Arborfield walk – Old and New
PUBLISHED: 16:50 11 November 2013 | UPDATED: 16:50 11 November 2013
© Steve Davison
Steve Davison guides us on a delightful 5½ mile walk through the gentle countryside of the Loddon Valley around Arborfield, just to the south of Reading.
Start/finish: recreation ground car park along Swallowfield Road in Arborfield Cross; grid ref SU760669
Map: OS Explorer 159
Distance: 5½ miles (8.8km)
Terrain: stiles and gates, fairly level, field paths, tracks and sections of road
Time: 2½ hours without stops
Refreshments: Arborfield Cross – The Bull Inn (0118 976 2244), The Swan Inn (0118 976 0475), Lockey Farm shop and café (0118 976 1063); Shinfield – Magpie and Parrot (0118 988 4130)
Arborfield Cross is centred round the crossing of several roads – now replaced with a roundabout – overlooked by the 17th-century Bull Inn and War Memorial. The village had already started to form by the 15th century and the building housing the Swan Inn dates from around that time. From here the walk heads past Lockey’s Farm Shop to reach St Bartholomew’s Church, the more recent of Arborfield’s two churches.
Call in to see several items that were moved here from the old church, including the Standen Monument. This marble tomb with beautifully carved figures commemorates Sir William Standen (d.1639), Sheriff of Berkshire, and his wife Maria, who lived at Arborfield Hall. On the right of the entrance is a rather interesting piece of stained glass, known as ‘Aaron’s Head’. Unfortunately this is the only surviving part of a window that was moved from the old church; above Aaron’s head are Hebrew characters and the inscription ‘Holiness to the Lord’.
After visiting the church the walk heads north to cross the River Loddon. It was around here that the medieval settlement of Arborfield, known as Edburgefeld in the early 13th century, started out and included a church, water mill and manor house. Unfortunately the manor house, Arborfield Hall, was demolished in the 1960’s; the house was renamed ‘Aberleigh’ in Mary Russell Mitford’s book Our Village. By the mid 19th century the old church, which had been rebuilt in 13th century, was in such a poor state of repair that a new church (passed earlier in the walk) was built closer to the main village. All that remains of the old church are a few sections of wall and some old gravestones.
The route then passes close to Shinfield, home to the Magpie and Parrot pub, before heading through open farmland and woods meandering its way back to the Arborfield Cross.
While in the area, if you have time, call in at the interesting REME (Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers) Museum of Technology (www.rememuseum.org.uk).
1 (SU760669) – Turn left along the road from the car park to the roundabout with The Bull Inn on the left. Go anti-clockwise crossing Eversley Road (A327) – a short distance to the right is The Swan Inn – then cross School Road (B3349) and continue past the War Memorial. Turn right along Sindlesham Road (B3030) soon passing Lockey’s Farm Shop and Café, using the pavement and later the verge. At the right-hand bend turn left, carefully crossing the road, and follow the enclosed path as it curves round a field and then goes between a hedge and fence to join Church Lane beside the entrance to Cloud Stables. Turn left to St Bartholomew’s Church.
2 (SU758677) – Continue along the lane and at the left-hand bend, keep straight on along the surfaced track which soon curves right. Pass a gate, then some houses and keep ahead at a cross-junction passing the ruins of Arborfield’s older church. Keep to the track past buildings and cross the bridge over the River Loddon. Turn left, cross the stile and follow the left-hand field edge. Cross a footbridge at the far side and head diagonally right across the next field, passing the power-lines to reach a stile near the field corner; a short way to the right is the Magpie and Parrot.
3 (SU741678) – Carefully cross the A327 and turn left, walking along the verge for 300m. Shortly after crossing the River Loddon, turn right along a gravel track, go through a kissing gate and follow the fenced path through the field and bear right past an old stile. Continue alongside the right-hand fence, cross over a track and continue between the hedge and fence, as it later bends to the right. Pass a large gate and follow the track to a surfaced drive at Kenney’s Farm. Turn left to Swallowfield Road.
4 (SU747658) – Turn right for 30m and then left following the bridleway through Great Copse. Cross the lane and continue along the track for 450m before turning left along a signed footpath. Go through a gate and follow the meandering left-hand field margin to reach the far corner of the field. Bear right along the fenced path through Long Copse, pass through two kissing gates and follow the fenced path across the field. Go through the gate and continue along the enclosed path to pass another gate. Go diagonally left down across the field and through a gate in the lower right corner. Keep left at the split, cross a footbridge and go through the kissing gate. Follow the right-hand field boundary through another kissing gate beside a thatched cottage and follow the gravel drive. Turn right along the road back to the car park on the left.
To find out more about Steve, including information on walking books, visit: www.steve-davison.co.uk