6 ISSUES FOR £6 Subscribe to Berkshire Life today CLICK HERE

50 days out for free in Berkshire and Buckinghamshire

PUBLISHED: 00:17 21 January 2012 | UPDATED: 11:17 06 July 2018

Follow the Midsomer Murders Trail.

Follow the Midsomer Murders Trail.

They say you don't have to pay for the best things in life, so Danusia Hutson offers you some suggestions for things to do in Berkshire and Chilterns this summer that won't cost a penny

Feature from 2012. For the latest Berkshire and Buckinghamshire events and ideas, click below!



Click here for what's on this month in Berkshire

Click here for what's on this month in Buckinghamshire


Heritage sites and churches

Visit the birthplace of democracy: Runnymede is an attractive area of riverside meadows, with a network of pleasant footpaths. It was on this site, in 1215, that King John sealed Magna Carta, an event commemorated by the American Bar Association Memorial. Nearby is the John F. Kennedy Memorial and various memorial trees, showing how important the area is in world history. Fairhaven Lodges and Kiosks were designed by Lutyens and one of them is now an art gallery. Throughout the summer there is a programme of free exhibitions. Until August 2 you can see work by established Modus Embroidered Textiles group at Gallery 1215.

Go on a pilgrimage: There are so many fascinating churches in our area. Take, for example, St Mary's at Ewelme. The church, cloistered almshouses and school were built as a group about 1432 by the Earl (later Duke) and Countess of Suffolk. She was Alice Chaucer, granddaughter of the poet Geoffrey Chaucer: her magnificent canopied tomb, with alabaster effigy, lies beside the altar.

Come face to face with giants: The church at Aldworth, near Reading, contains numerous huge effigies of the De La Beche family. The figures are supposed to be life size representations, depicting knights all over seven feet tall.

Poet's corner: The churchyard at Stoke Poges was immortalised in Thomas Gray's Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard. The poet lies in the simple tomb of his mother and sister, although his name does not appear on this tomb but his death was recorded on a tablet on the church wall opposite and, of course, in the parish register.

Find a little bit of India at Stoke Row: The Maharajah's Well is a wonderful curiosity, in the middle of a little Chilterns village, which once attracted hundreds of visitors every year. Given as a gift by the Maharajah of Benares who had heard that the residents of Stoke Row had no water, the well was completed in 1863 and topped with a gilded dome. Access to the well is free at all times.

One of the ruins that Cromwell knocked about a bit: Donnington Castle, near Newbury, was the site of a siege and battle during the Civil War. See the remains of a striking twin-towered gatehouse from the 14th century. The site is open all year, although only the outside can be viewed. Tel: 01635 30267.

Take a tour of Windsor Castle: The largest inhabited castle in the world is free to view if you hold a Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead Advantage card.



Walk back in time at Reading Museum and Riverside Museum, RG1 1QH. Tel: 0118 939 9800. There's a fantastic selection of galleries, displays and interactive eventshere. Feast your eyes on a copy of the Bayeux Tapestry, discover the history and background of local sports and music, including Reading Festival.

West Berkshire Museum is a mine of information. Visit it on Newbury Wharf, RG14 5AS.

Tel: 01635 305110. Art, archaeology, jewellery, furniture, and local history and nature are just some of the collection in this historical building.

Go on a voyage of discovery at the Museum of Rural English Life, RG1 5EX. Tel: 0118 378 8660. This museum is sited in the former home of biscuit magnate Sir Alfred Palmer, of Huntley and Palmers, and contains collections and displays about food, farming and the countryside.

Learn more about Maidenhead at Maidenhead Heritage Centre, SL6 1SL. Tel: 01628 780555. Check out the fascinating history of Maidenhead, see collections and pictures.

Local history comes to life at Wycombe Museum, High Wycombe, HP13 6PX. Tel: 01494 421895. This is a place for all ages, with a Discovery Room, trails and special activities, permanent exhibits, videos and sound recordings that tell the story of Wycombe, Marlow and Princes Risborough.

Go Greek at The Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology, Reading, RG 6 6AA. Tel: 0118 378 89. This has the fourth largest collection of Greek ceramics in Britain. Other artefacts include prehistoric pottery and metal and stoneware from Greek and Roman periods, and an important collection of Egyptian antiquities.

Get arty: Modern Artists' Gallery, Whitchurch on Thames, RG8 7EX. Tel: 0118 984 5893. This is the place to see works by established artists and emerging new talent.


Volunteering fun and fitness

Join the 'Green Gym' at Sonning Common Group: It's where you can get fit and help improve the environment, tree planting, dry stone walling, fence making, creating nature areas. Tel: 0118 972 3528.

Become a British Trust Conservation Volunteer: Learn to make fences, create wildlife habitats, even watch bats and moths when night falls. Projects for adults and children. Tel: 0118 947 5049.

The Forestry Commission needs you: Whatever your age or ability, as a volunteer warden or a ranger you could help with surveys, litter picking or clearing scrub, help at events or with guided walks. For Bucks call 01604 696239, for Chilterns, 01296 625825.

Trust in The National Trust: It's always looking for people who are willing to give up their time, meet new people and work right at the heart of amazing buildings and gardens, such as Basildon Park and Hughenden Manor. If you fancy being a gardener or room steward, then call 01494 755500.


National Trust properties to visit

Waddesdon Manor: Children can enjoy a free guided tour of the house and have fun in the amazing gardens with a Woodland Playground and Explorer Trail during August. An accompanying adult also goes free but booking is essential. On August 31 there's a free wine tasting in the Wine Cellars of new house wines: Merlot, Sauvignon & Rosé from noon to 4pm. Tel: 01296 653226

Hughenden Park and Woodlands, HP14 4LA. The home of Victorian Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli Hughenden Manor has plenty of woodland walks, and free Explorer Tracker Packs are available.

Bradenham Village has a network of paths for walkers taking you through hills, farmland and beech woods.

Ashdown House, Lambourn, RG17 8RE, woodlands, gardens and countryside, including an Iron Age hill fort, where, it is believed, King Alfred fought the Danes. (There is a small charge for the house.) Tel: 01494 755569.


Trail and walks and cycle routes

Get on yer bike: There are hundreds of variations within England Cycle Routes, with new additions this year including Hazlemere Circuit, Sandhurst Loop, and Newbury to Theale Route. Or download a free pass for the Avon and Kennet Cycle Route and enjoy some of Berkshire's most beautiful countryside, canals and rivers.

Midsomer Murders: Get on the trail of the Chilterns most notorious criminals and help Inspector Barnaby solve those terrible killings. Midsomer Murders fans will know that the hugely popular ITV series has been shot primarily in the Chilterns and the trail showing details of all the locations used in filming is downloadable for free.

Two in one: To the west of Newbury on Combe Down are the remains of the Iron Age Walbury Hill Fort. At 974ft (279m), this is the highest point in South East England and from here there are panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. Nearby stands Combe Gibbet, the wooden gibbet, replaced several times over the centuries, marks the site of a double hanging in 1676.

Take the Thames Path: This National Trail stretches for 184 miles along the Thames from its source in the Cotswolds to the City of London.

Newbury Discovery Trail: It's just one of a series of self-guided walks along the restored Kennet & Avon Canal towpath. Leaflets are available from local British Waterways offices. Tel:01380 722859.

Windsor Great Park: A large deer park of 5,000 acres, the park is located to the south of the town of Windsor and can be accessed via the famous Long Walk. Alternatively there are several public access points around its perimeter. One of the major ones is in Wick Lane, Englefield Green where you can park for 90 minutes free of charge. A four and a half mile circular walk around the lake, passing the famous totem pole, is highly recommended.

Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty: Grab a copy of Miles without Stiles, which has information on 20 stile-free walks in the Chilterns, all around 2-4mls.


Country sites

The Look Out Discovery Centre: While you need to pay for the hands-on science exhibition, you can enjoy 1,000 hectares of Crown Estate woodland with nature walks and an amazing adventure play area for the children absolutely free. Tel: 01344 354400.

California Country Park, RG40 4HT. A former holiday camp, this 100 acre site is great for a day out. Enjoy a walk round the lake, watch wildlife, take the special Woodland Walk; paddling pool and cafe/restaurant. Tel: 01189342016.

Black Park Country Park, SL3 6DS. Acres of woodland, grassland and heathland with a centrepiece lake. Enjoy walking, orienteering, have a picnic. Cafe, children's woodland playground. Tel: 01753 511060.

Denham Country Park, UB9 5PG. Picnic, play and explore this park and woodlands, where you will find a variety of wildlife, including many species of birds. Tel: 01753 511060

Shepherds Meadows, Sandhurst, GU47 9BJ. Named after wildlife artist David Shepherd, the site covers100 acres of wet wildflower meadow and woodland, straddling the River Blackwater. Tel: 01344 354441.

Pope's Meadows, Bracknell, RG42 4BB. Originally part of the historic grounds of Pope's Manor where the 18th century poet Alexander Pope spent part of his childhood, the park is a Wildlife Heritage Site with plenty to see and enjoy in this historic landscape, great for picnics. Tel: 01344 354441.

Wendover Woods, HP22 5NF. Spectacular views of Aylesbury Vale and 325 hectares of woodland, where you can enjoy a fitness trail, an all-ability trail, or the Firecrest trail of wildlife delights. Pack a picnic and relax in a sunny glade. Tel: 01296 625825.

Dorney Lake is a 2,200 metre flat water rowing lake owned by Eton College. Used for international regattas, and indeed the 2012 Olympic venue for Rowing. As well as the watersports themselves, the grounds of the lake are open for cyclists, joggers and walkers, who can enjoy an arboretum with an ever-growing array of flora and fauna.

Dinton Pastures Country Park, Hurst, RG10 0. Seven lakes, two rivers, meadows and bird hides where you can secretly watch the waterfowl. Free leaflets for footpaths and trails, cafe. Tel:0118 934 2016.

Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust Reserves: There are several in Berkshire and the Chilterns. Warburg, near Henley, is the Trust's premier nature reserve and nestles in the tranquil Bix valley. Or overlooking the Kennet Valley, Bowdown Woods near Newbury, is the Trust's biggest woodland reserve in Berkshire - and for sheer variety of wildlife, it's hard to beat.


Click here for what's on this month in Berkshire

Click here for what's on this month in Buckinghamshire

Most Read

Most Read

Latest from the Berkshire Life