Berkshire’s best walks: 18-mile circular from Hungerford to Ham Hill
PUBLISHED: 10:44 25 August 2020 | UPDATED: 12:01 25 August 2020
Colin Wharton takes you on a hike from Hungerford to Ham Hill and Rivar Down across open countryside, fields and some woodland with sweeping panoramic views
This lengthy hike is one to blow away the cobwebs, although it can be adapted to make a shorter version if you start it from nearer the ridge section.
You’ll set off from the pretty Berkshire market town of Hungerford, which contains a number of historic buildings and is close to the delightful Kennet and Avon Canal.
1) (SU 33967 68523) From Hungerford Railway Station follow Station Road south past the Railway Tavern and then turn left onto Park Street. Follow this eastwards until you reach the start of Hungerford Port Down, which is marked by The Downgate pub.
Walk over the cattle grid and cross the Down south-easterly and then south-westerly. At the end of the Down exit along Coldharbour Road and follow the road westerly, which leads onto Bulpit Lane.
Turn left at Priory Avenue and follow the road south, turning right again at Priory Road. As Priory Road curves northwards you should see a footpath marked on the left.
2) (SU 33639 67595) Take the footpath south past open fields until you reach the main road at Sanham Green. Turn right onto the Inkpen Road and follow this south. At the bottom of the hill turn left onto a footpath.
Follow the footpath that takes you along the edge of some fields and continue as it winds along the edge of Elm Copse and The Heath until you reach Bitham Lane.
From Bitham Lane follow the footpath signed south-westerly across the field. The footpath crosses over fields and a stream before you reach Ham Road.
3) (SU 32991 63195) Turn left and follow the road south into the village of Ham. Ham is a quaint little village with a green surrounded by thatched cottages and a pub, The Crown & Anchor.
Follow Spray Road south of the pub, passing Church Road on your right (this would take you past All Saints’ Church in Ham, which was originally built in the 12th century but altered during the 18th century).
Continue by following the road south of Ham. It is narrow and dark in areas so keep to the right and make sure you are visible to oncoming traffic. Stop once you reach a bridleway sign on your left.
This marks the Mid Wilts Way, which is a 68-mile route across Wiltshire. Take the bridleway east and south as it crosses fields and eventually ascends Ham Hill.
Ham Hill is part of a larger area of chalk downland that forms a ridge close to the border of Berkshire, Wiltshire and Hampshire. It is a designated area of biological and special scientific interest and a nature reserve, managed by Wiltshire Wildlife Trust.
4) (SU 34649 61920) At the top of Ham Hill follow the Mid Wilts Way west along the ridge enjoying panoramic views, particularly to the north. Cross Woodcote Road and Ashley Drove to continue along the Mid Wilts Way past Ashley Down.
Leave the footpath at Rivar Road and walk slightly along the road before turning left into the woods to again follow the Mid Wilts Way westerly passing Rivar Down. Upon reaching another road turn right and follow this road north, which is still on the Mid Wilts Way.
5) (SU 29389 60825) Turn right along the road to follow a footpath towards Starveall Farm. The footpath goes around the farm before heading north-east close to a stream and leading onto Burr Lane.
Cross Burr Lane and continue along the footpath north east and to the north of the village of Shalbourne. After passing a number of smaller fields to the north of a small school and a church you will reach Mill Lane.
At Mill Lane turn right and follow the road south until you see a footpath sign marked left and right. Follow the left-hand sign that takes you away from the church and easterly across fields. Turn left at the next footpath to go northwards.
This footpath goes to the right of some sewage works before reaching a main road; the A338. Follow the road south slightly and take the footpath north to Six Acre Lane. At Six Acre Lane continue across the footpath past Oak Pollard until you reach Upper Slope End Farm.
At the small road turn left and follow it northwards, turning right again at the next footpath towards Standen Manor. At Standen Manor follow the footpath east and then north across open fields that lead to the south-west edge of Hungerford.
6) (SU 33059 68340) Leave the footpath at Smitham Bridge Road and continue across the road northwards along Marsh Lane under the railway bridge and follow Marsh Lane westwards until you reach the Kennet and Avon Canal.
You can now follow the canal footpath eastwards into Hungerford and turn right at a small white footbridge to follow a path southerly that will take you back to the main railway station and the end of the hike.
Start/finish: Hungerford Railway Station, Station Road, Hungerford, Berkshire, RG17 0DY. OS Explorer 158, Newbury and Hungerford
Distance: 18miles or 20km
Terrain: Undulating with some hill climbs particularly at Ham Hill
Time: 6 to 7 hours
Refreshments: Eateries in and close to Hungerford