Aldermaston to Woolhampton via Stanford Dingley walk
Quiet and scenic West Berkshire Downs: woodlands, fields, commons, chalk stream valleys, heathland, finish along a canal or through parkland.
This is a list of previous times this walk has been done by the club (since Jan 2010). For more recent events (since April 2015), full details are shown.
|Sat, ||Saturday walk - Aldermaston to Woolhampton via Stanford Dingley - Ancient woodlands, pretty villages||9||sunny|
|Sat, ||Saturday walk - Aldermaston to Woolhampton via Stanford Dingley||9||started ominous and brooding but turned sunny later|
|Sat, ||Saturday Walk Aldermaston to Woolhampton||7||grey|
|Wed, ||Return of the Moonlight Special (hopefully)||8||dry with patches of sun and moon|
|Sat, ||Second Walk – Aldermaston to Woolhampton [Midgham Station] (via Stanford Dingley)||15||sunny|
|Wed, ||Midweek Day Walk [Fully Revised] - Aldermaston to Woolhampton [Midgham Station] short option||15||drizzle set in during morning with steady rain all afternoon|
|Sun, ||Aldermaston to Woolhampton||0|
|Sun, ||Aldermaston to Woolhampton|
|Sat, ||Aldermaston to Woolhampton|
|Sun, ||Woolhampton Circular|
|Wed, ||Aldermaston to Woolhampton|
Toughness: 5 out of 10
9.30 (Bristol Temple Meads) train from Paddington to Reading, arriving 9.57, crossing to platform 1 for the 10.12 to Aldermaston arriving 10.25.
Great Western seem to have developed a grudge against residents of Ealing Broadway, from which connections are truly appalling for this service. Perhaps they will improve in the new Big Bang December timetable when the whole GWR service is to be re-jigged to reflect the faster train times offered by electrification. For the moment the "official" connecting train is the 8.38 (yes, 8.38), which gets you to Reading at 9.33. The next Reading stopper, the 9.07 gets to Reading at 10.09, leaving you just three minutes to do a mad dash from platform 12 to platform 1 to make the connection - not advised. An alternative is to get the 9.01 train into Paddington, arriving 9.13 and get the 9.30 Bristol train as above.
Buy a day return to Midgham (which, confusingly, is the name of the station in the village of Woolhampton).
For walk directions click here. For GPX click here. For a map of the route click here.
We did the Frilsham sister of this walk last October, with its foodie game pub, but as far as I know the lunch options on this walk - and there seem to be a number of them - are of a more normal kind. The walk notes promise undulating landscape, ancient woodlands, commons, pretty villages, historic pubs and an avenue of oaks, which should add up to the ideal autumn outing.
I also wanted to pick a reasonable length walk for one of the last Saturdays before the Great Darkness begins (a reference to the clocks going back, not a No Deal Brexit), though this one also does include an optional shortcut that reduces it to 15.6km (9.7 miles): this cuts out the recommended lunch pub, but leaves you a choice of two or three others. You can also trim 1.3km (0.8 miles) off the end of the walk
Trains back from Midgham (the station in Woolhampton) are at 16.19, 17.27, 18.27. 19.27, 20.19 - all changing at Reading - and then at 21.16 direct.
If you are carousing at the Rowbarge Inn prior to your train leave a bit of extra time to get to the station because sometimes the level crossing barrier comes down for a fast train, marooning you on the wrong side of the tracks for several minutes. You have been warned!!
9 on this walk, including one late starter who caught us up at lunch. And at last it was sunny - a beautiful autumn day with just a bit of cloud, and with the ground only muddy in a few places.
One of our number had booked for eight people at The Bull and this proved spot on. We had a very pleasant lunch by the big window in their conservatory, with only lingering looks at the outside tables. Despite a somewhat meaty theme to the place, it served reasonable vegetarian/vegan options.
In general this was a very pleasant walk, with always nice and at times beautiful scenery, the heath section of Bucklebury Common being an interesting contrast to the fields and woods on the rest of the walk. There were some fine valley views and plenty of fungi in the woods, though still relatively little autumn colour. Just after lunch we picked up great handfuls of freshly fallen sweet chestnuts.
Five of us stopped for tea at the Bucklebury Farm Park (whose “Woody’s Cafe” is now the “Honesty Cafe”). The rest of the group wandered around looking at the alpacas. When we set off there was a polite but slightly odd conversation with the farm staff, which I could summarise by saying that they wish the footpath did not cross fields with their animals in. They pointed out (but apparently declined to signpost) a very reasonable alternative route which some of us followed.
We did the shorter Midgham Park ending and got to the Rowbarge Inn about 5.30pm, making this walk the ideal length for the day. After a convivial stop of an hour or two we variously got the 6.27 and 7.27 trains.
Toughness: 5 out of 10
9.30 (Bristol Temple Meads) train from Paddington to Reading, changing there (arrive 9.55, depart 10.12) for Aldermaston, arriving 10.25
From Ealing Broadway get 9.05 stopping service to Reading, arriving 9.50.
Buy a day return to Midgham (which is the station at the end of the walk, though it is situated in the village of Woolhampton).
For walk directions click here. For GPX click here. For a map click here.
Most of our Aldermaston/Newbury/Woolhampton walks explore the area to the south of the railway line: this one covers the area to the north. Other than that and that it has not had outing since March 2018, I don't know much about this walk, but the blurb says that passes through "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". Mention is also made of ancient water meadows which might be starting to have a nice display of buttercups by now.
There seem to be various options for lunch - read the walk's introduction page for more details. At the end of the walk if you have tea at the very nice canalside Rowbarge, leave good time to get to the station, as the barriers on the level crossing have an annoying habit of going down and staying down at just the wrong moment, usually because of a passing express to the West Country. This is not a problem if you stop at the Angel Inn, which is on the right side of the tracks.
Trains back are at 27 past the hour until 19.27, then 20.19, 21.16, 22.12
I counted us and promptly forgot the number (8 or 9 ) on a day that started ominous and brooding but turned sunny later A pretty walk with spring in full swing and bluebells, stitchwort and buttercups in flower. Also, in the woodland approaching Bucklebury Common, orchids still to flower. Navigating through the reserve was a little unnerving. The hillocks are not that easy to see through all the verdure and, despite being open access, I think the directions could have led us along defined paths (there are some, as I discovered later) to avoid disturbing any ground nesters. That said, they were meticulous and did get me through. This walk has more than its fair share of large impressive oaks. You can’t walk far without bumping into one (metaphorically). I was slower than the others and might have taken a teensy shortcut or two, missing out the lunch pub. I understand that those that went there liked it. At the end, I went to the Angel which was OK, if a little unremarkable. The others went the Rowbarge which they must have liked because some missed the first train and stayed there, gassing. Did I mention the little baby lambs? There were some.
Length: 12.6 miles (20.3km) 5 out of 10
Lunch: The recommended lunch stop is The Bull Inn in Stanford Dingley (8.4 km/5.2 mi).
Tea: There are two pubs close to the station, The Angel & the lovely Rowbarge. Note that from the Rowbarge you have to allow time to avoid getting cut off by the level crossing gates or the canal swing bridge.
6 left the station with Billy Whizz leaving us in his wake
The weather was quite clement with a peep of soft sun gently teasing us in the morning and then a bit squally in the afternoon. Lets just say grey day
This walk is a skivers joy as we did two short cuts in the morning and then those with predominant skiver genes ( they do exist I assure you ) planned to take a taxi after lunch to the tea time pub.
The morning was wonderfully eventful with us spotting a Montjac deer from the train window just before we drew into Aldermaston Station.
We wandered down the road on the route to find that the God of Floods had been and left and made the road and surrounding fields impassable. I was of a mind to abandon all hope but a Scottish woman who is better known for her choice of lunch pubs ( aka Sheepie ) managed to flag down a couple of trucks who shipped us through the deluge. The man who is a retired mathematician and now has the enviable task of writing Christmas cracker jokes gave the driver of the first truck to stop lifetime membership of SWC - I am not sure that he appreciated this bountiful offer.
Lunch at the Bull in Stanford Dingley gave excellent service and we were well looked after even down to the owner giving Christmas Cracker man a lift to the nearby supermarket / bus stop. They didn’t list any vegan dishes but my linguine and Sheepie’s risotto were very close and I am sure if you asked the kitchen would accommodate you.
Our retired English teacher who I will refer to as RET started an argument in the pub amongst us about proper English but then thankfully that fizzled out without resort to fisticuffs.
Our esteemed leader (curious that leaders are always esteemed) set off to walk the afternoon 7.5 miles whilst us other 3 ‘bailed out’ and took the the taxi to church in Midgham.
Surprisingly we were joined by a late comer (so total 7 ) as we were about to leave in the taxi. OApparently Ms A had had a business mtg that morning so got a train to Theale and then a taxi to the pub. She obviously did not realise the extent of the saturation of the route and decided to walk. Just before she left she confessed that her business meeting was actually Carluccio's doing a free breakfast if you turn up in your dressing gown. I will now know her as Ms Dressing Down.
We three finished with tea in the Rowbarge Inn at Midgham, having walked the last mile or so, excellent tea and a good shortbread biscuit, for which I broke my Lenten fast.
Waiting for the train at 16.19 to Reading we were met by our Esteemed Leader on the platform, our rather sodden hats off to you EL.
Fondest Regards and All That
The Retired Geneticist
PS Mr M Tiger was expected to join us but unfortunately didn't. I wonder if he visited Carluccio's as well
PPS Yippee no dogs all day.
Distance: 12.6 miles or 20.3 km for those more metrically minded (14.6 miles (23.5km) or 18.6 miles (30 km) with the Aldermaston or Theale extensions, respectively)
Difficulty: 5 out of 10
Although grey clouds were abundant, for a Wednesday of late, the conditions were quite pleasant -- dry with patches of sun and moon and made for a very enjoyable autumnal outing for the 8 who disembarked from the train at Aldermaston. The morning terrain was very picturesque with rolling fields and some woods starting to tint. Lunch was a rather amusing affair -- with good intentions and mistake by yours truly, we booked from the train station at the "other" Stanford Dingley pub. A brief separation in the group before lunch meant that the error could not be rectified before it was too late....So with more than a little doubt, we spent some time in a rather rustic pub awaiting our orders from a rather basic looking menu (all in name of good SWC research of course) discussing interesting dining establishments in and around London. After quite some time and hearing lots of feverish chopping from the kitchen -- much to our surprise several well presented, interesting and tasty meals arrived (the only disappointment being some bread -- due to a failed delivery). So -- yes, the other pub is also a good option....The afternoon route passed through a small animal park with some interesting critters and across the heathland of Bucklesbury Common before an always lovely descent to Midgham. Most caught the 18:24 leaving one behind who continued on to Aldermaston along the canal to catch a few glimpses of a great big moon before it disappeared behind some clouds...offering a brief taste of the highlights to come during the approaching winter evenings....
Length: 20.3 km (12.6 mi) [shorter walk possible, see pdf]
15 walkers, with the initial clouds lifting around 11.00 o'clock, for a sunny day thereafter (heavy rain though later while on the train back to London). The group stayed together to the lunch pub, where some had a second drink, while the majority moved on. Those few also had a mid-afternoon stop at (after a diversion to) The Cottage Inn in Upper Bucklebury, so arrived in Woolhampton much later than the main group.
Proper countryside quite close to London, hardly any other walkers met all day, some beautiful villages, and a nice pub providing for fast delivery of very fine doorstop sandwiches and other assorted goods. Lunch was had outside on benches in front of the pub in the sun, not a bad result for mid Oct.
Some corrections to the directions are necessary around the Bucklebury Common heathland, as the scenery is now much different now from when the walk research was done in deep winter.
16.24 train for 10, after a 30 mins stop in The Rowbarge. 17.24 for the other 5, who gave The Angel a try (which is fine, but not as atmospheric as The Rowbarge).
…by special arrangement, Arthur D. has relinquished the walk poster role for this Wednesday, so that we can give this 'new' walk a run-out, thanks ever so much!
The recommended lunch option is The Cottage Inn in Upper Bucklebury (9.5 km/5.9 mi), which has won a Best Community Pub award for two years running.
For tea The Rowbarge Inn in Woolhampton, 2 minutes from Midgham station, is the only option.
Having walked this repeatedly over the last weeks, I can re-assure you that the mud levels are nothing out of the ordinary. A few stretches in the woods of course need careful attention, but all else is fine.
I might attend the walk. But I can't Guarantee I will.
15 drizzle set in during morning with steady rain all afternoon
Another good turn out for a mid-week walk, particularly as the weather forecast was not favourable. Setting off on the shorter, 10 mile version of this walk in West Berkshire, we were soon in pleasant countryside - a good mixture of woodland, farmland, heaths and commons, with views of river valleys, and some lovely churches to visit en route. Mud levels, to be expected in the woods, were very manageable all day and never spoilt the walk. We stopped for a late lunch at the Cottage Inn in Upper Bucklebury and although the Landlord seemed to take an age taking our orders, he did so cheerfully, and his food was well worth the wait. The morning's drizzle having morphed into steady rain, it was time to don full waterproofs as we set off on the afternoon leg, soon freelancing across Bucklebury Common. Thomas had forgotten to tell us to stow inflatable dinghies in our back packs, so we had to negotiate the flooded sections best we could. Having done so, we were soon on firmer footing as we progressed along country lanes towards St Matthew's Church, Midgham, before we set off on the last leg of our walk - a relaxing stroll along the Kennet and Avon Canal - our water feature for the day (apart from the rain). 5 stopped for refreshments at the cozy Rowbarge Inn by Midgtham station, leaving those still left in the group to catch the 17-23 hrs train to Reading, for a quick change to a fast service back to Paddington.
Today's walk turned out to be surprisingly good with lots of variety, some lovely valley views, no steep hills - just a few inclines to keep a walker honest - and excellent lunch and tea stops. Well worth repeating in early autumn.
Ive just finished cleaning the acidic silt off my high cuff leather boots by Meindle. Thankfully my feet were the only part of me that kept dry during this soggy rainy day. The Rowbarge pub provided excellent tea, salad and hot soup to revive us helped by a couple of bottles of Sauvignon Blanc to cheer our spirits whilst we waited for our apparel to dry out on the radiator commissioned by our property sales and maintenance adviser.
The train home we selected was cancelled without explanation so a second visit to the pub was required for more refreshment. By this time the conversation had revved up a gear reminiscing about absent friends no longer seen on regular walks. DAC you are sorely missed. Please come and join us one day!
Eventually catching the 21.02 train changing at Reading to the express for Paddington we enjoyed the empty first class restaurant car minus dinner with much hilarity and in my case a dash to the Heathrow connect and the bus home to Brentford. What a wonderful day for socialising in spite of the rain.
I count myself lucky that I did not drown in a quagmire as a result of this expedition, and a glass of wine at lunchtime would surely have resulted in that outcome; note to brain, extra lie in tomorrow and thanks of course to Thomas for his excellent maritime navigational skills. Additionally, I have learnt that much of West Berkshire is peat bog which I can only think has something to do with its proximity to Wales. Recently I had considered investing in a flotation tank session but now appreciate that it costs no more to do this walk, plus you get a 'free' lunch.
When I win the lottery, I shall purchase the latest technology rainwear, until which time, it may have to be an industrial strength plastic bag.
Nevertheless, every cloud has a silver lining and the walk finished with Annie calling me a 'slut', which ordinarily might be considered as insult added to injury, but in this case, may be a sign of a burgeoning friendship. What is it you say over there Karen 'Some days you eat the bear'? Thank heavens the sun came out.
Well, my dear friends of The Great Outdoors...
A recent, timely, multi-year study published by the European Fund For The Furtherment Of The Outdoor Industry (EFFTFOTOI) has come to these groundbreaking conclusions:
A. If you spend all day outdoors on a cold and wet winter day without waterproof jackets, trousers and gloves, you will get wet and cold (your local outdoor store will offer you gear for the occasion at a wide variety of price points).
B. Once you are wet and cold, you will stay wet and cold, until after a hot shower and a rubdown.
C. If you carry paper instructions or maps without an appropriate rain cover on a non-stop rainy day, they will get soggy and unusable (your local outdoor store will offer you solutions at a small fortune, your local stationary store will offer you solutions at fractions of a penny).
D. If - on a rainy day in a wet winter - you wear low-slung, fabric 'summer' shoes, you run the risk (some would say certainty) of water and mud ingress (your local outdoor store will sell you waterproof boots at a wide variety of price points; they are waterproof at time of purchase and will stay waterproof if you follow the care instructions).
E. Grassy slopes and standing water on tarmac or gravel paths near the end of a walk are great opportunities to clean the boots.
F. There's always the sofa.
I maintain my point that this walk had no unusual levels or percentages of muddy bits, considering it contained woods and commons, and that all but 2-3 steep bits in the woods were easily negotiable. The one unusual feature (heathland paths ankle-deep under water) I found quite hilarious, others might differ (but they were easy to avoid by walking through the heather, anyway).
Thomas, I appreciate and value your leadership and navigational skills without the slightest reservation. My sense of humour may be an acquired taste, in that unlike the British weather, it can be bone dry, but rarely intentionally offensive, and certainly not on this occasion. Having reproofed the jacket, I was hopeful that it might save me from the worst.Had I mummified myself with a toilet roll, it may have been more effective. I shall determinedly look into this [reproofing, not wrapping myself in toilet roll], as I am reluctant to throw the thing away. Ironically, the 'summer boots', which had also been treated,lasted the course very well.Trousers, not a major issue.Major issue: Knees. Did fabulously well, very proud of them. More demanding than last wednesday, but still manageable. For the time being, I shall stick to level four and under. In the mean time, keep trekking