North Wessex Downs and Great Bedwyn
21km (13 miles), 6 ½ hours. For the whole outing, including trains and meals, allow 10 hours.
OS Landranger Map No 174, OS Explorer Map Nos 157 &158 (most of the walk is on 158) Kintbury, map reference SU 386 672, is in Berkshire, 8km west of Newbury.
5 out of 10
Though only an hour west of London by train, this walk has a decidedly West Country feel, far removed from the more manicured charms of the Home Counties. In the morning, it passes through an idyllic series of woods and pastures, with largely gentle gradients. After lunch at a quiet country pub in Inkpen (the sort of place where the conversation at the bar is as likely to be about farming than the price of second homes), it then climbs up onto a long ridge, giving views as dramatic, but even more unspoiled, than any on the South Downs. The rest of the walk follows the Test Way, a broad track along the top of this ridge, before descending to the valley and the pretty village of Great Bedwyn.
At point  below continue down the road for 1.8km to reach the Plough Inn (tel 01672 870295), Shalbourne which shortens the walk by 4.2km. There is an infrequent bus service (T:0871 200 2233, www.travelinesw.com) between Marlborough and Hungerford, which stops at the Plough Inn. Bus no. 20 Mon - Sat, no. 22 Mon - Fri. Head east for Hungerford (one stop up the line from Bedwyn) or west for Marlborough via Bedwyn. Alternatively you could order a taxi.
Kintbury circular walk: 23km (14.3 miles) (Kintbury Circular download above)
These directions provide a circular walk from Kintbury, when used in conjunction with the standard walk directions.
This walk begins and ends at villages standing on one of the loveliest stretches of the Kennet and Avon canal. Completed in 1810 to carry goods from London to Bristol, the canal became derelict after the advent of the railways, but was later restored to provide a useful leisure amenity.
Kintbury is known for the St Cassian's Centre, a Christian Retreat for young people. Following the example of Baptist de La Salle (1651-1719) the Centre teaches leadership skills founded on faith, service and community.
Bedwyn Brail A Roman Villa was discovered here in 1780 in the present day Bedwyn Brail, near to the line of the Roman road from Cirencester to Winchester. However, the earliest reference to a settlement at Bedwyn dates from 778, in a land grant from King Cynewulf of Wessex
St Mary's Great Bedwyn
The present church of St Mary's was started in 1092, and took about 200 years to build. Beneath the church are the massive remains of a Saxon church begun in 905. The south transept houses the 14th Century tombs of Sir Adam de Stokke and his son, Sir John. In the chancel is a memorial to Edward Seymour, father of King Henry VIII's wife Jane, and later Lord Protector to the young Edward VI.
Great Bedwyn Despite the antiquity of many of the buildings, few in Great Bedwyn were built before the 18th century. Among the exceptions is Castle Cottage in Farm Lane, which dates from the 17th century and is one of the oldest dwellings still standing. A devastating fire occurred in the village in 1716, and destroyed or severely damaged twenty-eight houses. This explains why many of the older properties date from the middle of the 18th Century
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Take the train nearest to 9.30am (before or after) from London Paddington. You may have to change at Reading or Newbury. Journey time 1 hour 10 minutes. Trains back from Great Bedwyn run about once an hour. Journey time 1 hour 26 minutes. Buy a day return to Great Bedwyn.
Car drivers can park at Kintbury station and return to their cars on the train from Great Bedwyn
The suggested lunchtime pub is the Swan Inn (tel 01488 668326) at Lower Inkpen 6.5 km from the start of the walk, which has a beer garden. Owned by local organic beef farmers it uses mainly organic ingredients in a fairly expensive traditional menu. Ploughmans and sandwiches are also available and lunch is served noon to 2.30 pm at weekends and noon to 2pm on weekdays.
There is a farm shop attached to the pub if you want to take fresh country produce back to London. Groups of more than eight people should phone to book.
Picnic Many places along the route would make a good picnic spot.
The Three Tuns (tel 01672 870280) in Great Bedwyn is open all day Fri - Sun and tea and coffee are always available. Mon - shut all day. On other days the pub closes in the afternoon but reopens at 6pm when tea and coffee and meals are available. An alternative pub is The Cross Keys.
An earlier version of this walk was published in Time Out Country Walks near London volume 2. We now recommend using this online version as the book is now dated.
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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Full directions for this walk are in a PDF file (link above) which you can print, or download on to a Kindle, tablet, or smartphone.
This is just the introduction. This walk's detailed directions are in a PDF available from wwww.walkingclub.org.uk