Berkshire walk around Aldermaston Wharf and Padworth
PUBLISHED: 15:30 26 January 2018 | UPDATED: 15:43 26 January 2018
© Steve Davison
Steve Davison takes us alongside the peaceful Kennet and Avon Canal, before visiting Aldermaston Wharf and Padworth
The first leg of our walk this month follows the peaceful Kennet and Avon Canal west for slightly over two miles to arrive at Aldermaston Wharf.
At the height of ‘canal mania’ in the early 1800s, the Kennet and Avon Canal, which stretches across southern England from Reading to Bristol, formed a super-highway for the transportation of goods ranging from coal and timber to grain and stone, contributing to the late Georgian and early Victorian growth of the south. However, the widespread use of the canal lasted only a few decades before the arrival of Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s much faster Great Western Railway.
Fortunately plans to completely abandon the canal were stopped by public opposition and it has since been fully restored. Now this wonderful canal, which celebrated its bicentenary in 2010, forms a multi-faceted jewel for boaters, walkers and wildlife, as it weaves its way through a patchwork of countryside.
The canal was formed when two existing waterways – the Kennet Navigation and the Avon Navigation – were joined by the construction of a 57 mile canal between Newbury and Bath. The Kennet Navigation, which ran from the River Thames at Reading to Newbury, opened in 1723 and Aldermaston Wharf dates from this time. The lock just across the main road was originally known as Brewhouse Lock because the Aldermaston Brewery – later known as Strange’s Brewery – was established hereabouts in 1770. The canal visitor centre and tea room is housed in a former canal workers cottage.
We leave the canal behind, soon crossing the River Kennet and then heading uphill towards Padworth and the little Norman Church of St John the Baptist; if it’s open, the church, which dates from 1130, is well worth a visit. Close by is the former manor house which now houses Padworth College (school).
The final leg of the walk meanders through fields and along tracks gently heading back towards the canal offering views across the Kennet Valley on the way.
• Start/finish: car park beside Tyle Mill Bridge (SU626692); leave the A4 at the Spring Inn and head south for 600m along Sulhamstead Hill road
• Map: OS Explorer 159
• Distance: 6 miles (9.6km)
• Terrain: some gates no stiles, gentle ups and downs, paths and tracks that can be muddy, and sections of road
• Time: 3 hours
• Refreshments: Aldermaston Wharf – The Butt Inn (0118 971 3309) and canal tea room
1 (SU626692) – From the car park turn left (west) along the towpath with the canal on the right. Go through a gate and continue through the field, following the path beside the combined canal and River Kennet. Exit through a gate and keep ahead to the lane. Turn right across two bridges and immediately turn left along the towpath, now with the canal on the left. Follow the towpath for slightly over a mile, passing Towney Bridge and lock (97) on the way. Cross a lane and continue along the towpath for further half a mile, passing Padworth Lock (96) and then the tea room on the right at Aldermaston Wharf (alternative start with parking) to reach the A340.
2 (SU601671) – Turn left across the canal, then immediately turn left onto Mill Lane (some 200m along the main road is The Butt Inn). Take the right-hand track, heading south-east for 600m towards Padworth Mill. Fork right just before the entrance to Mill House (footpath sign), following an enclosed path. Cross several footbridges over the River Kennet. Go through a gate and keep ahead between fences before crossing a footbridge and going through another gate to a four-way path junction in the field. Take the first left across the field to the far side, cross the footbridge to enter the next field and aim diagonally left up across the field, later following the left-hand fence up towards Home Farm.
3 (SU612661) – At the top, go through a gate and keep ahead (barn on left) before turning left along the tarmac drive for 75m as it swings right. Turn left along the enclosed path (footpath sign) to reach the war memorial with the church on the left. Turn right up the track, then left along the lane to a crossroads. Go straight across following School Lane and as it turns sharp right into Silver Lane keep ahead into the farmyard for a few metres to a signpost. Turn left between the large barns and follow the track, then turn right through a gate to enter a field. Head diagonally left down across the field passing under the power lines to exit via a gate in the lower corner beside Normoor Copse.
4 (SU619670) – Turn right along the track with Normoor Copse on right and keep ahead at a crossing track with Ashen Wood on the right. Go straight on to reach a lane at Middle Farm. Turn left down the lane for a third of a mile to a junction. Turn right for a few metres then left through a kissing gate to enter a field. Follow the field edge, go through a gate and continue along the field edge to the top right corner. Bear left down to the lower corner and then bear right into the next field. Continue through a kissing gate, follow the path through the trees and then alongside the high fence (right). Turn left along the lane for 400m back to the car park.
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