The Berkshire Way was announced some years on the BBC’s local pages for Berkshire, in a series of 14 articles. Each article described in detail a walk of a few miles, each walk beginning where the last left off. Put together they were ‘The Berkshire Way’. The route is a way to see the highlights of the county, although in a county of so many beauties there will be plenty of highlights omitted, but that just means planning more walks to take those parts of the county in.
The walks published by the BBC as ‘the Berkshire Way’ led all over Berkshire, but as published they missed a major part of Berkshire altogether, namely the north of the county all amongst the gorgeous Berkshire Downs and Vale of White Horse. We can fix that.
I have walked some of the paths but nothing like enough to judge the route from experience, and welcome any feedback.
The route is an eccentric one, with wild, illogical loops, zig-zagging and bending back on itself in places as it finds new, interesting places to go. This is because the BBC route was designed as a series of relatively short half-day walks rather than a logical whole. Seen in that way, it makes more sense.
The route begins at the St John’s Bridge near Lechlade, at the north-west corner of the county, on Berkshire’s short border with Gloucestershire. From here it works its way south-east to the Ridgeway and the county’s iconic symbol; the White Horse of Uffington. From here it runs south over the Lambourn Downs to Lambourn, which is where the BBC routes began.
From Lambourn the routes run to Hungerford, then south to Combe Gibbet and Walbury Hill – passing over the county’s highest point. The it strikes north-west through the farmland of western Berkshire to the Kennet valley and follows the canal to Newbury.
From Newbury the route goes north, back up to the Ridgeway, and east to the River Thames at Streatley, in the Goring Gap. (To the north of here are some of the prime beauties of Berkshire amongst the greensward valleys indenting the downs down to the great river, and such towns as Abingdon, the county town, and Wallingford, but these are omitted – it would take an even wilder loop to capture these also. Maybe that is a future development.)
From Streatley the Berkshire Way walks follow along the county’s northern border, the Thames, to Reading.
The route is now more urban, through Reading and Wokingham, but taking in the forest walks of eastern Berkshire around Bracknell, before meeting the places of Royalty – Royal Ascot racecourse are the next to be discovered. The finishing point is at Queen Victoria’s statute in Windsor.
It is an ambitious route but it provides a variety of experience truly to soak in nature of Berkshire as a whole.
- Ordnance Survey Explorer maps (1:25 000):
- Ordnance Survey Landranger maps (1:50 000):
- BBC: The Berkshire Way (archived)