West Berkshire walk through along the River Pang and surrounding villages
PUBLISHED: 16:27 04 November 2014 | UPDATED: 16:27 04 November 2014
Follow Steve Davison as he takes a walk alongside the River Pang and the picturesque villages of Stanford Dingley and Bradfield in West Berkshire, which forms part of the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
Stanford Dingley & Bradfield
• Population: Bradfield approx 1,200, Stanford Dingley 250
• OS grid reference: SU575715
• Most famous for: The River Pang and scenery; Bradfield College.
• Landmarks: St Denys parish church; Rushall Manor Farm
• Start/finish: Rushall Manor Farm car park, follow Back Lane from Bradfield towards Stanford Dingley for a mile and turn right (RG7 6DL); grid ref SU584722
• Map: OS Explorer 159
• Distance: 5.5 miles (8.9km)
• Terrain: gates and stiles, some gentle ups and downs, paths, tracks and lanes
• Time: 2.5 hours (excluding stops)
• Refreshments: Stanford Dingley – The Bull Inn (0118 974 4582) and The Old Boot (0118 974 4292)
Our walk this month starts from Rushall Manor Farm where walkers are kindly allowed to use the parking facilities. The farm, with its impressively large 18th-century thatched barn and small granary store set on saddlestones, is home to the John Simonds Trust, a charity that provides countryside education for schools and other groups of young people; find out more at www.rushallfarm.org.uk.
From the farm the walk heads to Stanford Dingley, named after one-time lord of the manor, William de Stanford, mentioned in 1224, and the Dyneley family; there is a brass memorial to Margaret Dyneley dated 1444, in the church. The church, which has Saxon origins, is unusual in that it is dedicated to St Denys, who was martyred in 3rd century France; the white weather-boarded bell turret was added in the 15th century.
After passing a couple of pubs the walk heads along the valley, later following a peaceful stretch of the River Pang to arrive at Bradfield; the name simply means ‘broad field’. Although first mentioned in a Saxon charter, much of what you can see in the village today is a result of the efforts of one man; the Revd Thomas Stevens, a former Victorian rector. St Andrews Church, which dates from the early 1300s, was extensively enlarged by Stevens. However, having enlarged the church so much, he found it difficult to fill all the pews, so he established a school – now Bradfield College – to provide a choir and larger congregation. Over the years the college has taught many famous pupils including Richard Adams – author of Watership Down.
From Bradfield the route meanders through fields and woods back to the start.
1 (SU584722) – From the car park head back towards Back Lane and after the large barn turn right over a plank bridge. Go through a gate and continue diagonally left through the field passing a wooden electricity pole and leave through a kissing gate. Cross the lane and go through a kissing gate opposite. Turn right along the enclosed path, keeping ahead through gates either side of the Kimberhead Farm driveway. At the far corner go left and then right through a kissing gate in the hedge. Cross the narrow field, go through another gate into a larger field and follow the right-hand margin for 200m before bearing diagonally left across the field aiming for the church spire. Go through a gate and continue to a kissing gate in the corner. Follow the left-hand fence through the next field, leave through a kissing gate and follow the track to a road in Stanford Dingley beside the church.
2 (SU575716) – Turn left following the road through the village and once level with The Bull Inn (left), fork right across the grass. Continue along the enclosed path, cross the river at a the old mill cottage and keep to the path to reach a lane beside the Garden House (left); just to the right is The Old Boot Inn. Turn left, keep ahead at the junction and follow the track opposite. Go through gates either side of a field and continue along the enclosed track. Go through a gate and follow the left-hand field boundary, leave through a gate and continue along the enclosed path (detour left through a gate to see one of the springs). Go through a gate and keep ahead (left-hand split), then along a track to a junction. Take the path through the gate on the right and keep ahead. Go through a kissing gate to a lane beside a gated entrance to Bradfield Hall (right) and bear right to the right-hand corner.
3 (SU591718) – Fork left through a kissing gate and follow the left-hand field margin. Go through a small gate and keep ahead through the grounds of Bradfield College, soon following the River Pang (left). Ignore a crossing track beside a bridge and follow the enclosed path to a lane with the church opposite. Turn left along the lane to the main road and turn left for 150m. Turn left again along the surfaced track, pass a gate and Bradfield College sign and at the end of the right-hand hedge turn right through a small gate. Follow the right-hand field boundary to the corner and then head diagonally left across the large field. Go through a gate in the hedge and keep ahead across the field corner to leave through a small gate.
4 (SU595727) – Cross the lane and follow the track – Greathouse Walk – signposted to Great House Cottage; the walk follows this track for slightly under 1 mile. Continue past the cottage and enter the wood to reach a track junction in Broomhill Copse. Turn left still following the track and 50m after a dip turn left at a marker post. Follow the path through the trees to the far side and go through a small gate into a field. Turn left alongside the fence and cross a stile at the corner. Turn left along Scratchface Lane for 300m (narrow in places) and fork right down a track for half a mile back to Rushall Manor Farm.
To find out more about Steve, including information on his books, visit: www.steve-davison.co.uk