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Back to Walks

Winter stomps with a pubby pitstop

Need some fresh air to clear your head? Pull on your walking shoes, fill your thermos and walk one of these Berkshire routes from gentle strolls to high point hikes.

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 days. In the immortal words of George Michael, let’s go outside – ideally for a long, bracing walk around one of Berkshire’s prettiest locales. Here’s our favourite strolls for New Year. Grab your wellies and let’s go!

Kintbury Canal and Meadows (Moderate 7km)

Kintbury Canal

If you’re in it for the long haul this two hour stomp should blow the cobwebs away. The circular walk from the village of Kintbury, follows a short section of the Kennet and Avon Canal then heads south through beautiful pastures and meadows before looping back into the village passing the church and village centre. Some of the paths can get quite muddy at this time of the year. There are several kissing gates and nine stiles. Most have pooch friendly passing points but a couple may prov trickier for dogs so they may need a lift over.

Pubby pitstop: Head a mile up the road to The Halfway Inn (marking the halfway point between Bristol and London. It’s a welcoming pub for all the family (faithful hounds included) with plenty of nooks to perch and a delicious menu of comforting dishes from small bites to filling mains.

Cookham and Cock Marsh (Moderate 6km)

cock marsh ponds natural pond hill and trees in winter

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.

Pubby pitstop: After 2 hours of countryside stomping, head to Muddy fave The White Oak – a laidback gastropub serving exceptional food, plus kids and well-behaved pooches are welcome. 

Cliveden National Trust, Taplow (Easy to moderate)

Cliveden River Walk

There’s a mahoosive 376 acres to explore, so 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.

Pubby pitstop: The Bel & the Dragon Cookham is a family friendly pub, just 2.5 miles down the road. Perfect for a cheeky half and a packet of crisps or cosy lunch.

Donnington Castle, Newbury (Easy 5.8km)

Donnington Castle drone shot

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.

Pubby pitstop: The Hartley Arms is a gastropub that will entice the most reluctant walkers into the great outdoors. If you only fancy a cuppa and cake, walk through the pub to the Honesty Café and they can serve that up too.

Basildon Park National Trust, Lower Basildon (Easy to moderate, 0.5-5km)

Basildon Park Georgian national trust house and snow covered parkland

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.

Pubby pitstop: Not so much a pub but a casual restaurant with a stonking riverside view. Coppa Club at The Swan at Streatley is a super spot for a cockle warming coffee or hair-of-the-dog cocktail.

Finchampstead Ridges, Wokingham (Easy 3.5km)

wellingtonia avenue_Finchampstead Ridges
Wellingtonia Avenue in Wokingham

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 – view the trails here.

Pubby pitstop: Do not go home without visiting The Greyhound Finchampstead. It’s the new kid on the gastropub block that welcomes well-behaved dogs and children. If you want something to grab and go, pop next door into the village shop Goswell and Bird’s for quality coffee, cold drinks, sausage rolls and more.

Combe Gibbet, Inkpen (Easy 3km)

Landscape at Inkpen, Berkshire

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. View the walk here.

Pubby pitstop: The Crown & Anchor in Ham is a pub that inspired The Archers and a short 2 mile drive away. It’s the perfect pitstop with its roaring fire, sleeping dogs and comforting menu.

The Long Walk and Copper Horse, Windsor (Easy 6km)

Statue of King George III on Horseback in Royal Windsor Great Park in England

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.

Pubby pitstop: Swerve the tourist crowds and make a beeline for The Greene Oak a smidge outside the town centre, but with all the country pub vibes you desire after a brisk stroll.

White Shute and Beacon Hill, Newbury (Moderate 1.3km)

Beacon Hill Highclere view

Channel your inner mountain goat. Beacon Hill maybe short but it’s a very steep, muddy climb to the leisurely walk around this ancient iron age hill fort – and at 261m, it’s one of the highest points in the North Wessex Downs. The hill was last used for a beacon in 2012 to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and you’ll come across the Earl of Carnarvon’s grave, who discovered the tomb of Tutankhamen with Howard Carter. Stonking views of Highclere Castle and the surrounding countryside guaranteed. View the route here.

Pubby pitstop: You’re minutes away from a cosy pub. The Carnarvon Arms Highclere is the lovely spot to warm up. Plenty of nooks, outdoor tables (with heaters) and welcoming whether you’re in for a coffee or something stronger. Save yourself the bother of cooking and a grab a bite.

Yattendon walks, West Berkshire (Easy 2km)

stPeter and St Paul Church Yattendon stone built

Pack your wellies, peeps, because the circular walks around the Royal Oak in Yattendon tends 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.

Pubby pitstop: Chocolate box pretty location, The Royal Oak in Yattendon has cosy nooks and modern light-filled spaces. Dog and kids are welcome so find your spot and settle in.

Dinton Pastures Country Park, Hurst (easy 3.2km)

Dinton-Pastures lake

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.

Pubby pitstop:  The Cellar Bar at Stanlake Park Wine Estate. OK, so it’s not a pub, but it’s a knockout spot for drinks and snacks –think charcuterie and cheese and pickles while tasting the local vino (they serve soft drinks and beer too). If it’s a pub or nothing, then make your way to The Walter Arms (just 1.5miles away in Sindlesham) which has a good rep for food..

Bisham Woods, Bisham (Easy 3km)

bisham woods

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.

Pubby pitstops: It depends which direction you’re heading. Commando crawl over the bridge into Marlow (shh it’s Bucks) and pop into The Two Brewers or head towards Maidenhead and The Golden Ball in Pinkeys Green is also a good option.

Bowdown Woods, Newbury (easy 1.6km)

Image: Woodland Trust

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.

Pubby pitstop: You’re spoilt for choice in Newbury town centre, but The Dolphin (Best Bar winner 2019) is a great place for weekend drinks, snacks and leisurely lunches and even has its own car park.

Shottesbrooke Parkland, White Waltham (Moderate 6.9km)

Sheep, church a d house Shottesbrooke Park Maidenhead

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.

Pubby pitstop: It depends when hunger strikes, but try and time your your pitstop to perfection so that you take a load off at The Beehive in White Waltham (Open 12pm-5pm). It’s one of the best gastropub’s in the UK and Chef Dominic Chapman’s food is to die for. If you’re starving when you get to Waltham St Lawrence, The Bell is a good option offering a short, seasonal menu, specialising in game and a root to tip appreciation of fresh produce.

Maidenhead Thicket (Easy 2.5km)

Maidenhead Thicket-National Trust
Image: National Trust

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.

Pubby pitstop: How does a 16th century inn where Dick Turpin propped up the bar with his knee-high boot wearing gang of villains., grab you? The Golden Ball in Pinkneys Green is a fantastic pub with all the cosy vibes you hanker after a winter amble.

Bray Lake Circular, Bray (Easy 2.4km)

Bray Lake Berkshire view trees reflected in water

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.

Pubby pitstop: Hot foot it into Bray village and you’re spoilt for choice. Heston’s Michelin Star gastropub The Hind’s Head is a superb place for a cocktail and a snack in the upstairs Royal Lounge. Alternatively keep it casual at The Crown at Bray – a 16th century inn serving gastropub classics.

Reading Circular River Walk (Easy 3.5km)

Reading Bridge

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.

Pubby pitstop: Swerve all the town centre big chains and head to The Bel and The Dragon in the old biscuit factory at Blake’s Lock. The food’s very good and there’s something to entice the pickiest eaters.

Hurley to Marlow River Walk (Easy 2.5km)

hurley-lock walk

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.

Pubby pitstop: Two pubs right in the village: The Olde Bell, offering bar snacks and pub classics and The Rising Sun a proper local that the villagers adore. You’ll get decent pub grub here and they offer a kids menu too. For something a bit swish, head up the hill to Hurley House, which is fabulous foodie destination big on British produce and seasonality.

Newbury Canal Path (Easy 6km)

Newbury canal walk lock

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.

Pubby pitstop: You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to Muddy Award winning pubs in Newbury. The Globe is the most dog friendly place EVER – and winner of this year’s Best Bar category, so worth popping into.

Dorney Lake, Eton Wick (Easy 6km)

aerial view of Dorney Lake Berkshire

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.

Pubby pitstop: You’ll get a warm welcome at The Palmer Arms – a place known for its unpretentious food, great service and relaxed atmosphere.

Pangbourne Circular Walk (Moderate 6km)

Pangbourne village river trees houses and church spire

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.

Pubby pitstop: The Swan in Pangbourne is a 17th century pub (with literary links galore). Inside there’s a a large bar and restaurant with nooks and crannies to hunker down in front of a fire for pints and crisps. Dog’s are welcome outside or in a special woofer snug.

Sulham Wood Loop, Nr Pangbourne (Moderate 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.

Pubby pitstop: The Greyhound at Tidmarsh is your classic country pub with thatched roof, worn wooden tables, plenty of nooks whether you’re popping in for a pint or thinking about a leisurely bite to eat.

Stanford Dingley and The Pang Valley (Moderate 8.5km)

Standford Dingley Pang Valley Walk river and muddy banks

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.

Pubby pitstop: You pass not one but three pubs on this route – it’s practically a pub crawl. The Old Boot has all the ingredients of a good country pub: roaring fires, sleeping dogs and an enormous garden. You’ll also find  The Pot Kiln in Frilsham and The Bull Inn.

Billingbear and Hill Farm, Binfield (Moderate 4.7km)

There are a few walks in this area to suit all. This 4.7km leg stretcher isn’t good for pushchairs and can be muddy, but it does pass two pubs. Head north out of Binfield village pass The Victoria Arms and into a park with trim trail and zipwire. Once you humiliated yourself on those, and walked round the edge of the park, go through a gate, cross the road and stomp through a few fields. Eyes peeled for the historic Allanbay House, All Saints Church and last one to the Jack O’Newbury gets the first round in… at the next pub, because this one has sadly closed. View the walk here.

Pubby pitstop: Back to The Victoria Arms – a charming local, bursting with character offering pub grub, sarnie with chips and cockle-warming drinks.

Can you recommend a lovely local walk we haven’t mentioned? Please do – the comment box below is all yours!

1 comment on “Winter stomps with a pubby pitstop”

  • Louise Jenkins December 30, 2019

    I would like to do the Shottesbrook Parkland, White Waltham walk, where can I find the instructions please?

    Reply

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