Ru­ral waters

Berkshire Life - - WILDLIFE -

Colin Whar­ton takes you on a won­der­ful hike that ex­plores the vil­lages of Pang­bourne, Gor­ing and the River Thames

Over fields, wood­land and open vis­tas you go, cov­er­ing a large stretch of the Thames Path and three beau­ti­ful ru­ral vil­lages. You’ll love pres­ti­gious Pang­bourne, which lies on the south bank of the River Thames and has the Pang trib­u­tary flow­ing through it. It is thought that the wa­ter voles here in­spired au­thor Ken­neth Gra­hame to come up with his char­ac­ter, Ratty, in The Wind in the Wil­lows. Here you’ll find lots of pretty shops, pubs and strik­ing sports cars. Pang­bourne is linked to Whitchurch-on-Thames via a toll bridge over the River Thames. Most of Whitchurch-on-Thames is des­ig­nated as a Con­ser­va­tion Area and is part of the Chilterns Area of Out­stand­ing Nat­u­ral Beauty. Gor­ing, also sit­u­ated on the Thames, has a na­ture re­serve run by the Berkshire, Buck­ing­hamshire and Ox­ford­shire Wildlife Trust, and you won’t want to miss the veiws if of­fers.

(SU 63294 76660) From Pang­bourne Sta­tion, walk down the road to the bot­tom of Shoot­ers Hill. Lo­cate a nar­row lane called The Wharf on the other side of the road and fol­low it as it winds east­wards, un­til you even­tu­ally come to a car park and Whitchurch Road. Fol­low Whitchurch Road north­wards, cross­ing Whitchurch Bridge and the River Thames. It is an un­usual pri­vate sin­gle lane toll bridge that was in built in 1792 but has had much work done to it over the years. The toll price for a car is 60p, but it is free to

walk across. On the other side, you will join the High Street then con­tinue grad­u­ally up­hill through Whitchurch-on-Thames. Lo­cate and take the foot­path that fol­lows the road to the right. The strik­ing St Mary’s Church in Whitchur­chon-Thames, al­though much al­tered, still con­tains some of its orig­i­nal Nor­man struc­ture.

(SU 63347 77525) Af­ter pass­ing the war me­mo­rial, cross the road and fol­low the foot­path to the left of the road as it rises up the hill with trees on ei­ther side. Take a foot­path on the left that en­ters and fol­lows the edge of a field. The foot­path even­tu­ally leads to some woods and be­comes part of the Chiltern Way. Fol­low the Chiltern Way north­west as it forks across Coombe End Farm and exit at a nar­row road called Coombe End. Fol­low Coombe End west­wards. Take a foot­path on your left that winds along a wood­land track de­scend­ing and then ris­ing north­wards to Up­per Gate­hamp­ton Farm.

(SU 61634 79618) At one point along the track to Up­per Gate­hamp­ton Farm you will see a gate and a foot­path lead­ing to a na­ture re­serve called Hart­slock. It is worth tak­ing a short de­tour through the gate and up­hill to ad­mire the river views to­wards Gor­ing and the Gate­hamp­ton Rail­way Bridge.

(SU 61849 80140) From Gate­hamp­ton Farm, the path crosses a field and en­ters Great Chalk Wood, where you will join the Chiltern Way again, walk­ing west and ex­it­ing the wood­land at the edge of open fields. The path en­ters a res­i­den­tial area be­fore you reach the Read­ing Road.

Turn left at the Read­ing Road and then right at the junc­tion onto the Walling­ford Road. Along the Walling­ford Road turn left across the rail­way bridge and fol­low the road west into Gor­ing and to­wards the river. At the River Thames, lo­cate the Thames Path. The sec­ond sec­tion of the walk is easy to fol­low us­ing the Thames Path. Head south­east along the river back to Whitchurch and then Pang­bourne. On the fi­nal stretch of the walk you will pass un­der the Gate­hamp­ton Rail­way Bridge, which was built in 1838 by the fa­mous Victorian civil en­gi­neer Isam­bard King­dom Brunel.

Start/fin­ish: Pang­bourne Rail Sta­tion, Sta­tion Ap­proach, Read­ing RG8 7DY

Map: OS Ex­plorer 159, Read­ing, Wok­ing­ham & Pang­bourne and OS Ex­plorer 171, Chiltern Hills West

Dis­tance:

11 miles or 18km

Ter­rain: A medium hike with a mix­ture of hilly open fields, wood­land, flat river paths and short mi­nor road sec­tions with some hill climbs

Time: Three to four hours

Re­fresh­ments: Eater­ies and pubs in Pang­bourne or Gor­ing

The view from the chalk down­land at Hart­slock BE­LOW: Boats on the river at Pang­bourne BE­LOW RIGHT: The pretty views of Whitchurch from Pang­bourne

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