22 of the best Muddy winter walks
Climbing the walls already? Wrap up warm and go in search of a winter wonderland! Here's 22 Berkshire walks to enjoy over during lockdown.
You know the festive drill – you’ve eaten your bodyweight in turkey, nailed an entire box of Quality Street, drunk approximately 8,000 units of wine, sherry, Champagne and Baileys and have been slumped on the sofa for three days straight. In the immortal words of George Michael (RIP), let’s go outside – ideally for a long, bracing walk around one of Berkshire’s prettiest locales. Here’s our favourite strolls for post-Christmas and into New Year. Grab your wellies and let’s go!
Cookham and Cock Marsh (6km)
It’s a pick and mix of beautiful Berkshire countryside, Cock Marsh is a biological Site of Special Scientific Interest, so no shortage of wildlife. A moderate four-mile circular strut, the trail takes approximately two hours, and it’s not the faint-hearted. The route takes in churches, the river, past Bronze Age burial mounds, along a wooden boardwalk and you’ll get cracking views of Cliveden. It can be a bit muddy, and is steep in places, but it’s a corker. View the walk here.
Donnington Castle, Newbury (5.8km)
A medieval castle perched on a hill overlooking the Lambourn Valley should get even the most reluctant walkers to put one foot in front of the other. This circular stomp takes in Snelsmore Common, woodland and the castle ruins (a bigger player in the Civil War) and there’s no chance of getting lost, simply follow the path. It’s suitable for all but you might struggle with a pushchair. View the walk here.
Basildon Park National Trust, Lower Basildon (0.5-5km)
Lovingly restored by Lord and Lady Iliffe, Basildon Park is an architectural TV and film star (spot its appearances in Pride & Prejudice, Downton Abbey, Dorian Gray and Marie Antoinette) where kids can safely run free-range in its 400 acres. There are four walks ranging from 0.5 to 3 miles with a couple of hills and muddy patches. The two shorter routes are suitable for pushchairs, taking 20-40 minutes, while the stretchy 3-miler around the estate’s boundary takes approximately 2 hours. View walk here.
Cliveden National Trust, Taplow
There’s a mahoosive 376 acres to explore, but you can do as little or as much as you like. Stroll through the formal gardens, stomp through the woodland and hang out on the perfectly manicured South Parterre and admire the view. If you’re super-keen, hike down to the river. Just brace yourself for the uphill climb. Advance booking is essential.
Combe Gibbet, Inkpen (3km)
Less of a circular and more ‘what goes up, must come down’ but Combe Gibbet is a beautiful walk with a grizzly back story, just south of Hungerford. Perched on the hill is a double gallows purpose-built in the 17th century to hang the adulterous lovers Dorothy Newman and George Bromham for murdering his wife and son. I reckon that counts as a history and PE lesson in one. View the walk here.
Finchampstead Ridges, Wokingham (3.5km)
Finchampstead Ridges, nestled in southern Berkshire, has been in the National Trust family for over 100 years. Head to Simon’s Wood and walk the avenue of redwood Sequoia trees (also known as Wellingtonia trees), planted in 1863, see if you can spot the second century Roman Road, nicknamed the Devil’s Highway and Heat’s Pond is a pretty spot at this time of the year – view the trails here.
The Long Walk and Copper Horse, Windsor
The world’s largest occupied castle as a backdrop, stonking parkland and the impressive Copper Horse statue of mad King George III on horseback (actually made of brass, just saying). It’s an easy stroll that follows in the footsteps of Kings and Queens. This is a dead straight leisurely stroll down the tree-lined drive and back again. What it lacks in map-reading (no complaints here) it makes up for in regal splendour. It’s a 5-mile round trip from Windsor Castle’s Cambridge Gate up to the Copper Horse and back again (you can dip out anytime). No bikes, no cars (unless you’re the crown-wearing VIP) just you, lots of deer and Her Maj keeping an eye from her windows. View walk here.
Bowdown Woods, Newbury (1.6km)
Bowdown Woodsjust south of Newbury is a magical ancient wood that stretches from the vast heathland at Greenham Common down to the River Kennet and is full of hidden valleys, sunny glades and patches of heathland with bluebells at every turn. The Wildlife Walk takes in some damp clay areas on the lower slopes and steep climb up to the higher, drier ground. View the walk here.
Dinton Pastures Country Park, Hurst (3.2km)
A 400-acre site, that has something for everyone. Want to get competitive? Test your ability to use a compass and a map on the 30-point Orienteering Course or hit the many trails and run. If your pace is more of a saunter than speedy, there are easy trails that take in the lake, play park and green spaces that perfectly suited to littlies and are pushchair and wheelchair friendly. View the walks here.
Bisham Woods, Bisham (3km)
Marlow shmarlow, is its glossy neighbour, but the riverside village of Bisham has bragging rights too. The historic Bisham Abbey – now home to Team GB hockey, was once used to jail Queen Elizabeth of Scots and was later given to Anne of Cleves by Henry the VIII in the divorce settlement. Over the road is Bisham Woods. Aside from walking in the footsteps of rock ‘n’ roll royalty, it was Kenneth Grahame’s inspiration for the Wild Wood in Wind In The Willlows. There are 400 acres to explore and many circular routes, you can view one here.
Shottesbrooke Parkland, White Waltham (6.9km)
For the super-keen there is a 6.9km circular stomp, taking you through Shottesbrooke Parkland, that will test your physical and mental stamina. The route takes you along tree-lined bridleways and there’s amazing views of open fields and woodland. The highlight of this walk is the bit that takes you through Shottesbrooke Park, with its mansion, parkland, lake and church. Fancy. View the walk here.
Maidenhead Thicket (2.5km)
A couple of miles west of Maidenhead’s urban sprawl is Maidenhead Thicket. The Thicket offers varied walking routes throughout the seasons with wildflowers popping up in spring. There are around 5 miles of footpaths through broadleaf woodland, rides and tree-lined avenues – a regualr haunt for highwaymen – so the perfect place to run wild, den-build and bug hunt. Eyes peeled for the emperor dragonfly. They should be buzzing around soon. View the walks here.
Reading Circular River Walk (3.5km)
Starting at Reading Bridge (above), this route takes you on a tour of the town’s prettiest spots, including King’s Meadow and Blake’s Lock, past the Abbey Ruins and Forbury Gardens. Best of all, it shouldn’t take you more than an hour. Route here.
Hurley to Marlow River Walk (2.5km)
A daily dose of wellbeing in one walk. The riverside path from Hurley to Marlow and back is an easy peasy stroll that delivers birds, wildlife and a spectacular river view with trees hanging over the water, and boats moored along the bank. Start at Hurley Lock and head along the path to Marlow Bridge. Then turn around and head back to where you started. View the walk here.
Newbury Canal Path (6km)
Once the main trading route between Bristol and London, Newbury’s canal offers a great towpath walk with lots to see. Start at Newbury Wharf and head east to Widmead Lock. Bear left to enter the Thatcham Nature Discovery Centre. Budding ornithologists (that’s bird watchers to you and me), can keep your eyes peeled for common terns, house martins, swallows and swifts over the lake. View the walk here.
Dorney Lake, Eton Wick (6km)
Dorney Lake was the London 2012 Olympic venue. What it lacks in muscle-rippling rowers right now, it makes up for in easy peasy, traffic-free strolling or running, if that’s how you roll. Park at the north western end of the lake and explore the lake, 450 acres of parkland including an Arboretum. View the walk here.
Bray Lake Circular, Bray (2.4km)
A walk so easy, you can whip around without breaking a sweat. What this gentle 1.5mile stroll around the edge of Bray Lake lacks in length, it makes up for in views. One of the prettiest spots in Berkshire, the path hugs the edge of the tree-lined water, home to Bray Lake Watersports. During the wet months, wellies are a must as it can get a bit muddy. But the outlook never gets old View walk here.
Pangbourne Circular Walk (6km)
You’re in Wind In The Willlows territory, Kenneth Grahame loved Pangbourne, so I think you’ll love this riverside romp. It’s a decent 6km circular walk that starts at the train station, goes along the Thames Path to Pangbourne Meadow, onto Sulham Woods and back to the village on the river path. Route here.
Sulham Wood Loop, Nr Pangbourne (5km)
An easy to moderate trail that’s perfect for hiking, walking, trail running and crawling around in the undergrowth for buds and bugs. The wildflowers of Sulham Woods – between Pangbourne and Englefield – are what make this 3.9km woodland loop an absolute gem. View walk here.
Yattendon walks, West Berkshire
Pack your wellies, peeps, because the circular walks around the Royal Oak in Yattendon tend to be a bit muddy. There’s a family friendly loop that starts at the Village Hall and brings you out at the back of St Paul and St Peter’s church. If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous (or slightly less hungover) there is a circular walk that takes you over to Frilsham and through the woodland. View the walks here.
Stanford Dingley and its surrounding meadows and woodland are what escaping to the countryside is all about. An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, you can celebrate the seasons and there’s half a chance you’ll bump into a dog-walking Cambridge or Middleton. This moderate four-mile stomp is a two-hour belter with some steep sections, a couple of hills and some muddy, uneven ground, but there are a few shortcuts if you want to bail out early. A colourful walk to see the seasons change that’s particularly lovely in spring. View walk here.
Pope’s Meadow, Binfield (1.3km)
Pope’s Meadow, named after Binfield’s most famous resident – the 18th-century poet and philosopher Alexander Pope, is a Green Flag Award-winning site and has a small wooded copse full of bluebells. You never know, it might even inspire you to write poetry too. At Binfield Road in Bracknell are The Three Copses (Temple Copse, Tinker’s Copse and Jock’s Copse ) – hazel coppice woodlands full of bluebells with a handy circular walk through them. View the walk here.
Can you recommend a lovely local walk we haven’t mentioned? Please do – the comment box below is all yours!