An Easter walk around Inkpen with Steve Davison
PUBLISHED: 11:24 07 April 2014 | UPDATED: 12:37 15 March 2018
© Steve Davison
This month Steve Davison heads to West Berkshire and the North Wessex Downs for a fairly hilly walk to see some colourful crocuses and a grisly reminder of a bygone era
• Start/finish: small car park on the east side of Walbury Hill, 3½ miles south from Kintbury; grid ref SU379616
• Map: OS Explorer 158
• Distance: 8.8km (5½ miles)
• Terrain: ups and downs including a steep climb and descent, tracks and paths which can be muddy, some stiles and gates, sections of road
• Time: 3 hours
• Refreshments: Lower Green – The Swan (01488 668326)
From the lofty heights of the chalk downs, with lovely views to the north across the Kennet Valley, the walk heads downhill, soon meandering through Upper Green. At Inkpen, take a short detour to the Crocus Field Nature Reserve, owned by the Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust. Here, in late February and early March tens of thousands of purple spring crocuses (crocus vernus) break into flower. The crocuses have been here for over 200 years, although some believe that they are much older and may have been brought back by the Knights Templar during the Crusades. In summer, the meadow is home to common spotted orchid, heath spotted orchid, meadow saxifrage and cowslip.
We continue westward through Lower Green, home to a pub, before heading towards Inkpen’s church – St Michael and All Angel’s – which may have been built by Sir Roger de Ingpen, a Knight Templar, in 1220. Pop inside to see Sir Roger’s effigy as well as a lovely carved oak Rood Screen and 20th-century biblical wall paintings. Overlooking the church is the late 17th-century Old Rectory, or Inkpen House.
From here we climb steeply up Inkpen Hill before heading east, soon passing Combe Gibbet – a grisly reminder of a bygone era. The original double gibbet was erected in 1676 to hang local man, George Bromham, and his mistress, Dorothy Newman, for the murder of Bromham’s wife and son. The story of the murders was used as the basis of the 1948 film: Black Legend, which was produced by a group of Oxford undergraduates, including John Schlesinger (1926-2003) who later became a well known Oscar-winning film director.
On reaching the car park lookout for the small memorial recalling that the area was used in 1944 by the 9th Battalion, the Parachute Regiment, in preparation for the successful assault on the German coastal artillery battery at Merville, France, before the invasion of Normandy. The final part of the walk heads east over Walbury Hill, which, at 297m, is the highest chalk hill in England, and passes through the earthworks of the Berkshire’s largest Iron Age hill fort.
1 (SU379616) – From the car park follow the track north-west for 150m, turn right over a stile and head north downhill. Cross a stile, continue down through trees and then along the lane for 500m. At a gate on the left, go left over the stile and follow the right-hand field margin for 400m. Bear right down through the trees, through a large gate and continue across the field, keep ahead through another large gate and soon follow the track past buildings at Kirby Farm. Turn right along the lane to a T-junction, turn right then left at the next junction and follow the road for 500m to a junction.
2 (SU372641) – Turn left – after 200m, on the left, just before The Old Forge (private house), is a hedge-lined track that gives access to BBOWT’s Crocus Field nature reserve – we continue along the lane as it starts to descend and curve right. Go left through a small gate and follow the enclosed path, before crossing two fields and going through three kissing gates. Leave through another kissing gate, cross the lane and follow the enclosed path ahead, keeping to the right of Manor Farm. Head gently downhill and follow the path to the left. Continue along the wooden walkway, cross a footbridge and then along the enclosed path – lookout for the large tree-house on the right. Later, follow a driveway to a minor road; to visit The Swan pub go right and then left at the junction (road to Hungerford) for 150m, retrace steps.
3 (SU360640) – For the walk, turn left and bear right along the road for Ham and Shalbourne. After West Court house and cottage, bear left past the end of the cottage. Cross the stile and head southwards through the field, cross another stile and continue through the next field before crossing another stile to join a lane and turn right; to visit the church, turn left and then right up through the lychgate – return to the road and turn left. Head north-west down the road to the T-junction, go left (Ham and Shalbourne) for 200m and turn left along the signposted track. Pass a gate and follow the field edge for 100m, bear right following the hedge and trees on the right at first to reach a junction. Keep ahead along the shaded bridleway – Bungum Lane.
4 (SU356623) – At the end, go through a gate and head diagonally left up the steep slope of Inkpen Hill. Later bear right over the brow of the hill towards the bushes and bear right (south-west) past Wigmoreash Pond. Cross over a stile at the corner and turn left (east) along the track, later passing Combe Gibbet. Cross over the minor road (memorial stone on the north side of the road opposite the car park) and follow the track just right of the car park over Walbury Hill back to the start.
To find out more about Steve, and information on his books including The North Wessex Downs, visit: www.steve-davison.co.uk