Main Walk, via Finchamptead: 15¼ km (9.5 miles). Three hours 35 minutes walking time. For the whole excursion including trains, sights and meals, allow at least 8 hours.
Extended Walk, to Blackwater: 18½ km (11.5 miles). Four hours 20 minutes walking time.
Alternative Walk (Circular), via Eversley Cross: 12½ km (7.8 miles). Two hours 55 minutes walking time.
Explorer 159. Crowthorne station, map reference SU823637, is in Berkshire, 7 km SW of Bracknell.
3 out of 10 (2 for the Alternative Walk).
Crowthorne station was originally built to serve Wellington College and the Main Walk starts out alongside the grounds of this famous public school. It then heads west on a serpentine route through attractive mixed woodland, heaths and pastures, including the National Trust's Finchampstead Ridges.
After lunch in a rural pub in Finchampstead the walk heads south to the River Blackwater, with the return route being along the Blackwater Valley Path (BVP). The valley has been heavily exploited for sand and gravel extraction and the walk route goes past several worked-out flooded pits due for restoration, followed by a fully-restored landscaped area making up Moor Green Lakes Nature Reserve.
The Main Walk ends at Sandhurst station, with a choice of pubs for tea, but it is possible to extend the walk to Blackwater (see below).
There are two ways in which you can extend the Main Walk after lunch. A longer afternoon route joins the BVP further downstream near Eversley Bridge, returning alongside the most recent gravel workings (where some new routes may become available in the next few years). The other option is to carry on through Sandhurst to the next station on the line, Blackwater. Once out of Sandhurst this Extended Walk consists of a pleasant stretch through a park and Shepherd Meadows Nature Reserve.
Directions are also given for a significantly different Alternative Walk. This shorter variation takes in most of the features of the Main Walk (some in the reverse order), goes to the village of Eversley Cross for lunch and completes a circular route back to Crowthorne. However, the only tea place here is currently closed on weekend afternoons.
There are several ways in which you could combine the Main and Alternative Walks. In particular, you could save 3¾ km by taking the latter's direct route to Heath Pond at the start of the Main Walk (useful if you miss a train and want to catch up the main group). In addition, as they share a stretch along the BVP in mid-afternoon, all the different endings (to Crowthorne, Sandhurst and Blackwater) are available to both walks.
Much of the area is along the River Blackwater's flood plain and the footpath to Eversley Cross on the Alternative Walk is particularly prone to flooding.
Crowthorne, Sandhurst and Blackwater are adjacent stations on the Reading–Guildford line. All trains call at Blackwater, which has a half-hourly service, but only half the trains stop at Crowthorne and Sandhurst. There are several ways of getting to these stations from central London. The shortest journey time (taking less than an hour) is from Paddington, changing at Reading. The other routes are from Waterloo and take about 20 minutes longer (via Guildford) or 40 minutes (via Wokingham).
Travelling via Reading is more expensive than the other routes, but a ticket for this route allows you to return by any of the alternatives. If you travel out from Waterloo the cheaper ticket is valid for either of these routes, but not for returning to Paddington.
There are buses along the A321 parallel to the railway but none through the villages along the walk route, so you would need to call a taxi if you wanted to abandon the walk.
If driving, there is a small station car park at Crowthorne and a larger council-managed one at Blackwater. Parking is possible in the residential streets near Crowthorne and Sandhurst.
Take the train nearest to 10:15 from either Paddington (via Reading) or Waterloo (via Guildford), depending on your chosen route. An earlier train is advisable if you plan to do one of the longer walk options in winter.
On the Main Walk the suggested lunchtime pub (after 8 km) is the up-market Queen's Oak (0118-996 8567) near Finchampstead's parish church, which serves good freshly-cooked food to 2.30pm, later at weekends. A little further along the main route there is an alternative pub/restaurant in the centre of the village, the Greyhound (0118-973 2269). On the longer afternoon route a short detour would take you to the Tally Ho (0118-973 2134) at Eversley Bridge, 2½ km further on.
On the Alternative Walk there are two equally good lunchtime pubs alongside the village green in Eversley Cross, 6¼ km into the walk: the Frog and Wicket (0118-973 1126) and the Chequers (0118-402 7065).
The suggested tea place in Sandhurst (just past the station) is the friendly Village Inn (01252-873220), which serves tea and coffee. An alternative pub appealing to real ale drinkers is the Rose & Crown (01252-878938), passed on the way to the station. The nearby Old Mill Coffee Shop & Cafe (01252-878562) unhelpfully closes at 3pm (2pm Sun).
There are no convenient places near Blackwater station, so if you are doing this extension the suggested tea place is Pistachios in the Park (01252-878574) at the entrance to Sandhurst's Memorial Park, which is usually open to at least 5pm in summer (earlier in winter). Allow 35 minutes for the final 2½ km to Blackwater station.
There are no pubs or cafés near Crowthorne station, but the Good Food Deli (01344-772872) at 194 Duke's Ride has some indoor tables; however, it closes around lunchtime at weekends.
If you run out of options at the end of the walk there are station buffets at Reading, Guildford and Wokingham when you change trains.
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 SE (bus times): 0871 200 2233 (12p/min) • TFL (London) : 0343 222 1234
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The directions for this walk are also in a PDF (link above) which you can download on to a Kindle, tablet, or smartphone.
Click the heading below to show/hide the walk route for the selected option(s).
Walk Options ( Main+Ext. | Alt. )
Click on any option to show only the sections making up that route, or the heading above to show all sections.
- Main Walk (15¼ km)
Click on any section heading to switch between detailed directions and an outline, or the heading above to switch all sections.
If you are doing the Alternative Walk (or want to take a short cut at the start of the Main Walk), go to §4.
- Crowthorne Station to Ambarrow Court (2 km)
- Arriving from Guildford/Farnborough
- Arriving from Reading/Wokingham
- Ambarrow Court to Finchampstead Ridges (1¾ km)
- Finchampstead Ridges to Heath Pond (1¼ km)
- Crowthorne Station to Heath Pond direct (1¼ km)
- Arriving from Guildford/Farnborough
- Arriving from Reading/Wokingham
- Heath Pond to Moor Green Lakes (2 km)
- Moor Green Lakes to Eversley Cross (3 km)
- Eversley Cross to the River Blackwater (1 km)
- Heath Pond to Finchampstead (3 km)
- Finchampstead to the River Blackwater (2½ km)
- Main route
- Route via the Greyhound
- Finchampstead to Eversley (2¼ km)
- Detour to the Tally Ho (+300m)
- Eversley to the River Blackwater (2¼ km)
- The Blackwater Valley Path to Horseshoe Lake (2¼ km)
- Horseshoe Lake to Sandhurst Station (2½ km)
- Sandhurst Station to Blackwater Station (3¼ km)
- Main route
- Alternative route
- Horseshoe Lake to Crowthorne Station (3 km)
Go through a small housing development onto the footpath running between the railway and the grounds of Wellington College. After 1 km turn right and cross the railway tracks. Take any route through Ambarrow Court Nature Reserve to its car park on the A321.
Leave the platform near the front of the train. Bear right, go up a flight of steps to the B3348 (Duke's Ride) and turn right to cross over the railway. On the other side of the bridge, turn right again into St Francis Close.
Leave the platform near the back of the train. Go through a parking area and turn right into St Francis Close.
Go through a pedestrian side gate to the left of the main gate to enter a small housing development (this is a public footpath). At the end bear left to continue on a tarmac path, heading S. This winds round behind the new houses and soon becomes a long straight path running between the railway (on your right) and the grounds of Wellington College1.
In 600m the path curves round to the left and comes to a back entrance into the college grounds. Turn right as indicated onto a fenced path, with sports pitches and later a golf course on your left. You pass a Memorial Grove of young lime trees and the path works its way back towards the railway. In 350m, just after entering a wooded area, turn right at a three-way footpath sign and carefully cross the railway tracks into Ambarrow Court Nature Reserve2.
For a short cut (saving 500m) you could now go straight ahead on the public footpath for about 150m, then veer left onto a path going down to the reserve car park. If you do this, continue the directions at §2.
For the suggested route around this small nature reserve, immediately turn sharp left. The path runs parallel to the railway for a short distance, then veers right to meet a wider path, where you turn left. 80m further on, bear left down some steps and cross a wooden footbridge onto a surfaced path (or keep ahead on the step-free path, which curves round to the same point).
Follow this path round to the right along the southern boundary of the reserve. At the end of a meadow on your right and shortly before an exit to a main road, turn right to continue alongside the meadow. After heading N through a more wooded area the path comes to the reserve car park.
Cross the A321 and take the footpath heading west to Ambarrow Farm. Continue along a lane for a short distance, then veer right onto a footpath going through Coalpit Copse and gently uphill to a wooded ridge. Turn left onto a byway and follow this down to the south-eastern corner of Finchampstead Ridges.
Go through the car park and cross the A321, taking care as there is no pavement and the traffic is quite fast. Take the footpath just off to the right heading W alongside a high wooden fence. In 250m this comes down to a lane at a bend.
Keep ahead on the lane, soon ignoring a footpath off to the left. In 150m, as the lane bends to the left, go past a private drive on the right but then immediately turn right past a metal fieldgate onto a broad track into a wood, signposted as a public footpath. After briefly going gently downhill the track starts to climb steadily. In 200m ignore a fieldgate ahead and follow the path to the right along the edge of the wood. In a further 250m the path bends left, now with pasture on both sides.
In 150m you enter a wood and have to follow the footpath up a potentially awkward sunken gully, as a new wooden fence blocks easier side routes. At the top of a short climb the path swings round to the left and then heads W along the top of a wooded slope. In 250m the path comes to a T-junction with a byway where you turn left.
Follow this track gently downhill for 400m as it as winds its way through the wood, later with houses and paddocks on the left. Where the track turns sharply left, just after “Rorke's Drift”, bear right past a wooden barrier into the south-eastern corner of Finchampstead Ridges.
Take any route up through Finchampstead Ridges to its north-eastern corner. Head east briefly along the B3348 and turn left onto a byway into Simon's Wood. Keep ahead at a path crossing, then veer left onto a path leading to the southern tip of Heath Pond. Go along the western edge of the lake and turn left at its north-western corner onto a long straight bridleway known as the Devil's Highway.
There are many paths through this National Trust woodland and you might like to explore it more fully. If you deviate from the route suggested here, climb to the top of the ridge and turn right to go to the north-eastern corner of the NT land, by the entrance to a house called “Edge of the Hill”. If you do this, continue the directions at [•] below.
For the suggested route through this wooded ridge, turn left and take the right-hand of two paths into the wood, heading NW and going gently downhill. At the bottom of the slope you might have to negotiate a boggy area alongside a small pond on your left. You soon come to a path junction by a wooden bench where you turn right, the start of a steady climb to the top of the ridge.
In 100m the path starts to climb more steeply. A little further on keep ahead (slightly to the left) at a crosspaths to go up a slope on a broad path. At the top you come to a grove of pine trees with a couple of wooden benches and a fine view back over the Blackwater Valley to the Hampshire hills beyond.
From the viewpoint, head N (away from the view) towards a road, but in 40m veer right past a gnarled tree onto a grassy path through some heather, gradually approaching the road off to your left. The path leaves Finchampstead Ridges by a bend in the B3348, with the entrance to a house called “Edge of the Hill” on your right and a striking view down Wellingtonia Avenue3.
[•] Cross the road carefully and turn right to walk along the pavement. In 50m turn left off the road onto a signposted byway, with a NT sign for Simon's Wood. Go past the entrance to several large houses4 and continue on a track downhill through the wood. After the path levels out keep ahead at a major path crossing, now with a more open area on your left. In a further 80m veer left onto a narrow path across this heathland.
In 100m cross a wooden footbridge over the southern tip of Heath Pond and veer right to go along its edge. At its north-western corner you come to a T-junction with a long straight bridleway known as the Devil's Highway5, with heathland ahead on your left.
Continue the directions at §8.
Go along the B3348 to a roundabout and take the byway heading north-west, Heath Ride. In 700m turn half-left at a path crossing onto a long straight bridleway known as the Devil's Highway, soon going along the northern edge of Heath Pond.
Leave the platform near the front of the train. Go up the station's approach road and turn left onto the B3348, Duke's Ride.
Leave the platform near the back of the train. Go through a parking area and turn sharp left to go back across the railway bridge on the B3348.
Go along the left-hand side of the B3348 to a large roundabout. Carefully cross over both the A321 and the B3348 (with a striking view up Wellingtonia Avenue3) and take the byway signposted “Unsuitable for motor vehicles”, heading NW.
Continue along this long straight track (Heath Ride) for 700m. At the first major path crossing, just after a house called “Heritage”, turn half-left onto a long straight bridleway known as the Devil's Highway5, past a NT sign for Simon's Wood and heading W. In 150m keep ahead at a major path crossing to continue along the northern edge of Heath Pond.
If you were taking a short cut on the Main Walk, go to §8.
Go along the western edge of Heath Pond to its southern tip and continue across the heath. Join a byway heading south through Simon's Wood to the B3348. Turn right briefly onto this road, then take any route through Finchampstead Ridges to its south-western corner. Head south along Dell Road and turn left onto Lower Sandhurst Road. Turn right into the car park for Moor Green Lakes Nature Reserve.
To continue the Alternative Walk to Eversley Cross, turn left off the bridleway at the far end of the pond to go along its western edge. At its southern tip, cross a wooden footbridge and bear right onto a path across the heath. At a path crossing in 100m, turn half-right to head S, staying on the edge of the heath. Where the heath ends, keep ahead at a major path crossing to enter a more wooded area.
The track goes uphill through some rhododendrons and leads into a tarmac drive. Follow this past several large houses4 to the B3348, with another view down Wellingtonia Avenue. Turn right and go along the pavement for 50m to a right-hand bend (where you can see the traffic clearly in both directions) and cross the road with great care. On the other side of the road is the imposing entrance to a house called “Edge of the Hill”, with Finchampstead Ridges to its right.
There are many paths through this National Trust woodland and you might like to explore it more fully. If you deviate from the route suggested here, make for the bridleway running along its southern boundary and turn right onto it to reach Dell Road (a public footpath from its western boundary also leads out this road, 200m higher up). If you do this, continue the directions at [•] below.
For the suggested route, take the narrow path between a NT sign and chevron boards and follow this level path through the heather and gorse, gradually moving away from the road and at one point forking left to stay near the edge of the ridge. At the end of the heather go past a gnarled tree and veer left to come to a grove of pine trees with a couple of wooden benches and a fine view over the Blackwater Valley to the Hampshire hills beyond.
From the viewpoint, bear right to find a path leading downhill through the ferns. Keep ahead at path crossings until you go past wooden barriers onto a permissive bridleway running along the southern boundary of the NT land, marked by a ditch and a wire fence. Turn right and go all the way along this straight track, eventually going past a wooden barrier onto a lane (Dell Road).
[•] Turn left and go all the way down Dell Road to a T-junction. Turn left and go along Lower Sandhurst Road for 150m. Opposite a house called “Blackwater View” turn right into the small car park for Moor Green Lakes Nature Reserve6.
Take the footpath at the back of the car park running alongside the lakes. At the end turn left to briefly join the Blackwater Valley Path (BVP), then fork right across the river and follow a bridleway alongside lakes to Moulsham Green. Bear right onto Moulsham Copse Lane and cross a small green on your right to find a tarmac path heading west between houses and out to a meadow. Follow the footpath to Fox Lane and turn right. At the end of the lane turn right onto the B3272 to reach the village green at Eversley Cross, with its two pubs.
Take the gravel path from the back of the car park heading S (or the public bridleway running alongside it). You soon come to the first of the reserve lakes on your left, Colebrook Lake North. At the end of this lake you pass a viewing hide and the two paths merge briefly to cross a backwater on a wooden footbridge. At the end of Colebrook Lake South the two paths turn left in front of the River Blackwater.
Later you will return to this spot from the path on the right and repeat this short stretch of riverside path, up to the footbridge.
Head E along either path for 100m, then fork right onto a footbridge over the river (and into Hampshire). On the other side, take either of two paths bearing left, which soon merge. Continue along the winding path with the lakes of Blackwater Valley Watersports7 on your left. The path crosses an access road and at the end of the lakes goes across a cleared area underneath electricity pylons.
After going through some trees the path comes out onto a narrow common. Go along its right-hand side and bear right at the end onto a residential road (Moulsham Copse Lane), soon reaching a small triangular green on the right. Turn right to go along the side of the green. On the far side turn right briefly onto a tarmac lane but almost immediately veer left into the driveway to #23 and take the tarmac path to its left.
Go along this fenced path through a housing development, heading W and crossing two residential roads. At a Y-junction just past some metal barriers, fork right. This leads to a wooden footbridge over a ditch and a gate into a small meadow. Keep ahead along its left-hand edge and continue on a path between hedges which swings left in front of a fishing lake. The path turns back to the right and goes past a house to a minor road (Fox Lane), with the B3272 just off to the left.
In very wet conditions this footpath might be flooded. If you are unable to skirt around the problem return to the housing estate and make your way to Fox Lane via the main road.
Turn right onto Fox Lane, away from the main road. In 200m, where the road swings right at a sign for Watmore Farm Fishery into Eversley Quarry, bear left (staying on Fox Lane) and follow it to a T-junction with the B3272. Turn right onto the main road to reach the large village green in Eversley Cross, with its two pubs on the left-hand side of the road: the Frog & Wicket and (just past the junction with the B3016) the Chequers.
Cut across the village green to join the B3016 and head north along this road. After crossing the River Blackwater at Finchampstead Bridge, turn right onto the riverside path.
The onward route is to head N on the B3016 (Longwater Road) towards Finchampstead. From the Chequers it is simplest to walk straight up the B3016 from the road junction; from the Frog & Wicket you can bear left across the village green8 and make your way past a tree-lined pond to this road.
On Longwater Road you soon pass the distinctive timber-framed Martineau Cottages9 on your left. Continue for a further 400m – there is a pavement on one side or the other – to cross the River Blackwater again at Finchampstead Bridge, with an old county boundary post marking your return to Berkshire.
You will be turning right to join the Blackwater Valley Path10 (BVP), which is 150m away from the river at this point. Strictly speaking you should continue along the road and then turn sharp right onto the signposted public footpath to return to the river, but at the time of writing there was a short cut from the bridge: a riverside path which merges with the BVP just beyond a small water treatment plant.
Continue the directions at §12.
Briefly head west from Heath Pond, then veer right to loop around the heath to its north-eastern corner, where there is an exit onto Heath Ride (or simply head directly to this point from Heath Pond). Head north-west on this lane for about 1 km, then turn left into Wick Hill Lane. Turn right onto a path through a small wood, then head south-west on a footpath across more open country. After crossing the B3016 and going diagonally across a field, turn right onto Church Lane to reach the Queen's Oak pub at the northern end of Finchampstead.
The intended route was to leave the heath on its western side and turn right onto Wick Hill Lane. However, a public footpath shown on OS Explorer 159 has disappeared from newer versions and there is no right of way off the heath there. The walk route therefore takes a short scenic loop around the heath but then doubles back to an exit onto another lane (Heath Ride) in its north-eastern corner.
This new route is slightly awkward to follow and you could simply head north from the major path crossing at the north-eastern corner of Heath Pond, then turn left onto Heath Ride at another path crossing after 100m. If you do this, resume the directions at [•] below.
For the suggested route, head W along the bridleway for just 100m and then veer right at a path crossing: down a slope, across a small length of boardwalk and up onto the heath. The narrow path curves round to the right through the heather and comes to a more wooded area in front of garden fences.
You will eventually be going along the lane on the other side of the houses ahead, but as there is no exit off to the left you need to keep right, staying close to the garden fences on your left. As you reach the corner of the heath, ignore a boardwalk ahead (onto a path leading back to Heath Pond) and instead veer left onto a narrow path heading N through the trees. This soon comes out onto a lane (Heath Ride) where you turn left.
[•] Go along this long straight lane for about 1 km, heading NW past houses and an abandoned farm. Later there is some new house building and a wood behind a fence on your left. At the end of this long wooden fence turn left at a junction into Wick Hill Lane, signposted as a restricted byway.
Where the lane bends left after 100m, turn right onto a potentially muddy path, signposted as the continuation of the byway. It soon bends left to head W and in 200m you go past a cottage onto a lane. Turn left and then take the footpath to the right of the entrance to Warren Crest Farm. Follow this enclosed path SW past two fields and then down the left-hand edge of a large field to meet the B3016.
Cross the road carefully and go over a stile just off to the left. Go diagonally across a large field, aiming for the church tower 500m away. In the top left-hand corner cross a stile in the hedge to come out onto Church Lane and turn right. In 125m you come to the suggested lunch stop on the Main Walk, the Queen's Oak11 pub.
If you are taking the longer afternoon route via Eversley, go to §10.
Go up to the church and take any route through the churchyard to its south-western corner. Continue on an enclosed footpath leading to the main part of Finchampstead village, where there is a choice of routes to the end of Longwater Lane: across playing fields on your right and a footpath on the other side of the B3348; or up to the Greyhound pub at a road junction, then along the lane. Where the lane ends, keep ahead on a path through the trees to join the Blackwater Valley Path past the sand and gravel workings. Soon after crossing the B3016 the path merges with another in front of the River Blackwater.
From the road junction in front of the pub go along the right-hand side of a small triangular green towards St James' church12 (which is normally locked).
At the top of the lane go into the churchyard and follow a path around the top of the church. Leave the churchyard in its south-western corner to go downhill on an enclosed footpath. Ignore a footpath off to the right after 100m and continue past a wood on your left and later playing fields on the right.
If you want to visit the Greyhound pub, follow the directions in §9b.
Before the footpath goes between garden fences veer right to go along the edge of the playing fields, with a tall hedge on your left. At the end turn half-left by a children's playground and leave the playing fields via a gate in the roadside hedge. Turn right and go along the B3348 for 150m, crossing over at some point.
Just past a petrol station turn left onto a footpath, which in 250m comes out onto an unsurfaced lane. The route continues to the right, but a short detour to the left would take you to a plaque on a wooden signpost.
Continue along the footpath to the B3348 and turn left onto the road. At the Y-junction ahead, the Greyhound is just off to the right down Longwater Road; the continuation of the route is sharply right down the track between the two roads at this junction.
From the pub, make your way onto this track and follow it down to a minor road junction. Keep ahead on a residential street (Longwater Lane) and follow this for 350m, heading SW. As you come to the end of the houses on the right there is a plaque on a wooden signpost.
From the plaque (marking a historical event13) head SW along the unsurfaced lane. At the end keep ahead on a potentially muddy track into the trees, curving gently round to the left to head S. In 250m the Blackwater Valley Path10 (BVP) joins from the right (the longer route via Eversley).
Follow the footpath out of the trees, crossing an access track for the old quarry workings and then a stream on a wooden footbridge. In 100m turn left as indicated over another footbridge onto an enclosed path heading E. At the end of the large flooded pit off to your left the path turns left and comes out onto the B3016, Longwater Road.
Cross the road carefully and take the footpath heading sharply right. This soon veers left to go around a small water treatment plant and then merges with a narrow path from the right in front of the River Blackwater.
Continue the directions at §12.
Bear right out of the pub and cross a lane onto a small green. At the end of the green, turn half-right onto a lane which leads to a sunken path. Cross over a driveway and continue on an enclosed footpath heading south-west between pastures all the way to the outskirts of Eversley. Turn right onto the B3348 and follow it round a bend to Fleet Lane. Before turning left to continue the walk, you can detour ahead into Eversley if you want to visit the Tally Ho pub.
Instead of going up to the church, turn half-right at the end of the green onto a tarmac lane going up a short slope, signposted as a public footpath. At the end of the old brick wall on your left, keep ahead past a “Private Land” sign onto a wide gravel drive. Go past some houses and continue on a sunken path going gently downhill.
The path soon comes to a wooden kissing gate leading out to a tarmac driveway. Go across this and through another gate onto the footpath opposite, now heading SW. In 250m keep ahead (slightly to the left) at a four-way path crossing.
You now simply continue on this enclosed path for a further 1½ km. For most of the way the path goes between large fields used for grazing horses and there are some attractive views to both sides; a short stretch is through a small wood. Towards the end of this section you cross the driveway to some cottages and continue on the footpath opposite, across a large field. You finally go through a kissing gate and come out onto the B3348.
Turn right onto the road and follow it for 150m, round a left-hand bend into the outskirts of Eversley. The continuation of the walk is on the left, a signposted footpath along a broad tarmac drive (Fleet Lane) just before Vann House.
If you want to visit the Tally Ho pub, follow the detour below.
Continue along the B3348. Where it swings to the right and joins the A327, the Tally Ho pub is on your left. Return the same way.
There is another pub at the other end of the village (the White Hart) but this is a further 500m away, across Eversley Bridge and along the A327.
Go along Fleet Lane (joining the Blackwater Valley Path) to Fleethill Farm. Pass to the left of the farm buildings and continue past paddocks, then between a wood and the new quarry workings. At a path T-junction, turn right and follow the path round the sand and gravel workings. Soon after crossing the B3016 the path merges with another in front of the River Blackwater.
Head SE along Fleet Lane, joining the Blackwater Valley Path10 (BVP). In 400m keep to the left of some old farm buildings and continue along a broad grassy track for a further 1 km, heading E alongside a wood and soon with the old quarry workings on your right. Eventually you go over a pair of stiles into a belt of trees and turn right at a footpath T-junction, rejoining the direct route from Finchampstead.
Head east on the BVP, ignoring turnings off and staying on the north bank of the river. The path goes past a number of large flooded gravel pits, several reclaimed lakes forming Moor Green Lakes Nature Reserve, and finally Horseshoe Lake which is used for sailing.
Head E on the riverside path for 1 km, passing a number of large flooded gravel pits on your left and crossing a works access track along the way. Eventually two parallel paths join from the left. Keep ahead on either the footpath or the adjacent bridleway, now with Moor Green Lakes Nature Reserve6 on your left.
In 100m keep left by an information panel for the nature reserve to stay on the BVP, ignoring a footbridge over the river. In the next 1 km you pass a couple of locked gates leading to bird hides overlooking Colebrook Lake South and then Grove Lake. Just after the second of these there is a wooden kissing gate on the left in front of a third lake, Horseshoe Lake14.
If you are doing a Circular Walk back to Crowthorne station, go to §15.
Continue along the BVP, with Horseshoe Lake on the left. Just before reaching Mill Lane, turn left onto a path leading to a small car park. Go through the car park and turn left onto Mill Lane. In 100m turn right to go along Lower Church Road. Just before this road comes to the A321, veer right through Lych Gate Close to meet the main road at its junction with Yateley Road. Head east along the A321 to Sandhurst station, with a choice of pubs for refreshment.
Ignore the kissing gate and continue along the riverside path for a further 600m, where there is a metal gate leading out to Mill Lane. There is a nice view down the river from the road bridge here, but the continuation of the walk is to turn left through another gate just before the road, on a path towards a car park for the Water Sports Centre.
If there are signs of activity you should be able to get hot or cold drinks from a machine in the centre, which has tables in a patio area overlooking the lake.
To continue the walk go out through the car park and turn left onto Mill Lane. In 100m turn right into Lower Church Road and go along this long straight lane for 600m. Shortly after passing St Michael's church up on the left, and where the road bends slightly left, turn right into Lych Gate Close. Follow this round to the left, past Belfry Mews and then bear right along a short cul-de-sac to a road junction.
Cross Yateley Road carefully and head E along the right-hand pavement of the A321. In about 350m, after the road has bent right and then left, you pass the Rose & Crown on your right, a possible tea stop. Shortly afterwards, in a small parade of shops on the right, is the Old Mill Coffee Shop & Cafe, although this is likely to be closed in mid-afternoon.
Sandhurst station is a further 250m along the A321, where it goes under the railway bridge (but if you are continuing to Blackwater and do not mind bypassing other refreshment places, you can fork right off the main road just before the station: see the following section). The final tea place near Sandhurst station (the Village Inn) is 125m past the railway bridge along the A321, on the far side of the mini-roundabout with Yorktown Road.
If you are finishing the walk at Sandhurst, note that there is no footbridge linking the two station platforms. For trains to Wokingham and Reading, go up the ramp on the Rose & Crown side of the bridge to Platform 2. For trains to Guildford and Redhill, go up the ramp on the Village Inn side to Platform 1.
Either continue along the A321 and then cut through Sandhurst Memorial Park to the river, or stay on the BVP as it runs beside the railway and along Swan Lane to the river. The two routes meet at Shepherd Meadows Nature Reserve where you simply follow the riverside path all the way into Blackwater.
There is a choice of routes for the first part of this section, although neither is ideal. The first involves a further long stretch along the A321 through the town, but does pass a café in the town's park. The alternative route in §14b avoids the town centre but bypasses all other refreshment places.
From the station or the Village Inn continue through the town along the A321. At the end of a parade of shops ignore Swan Lane on the right.
You can switch to the alternative route by turning right into this lane, passing the White Swan pub and going under a railway bridge; continue the directions at [•] below.
For the main route, continue along the A321 for a further 400m. Shortly after passing a petrol station turn right into Sandhurst Memorial Park to find Pistachios in the Park, the suggested tea place. The walk continues on the tarmac path heading E past a skateboard area. Bear right in front of the Council Offices (where there are public toilets) onto a broad surfaced path alongside a water channel, leading to the park's “Balancing Pond”.
Keep right to go around the edge of the pond, soon passing an information panel about it. Just before a footbridge over the pond's outflow, veer right down the slope on a broad track signposted to Shepherd Meadows. In 100m the alternative route joins from the right at a crosspaths, in front of a bridge across the River Blackwater.
Shortly before reaching the railway bridge bear right off the A321 onto a short lane masquerading as the High Street (according to a poorly-placed sign). Where this private road bends right after 75m, veer left onto a tarmac path and follow this public footpath all the way alongside the railway embankment. At the end turn right onto a road (Swan Lane).
[•] Head S along Swan Lane for 400m, with a large water treatment plant screened behind trees on your left. Immediately after crossing the River Blackwater turn left onto the signposted “River Walk”. Follow this path as it meanders alongside the river for 750m.
As the path approaches some houses fork left onto a footbridge which crosses the river and then becomes an elevated walkway high above the railway line. On the far side follow the path across a water channel and up to a crosspaths, with a bridge across the River Blackwater on your right.
The suggested route is to cross the river and follow the surfaced path through Shepherd Meadows Nature Reserve15 on the right-hand bank, but if this bridge is closed for repairs (as it was at the time of writing) the path along the left-hand bank is an alternative. In 500m there is another footbridge across the river where if necessary you can cross over to the right-hand bank.
After the second footbridge the path briefly splits and you can take either fork; they rejoin 150m later. In a further 400m the path swings left and a footbridge takes you over the river onto the other bank. The suggested continuation is through a kissing gate in the fence and along a broad grassy path curving through a water meadow for 400m (with a belt of trees in the middle), but if this route looks waterlogged you can simply stay on the riverside path.
At the far end of the meadow keep to the right of a large and busy road junction to find Blackwater station directly ahead, on the other side of the river. The nearest refreshment places (some fast food shops and a couple of nondescript pubs) are in the parade of shops on the other side of the railway. There is also an M&S Café in the Meadows Shopping Centre on the other side of the A321, but this is more awkward to get to.
Note that there is no footbridge linking the two station platforms. Trains to Guildford and Redhill leave from Platform 1 on this side. For trains to Wokingham and Reading, go over the railway bridge and down steps to Platform 2.
Take the perimeter path around the western and northern sides of Horseshoe Lake. At its north-eastern corner go out through a gate on the left, cross a lane and take the footpath opposite along field edges to another lane. Turn right and keep ahead on a footpath heading east to the A321. Cross this main road and go through the car park for Ambarrow Court Nature Reserve. Take any route through the reserve to a crossing point over the railway tracks. On the far side turn left and follow the footpath alongside the railway to Crowthorne station.
Turn left through the gate onto a fenced path. Initially this heads N between two lakes, then swings round to the right to head E between Horseshoe Lake and a lane. After passing the lake's horseshoe-shaped island on the right you come to its north-eastern corner, with kissing gates on both sides of the path.
Turn left off the perimeter path, cross the lane and take the footpath opposite to head N for 400m along the left-hand edge of several fields (you may have to negotiate some boggy patches in the last field). Eventually you go through a wooden kissing gate onto a lane and turn right.
From here, the route back to Crowthorne station is essentially the reverse of the outward route on the Main Walk.
Almost immediately, leave the lane to go straight ahead onto a signposted footpath, to the left of a driveway. Follow the path for 250m alongside a rather forbidding wooden fence topped with barbed wire to the A321. Cross this busy main road, taking care as there is no pavement and the traffic is quite fast into the car park for Ambarrow Court Nature Reserve2.
The route described below is the most direct, but if you are not in a hurry you could follow one or both of the two short trails shown on the information panel at the back of the car park: to the right through Ambarrow Court (the reverse of the Main Walk route in §1) and to the left around the tree-lined slopes of Ambarrow Hill.
For the direct route, take the right-hand of two paths from the back left-hand corner of the car park (looking from the road), heading NE and climbing gently through the trees. At a path junction in about 100m, turn half-right onto a long straight path (a public footpath coming up from the A321). In 150m the path comes to a crossing point over the railway line, guarded by a pair of kissing gates.
Go through the gates and cross the railway tracks carefully. On the other side turn left onto a broad path, heading N with a tall hedge on your right. Later this goes past a Memorial Grove of young lime trees, with a golf course and sports pitches behind a chainlink fence on your right. At the end of the fence there is a back entrance into Wellington College1 grounds, where you turn left as indicated.
Follow the path back to the railway and round to the right, continuing between the railway and the college grounds for 600m. At the end go through a small housing development and out through a pedestrian side gate to find Crowthorne station on your left. For refreshments there is a convenience store at the junction with the main road ahead (Duke's Ride); the Good Food Deli is 100m away in the parade of shops off to the right, but is usually closed on weekend afternoons.
Note that there is no footbridge linking the two station platforms. For trains to Guildford and Redhill, go through a parking area on this side of the railway to Platform 1. For trains to Wokingham and Reading, go over the railway bridge and down steps to Platform 2.
- The grounds of Wellington College are open to the “Friends of Wellington College” but not to the general public. The college itself is 750m away and not visible from the public footpath.
- There is an information panel in the central picnic area on Archaeology at Ambarrow. Ambarrow Court was built in 1885 but the large manor house fell into disuse after WWⅡ. The site was eventually bought by the local council and turned into a park in 1986.
- The trees along Wellingtonia Avenue were planted in 1869. Sequoiadendron giganteum was named after the Duke, who had died in 1852 shortly before the giant redwood was discovered in the Sierra Nevada.
- Note that any house with less than ten bedrooms in this affluent part of Berkshire seems to be called a cottage.
- The Devil's Highway was the name given by Britons to the Roman Road between London and Silchester (Calleva). There are many dead-straight roads and tracks in the area, but surprisingly few are actually shown on the map as Roman Roads.
- Moor Green Lakes Nature Reserve supports a wide range of wildlife. The viewing hides are only open to members but there are several places where you can get good views from the perimeter path. The reserve is due to be extended to include the flooded pits to the west.
- The lakes of Blackwater Valley Watersports are usually less tranquil than those on the other side of the river.
- The name Eversley means ‘wild boar clearing’, hence the boar on the village sign.
- The large timber-framed houses on Longwater Road were built between 1890 and 1905 by the philanthropist John Martineau and are known as Martineau Cottages (there are others in Walsham le Willows, Suffolk). Each house had uplifting mottos carved over the door or windows.
- The Blackwater Valley Path runs for 37 km, from the river's source near Aldershot in Surrey to Swallowfield in Hampshire, just beyond where the river merges with the Whitewater to become the Broadwater.
- Finchampstead's pub claims to be the only one in the country called the Queen's Oak. An ivied plaque on the green commemorates the planting of an oak tree in 1887, the 50th year of Victoria's reign.
- St James, Finchampstead dates from the 12thC and retains many of its Norman features, including a semi-circular apse. The brick tower was added in 1720.
- The plaque records the spot where in 1501 HenryⅦ was told that Prince Arthur's bride, the infanta Katherine of Aragon, had arrived at his hunting lodge. Arthur's early death and her subsequent remarriage to his younger brother Henry had momentous consequences for English history.
- Horseshoe Lake is used for sailing and similar activities. Its name comes from the shape of its small island.
- Shepherd Meadows Nature Reserve consists of wildflower meadows and woodland alongside the River Blackwater. It is named after the wildlife artist David Shepherd.
» Last updated: November 25, 2019