Berkshire walk - Greenham Common and the Kennet and Avon Canal

PUBLISHED: 00:00 15 April 2020

A sunlit wooded path in Spring with blossom in the forground (c) Cloud77/Getty Images/iStockphoto

A sunlit wooded path in Spring with blossom in the forground (c) Cloud77/Getty Images/iStockphoto


Colin Wharton takes you on a historic walk through Greenham Common, Bowdown Woods, Crookham Common and along the Kennet and Avon Canal.

Cloud77, AmandaLewis / Getty / iStockphotoCloud77, AmandaLewis / Getty / iStockphoto

This is an opportunity to explore a variety of landscapes from a number of commons and nature reserves to water features along the River Enbourne and the Kennet and Avon Canal.

A large part of this walk ventures across Greenham Common. Greenham Common is now a site of Special Scientific Interest, with wildlife reserves, historical features and a visitor centre. It became designated public parkland in 1997.

From 1942 Greenham Common was used by the Royal Air Force and the United States Army Air Force. It was controversially used during the Cold War for the placement of BGM-109G nuclear cruise missiles. During the 1980s the airfield became known for the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp held in protest against the cruise missiles.

1. (SU 47278 66720) Starting from the south side of Newbury train station, walk eastwards and turn immediately right at the main road and follow this southwards along the pavement. At the roundabout, take the left-hand fork of the road, crossing over using the subway.

Turn left at Queen’s Road and follow this eastwards until you get to Boundary Road. Turn right at Boundary Road and follow this a short way until you see a footpath on your left across the edge of a green and follow this easterly across Racecourse Road.

From Racecourse Road continue along New Road, still heading south-easterly.

At the end of the road take the public footpath that leads uphill to St Mary’s Greenham.

2. (SU 48598 65690) Walk through the church grounds (St Mary’s Greenham) and follow the footpath that winds south-easterly down across Greyberry Copse Road until you get to Pigeons Farm Road.

Turn right and follow this road south-westerly until you reach Bury’s Bank Road, at which point you turn left and immediately cross the road to enter Greenham Common. Follow the path until you reach a concrete track.

Greenham Common has a number of footpaths, some of which were former runways and aircraft taxi lanes.

Follow the main track westwards and southwards and then eastwards, which will take you past the eerie sight of the former nuclear cruise missile silos.

3. (SU 48653 64768) Continue eastwards and turn left to follow the track across a central concrete section marking the centre of the former airfield. The runway at Greenham was once the longest in Europe.

4. (SU 49988 65015) At the former control tower you can stop at The Base café or visit the museum and visitor centre.

Follow the common north eastwards from the control tower and follow a footpath that takes you back to Bury’s Bank Road.

5. (SU 50291 65230) Cross the road and you will see a track leading into Bowdown Woods Nature Reserve. There are a number of waymarked paths through the woods and heathland, part of which used to be an ammunition store during the Second World War.

6. (SU 51096 64908) Leave the woods at the south-east edge and walk slightly along the main road (Bury’s Bank Road) and enter Greenham Common again. Follow the path eastwards across Crookham Common and eventually join Old Thornton Road, walking south. Cross Thornford Road and turn left and then turn right down Thornford Road.

7. (SU 52071 63893) Join a footpath on the left off Thornford Road and go across a footbridge. Walk eastwards along the footpath close to the River Enbourne. The river rises close to the village of Inkpen and joins the River Kennet.

8. (SU 52941 63315) At a footbridge turn left and follow the footpath northwards along the edge of some woods and over fields, crossing Crookham Common Road, until eventually you reach Chamberhouse Mill Lane. Follow this lane west and then north across the Kennet and Avon Canal.

The Kennet and Avon Canal refers to the whole length of a waterway that is made up of sections of both river and canal with the River Avon from Bristol to Bath and the River Kennet from Newbury to Reading, much of it canalised. The waterway was made navigable in the early 18th century and after decline and dereliction in the early 20th century, it has been restored.

Join the footpath on the north side and follow this westwards along the canal until you reach Newbury again.


Start/finish: Newbury Station, Station Approach, Newbury, Berkshire, RG14 5DG (SU 47298 66768)

Explorer map: 158 Newbury & Hungerford

Distance: 15miles or 24km, circular walk

Time: 5-6 hours

Refreshments: Eateries and pubs in Newbury

Terrain: Flat or gently undulating across some parts of the common

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