adds another 2.3 km).
Buses 6/6A (Newbury Bus Station Circular) run through Hermitage, the late lunch stop on the extended walk, Mon-Sat only though. Newbury is further down the line than Midgham.
For a shorter walk (which also has an option for an additional shortcut), with the same start and finish, but a completely different middle part, try SWC 117 Aldermaston to Woolhampton (via Stanford Dingley).
Both stations are on the Berkshire and Hampshire line from Reading to Newbury (and on to Bedwyn and Taunton). Journey times are from 49 minutes Mon-Fri (hourly), 55 mins Sat (hourly) and 52 minutes Sun (two-hourly). Change at Reading, with the Newbury train usually departing from Platform 1. Midgham station is one stop further from London with a journey time from 50 minutes.
|Saturday Walkers' Club||
Take the train closest to 9.30 hours.
|Lunch and Tea||
After the walk, we would love to get your feedback
Out (not a train station)
Back (not a train station)
National Rail: 03457 48 49 50 • Travelline (bus times): 0871 200 22 33 (12p/min) • TFL (London) : 0343 222 1234
Dec-20 Thomas G
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Full directions for this walk are in a PDF file (link above) which you can print, or download on to a Kindle, tablet, or smartphone.
This is just the introduction. This walk's detailed directions are in a PDF available from wwww.walkingclub.org.uk