Berkshire walk - Tidmarsh & Sulham

PUBLISHED: 15:49 02 April 2015 | UPDATED: 15:49 02 April 2015

The route from Little Heath back towards the car park © Steve Davison

The route from Little Heath back towards the car park © Steve Davison

© Steve Davison

Steve Davison takes a walk to the west of Reading passing through Tidmarsh and Sulham along the eastern edge of the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Crossing the River Pang on the way to Tidmarsh © Steve DavisonCrossing the River Pang on the way to Tidmarsh © Steve Davison

Tidmarsh & Sulham

• Population: Under 500

• OS Grid Reference: SU6374 (Tidmarsh)

• Most famous for: Pillboxes to defend England in the face of a Second World War invasion; Eminent Victorians author Lytton Strachey lived in Tidmarsh

• Landmarks: Former toll house; River Pang; Sulham House; Greyhound pub

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Walk summary

• Start/finish: car park at the top of Sulham Hill between Tidmarsh and Tilehurst (SU648745)

• Map: OS Explorer 159

• Distance: 4.5 miles (7.3km) or 3 miles (4.6km)

• Terrain: some gates and stiles, ups and downs, paths and tracks that can be muddy, sections of road

• Time: 2.5 hours or 1.5 hours (excluding stops)

• Refreshments: Tidmarsh – The Greyhound (0118 984 3557)

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From the parking area the walk meanders through Sulham Wood before crossing the River Pang to arrive at Tidmarsh. The main road through the village was once a turnpike route and we soon pass the former octagonal toll house (private house) where users had to be pay a toll. After reaching the thatch-roofed Greyhound pub the walk heads back across the River Pang beside the Mill House; this was most likely the location of the original water-driven corn mill back in the 13th century that was once held by Reading Abbey until Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries.

The walk then heads east through fields passing several former WWII pillboxes.

Due to the possibility of a German invasion during the Second World War, Britain’s defences were hastily strengthened, including the construction of 18,000 pillboxes, with the primary purpose of delaying a German invasion from advancing as easily as they had done in France. In addition to the main coastal defences, a series of barriers, known as General Headquarters Anti-Tank Lines or ‘GHQ Stop Lines’, were devised that made use of existing natural and man-made obstacles such as rivers and railway embankments.

One such line was the GHQ Red Line than ran northwards from the Kennet and Avon Canal (another stop line) following the Sulham Gap past Sulham and Tidmarsh before continuing along the River Thames towards Abingdon.

The walk then heads for Sulham and the Parish Church of St Nicholas, overlooked by the early 18th century Sulham House. The manor, which was mentioned in the Domesday Book, has been held by the Wilder family for close to 400 years and the Revd John Wilder, one of many Wilders who became rectors of the parish, built the present church in the 1830’s. From the church the walk heads through open fields and woods to arrive back at the car park.

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1 (SU648745) – From the north side of the road go through the kissing gate and follow the signposted path through Sulham Wood for 150m to a split (marker post). Fork right, following the permissive route close to the right-hand edge of the wood for 600m to reach a signposted path junction. Turn left heading downhill, ignore a crossing route and continue downhill (steps). Go through a gate and head across the field to a gate. Turn right along the lane for 400m to a right-hand bend and go left over a stile. Continue through the field, then through gates either side of a footbridge to enter another field where the path splits. Fork right, cross a footbridge and continue under power-lines to a path junction on the far side beside a kissing gate (the left fork is an unofficial route). Stay in the field and turn left following the right-hand boundary. Go through a kissing gate and continue through the next field to another kissing gate.

2 (S636757) – Cross the footbridge over the River Pang and immediately turn left following the riverside path for 300m (fence on right) before bearing right through a gate. Follow the left-hand field boundary, cross a stile and keep ahead to a stile in the corner. Cross over and bear left along the track and surfaced driveway. Immediately after the junction turn right and follow the enclosed path as it soon swings left, then later swings right before passing through a gate to join the main road (A340) at Tidmarsh. Turn left to reach a junction beside The Greyhound.

3 (SU635747) – Turn left along Mill Lane. Immediately after the first bridge turn left along the narrow path and swing right over a footbridge. Cross the stile and follow the right-hand field margin. At the corner, keep ahead across a footbridge and follow the left-hand field margin (pillboxes in the trees on the left). Cross a footbridge, then go through a small gate and turn left along the lane for 20m to a gateway (right). Turn sharp right to enter a field, almost doubling back to a gate in the field corner (Shorter walk: turn left up field edge, enter the wood and bear diagonally right back to the start). For the longer walk go through the gate and follow the enclosed path, then keep ahead alongside the left-hand field boundary to a gate.

4 (SU644742) – Cross the road and take the track opposite past the thatch-roofed house (private) and then the church. Continue along the hedge-lined track and just before the left-hand bend, turn left through a gate (footpath sign). Head eastwards through the field and enter the wood. Bear left and follow a defined path up through the trees. At the top continue along the enclosed path and then along the track (Kiln Lane) to a road at Little Heath. Turn left for 120m and then go left through a kissing gate (footpath sign). Follow the enclosed route and once in the field fork left alongside the fence (left). Keep straight on, staying left of the some scrub to a marker post by a large tree. Turn half-right and later pass left of a stand of trees to reach the parking area.

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