Main Walk: 17¼ km (10.7 miles). Four hours 5 minutes walking time. For the whole excursion including trains, sights and meals, allow at least 8 hours 30 minutes.
Main Walk, extended to Blackwater: 20½ km (12.7 miles). Four hours 50 minutes walking time.
Short Walk, via Eversley Cross: 11¾ km (7.3 miles). Two hours 40 minutes walking time.
Short Walk, extended to Blackwater: 15 km (9.3 miles). Three hours 25 minutes walking time.
Explorer 159. Crowthorne station, map reference SU823637, is in Berkshire, 7 km SW of Bracknell.
3 out of 10 (1 for the Short 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-owned Finchampstead Ridges.
After a pub lunch in the village of Finchampstead, there is a choice of routes: both lead to the River Blackwater and return along its riverside path. The valley has been heavily exploited for sand and gravel extraction and the walk route goes through areas which are still being worked, then a group of worked-out flooded pits and finally a landscaped area which has been fully restored. Some of these reclaimed lakes make up Moor Green Lakes Nature Reserve; the rest are used for sailing and other water sports.
The Main Walk ends at Sandhurst station, with a choice of pubs for tea, but a couple of alternative endings are available (see below).
You can extend the walk by continuing through Sandhurst to Blackwater; once out of the town this consists of a very pleasant stretch through Shepherd Meadows Nature Reserve. Alternatively, you could miss out Sandhurst and return to Crowthorne station, but the only tea place near the end of this route is currently closed on weekend afternoons.
An alternative Short Walk is also described; this takes in most of the features of the Main Walk and goes to the village of Eversley Cross for lunch. This option has the same ending along the Blackwater Valley Path and so both alternative endings are available too.
If you miss a train and have to start the Main Walk an hour late you could catch up by following the route of the Short Walk at the start (going directly to Heath Pond), although this would miss out several attractive features. You can also save 2 km in the afternoon by omitting the loop out to Eversley.
Much of the area is along the River Blackwater's flood plain and so none of the walk options would be advisable after heavy rain. The footpath to Eversley Cross on the Short 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 (hourly on Sundays), 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 10:30 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 current timetable the Paddington route works better on Sundays; both are feasible on other days.
The suggested lunchtime pub on the Main Walk is the Queen's Oak (0118-973 4855) in Church Lane at the northern end of Finchampstead, 8 km into the walk; this is very welcoming to walkers and serves a good variety of freshly-cooked food up to 3pm, later at weekends. There is an alternative pub/restaurant in Longwater Road in the main part of the village, The Greyhound (0118-973 2269), but this is only close to the shorter of the two afternoon routes. An alternative pub close to the longer route is the Tally Ho (0118-973 2134) at Eversley Bridge, 2½ km further on.
On the Short Walk there are two equally good lunchtime pubs in Eversley Cross, 6¼ km into the walk. The Frog and Wicket (0118-973 1126) has a fine location facing the large village green; just off the green The Chequers (0118-402 7065) has been one of “an independent group of gastropubs” since mid-2013.
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 particularly appealing places near Blackwater station, so if you are doing this extension the suggested tea place is Pistachios in the Park café at the entrance to Sandhurst's Memorial Park, which is usually open to at least 5pm in summer (earlier in winter). Allow 35-40 minutes for the final 2½ km to Blackwater station.
There are no pubs or cafés near Crowthorne station. The only place serving refreshments is the Good Food Deli (01344-772872) at 194 Duke's Ride, to the east of the station; this is ideal for a midweek walk but at the time of writing 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
|Copyright||© Saturday Walkers Club. All Rights Reserved. No commercial use. No copying. No derivatives. Free with attribution for one time non-commercial use only. www.walkingclub.org.uk/site/license.shtml|
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 | Short )
Click on any option to show only the sections making up that route, or the heading above to show all sections.
- Main Walk (17¼ 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 Short 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 Blackwater Valley Path (¾ km)
- Heath Pond to Finchampstead (3 km)
- Finchampstead to Eversley (2¼ km)
- Detour to Eversley Bridge (+500m)
- Eversley to the River Blackwater (2¼ km)
- Finchampstead to the River Blackwater direct (2½ km)
- Main route
- Route via The Greyhound
- The Blackwater Valley Path to Horseshoe Lake (2¼ km)
- Horseshoe Lake to Sandhurst Station (2½ km)
- Sandhurst Station to Blackwater Station (3¼ km)
- Town route
- Alternative route
- Horseshoe Lake to Crowthorne Station (3 km)
- Direct route
- Perimeter route (+½ 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 the Local 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 in front of the gates 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.
Ambarrow Court Nature Reserve is on your left, although there is nothing here to indicate this. You could bypass it by continuing straight ahead on the public footpath for about 150m; when you can see the reserve car park ahead on your left, fork left onto any convenient path to reach it. If you take this short cut (saving 500m), continue the directions at §2.
For the recommended route, immediately turn left off the footpath onto the leftmost path, heading S into Ambarrow Court Nature Reserve2. The path initially runs parallel to the railway, 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.
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 car park for the Nature Reserve.
Cross the A321 and take the footpath 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 bear right past a metal fieldgate onto a broad track into a wood. After briefly going gently downhill the track starts to climb steadily. In 200m fork right onto a fenced path, ignoring a gate into a large field. 250m later the path bends left, now with pasture on both sides, and in a further 150m you come to a wood.
The footpath now veers right up a sunken gully, but unofficial paths on either side make for easier walking. After bending left at the top of a short climb, these alternative paths soon merge and you continue 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 to enter 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 the attractive wooded area of Finchampstead Ridges. If you deviate from the route suggested here, make for the main road running along the top of the ridge and turn right to go alongside it. The NT land ends by the entrance to a house called “Edge of the Hill”.
For the recommended route through Finchampstead Ridges, bear left to head W, initially gently downhill. In 50m there is a small pond on your right. On the far side of this, turn right up a narrow path, past a “No Riding” sign. In 150m keep ahead at a crosspaths to continue on a wide path, slightly to the left and climbing more steeply.
At the top of the slope you come to a grove of pine trees with a wooden bench 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. This leads you out of Finchampstead Ridges by a bend in the B3348, with the entrance to a house called “Edge of the Hill” on your right.
Cross the road carefully and turn right to walk along the pavement, with a striking view down Wellingtonia Avenue3. In 50m turn left off the road onto a 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. At the bottom of the slope keep ahead at a path crossing, now with a more open area on your left. In 80m veer left onto a narrow path across this heath, coming in 100m to the southern tip of Heath Pond.
Cross a wooden footbridge and veer right to go along the edge of this attractive pond. At its north-western corner turn half-left onto a long straight bridleway known as the Devil's Highway5 and heading W, the continuation of the track along the northern edge of the pond.
Continue the directions at §8.
Head west along the B3348 to a roundabout and turn half-right onto a byway, Heath Ride. In 700m turn half-left at a path crossing onto a long straight bridleway known as the Devil's Highway. This soon comes to Heath Pond where you continue along its northern edge.
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.
Continue along the B3348 up to a large roundabout, staying on the left-hand side of the road. Carefully cross over both the A321 and the B3348, with a striking view up Wellingtonia Avenue3. Take the byway heading NW off this roundabout (between two of the roads), signposted “Unsuitable for motor vehicles”.
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 and heading W, past a NT sign for Simon's Wood. In 150m keep ahead at a major path crossing and continue along the northern side of the attractive 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 going along the edge of Simon's Wood to the B3348. Turn right onto this road briefly, then take any route through Finchampstead Ridges down to its south-western corner. Head south along Dell Road and turn left onto Lower Sandhurst Road to reach the car park for Moor Green Lakes Nature Reserve.
To continue the Short 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 another 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 the attractive wooded area of Finchampstead Ridges, although not many exits from it. If you deviate from the route suggested here, it is simplest to head for its southern boundary and turn right along the bridleway there to reach Dell Road; continue the directions at [•] below. If you stay higher up the ridge you may come to another exit on the western boundary, a short public footpath which curves down between houses and also comes out onto Dell Road; turn left and follow the lane round a right-hand bend to pass the other exit after 200m.
For the recommended route, ignore the track going past a “No Horses” sign and take a narrow path to the left of the chevron boards. Fork left to go through the heather and gorse, gradually moving away from the main road. Ignore a broad grassy path going down into the valley on your left, but soon afterwards fork left. At the end of the heather the path comes to a gnarled tree; bear left here towards a grove of pine trees with two wooden benches and a fine view over the Blackwater Valley and 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 follow this long straight track W to a wooden barrier in front of a lane (Dell Road).
[•] Leave Finchampstead Ridges and turn left onto the lane. In 300m turn left at a T-junction with Lower Sandhurst Road. In 150m, opposite Blackwater View, turn right into a small car park for Moor Green Lakes Nature Reserve6.
There is an information panel with a map of the reserve at the back of the car park.
Take the footpath at the back of the car park running alongside the lakes. At the end turn left to join the Blackwater Valley Path briefly, 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; the two paths merge in several places). 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 a second reserve lake, the two paths turn left in front of the River Blackwater.
After lunch, 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 the footpath or the bridleway to its right. In 100m the two paths merge again and you take the right fork up ahead, going onto a footbridge over the river (and into Hampshire). On the other side, take either of two paths going half-left; these also merge after a short distance. 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 continues along the side of a narrow common. Towards the end of this, keep right as you head towards a residential road (Moulsham Copse Lane). Bear right onto this road for a short distance to reach a small triangular green on your right. Turn right along the side of the green and bear right on the far side onto a tarmac lane. In 20m veer left onto the driveway to #23 and take the tarmac path to its left, heading W.
Go along this fenced path through a housing development, 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, then continue on a path between hedges which swings round to the 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 wet conditions this footpath can 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 (still 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: the Frog & Wicket is on your left and The Chequers is up ahead on the same side of the road, just past a road junction.
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 a 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 cross the B3272 carefully, bear left across the village green8 and make your way through a group of trees surrounding a pond to join 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 reach the River Blackwater at Finchampstead Bridge.
Immediately after crossing the river, where an old county boundary post marks your return to Berkshire, turn right towards the entrance to a water treatment plant and take the riverside path to its right. In about 100m the Blackwater Valley Path joins from the left.
If this convenient link path is blocked (it is not a right of way), simply continue along the road for 100m and turn sharp right onto the Blackwater Valley Path.
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 walk route was to head west along this bridleway for 500m, then turn half-right onto a public footpath (shown on an older edition of OS Explorer 159) to reach Wick Hill Lane on the far side of the wood. However, the OS map was wrong and the last part of this route is not a right of way. Consequently you have to take the long straight lane (Heath Ride) heading north-west; the revised route takes a little loop around the heath and then doubles back slightly to find an exit onto this lane.
For the suggested route, therefore, head W along the bridleway for just 100m and then veer right at a path crossing. Follow the path down a slope, across a small length of boardwalk and up onto the heath. The path gradually bends right and comes to a more wooded area in front of garden fences.
Ignore tempting paths off to the left (there are no exits between any of the houses that way) and keep right to go alongside the fences. As you reach the corner of the heath veer left onto any of the narrow (and potentially muddy) paths through the trees, soon coming out onto Heath Ride.
Turn left to head NW on this long straight lane for about 1 km, 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.
In 100m, just after a driveway to some houses on the right and where the lane bends left, turn right onto a potentially muddy path: this is actually the continuation of the byway. The path soon bends left to head W and in 200m you go past a cottage onto a lane. Turn left and 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 into another field. Go diagonally across this field, aiming for the church tower 500m away. In its 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 Oak10 pub.
If you want to take the afternoon short cut, omitting Eversley, go to §11.
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 Blubeckers restaurant.
After visiting the pub, turn right to resume the walk. Cross over a road junction and go along the right-hand side of a small triangular green, towards St James's church11 (which is normally locked).
Instead of going up to the church, turn half-right from the green onto a tarmac lane, signposted as a public footpath and heading W up a short slope. 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 wide tarmac drive (Fleet Lane) just before Vann House.
If you want to visit the Tally Ho pub (with the bonus of an attractive view of the River Blackwater from Eversley Bridge), 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.
Before returning the same way, go up to the bridge for a fine view of the river. The rest of the village is strung out along the main road to the south; it is not worth a further detour unless you want to try the White Hart pub, about 400m past the bridge.
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, now on the Blackwater Valley Path (which the Main Walk follows all the way to Sandhurst). In 400m this comes to Fleethill Farm; keep to the left of the farm buildings to continue along a broad grassy track between a wood and paddocks, now heading E.
At the end of the farm fields you come to the start of the new quarry workings and continue alongside the wood. In 600m go over a pair of stiles and turn right at a T-junction with another footpath, rejoining the direct route from Finchampstead.
Follow the path S out of the trees towards the quarry workings. Go across a works access track and a footbridge over a disused conveyor belt. Later the path turns left and skirts around several flooded pits to reach the B3016, Longwater Road. Cross the road carefully and take the footpath heading off to the right. The path soon bends left, passes 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. Take any route through the churchyard to the far 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, then 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.
Continue up the lane and enter the churchyard. Follow a path around the top of the church to leave the churchyard in its south-western corner. Go downhill on an enclosed footpath for 500m, ignoring a footpath off to the right and continuing to the end of playing fields in the main part of Finchampstead village.
If you want to visit the Greyhound pub, follow the directions in §11b.
Turn right off the footpath to go along the edge of the playing fields. At the end of the tall hedge on your left, bear left towards a gate in the roadside hedge. Leave the playing fields and turn right onto the B3348, crossing over at some point.
In 150m, just past a petrol station, turn left onto a footpath, which in 250m comes to an unsurfaced lane. The continuation of the route is to the right, but a short detour to the left will 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. Go straight ahead into a residential road (Longwater Lane) and follow this for 350m, heading SW. As you come to the end of the houses there is a plaque on a wooden signpost to the right of the lane.
From the plaque12 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 Path joins from the right (the longer route via Eversley).
Head east on the riverside path, 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, passing a number of large flooded gravel pits on your left. In 750m go across a works access track and a set of metal steps over a conveyor belt to continue alongside the river. In a further 350m two parallel paths join from the left. Keep ahead on either the bridleway or the permissive footpath to its left, now with Moor Green Lakes Nature Reserve6 on your left.
In 100m the footpath and bridleway merge briefly by an information panel for the nature reserve. Where the bridleway swings off to the right onto a footbridge over the river keep left, staying on the riverside path. In the next 1 km you pass several locked gates leading into the nature reserve before coming to a wooden kissing gate on the left in front of Horseshoe Lake13.
If you are doing a circular walk back to Crowthorne station, go to §15.
Continue along the riverside path, 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 gate on the left and continue along the riverside path for a further 600m. Just before the path comes to a metal gate leading out to Mill Lane (where there is a nice view down the river from the road bridge), turn left through another gate onto a path leading to Mill Lane car park. Go through this and turn right at the far end onto its approach road, then turn left onto Mill Lane.
In 100m turn right into Lower Church Road and go along this straight road 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, go past Belfry Mews and then veer right along a short cul-de-sac, leading out 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 the town's other refreshment places, you can turn 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, by the mini-roundabout with Yorktown Road.
If you are finishing the walk here, note that there is no footbridge linking the two platforms. For trains to Wokingham and Reading, go up the first ramp (coming from the Rose & Crown). For trains to Guildford and Redhill, go up the ramp on the other side of the bridge, the one nearer the Village Inn.
Either continue along the A321 and then cut through Sandhurst Memorial Park to the river, or stay on the Blackwater Valley Path 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 stretch along the A321 through the town, but does pass a nice café in the town's park. The alternative route in §14b follows the waymarked Blackwater Valley Path and avoids the town centre, but passes a large water treatment plant.
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 (unless you want to switch to the alternative route, in which case go along this road past the White Swan pub and under the railway bridge, then 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 when continuing to Blackwater.
From the café take the path heading E, past a skateboard area towards the Council Offices (where there are public toilets). Bear right in front of the building onto a wide surfaced path alongside a water channel, which leads 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 on its southern edge, veer right down the slope on a broad track signposted to Shepherd Meadows. In 100m keep ahead at a crosspaths, where the alternative route joins from the right.
If you are not stopping at the Village Inn, then shortly before reaching Sandhurst station you can bear right off the A321 onto the (oddly-named) High Street, signposted as a public footpath. Where this private road bends right after 75m, fork left onto a tarmac path and follow this 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 behind a screen of 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, where you turn right.
Cross the River Blackwater on a substantial wooden footbridge to enter Shepherd Meadows Nature Reserve14 and continue on the broad path, with the river on your left; you will be following it all the way into Blackwater. In 500m keep ahead at a path crossing (ignoring a footbridge over the river). Soon afterwards the path briefly splits, with the two routes rejoining 150m later. In a further 400m the path swings left and a footbridge takes you over the river onto the other bank.
Immediately after the footbridge there is a stile in the fence on your left leading into a meadow. If you wish you can take a clear grassy path through this meadow, which curves round and leads back to the riverside path.
A further 400m along the riverside path (or slightly longer through the meadow) will bring you to a large and busy road junction. Follow the path round to the right to find Blackwater station directly ahead.
Trains to Guildford and Redhill leave from the platform on this side. For trains to Wokingham and Reading go over the road bridge and down steps on the other side. 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 bridge.
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 Local Nature Reserve. Take any route through the reserve to its north-eastern corner, where there is a crossing point over the railway tracks. On the far side turn left and follow the footpath alongside it to Crowthorne station.
To head for Crowthorne station, turn left through the gate onto a fenced path around Horseshoe Lake. 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 footpath, towards a rather forbidding wooden fence topped with barbed wire. Follow the path alongside the fence for 250m to the A321. Cross this busy main road, taking care as there is no pavement and the traffic is quite fast. Go through the car park for Ambarrow Court Nature Reserve2.
If you are not in a hurry you could take the longer route in §15b, which meanders around the small Nature Reserve on your right.
At the back of the car park turn half-left onto a path into the trees, climbing gently and heading NE. At a path junction in about 100m, turn half-right onto a long straight path (the public footpath from the A321). In 150m this comes to a crossing point over the railway line, guarded by a metal kissing gate.
At the back of the car park turn right onto a broad surfaced path through the trees, heading S. After passing a meadow, the perimeter path turns left along the southern edge of the reserve, then later turns left again as it approaches a railway embankment. Go over a wooden footbridge and up some steps in the bank ahead (or loop round to the left on an inclined path which leads to the top of these steps).
You now need to take care to find the crossing point over the railway on your right (about 150m ahead on your right) or you will find yourself back at the reserve car park.
At the time of writing there was a faint path branching off to the right, 80m after the steps. Follow this to the edge of the reserve and then alongside the railway embankment for a short distance. After going through a gap in some trees you come to a path crossing with a long straight footpath (the direct route), with a metal kissing gate leading onto the railway on your right.
Go through the gate and cross the railway tracks carefully. On the other side, turn left onto a broad path, heading N. You go past a golf course and sports pitches on your right, and a Memorial Grove of young lime trees. At the end of the fenced path turn left away from a back entrance into Wellington College1 grounds. In a short distance fork right and follow this path round to the right as it runs between the railway (on your left) and the college grounds.
In 600m the path swerves around some new houses and comes out into a small housing development. Follow the residential road out past some black entrance gates to find Crowthorne station on your left. For refreshment, go out to the main road (Duke's Ride) and turn right; the Good Food Deli is less than 100m away in a small parade of shops on the left. Afterwards, retrace your steps along Duke's Ride.
Note that there is no footbridge linking the two platforms. For trains to Guildford and Redhill, go through a parking area on this side of the railway to the platform. For trains to Wokingham and Reading, go over the railway bridge and down some brick steps to the platform on the far side.
- 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.
- 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 Henry VII 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: October 10, 2016