Berkshire walk through Cookham
PUBLISHED: 15:32 22 January 2016 | UPDATED: 15:18 05 October 2017
Steve Davison leads the way on a choice of perfect walks through Cookham in winter – once home to the artist, Sir Stanley Spencer – before meandering along the river
The walk starts at the picturesque village of Cookham, which lies alongside the River Thames – England’s longest and most famous river. However, Cookham’s claim to fame, is the English painter, Sir Stanley Spencer (1891-1959), who spent most of his life in Cookham and used scenes from the village as the background to many of his paintings. To learn more about the painter visit the Stanley Spencer Gallery, located in the former Wesleyan Chapel where Spencer used to worship as a child (opening times: 01628 471885). For anyone interested in seeing more of his work, a visit to the Sandham Memorial Chapel at Burghclere to the south-west of Reading, is well worth the trip. Here, Spencer painted a set of murals, considered to be ‘one of the most remarkable artistic achievements of English Painting’, showing scenes from everyday military life, culminating in the Resurrection of the Soldiers.
From the gallery the walk passes the Tarry Stone, a large sarsen stone beside a seat at the junction of the A4094 and Odney Lane. This once marked the boundary of lands belonging to the Abbot of Cirencester and is said to have been connected with sports events before 1507. We then head along Church Gate to visit the Holy Trinity Church which dates back to Norman times. Inside there is a copy of Sir Stanley Spencer’s, The Last Supper, and some colourful stained glass windows.
Soon we join the riverside path following the peaceful River Thames upstream, with the Buckinghamshire village of Bourne End on the opposite bank. All too quickly you have to decide whether to follow the longer walk or opt for the shorter, 2¼ mile walk, which misses out Cock Marsh and heads back to the car park. The longer walk continues alongside the river, passing The Bounty pub (01628 520056 – open weekends only during the winter) before taking a loop round Cock Marsh, passing a gate erected in memory of Henry Bridges Fearon (1907-1995) who, as the writer ‘Fieldfare’, brought the love of the English countryside to many. From
Fieldfare Gate the route follows a level path below the steep slope of Winter Hill before joining up with the shorter walk. Both routes then head alongside the edge of the golf course before following Terry’s Lane for a while to arrive back at the car park.
• Start/finish: Cookham Moor car park (SU892853)
• Map: OS Explorer 172
• Distance: 4¼ miles (6.7km); shorter walk: 2¼ miles (3.7km)
• Terrain: some gates, fairly level, riverside paths, road crossings and pavement
• Time: 2 hours; shorter walk: 1 hour
• Refreshments: several choices in Cookham; The Bounty (01628 520056) at Cock Marsh
1 (SU892853) – From the car park cross the main road (B4447), then keep ahead to join the raised causeway and turn left towards the village; soon, over to the left is The Crown pub (01628 520163). Pass the War Memorial and follow the High Street to a T- junction passing The King’s Arms; on the right is the Stanley Spencer Gallery. Turn left (A4094) and keep left at the junction with Odney Lane (spot the Tarry Stone). After 40m, fork left along Church Gate signposted for the church and soon turn right to enter the churchyard. Follow the path, keeping left of the Holy Trinity Church to reach the River Thames. Turn left, keeping the river on your right, and pass a sailing club. Go through a gate to enter the meadow and follow the riverside path for half a mile to a gate.
2 (SU893864) – Here you have to decide between the short or long walk; for the short walk turn left before the gate and follow the path for 200m to a path junction near the railway and turn left to rejoin the main route. For the longer walk keep ahead through the gate and follow the riverside path. Pass under the railway bridge and continue with houses on the left, soon passing The Bounty pub. After the last house, go through a gate and continue through the field (river on the right). Leave through a gate and follow the track alongside the river. After the first house, fork diagonally left across the corner of the field to rejoin the track at a bend and turn left (south) towards Winter Hill.
3 (SU890863) – Go through Fieldfare Gate, follow the raised path for 25m and turn left following a level path along the bottom of Winter Hill. Go under the railway to a junction of three routes where we turn right; the shorter walk rejoins here. Having turned right (left if following the shorter walk) follow the path parallel to the railway, with the golf course on the left, later swinging left and right past the hedge. Follow the gravel track to Terry’s Lane. Turn left to a junction and follow the enclosed path between Terry’s Lane (left) and Poundfield Lane (right). Rejoin Terry’s Lane and turn right to a mini-roundabout at the junction with the B4447; to the right is The White Oak (01628 523043) and further along is The Old Swan Uppers (01628 523573). Cross over the main road and turn left, then keep ahead along the raised causeway. Immediately after crossing the bridge turn left back to the car park.