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Wellington Residential Event 19/20th October 2015

The Historic Pathways Project has been running for the past two years and has resulted in a wonderful compilation of over 20 historic walks, in the Home Counties, with the maps and information now available for all members on the Thames Valley Network Historic Pathways website.

To bring the project to a conclusion we held a two day residential event, at the celebrated Wellington College, which was open to all members on the 19th and 20th October, 2015.

We were treated to a full programme of activities which had been thoughtfully put together to include a variety of talks as well as a walk, a workshop, a tour of the historic buildings and the all -important social side comprising of a splendid dining room, well stocked bar and an evening quiz!

We initially gathered together in the schools impressive coffee lounge, the V & A, where a wonderful exhibition, covering the entire project, had been put together. The attention to detail in the exhibits was outstanding and we were lucky enough to be able to keep returning to soak up all the information over coffee/tea (and wonderful cakes!!!) for the duration of our stay. The exhibition team could feel justifiably proud, with Chris French and David Hunter really going that extra mile to make it all come together.

Our main conference area was situated in 'Great School', a magnificent room at the heart of the College.

Patsy Thornton, our innovative and motivated chairperson, welcomed all the delegates and got the conference underway. Mark Stevens, Berkshire Archivist, was our first speaker and gave everyone a fascinating insight as to how this particular project had evolved. This was followed by a variety of our walk leaders giving an overview of either, their walk, the history or their research.

After an excellent lunch we were lucky enough to be joined by author, David Stewart, who gave us an engrossing talk about 'The Diversity of Pathways'. He had travelled from The Lake District and used his own house as the centre of his talk, looking at the history of the very many pathways leading from, to and around the area.

We finished the formal part of the first day with 'An introduction to the exhibition'; this gave everyone a real feel for the content and ensured that we all could appreciate its worth

Our evening with old and new friends was only just beginning as we gathered for a delicious dinner - my, how school dinners have changed! – a wide and varied choice of beautifully cooked dishes were set before us to choose from. Then we made for the bar and predetermined teams for the evening quiz. This ensured that we were mixed up well and a fun evening was had by all.

Accommodation was provided for those wishing to stay and we were looked after very well....ok, no locks on the doors!!!!, but good kitchen facilities, comfortable rooms and it certainly was not like any boarding amenity we remembered!

Day two started with a hearty breakfast and a choice of morning activities. Several of our number joined Anne Harrison for a circular walk from the college, around Ambarrow Court, The Ridges and Simons Wood. Another group attended a photographic workshop, run by Chris French, and enjoyed picking up hints on photographing buildings, composition, background, lighting etc. and then went out into the grounds to take their own pictures of the buildings. The remainder joined Mark Lovett for a historical tour of Wellington College and its buildings; Mark was a previous head of history at the college and was able to impart a substantial amount of knowledge.

After another good lunch we listened to members from Reading and then The Ridgeway who outlined walks, which had contributed to the project, detailed history and research methods.

The 'Bridges, Fords and Ferries' sub-section then gave us an informative chat about 'Pathways Across Rivers' and their findings and by the end of the day we were all positively bursting with information!

Our final foray was into the new website and a look at the set up. This was covered well and gave us all something that we could look at and access when we got home. 

Our farewell came all too soon but not before a presentation and thanks had been made to Patsy Thornton. Of course she was assisted in many ways by a terrific team who all helped to make this event the success it undoubtedly was but, over the course of the previous two years, Patsy had been a remarkable figurehead and deserved our grateful thanks.

Sally Ballard, Wokingham U3A

Chris French's photos

Couple of photos after Chris French's photo workshop

Wokingham U3A Historic Pathways Ufton Nervet Walk 2nd October 2015

On a glorious day more like midsummer than early October 21 members gathered at Ufton Nervet. After looking at the mediaeval fishponds and moat of the former Ufton Robert manor house (it is planned that the area will become a wildlife reserve and fishery) the group continued to Ufton Court.  The entrance to the Court is down an imposing avenue of oak trees, once a double row, and still an impressive approach to a substantial Elizabethan manor house. Near the house is a 16th C tithe barn now used for wedding receptions and other functions. The house itself still retains some 15th C features inside and was the home of the Perkyns family until the early 19th C, after which it was eventually purchased by the Benyon family of Englefield and today is leased to West Berkshire Council.

Pausing to admire the veteran oak tree, variously dated to c. 1350 or 15th C, we continued past the mediaeval fish ponds belonging to Ufton Court. There now appear to be seven although old maps show eight and even older documents record nine. Fed by a spring at the top of the lane, carp and perch were the main fish farmed here.

Continuing along the lane and passing through Old Farm, we eventually emerged by Middle Farm and then on to the remains of the chapel of St John the Baptist at Ufton Green. In mediaeval times when Ufton Nervet was situated where Ufton Green now is, St John the Baptist was the parish church. However, in 1434-5 the parishes were merged following depopulation due to the Black Death and St Peter’s became the parish church. All now left standing of the chapel is part of the west wall, covered with an enormous top-hat of ivy.

Then through Ufton Green farm, from where there are good views of the spire of St Peter’s and on to Sulhamstead Bannister, past the Old School House and the former 17th C Dog and Partridge pub (which even earlier was a farmhouse). Entering the burial ground of St Michael’s we paused to look at the south porch, all that remains of the little church. Dating from 1193, it was demolished in 1966 although the burial ground is still in use.

Opposite the burial ground is Meales Farm, part of the former manor of Meales and documented from the 1400s. Today it is mainly 17th C with 18th C additions and said to be haunted.

A few more footpaths took us back the start of the walk. We enjoyed a warm, sunny day and far-reaching views of the surrounding countryside for much of the way. The whole area is steeped in history, with evidence of people living here from Neolithic times to the Bronze Age, through Roman and Saxon times.

A group of us then stopped for lunch at the Spring Inn.

Chris Jones 

On photo page scroll down for indexing

Wokingham U3A Historic Pathways Swallowfield Walk 9th September 2015

It was a gloriously sunny day as some 17 of us met at All Saints Church in Swallowfield. The church team had kindly opened up for us and offered to set us on our way with coffee, biscuits and use of the loos! Two of them asked if they could join us on the walk and soak up some history, which was lovely!
I gave a brief historical overview of the church and we were able to see the stone coffin of John le Despencer, who had petitioned Pope Alexander IV in 1256 to have the church built.
We left the church via the churchyard, looking at the graves of both author Mary Mitford and Lady Constance Russell, the most famous Lady Russell.
With a combination of footpaths and country lanes we made our way past a 17thC coaching inn and medieval farms, with most buildings being grade II listed.
Strolling down to the river we saw the confluence of the Whitewater and the Blackwater/Broadwater, then emerging on to 'The Devils Highway', the old Roman Road from London to Silchester (and on to Bath). Unusually, here we had a Roman ford either side of us; albeit one was bridged in the 1600’s. As we ambled along this ancient pathway we could only imagine the thousands of travellers, traders and drovers who had trod this way before us.
Leaving the Roman influence, we branched off to take in the Victorian School, set in a very rural area, with more medieval farms. And so to the 20thC; we walked through agricultural land, mainly a thriving herb farm these days, where some, just doing the morning walk, took a path back to the church. The main party entered the village from
The Street and arrived at The Crown, where a hearty lunch was awaiting us.
Over lunch we were able to have a look at various historic photos, and copies of of both Mary Mitford's 'Our Village', and 'Swallowfield and it's Owners' by Constance Russell.
Before going into Swallowfield Park, the main focus of our afternoon walk, we continued our journey down 'The Street', stopping at what was the bygone centre of the village, where roads met, and the main driveway to the old royal residence used to be. We looked at the original 'Post House' - still with a coach house at the back, the site of the long gone 'school room and reading rooms' - where now stands a very well used village hall, the war memorial - where one man is claimed by two regiments and another didn't die at all! and The Red Lodge - which is the only remaining one of three lodges at the different entrances to the park.
The Park was enclosed by Edward the Confessor in 1343 so the history is endless! We were able to look at Pitt Bridge - built by 'Diamond Pitt' in 1722 before wandering down to the house and around the grounds. Many features are still in good order, the old (and distinctly palatial!) dovecote, the oldest one handed clock in the country, a yew walk planted by no less than John Evelyn, the Talman gate (created by William IV's architect), what is reputed to be the largest British walled garden, and the grave of Charles Dickens dog 'Bumble'. However, depending where your interests lie, some would argue that two sightings of Will Carling (who lives in Dovecote House) and a fly past by a Spitfire and Hurricane were extremely exciting afternoon events!!!
We took the riverside path back to the church to complete our circular tour of historic Swallowfield, lots to see with a huge and varied amount of history attached.
Sally Ballard

Morning leaflet
Afternoon front pages
Afternoon centre pages

Wokingham U3A Historic Pathways Shiplake Walk 10th July 2015

A group of 11 intrepid explorers (plus Patsy for the first part) went on a walk from Shiplake Cross, via Lower Shiplake, along a quiet stretch of the Thames bank and we finished by passing Shiplake College and Shiplake Church on the way back to a pub lunch.
 We set off from the Memorial Hall, funded by the Marton family in 1925 to commemorate their son, killed in the First World War. We walked eastwards down Memorial Avenue to the main road. Both here and later we saw vast fields of white poppies, being cultivated for medicinal purposes. Crossing the busy Wargrave - Henley road, we went down "New Road" - new in 1900 that is, by when there were enough houses to warrant a road directly down to Lower Shiplake.
 On reaching Mill Road the main thoroughfare of the village, we made our way down a narrow footpath. Until 2010 this path had been the subject of an acrimonious dispute between the Ramblers and an adjacent landowner. It is now possible to use this right of way, past the quaint wooden Lashbrooke Chapel (once a store for the paper mill) and ducking under the railway viaduct we made our way down to the Thames. Until the coming of the railway, Lashbrook was very small - once a station was built at Shiplake, development took off at a great pace and Lower Shiplake was born. This branch line goes from Twyford to Henley - the Regatta Line.

 The riverbank at Lashbrook was where a ferry crossed from the eastern bank, because 2 miles upstream the owner of Bolney Court forced boatmen coming down from Henley on the west bank to cross the river, not allowing them past his property. The ferries are long gone but the Thames Path is still forced to skirt Bolney Court (now owned by a Swiss tycoon) by keeping inland from the riverside.We enjoyed a quiet walk down the river bank, taking in the luxury properties opposite - raised sensibly above the ground, since this is a flood plain. There is also a marina on the other bank - with many pleasure craft moored on both banks.
 Reaching the point where The George & Dragon is visible on the Wargrave bank, we saw the steps for another ferry. This one was vital when Wargrave didn't have its own railway station - but is used now only during the Shiplake Regatta. We got a good view from here of Wargrave Manor, high on the hill opposite. This is owned by the Sultan of Oman but used only by his mother and wives. By this time our long curve of riverbank had taken us back to the the railway line - time for a group photo.
Passing under the railway again, we entered a strange section of the path - a right of way along the very end of the gardens of a row of riverside houses. Up until the 1930's this path was fenced off from the gardens, but now each garden has a small access gate, which we were careful to refasten as our queue of inquisitive walkers had a good look around. At the end of these we joined the Thames Path as it went down to Shiplake Lock. We chatted to a few boat owners who were passing through the lock and then a few yards on came across a lovely family occasion. A lady and her two daughters were entertaining her 87 year old mother to drinks and cakes on a beautifully decorated tea table. We sang "Happy Birthday" to Dorothy - much to her delight and adding to her birthday treat.
 The path continued past Shiplake House to the boat houses of Shiplake College. The college was used by the BBC as a hostel during the war and became a public boarding school in 1959. Here we climbed the steep path to the church, where Alfred Lord Tennyson was married..

Just beyond the church we regained the main road at the Plowden Arms. Half of us stopped off here and tried the lunchtime menu, while the rest made the short final stage back to the start. We were blessed throughout by glorious summer weather, which also made walking so much easier.

A selection of photos from the walk are here

The invitation to the walk has links to old maps and a much fuller description of the places of interest

Wokingham U3A Historic Pathways Hurst Walk 26th June 2015

This was a circular walk of about 4miles taken from ‘Rambling for Pleasure around Reading’ published by East Berkshire Ramblers’ Association. It was the example used by Mark Stevens when some of us visited Berkshire Record Office. The pathways of this walk existed at least 200 years ago; paved roads, additional road traffic and a few extra buildings are the main changes. The area that we now know as Hurst used to be called Whistley, which means ‘marshy ground’; it was part of the Charlton Hundred in an enclave of Wiltshire and was one of the possessions of Abingdon abbey at the time of the Domesday Survey. The name Hurst was used after 1220 after a visit to Sonning by the Dean of Salisbury. The scribe used the name ‘Herst’ meaning a wood. In 1538 Henry VIII gave it to Richard Ward of Waltham St Lawrence and Colubra his wife. One of the local industries was osier growing and basket making. The church is separated from the village. This may be because Hurst was affected by the Black Death in 1348.
On a fine sunny morning we met in the bowling club car park and were able to look at the church and almshouses before the walk. The bowling green is said to have been laid out for Charles I in 1628.  He may have stayed at what is now the Castle Inn when hunting in Windsor Forest. WG Grace also played bowls there.  The almshouses were built by William Barker in 1682 as ‘a hospital for the maintenance of 8 poor persons each at 6 pence per diem for ever’. At one time the top floors were closed off but they are now being modernised and opened up again to make the properties larger.
Parts of the Castle Inn date back to the 10th Century whereas most is 16th century. It belongs to the church and was formerly called Church House. In the 18th century it was renamed the Bunch of Grapes and later became the Castle. The emblem of the bowling club is still a bunch of grapes.
There are records of a church in Hurst as far back as 1084 when the villagers found it too difficult to travel to church in Sonning, particularly when areas near the Loddon were flooded.   One of the church wardens kindly opened the church for us and we were able to see the Jacobean pulpit from which Archbishop Laud preached in 1625 and the holder for the 1636 hourglass used to time sermons. The rood screen dates from Henry VIII’s reign. There are also monuments to Richard Ward and his descendants, the Harrisons and Lady Margaret Savile. There is also the tomb of Richard Biggs who set up a charity to distribute bread to the poor of the parish and William Barker who built the almshouses.
Our route took us past church cottages and the old school house into Orchard Road, across the fields. The marquees for Hurst Show were being erected ready for the following day.
We paused at Townsend Pond and were fortunate to see the resident heron and numerous fish. The pond is fed by a spring. The position of a road which used to lead into it could be seen; this enabled horses to be watered and carts to be washed. Opposite is Pond Cottage, now called Peacocks; this was a school for ten village children in the 19th century.
We continued along Hinton Road to the Green Man. This pub was awarded its first licence in the 1600s. Parts of the building survived from before the pub opened. It is built from timbers recycled from decommissioned ships built from trees from Windsor Forest. It is said that when the kings hunted deer in the forest, the keepers lunched at the Green Man and the noted people at Bill Hill House. At one time the western boundary of Windsor Forest was the River Loddon. 
We headed across the fields passing St Swithin’s Cottage, some parts of which are 500 years old, along Hogmoor Lane, across the A321, coming eventually to Whistley Bridge. Whistley Mill used to be near here. It is mentioned in the Domesday Survey as being worth 5s and 250 eels. There was also a fishery worth 300 eels.
We posed for a group photograph here

Chris French's photos       Chris Jones' photos

We continued along the banks of the Loddon towards Sandford Mill.  There were many damsel flies and a few banded demoiselles.  On the left is the site of Whistley Manor. There had been houses here since mediaeval times. The last one was set in a large park with an avenue of limes and chestnuts leading to the house. There were also fish ponds and stables. From the Loddon there was a cut to a thatched boat house belonging to the house. It is said that some of the brick foundations of this inlet still exist, but only a short ditch remains, bridged over. The house was demolished in the mid-1800s and the land later used for gravel extraction. Further on, we crossed the bridge over the Emm Brook, which joins the Loddon near Sandford Mill.

Sandford Manor and Sandford Mill are now private houses. They and the road bridge date from the 1700s. There may have been a mill on this site from as far back as the Domesday Survey. During the civil war in the 1640s the mill was sacked and burned for supplying corn to the Royalists.  At one time there was a toll on the road by the mill as this road was used by travellers trying to avoid the turnpike at Loddon Bridge. The mill remained in working order until the 1950s and was used for milling animal feed.   

We continued along the footpath between Sandford Lane and Lavells Lake, where a chiffchaff was visible on a high branch, then past Hurst Grove, an 18th century house, now offices. One of its previous owners was Reginald Palmer, a director of Associated Biscuits in Reading. 

We crossed the fields past Hatchgate Farm. The 16th century farmhouse cottage was the former farmhouse. A poster in the Green Man advertises the 1928 Hurst Agricultural Show held at Hatchgate Farm when thousands of visitors came to see the wrestling tournaments and the Royal Scots Greys. We continued towards the almshouses and back to the bowling green. Some of us went on to the Green Man for lunch.

This is a circular walk and can be started at any point. Copies of the maps are on the Historic Pathways Diary Page.  Finding parking for individual cars is fairly easy. There are several spaces along Sandford Lane. The car park in Sandford Lane opposite the entrance to Dinton Pastures watersports is now pay and display. The paths across the fields and along the Loddon can be very muddy after heavy rain.   

Wokingham U3A Historic Pathways Barkham Walk 15th May 2015

Ten people gathered at Barkham Church - (thankfully on a dry day in contrast to the previous occasion!).  We visited the church and walked past the nearby moated site into the fields of rural Barkham.  Much of the land round here was owned by John Walter III of Bearwood in the 19th century and he altered the line of Edney's Hill lane and planted a fine avenue of lime trees.  He was also a significant benefactor for Wokingham.  Our route then took us into the Coombes.  This area had once been heath land called Bare Wood.  Having passed the Old Rectory, built by John Walter for the parish, our walk continued along the edge of Barkham Manor grounds.  Here, as well as some splendid veteran trees in the copse, we saw a fine Wellingtonia and a 250 year old Oriental Plane in the garden.  The present house dates from the late 18th century and is now divided into apartments.  The walk concluded along Barkham Street back to the church.

Chris French and Chris Jones' Photos

U3a TVN Historic Pathways Walk Donnington Castle, Newbury. 8th May 2015

Some twenty U3a members gathered at Donnington Castle Newbury, for the 10.30am start of a wonderfully varied walk, led by Newbury U3a member Kate Donato.
As we climbed the reasonably short hill, up to the impressive keep and ramparts, we were all struck by the commanding and far reaching views.
On hand was local historian and Civil War expert Philip Wood, together with his wife Jane, who were able to detail the action in and around the castle during those famous Newbury Civil War battles.
The weather was reasonable, which meant that Philip could explain in detail exactly where the various forces held ridges and woodlands, where troops advanced and withdrew and where the battles were subsequently won and lost.
Philip gave us a comprehensive guide to the castle itself and we were able to envisage exactly how it had looked in those historic days and what part it had played in the many activities over that period.
This was an extremely interesting talk from someone who was really able to bring that Civil War action to life.
Philip and Jane then accompanied us on a 4 mile circular walk. Kate Donato is highly familiar with the area and had put together a splendid walk where we were able to see for ourselves, not only the open ridges and woodland areas, but also historic sunken paths and the contrasting Snelsmore Common.
We left Donnington Castle far more knowledgeable than we had arrived but not before Chris French had recorded the occasion with some outstanding photos which have been linked to this walk.
We all retired to The Castle public house where we had a good lunch and got on with the serious business of networking!

Chris French's Photos
Sally Ballard, Wokingham U3a

Ridgeway U3A Historic Pathways Walk 7th May 2015

Afternoon  walk
On 7th May Ridgeway U3A hosted two walks in the Chilterns. We were greeted in the morning at the Fox and Hounds, Christmas Common by Susie Berry and after the morning’s walk enjoyed an excellent lunch at this historic pub.
Having been suitably fed and watered, a group of some 16 people set off for the afternoon’s walk. The leaden skies of earlier had given way to spring sunshine as we made our way to the ancient drove road of Hollandridge Lane, part of the centuries-old trade route from Worcester to Henley and London. The lane became progressively more sunken, a typical ‘hollow way’ and we were treated to a dazzling display of bluebells for part of the way. The greens of the freshly emerged leaves of the oak trees were a delight, as was the constant birdsong throughout the walk which at times was almost deafening.

In due course we arrived at Hollandridge Farm where we were met by Susie Berry and Anne Dunn.  Anne talked about the farmhouse, which is mentioned in records as far back as 1387 and again in 1389 when one William Harlyngrugge left the farm to his grandson. With the farm there are some very fine barns, the oldest of which was built in the 18th c. and our leader, Tom, produced some very interesting drawings of the timber structures.
We then took our leave of Susie and Anne and made our way back to the Fox and Hounds via a different route,  mainly through woodland. Along the way were lots of spring flowers, including cowslips and wild strawberry and a few late primroses.
A truly delightful walk, and our thanks go to the walks leader, Tom Bindolf, who was clearly very knowledgeable about the whole area, and to Susie Berry for masterminding a most enjoyable day.
Chris Jones

Link to Chris French's photos

Second Windsor Great Park Walk: 8thApril 2015

A good crowd of our members met in the Cranbourne Car Park for another enjoyable guided walk  in The Great Park with Bill Cathcart.

 After a rather hazardous crossing of the road we entered the Park through Cranbourne Gate.  Bill told us about Forrest Lodge to the right of Cranbourne Gate.  It was built between 1772 and 1782 to a design by Thomas Sandby for John Deacon the then Groom of Bedchamber to the 2nd Duke of Cumberland.  Well laid out gardens were protected by a Ha Ha, a sunken hedge or fence designed to keep animals out from the garden but allow an uninterrupted view from within garden and house.

 We then walked past the Village and the York Club, centre of Park employees’ entertainment.  There are also Playing fields, a bowling green and a golf course.  Bill explained to us about the trees donated from various countries celebrating the Queen’s Coronation which are opposite the York Club.  We walked up past the Queen Elizabeth‘s Statue on a point overlooking Queen Anne’s Ride and on across Duke’s Ride where the Queen changes from car to carriage for Ascot Races and then past very pretty cottages and the Royal School.

 We turned left past Chaplains Lodge and crossed down to the right, along grassy “lawns” laid out for the grazing of the deer.  From here we saw the back of the Copper Horse which stands at the top of the Long Walk.  We were glad to hear that the myth about the Sculptor is not true.  He did not commit suicide because he did ‘t put stirrups on the statue.  George the 3rd rides on the Statue as a Roman and they had not invented stirrups in Roman times.  The Sculptor went on to produce more works after this statue.

We continued a lovely grassy walk back to Cranbourne Gate. The walk was followed by a relaxed lunch at The Old Hatchet Inn.

Chris French's beautiful photos here

24 walkers and a dog(?)

Historic Pathways -  A walk round Broadmoor, Berkshire : 31th October 2014

On the last day of October I had offered to do a third tour of Broadmoor, a walk I had first taken last October and repeated this March.  I was not expecting a great turnout, but I got first one offer, then another three and then another two. Four more turned up on the day so I had nine to accompany me (the first lady unfortunately had not been well enough to come).
We took roughly the same route as before, a diamond shape, but we made a few detours for a change. Along the first leg we continued further into the nature reserve area of Owlsmoor Bog - luckily in the wettest place boardwalks are provided. On the second leg, past Broadmoor Farm we again stopped to view the work of extending and replacing many of the hospital buildings.  Great earthworks and terraces are now visible: I’m sure by next spring the buildings will start to appear.
We came back west along the Devil’s Highway as before, but on nearing the hospital we took a different route to end up directly outside the new reception block, which hides the well-known stone arched gateway, now hidden behind many high walls. 
We passed the almost deserted cemetery and down the road close to the walls.  As in March, a final detour took us close to the walls on the west side, where great views of the concentric rings of “fortifications” can be seen.

Time for the group photo !!

We then continued as before, past original workers’ cottages and back through Wildmoor Heath.
This time we tried the Wellington Hotel for a lunch snack and seven people enjoyed continuing swapping tales and putting the world to rights.
I had asked people to bring reasonable weather - we were blessed with one of the nicest days of the autumn.
Chris French

Windsor Great Park Walk 15th October2014

Selection of photos

In October we had a splendid walk in Windsor Great Park.  Bill Cathcart, retired Park Superintendant, was our guide in the woodland area around Cranbourne Gate.  We learned about the pollarding of old oaks which have helped to keep them into centuries of growth,  many around 400 years old.  We were very impressed to see “The Offas’s Oak” named after King Offas which is around 1300 years old!  This old oak is assisted in its maturity by supports to some of its huge branches.  When we went round it we could see how it is hollow inside.  We also saw The “Conqueror’s Oak”,  just as old, hollow and  well supported.  Fantastic to see the age of these trees.  (What history they have seen through all those years.)


It was most interesting to learn that hidden within the woods there are still avenues of trees which were planted to make it possible for Queen Anne to follow the Deer Hunts in her carriage.  Queen Anne did not ride but still wanted to hunt.  More avenues of trees were planted around Queen Victoria’s  time for access to Cranbourne Lodge in the area of Cranbourne Park.  Queen Victoria also enjoyed the hunting.   We stopped to look at the Cranbourne Tower, the last remaining part of Cranbourne Lodge in a clearing in the woods.  The Tower is still occupied. 

The walk and Mr. Cathcart’s talk was fascinating.  He has kindly promised to take us for another walk during next spring.  This time possibly around Bears Rails.  Look out for the date to be supplied later.

Wallingford Walk 29th August 2014
Wallingford, one of the oldest and was once one of the most important towns in England, vying with Winchester for supremacy. It was founded by King Alfred in the late 9th century as a burh or fortified town, part of a series of defences against the Danes. There has probably been a ford here since prehistoric times, and Neolithic and Bronze Age flints can be found in the surrounding fields. There is evidence for Roman activity in the western suburbs, when the ford may have linked the two Roman roads that run each side of the Thames.

Following its heyday in the 10th to 13th centuries, when Wallingford Castle was reputedly the largest in the land, the town entered a serious decline. The Black Death in 1349 carried off one-third of the population and the opening of Abingdon Bridge in 1415 diverted trade away from the town.

 By 1439 there were only 44 houses left. Many had decayed and fallen down, and gravel quarrying (which is not a recent phenomenon) in the town centre in the 16th to 18th centuries removed many of the earlier features. The town picked up again in the 17th century – the Town Hall was built in 1670 – and most of the older buildings you can see are 18th century, but it never recovered its former glory.

Much of Alfred’s Saxon street grid still survives. We’ll follow some of these streets to the south-east corner of the town, where we’ll pick up the line of the ramparts and follow them round to explore the Castle earthworks and return to the town along the river (c.2 miles).
Full Description of Walk
Chris French's Photos

Historic Pathways Silchester Walk 9th August 2014

Saturday August 9th 2014 marked the last week of the excavations at Silchester, and this day was chosen for a walk round the Roman walls and a visit to the Open Day. Silchester Roman town has been the site for excavations from time to time since the 19th century. It is one of only three or four towns which have remained untouched since the end of the Roman period in Britain and is the focus of seven roads radiating out to London, Winchester, Salisbury, Cirencester etc. Reading University has been excavating in Insula IX for 18 years and has now reached the natural layer where there is no more archaeology.

The group of U3A members began by walking anti-clockwise around the walls, which stand several metres high in places and form an impressive monument as they completely encircle the town. We visited Silchester church, sited over a former temple near the east gate, where welcome coffee and tea were available. Our next stop was in the Amphitheatre where we ate picnic lunches perched on the edge of the seating banks. Again, this is an impressive monument. Once the circuit of the walls was completed we joined the people enjoying the Open Day. Site tours were on offer together with demonstrations of archaeological investigation and a display of some of the most interesting finds.

Historic Pathways St Birinus Pilgrimage from  Churn Knob, Blewbury to Dorchester, 6th July. The chance of doing a 12 mile walk with like minded U3A members starting at Churn Knob Blewbury ending at Dorchester Abbey and stopping en route for lunch in the Red Lion at Brightwell-cum-Sotwell was too good to miss, so I made sure I didn’t.  I had never heard of St Birinus until I read the flyer about the walk which said Saint Birinus came to Wessex in 635 and having baptised King Cynegils became Bishop of Dorchester. He was largely responsible for bringing Christianity to this area and founding many of our present churches. 
James Pratt our leader gave a short talk about St Birinus and the Pilgramage route before we set off at a cracking pace.  Linda Francis, (who had produced the map we were using) was our back marker

.  As James was wearing shorts I kept the legs of my trousers unzipped so I too was in shorts.  James however must be hardy and immune to nettles – he trampled through without a care whilst the rest of us trod carefully.  At the first convenient opportunity I zipped them on again.

 It was a lovely sunny day – spectacular views – red kites – good company - no need for a “stick to beat us” on our way as the carrot at the end of the walk was the cream tea – scones freshly baked that day by Susie Berry and served in the Abbey Guest House Upper Room beside the Abbey followed by an enjoyable and informative talk with slides giving in-depth information about St Birinus Pilgrimage walk.  The Abbey also held a special service that Sunday evening.

Avis & Biddy's photos

Chris French's photos

Historic Pathways Walk - Steventon 15th May 2014

Causeway and charming old buildings

Chris French's photos

Historic Pathways Walk - Finchampstead repeated 16th April 2014

The Historic Pathways Project walk led by Richard and Biddy Wombwell around the Finchampstead area on Wednesday April 16th proved to be very popular.  The bright, sunny Spring weather and lure of the choice of a pub lunch at the Queens Oak at the end no doubt played their part!

On the day we had 48 walkers and 5 dogs who all seemed to enjoy the event.  The 3.5 mile circular walk took us from the green near St James church along a variety of ancient footpaths and past features of interest which Richard enlightened us about en route.    Following thorough research  we produced informative hand-outs which were eagerly acquired by many members of the group and Patsy Thornton notified everyone about how to access the programme of future walks using the link on the TVN website.”

Biddy Wombwell

Wokingham U3A”

The Coley Walk 27th March in Reading went very well this morning.  Dennis had 14 people, plus me for a very short part of the walk.  Most of the walkers were Reading members, two were from Wokingham.
It was chilly first thing, but the sun came out and it was pleasant for the walk. 
The walkers ended up at the church in Castle Street, where they were met by Peter Trout (Mary's husband) who gave a short talk about the church.   Everyone I spoke to had had a very enjoyable morning.



Historic Pathways -  A walk round Broadmoor, Berkshire : 14th March 2014

This was the first repeat walk, in 2014, of one of the Historic Pathways walks held in 2013. (I will not describe the route again in detail, but concentrate on what was different this time round).

In October we had 6 walkers (plus me): this time we had 16 - and gained a good contingent from Bracknell. Two walkers had even done the walk before and were happy to take the medicine again!
We were blessed with much kinder weather than before and enough time had elaspsed since the heaviest rains to make the route quite reasonable. There was one soggy patch but it was easily navigated.
While taking the second section, heading north past Broadmoor Farm, we met several sheep who were not following the rules: one lamb had to be helped over a fence to rejoin its mother - a couple more sheep decided the footpath was also their right of way, too.

Two walkers left the route at Broadmoor Farm and took a short cut to the west, to a point where we would join them later - a good way to enjoy part of the route if the whole way was going to be too much.

When we got to the new access road from the by-pass into the east side of the hospital area, we found it is now complete. An intiguing bridge-like structure across the new road was thought to be for "bat navigation". Many bats living in disused buildings have been given temporary homes in nearby trees and new "bat boxes" will be built in the attics of some new buildings.

As before, we stopped on reaching the Roman Road for the group photo. This time, with the wonders of Photoshop, the photo below shows all of us.

With more eyes looking for things of interest we saw, as we reached the main hospital buildings, an angel in the grass below us on the left - facing the main entrance and on the right there was an almost deserted cemetary. As we turned south, past the main entrance we took a slightly different route from before, keeping close to the walls to get a good view of the disused gardens area of the enclosure and also views across the valley to where we had walked earlier. We then met up with the couple taking the short cut and all continued back to the carpark, through Wildmoor Heath.

My earlier description of the walk contains links to photographs and a map of the route.

Historic Pathways – a walk around Winkfield – November 25th 2013

We had a good turnout of 20 walkers - 16 from Bracknell U3A and 4 from other TVN U3A  groups.

  The weather was reasonably kind being rather overcast and cold, but dry. The walk totalled about 3.5 miles and was led by David Fisher (Bracknell U3A).  Properties seen early on the route included:

Lambrook School - the house which later became Lambrook School was built by William BUDD  in 1853.  In 1860 a Robert BURNSIDE  who had a tutorial business in London purchased Lambrook and it then became a school which continues today.  Opposite the school is Grove Lodge - this substantial house has been occupied by many distinguished people including Lieutenant General Sir Henry KING 1776-1839, an Indian Army Officer and Member of Parliament for Sligo, and In the late 1880’s it was the home of the Admiral of the Fleet, the Hon Sir Henry Keppel.  During the Second World War it became the home of the 9 year old King Faisal of Iraq and his mother.

We then arrived at Maiden’s Green.  Rocque’s map of 1761 shows Maiden’s Green clearly populated around the crossroads and buildings that remain today include the house at Bailey’s Garage and the White Cottage. The early years of the house at Bailey’s Garage in the 18thC are a mystery.  However Kelly’s Directory names three ‘saddlers’ who occupied the house – Henry Caley (1854), Robert Poole (1883-1895) and George Bailey (1907).  By 1931 George Bailey’s trade had become ‘saddler and motor engineer’.  The site remains a garage to this day.  The White Cottage (now Winkfield House) - was built in the 1860’s, and it had become the local store by 1877 (Richard Phipps – grocer). 

By the 1930’s Kelly’s records the shop being a grocers, drapers and post office.  It ceased being a post office in the 1970’s and more recently has been used as a tack shop. We visited the church of St Mary the Virgin which has seen many alterations over the years with the nave dating from the 13th century. One unusual feature is the columns supporting the Elizabethan roof, they are oak with one bearing a carving of a Tudor rose and the date 1592.  Opposite the church is the White Hart pub - formerly a Court Leet House which was a Manorial Court and dealt with petty offences. It stood on the old coaching route. In 1815 Eliza Agar, a widow, was the landlady

.Our walk the continued south passing the site of Ascot Place which occupies a 400 acre site.  It was originally a Medieval Manor House owned by a Henry Bataille a forester of the Bailiwick of Ascot in 1339.  In 1726 it was bought by Andrew Lindegren who built a new house, “Ascot Place” in 1772.  Between 1773 and 1783 a grotto (Grade 1 Listed) was constructed.  In 1787 it was bought by Daniel Agace, a Huguenot Silk Merchant. In the 1860s it was owned by Rt.Hon. William Lidderdale, Governor of the Bank of England, followed by  Sir William Farmer in the 1890s who became Sherriff of the City of London and High Sherriff of Berkshire. In 1907 it was owned by Sir Harry Livesey, a racing driver.  It is now owned by the ruler of Abu Dhabi (18 million in 1989).

Terry Dwyer


Historic Pathways - a walk round Barkham - November 8th 2013 

This walk around part of the old parish of Barkham started by the church in light rain with eight walkers.  We visited the church of St James, built to replace an earlier church in the 1870s, and the tombs of its most eminent rectors, David Davies and Peter Ditchfield near the porch.  Passing the site of the moated medieval manor, where the water filled moat is still a substantial feature, we crossed fields towards Edneys Hill Farm, by which time the rain had stopped and sun cold be seen.  An avenue of lime trees along a track in private land marked a roadway created by John Walter III, owner of The Times, between his residence at Bearwood and Wellington School where his sons were educated.  Some of these fine trees are still standing, and on our walk we saw several other veteran trees.  These are trees which have a girth of at least 3 metres, and local people have been measuring and recording them over the past few years.  The results can be seen at   John Walter owned much of the land hereabout and his influence is seen in the line of Edneys Hill Lane, which was straightened to remove an awkward dogleg.   

We walked on to The Coombes, an area of woodland once part of Windsor Forest and used as common land by the parish.  Passing through the wood we came to Old Barkham Rectory.  This is a fine Victorian mansion, also built for the parish by John Walter in the 1880s at a cost of 3000.  We next passed the back of Barkham Manor.  The present house was built in the late 18th century and has been much altered since, but it is a fine building, listed Grade 2.  There are ponds in the grounds, which may once have been fish ponds, and a large plane tree thought to be several hundred years old.   

The rain came down before our last visit was to the Bull Inn which now incorporates the adjacent forge in its dining room.  Here, wet as we were, we were welcomed for a pleasant lunch, before completing the walk along Barkham Street back to the cars.  The walk is three miles and takes about 1 hours. 

Chris French kindly took some photos on the walk, and these may be seen at:

where you will also find the route map.  Notes on the history can be found at:

Anne Harrison

Historic Pathways A walk round Broadmoor, Berkshire :  18th October 2013

As with the Uffington walk, the weather forecast wasn’t promising but six hardy (local) walkers turned up at the car park near Crowthorne, for the fourth Historic Pathways walk, round (the outside of !) Broadmoor.
I started by talking briefly about the rise of Crowthorne from an insignificant hamlet in the mid-19th century to a bustling village – triggered by the choice of the isolated area for both Wellington College and for the "Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum" – opened (or closed!) a couple of miles apart and within a few years of each other on either side of 1850. A map of 1830 shows only a crossroads of forest rides at 'Crow Thorn', where the village now stands. These two buildings required staff, tradesmen and suppliers in ever increasing numbers. Helped by the new station, built specifically for the college, people flocked from far and wide to join the new prosperous opportunities.

Our car park was also buzzing - with dogs and their walkers - but things quietened down once we were on our way. We skirted the Wildmoor Nature Reserve, apparently used for exercises by the Canadians during the war but seemingly having recovered well, and we headed east for about a mile.  Much of this was along part of the 60 mile long Three Castles Path from Windsor to Winchester, via the halfway point of Odiham.  King John used this on his regular commuting trips. We then headed north and got our first views of Broadmoor on the hill to the west.  It's only from the east that you can fully appreciate the size of the sprawling compound, with its concentric set of retaining walls.
As we reached the halfway point the quiet route was disrupted by a major construction project.  A new road is being built from the main Bracknell/Frimley road to the east, straight across our path, towards the hospital.  Initially this will be used by construction traffic – the hospital will soon have a major redevelopment – and then become the main access route.  At present all traffic has to go via the centre of the village.
We next skirted the small ponds at Butter Bottom and climbed the gentle slopes of Butter Hill, to meet a Roman Road. It's known as "The Devil's Highway" because originally the locals couldn't comprehend who else could have built such a wide straight road through the forest.

Here we took the obligatory group photo!

Turning westwards we went along the wide sandy track towards the main hospital buildings. We turned south, past the main entrance and a number of ancillary buildings outside the walls and down a hill past a number of similar small semis, obviously built originally for the hospital staff or workers. Once back in the woods, we turned westwards again and made our way back to the car park.
The weather report, as usual, was overly pessimistic and we enjoyed dry and quite bright conditions all the way.
The blackberry season was almost over but the fungi were flourishing. We conscientiously avoided picking any, even the pretty ones with red caps.
Patsy had recommended the Crooked Billet, halfway back to Wokingham, and three of us had the time and inclination to have a very good lunch there - a good ending I thought to the morning's walk. The distance was measured at 4.2 miles - we did it in just under 2 hours.

Some photographs of the route are available as a slide show to tempt those who couldn't make it on the day.

I'm also including link to the U3A section of my web, because on there you'll see in section 6 - the last - a note about documentation related to this walk. There are links to the pre-walk documents which I gave out and, should you want to do it at a later time, or tell someone else about it, there's a map and notes on the exact twists and turns of the route.

Chris French

Historic Pathways Shillingford Study Day, 25th September 2013

Album of photos covering some of the morning presentations and some of the Walk to Wittenham Clumps. Open up a thumbnail and the navigation is below the pictures.

U3A Pathways walk - Barkham, near Wokingham, Friday 8th November 2013
The walk, of about 3 miles, will take in Barkham village and the surrounding landscape of fields and woods.  The parish is mentioned in the Domesday book, although traces of settlement date back into the Iron Age, and it has remained a small rural parish ever since on the fringe of the market town of Wokingham. 
Meet in Barkham Village Hall car park near Barkham Church (Grid Ref: SU 784 664).   Lunch (optional) will be at the 'Bulll at Barkham' which we will pass 10 minutes before the end of the walk.
Please contact Anne Harrison beforehand at or  0118 978 5520

Historic Pathways Uffington Walk – 31st July 2013

The weather wasn’t promising but eleven doughty souls from (only!) three U3As met to undertake the third Historic Pathways walk. The day began with a visit to the Tom Brown’s School Museum, where Thomas Hughes, author of “Tom Brown’s Schooldays”, began his own education. We are doubly indebted to Sharon Smith, the curator, as she not only opened up especially for us – the museum is normally only open at the weekend – but she also gave us a very informative talk on the building’s history and the great variety of exhibits contained therein.

We then went to church – St Mary’s, known because of its size and Early English splendour as “the Cathedral of the Vale. We learned of the Saunders family, one of whom set up the endowment for the school, of the missing steeple and clock face, and of the links to John Betjeman and Denis Thatcher

As we began our circular walk so the rain began, but fortunately it didn’t last long – just time in fact for the doubters to don waterproofs. The paths of the Parish Trail took us across the middle of fields, with the Uffington White Horse clearly visible in the distance, by babbling streams, over some decidedly dodgy stiles  and eventually into the lovely village of Woolstone, with its 17th century oak-beamed and thatched White Horse Inn. There was no planned stop here as the intention was to visit another church. All Saints is a tiny early Norman church which provided a fascinating contrast to St Marys. It should be said that one of the group chose to sample the delights of the pub instead, thinking that it was the lunch stop, despite hearing the lunch order being telephoned through five minutes earlier!

The final part of the morning walk took us along a newer path through some recently created woodland and eventually to the road into Uffington. We took this instead of the planned route as we could then pass John Betjeman’s blue-plaqued former residence and arrive at The Fox and Hound in time for a lunch that was enjoyed by one and all.

In the afternoon a smaller group of six drove to the NT Car Park on White Horse Hill and undertook a shorter two mile circular walk that included a section of the Ridgeway, an examination of the Iron Age Uffington Castle and a close up view of the White Horse. This was a great way to end a good day. My thanks to all those who came along, but particularly to Chris French who took a number of splendid photographs that can be seen at

Ian Clarkson

July 29th 2013

26 walkers from Wokingham, Reading and Bracknell U3A’s joined our 3.5 mile circuit which included some of the older pathways around the village of Finchampstead.

Each walker was first handed a sheet containing:

  •          an outline of the Route overlaid on the relevant section of O S Explorer sheet 159
  •          a table with the Key Waypoints, Pathways and Definitive Paths Numbers
  •          and a written synopsis of the Relevant Features of Interest 

…the latter being enhanced during relevant stops along the way.

Following the walk most of the walkers stopped to enjoy a delicious lunch and well-earned drink at one of these historic features - The Queens Oak pub! 

Biddy and Richard Wombwell (Wokingham U3A)

The Finchampstead Walkers

Aston Rowant walkers 17th July 2013

Historic Pathways Walk - Finchampstead July 29th
Richard and I are intending to start our 3.5 mile circular walk in the Finchampstead area on Monday July 29th departing at 10.30am.  Grid Reference SU 793 638 (OS Landranger sheet 175)

A map of the route is attached below.  The route is highlighted in yellow and the numbers in square boxes are the definitive path numbers.

The walk will commence from the village green by St James Church and finish at the nearby Queens Oak pub taking in some of the history of the area en route.  An information sheet identifying the main historical features of the walk will be provided on the day. 

If you wish to lunch at the pub at the end please let Biddy know as she will reserve tables and you may then be permitted to park in the small pub car park subject to available space.  Alternatively parking is possible around the village green.  Car sharing to restrict the number of cars to find a parking place would be helpful.

The post code for the Queens Oak is RG40 4LS for sat nav settings

Contact details: 
0118 989 4859
Richard’s mobile 07938 573 160

Historic Pathways – Uffington, Oxfordshire
This walk, planned as part of the TVN Historic Pathways Project, will take place on Wednesday 31st July.  The walk will be led by Ian Clarkson who would like as many U3A members as possible to join him for a stroll through a thousand years of history.

The route, based on the Uffington Parish Trail, will include tracks used before the Romans came, and will take us to a “cathedral” with links to John Betjeman and Dennis Thatcher, a Museum where Tom Brown’s schooldays began, one of the oldest pubs in England and a chalk and clunch Norman church.  The morning walk is a flat 4 miles with 5 or 6 stiles, and will take us to the Fox & Hounds in Uffington in time for lunch. In the afternoon there is the option, for the energetic, to visit Uffington Castle and The White Horse – another 2 miles.

The starting time is 10:30 am, from the car park at The Thomas Hughes Memorial Hall (SU306894).  If you would like more information or want to reserve a place on the walk please contact Ian Clarkson on 01793 782836 or at

Aston Rowant Discovery Trail - some scenes you might see along the walk

From darkness into light
Which way now?

HENLEY HISTORICAL WALK See here for map 14th March 2013

A circular walk from the River and Rowing Museum Henley on Thames.

About 5miles, includes 2 hills and about 4 stiles.

Numbers refer to points on the attached map 

From the Museum along the towpath towards Shiplake.

When the definitive footpaths were being introduced there was some opposition by the Thames Conservancy to this path becoming a right of way. They wished to keep it as a ‘towing path’ under their ownership, but it was reasonably turned down, as the number of boats that still had to be towed in 20Century was very limited!

1.Looking to the left across the river the turrets of Park Place can be seen. This was built by General Conway in the 18C and the Prince Regent and numerous important people visited it. His daughter a lady called Anne Daymer was a painter and sculptor and she designed the stone plaques that adorn Henley Bridge  Currently it is owned by a Russian Oligarch about whom little is known.

2. Bolney Court.   The present house was built in the mid 19C but it was once a mediaeval village and in Domesday there were 10 dwellings and a church and a Manor there. The land all round was cultivated very early and carved stone implements were found indicating that farming went on in prehistoric times, predating  the village. The modern field boundaries seem to have existed for several thousand years.  The village disappeared but various houses were built on the site. One recorded owner was the Hon John Theophilus Rawdon (1756-1808) who was ‘a soldier and a gentleman’, losing a leg at the battle of Brandywine in America in 1777.  He became a member of Parliament for Launceston and supported the Whigs (He opposed the abolition of the slave trade).It seems unlikely that he ever visited his constituency.

Although being a member for 12 years he apparently never spoke in Parliament.

3. The path turns inland on a track leading from Bolney Court to the farm at Upper Bolney. This too is a very old road connecting the pasture and arable land higher up with water meadows by the river. The map notes  kilnpits on the left,( a likely source of brick for Bolney Court?)  Today it crosses the Henley to Twyford Railway line that brought wealth and visitors to Henley in mid 19C.

 The track rises steadily to 80m at Upper Bolney. The farm here has a lovely warm red brick Mediaeval listed barn – now modernised.( local kilnpits  bricks?).  The walk now turns right across several fields (stiles here) to emerge on the Henley Golf course. From here is a lovely view across the Harpsden valley and a descent, before coming to Drawback Hill – origin unknown to the author – did you drawback to take a breath before tackling the hill?

4. At the top the route joins a path becoming a metalled road and then a track. This is a very old road that was part of the parish of Rotherfield Peppard which extended down the hill to the river where there was a mill. Most of the parishes like Peppard had access to the river down long thin strips of land. And three parishes adjoined Henley – Rotherfield Peppard, Rotherfield Greys and Harpsden . Crosing the Reading Road you enter Mill Lane and at the end was the site of the old mill and originally there was a ‘flash lock’ which controlled the river , enabling boats to shoot down the river towards London, but it was a hard pull to drag boats upstream.

Follow the path left  to return to the start.

Presentation by Roger Kendal at Henley Historic Pathways Launch at River & Rowing Museum


Walkers on the Henley Study Day looking at the slipway at the end of Ferry Lane, in Aston, where the ferry used to take travellers from the Berkshire bank of the Thames, to the Oxfordshire side

Notes to accompany a walk from Henley-on-Thames through Remenham and Aston. Photos are above

Sources:  maps of 1761 and 1897 (Berkshire Record Office); Berkshire Family History Society; internet

HENLEY  BRIDGE:  Built in 1786, this is a stone road bridge with 5 elliptical arches.  It was built by the Oxford mason, John Townsend, at a cost of 10,000, to replace a timber structure which was carried away in the great flood of 1774.  There may have been an even earlier stone bridge, suggested by stone arches on both sides of the river.  Some historians believe that this ancient stone bridge was used by the Romans when pursuing the Britons in 43 AD.

REMENHAM is an Anglo-Saxon word meaning either “the home of the Raven” or “the home of the Remi” a Celtic tribe that roamed and hunted in the area.  It is mentioned in the Domesday Book and in the charters of Westminster Abbey, dated 1075.  Evidence has been found of Roman occupation, and of a thriving Saxon community.

The John Rogers’ map of 1761 (2 inches to the mile) shows:

Remenham as a small hamlet/Church marked as +/6 small houses/Lane from Remenham to Aston

4 houses in Aston/Hambleden  Lock/Fawley Court and Phyllis Court on opposite bank

Berkshire Map 23 Remenham surveyed 1874 – 6, revised 1897 shows:

From Henley:  Red Lion Hotel and Angel Hotel/Towpath along Berkshire bank

Footpath cutting corner towards Remenham/Remenham  Lodge on right

Footpath continues from Remenham, skirting edge of wood to Aston

In Remenham:  large buildings of Remenham farm, rectory and school and St. Nicholas’ church

Chalk and gravel pits and a pound.  Many houses have pumps

In Aston:  Aston and Culham farms and the Flower Pot Hotel

Lane from Aston to river, with ferry from the end of the lane

NB  On this map, the tow path along the Berkshire bank stops at Aston, crosses the river from the slipway there, and continues on the Oxfordshire bank to Henley

Also on this map, on the river, is written at Aston and at Henley “Union and R.D.By”. I do not know what this denotes.


This popular public house and hotel  has been here for at least 120 years, and is now the headquarters of the clay-pigeon club.  The trees which border the lane towards the river are a favourite roosting and nesting site for red kites.

Aston was the landing stage for the ferry across the Thames from Hambleden.  It was here, during the Civil War, that Parliamentarians and Royalists fought a bitter battle.  Recently, remains of iron cannon were found under the crest of the hill by Culham Court.  In 1785 Aston ferry was a rope ferry controlled from Hambleden Lock.


This church stands just off the river, and was built on the site of a previous Norman church.   It has an unusual semi-circular apse.  One of the windows dates to 1320, the tower is late 15th century.  Inside the church there are two brasses of note, one to Thomas Maryet, a headless soldier, dated 1591, the other to John Newman, a rector of the church in the days of Charles I who died in 1622.


There was once a flourishing village around the old church, but almost the entire village was wiped out by the plague about 1664.  The whole of the Clutterbuck family and their servants were killed by it.  There was a school whose roll fluctuated between 50 and 70 pupils between 1870 and the beginning of WW2 .  In 1939 scholars from Wix Lane School in London were evacuated to this school, and the extra pupils were housed in the Parish Hall.  In 1966, with numbers falling, it was decided to close the school.  In the last few decades, Remenham has been deprived also of its shops and its post office, and most recently of its rectory also.  It now shares a rector with St. Mary’s Church, Henley.


This impressive mill, mentioned in the Domesday Book as paying a rent of 1 a year, was described by Alison Uttley  in the twentieth century as “the most beautiful place in the whole length of the long Thames Valley”.  It has now been converted into flats.  There was a flash lock with a winch at the site in 1338.  Hambleden pound lock was built between 1770 and 1777, a brick house for the lock keeper being constructed at the latter date.  It appears that the flash lock remained in use.  The lock was completely rebuilt in 1870 because of its poor condition, and in 1884 new weirs were built, and a walkway, to re-open the ancient right of way.   The most recent rebuild was in 1994.

E&OE                                                                                                             P. A. Thornton   12.03.2013

The Historic Pathways Blog develops above here