- County: Berkshire
- Area: Brightwalton, Peasemore, Leckhampstead, Chaddleworth
- Distance: 9.6 miles
- Time: 4.5hrs
- Refreshments: Pubs in Peasemore and Leckhampstead
This is a lovely walk through 4 picturesque downland villages, each with their own unique character. It passes through a lot of arable and pastureland, with nice wide paths. There are some longish sections on country lanes, so bear that in mind if you have a dog or children. However, they are mainly small quiet lanes. The walk is suitable for shorts and walking trainers, with the majority of the ground being easy terrain.
I did this walk with a friend, and we both parked in Brightwalton, the first of our downland villages. It was easy to find a space on a side road by the church (built in 1861). Using the postcode RG20 7BN it was easy to find, although I did go down some very small lanes to get there. Brightwalton is a quiet community-based village. The name comes from ‘Beorhtwaldington’ which means the farmstead of Beorhtwald’s people. In 1887 at the no longer existing pub, several bodies were dug up, two of them headless! So if you go to the village in the dark, keep your wits about you, as you may see two headless ghosts!
Following the Fancy-Free walking route, we quickly left the village and headed over the first of many pieces of arable land. Once you have gone slightly uphill to the left-hand edge of a wood, make sure you turn around and admire the view of the village. Continuing on this footpath until a tarmac lane, we then quickly joined another footpath across more arable fields. It is clear the farmers respect rights of way and that the footpaths are well used. The paths are lovely and wide, and much easier to see than some of the footpath signposts themselves!
With the second of our four downland villages of the walk, Chaddleworth, now visible in the distance, we passed a field with some horses in it and came to some new looking wooden gates. We went through the first wooden gate that led onto a footpath going perpendicular to our current path. Crossing straight over, we went through another wooden gate into a field full of sheep and some cows.
The cows were happily grazing and dozing under some trees in the distance. The sheep however, were another matter. They had noticed us, and at first were slightly apprehensive, with some of the ones closer to us running across to join the main herd. We thought nothing of it. Being experienced walkers, and having gone through numerous sheep fields, generally they just get out of your way. However, these sheep had other ideas. While we stopped to take a quick photo, a few in the distance started to walk towards us …. and before we knew it, the whole herd had started running towards us. We quickly turned around to go back to the gate we had come through. It wasn’t that far …. but it seemed far enough when we had a whole flock of sheep running at us!
Safely back through the gate, with the whole flock of sheep staring us down, and daring us to go back in, we relooked at the map and realised it was a new fence. We didn’t actually need to go into the sheep field, and shouldn’t have followed the fancy-free instructions. Turning left we went by the edge of the field, crossing over a lane and then took a path between some fields. This led us down what appeared to be some mystery steps tucked between houses, and into Chaddleworth village. In Chaddleworth is the Ibex Pub, if you are looking for some refreshments. This pub was previously the gossip of the village back in 2013, when the landlady stole some money. However, it is now under new tenancy and thriving again.
Leaving Chaddleworth, we passed a beautiful thatched cottage. Joining a stony track, we passed some lovely fields with poppies in. We were meant to be passing a conservation area on the left but be aware it isn’t clear that there is one. Eventually emerging on a lane, we quickly found the signpost on the left for the next footpath. Look for a gap in the hedges as the signpost is not obvious! Going through some crop fields, we joined a very quiet lane. Surprisingly there was a bench on the verge of the lane which had wonderful views towards Newbury and Snelsmore Common. To read about a walk from Snelsmore Common, click here. The bench was the perfect excuse for a rest …. and we made the most of it by having something to eat!
Passing by the splendid Leckhampstead Manor, the garden lined with beautiful roses, we quickly entered the village of Leckhampstead. Turning left we passed some beautiful cottages. We stopped to admire one of the beautiful cottages and its garden, where there was a lovely historic well. However, whilst we were stopped a bee thought I was a flower – it was either my pink t-shirt or I obviously smelt nice! Either way the bee would not leave me alone. After getting caught in my hair, my friend, much to her amusement, said I was like a madwoman spinning round in circles! What after the adrenaline of the sheep, and now the bee, I was hoping the rest of the walk would be more relaxing! But I guess I should have known – everything comes in threes!
Continuing through the village we passed by the clock memorial on the village green. Following a lane down to the major road at the bottom, we quickly crossed over this and were now walking on one of the favourite rides of the Download Villages. Walking up to Hill Green, we arrived at some woodland where there were lots of beautiful foxgloves and fireweed. This is now a nature reserve, with lots of marshy plants taking advantage of the fertile ground. There are panoramic views of Leckhampstead and, on a clear day, Beacon Hill in the far distance. The locals call the track Gypsy Lane as it was used by gypsies with both horses and caravans as late as the 1960s.
The approach into Peasemore is a little unusual. Going diagonally across a crop field, you get a fantastic view of Peasemore church. However, at the end of the field you appear to arrive in someone’s garden. This is correct! We deliberated for a while what to do here – it doesn’t feel right to just walk across someone’s lawn. The whole time we were standing there, the dog in the house was barking away. Probably telling us just to get on with it! So at the wooden marker post, go straight on over the lovely lawn, between box hedges to the front of the house. We got a cheerful wave from the lady in the kitchen of the house – which reassured us we were correct! Turn left to go along a short lane, passing the church on your right.
The Old Rectory in Peasemore was David Cameron’s childhood home. The village gets its name from the pea crop that was grown around the village pond. We had a little wander round Peasemore, and it’s a very friendly village – everyone was very happy to wave to us and say hello. The pub, called the Fox at Peasemore, is just outside the village and is on the route. If you don’t fancy a wander around the village, then at the church go directly over the lane and onto a grassy footpath opposite. At the end of this path, is a tight V-stile which leads onto a big grassy track. We stopped here to do the naming ceremony of my three mascots – Indi, Ana, and Jones. You can read more about them and watch the naming ceremony here.
Back to Brightwalton
At the end of this grassy track, you will see the Fox at Peasemore pub. Taking the lane immediately after the pub, passing a cricket pitch, we continued up Passmore Hill. It was just here when we stopped for a drink and sat on our rucksacks, that I spotted the smallest ladybird we have in this country. This is the 22-spot yellow ladybird – it is tiny, so I didn’t manage to get a photo, as it kept falling off the grass! Ladybirds are fascinating insects – if you want to read an article I have written about them, then click here.
We continued on our way and quickly came across what we thought was a dead rat on the edge of the lane. It had its eye open, but had some flies around it, and a little bit of blood by its ear. I was going to walk right on by, but my friend bobbed down and with the map wafted the flies away. Suddenly, the rat jumped up, all four legs coming off the ground, and ran until it was in the trees. So much for it not being alive! I asked my friend what she had been going to do …. apparently if the fliers were not there it would have made a great photo with the way the tail was curled around it!
There is some road walking here, but it is all on quiet country lanes, until you reach the B4494. We crossed over this and onto a path. Passing some quail feeders on the left, we came across a marker post. It is not clear which side to go here, but take the right-hand side, which takes you past a tennis court and the brilliantly named, Pudding Lane House.
The route then took us through a field of juvenile cows. Initially, it wasn’t an issue – yes, they were on the footpath, but at the opposite end. So, we started walking towards them until they took too much interest for our liking. I’m quite cautious of cows, and my earlier sheep and bee encounter made me think this could be our number three. So we turned around and went over the stile into the adjoining field. We walked along this field, parallel to the path we should have been on. By now all the cows had seen us, and they very curious and lively! Reaching the end of the field there was a metal gate back into the cow field. We could see the stile we needed so I decided to go for it despite the cows having crowded round. The sound of me climbing over the metal gate made them back off slightly, and thanks to my long legs, I stepped from the gate straight onto the stile. Finally, we were safe, once again!
All this excitement had made us hungry, so we continued straight across this field, and onto a little green just outside Brightwalton. There is a lovely bench here, between a crossing of quiet roads. We made the most of this stopping point with a perfect little picnic, and with it being by the road, could practise our panning shots with bikes and cars.
However, if you don’t feel like a rest, then instead of going all the way across the field, go about halfway and take the path that goes right. We backtracked back onto this. Once again you will reach what looks like someone’s garden – this time much bigger however! Keep ahead into the ornamental tree garden, passing to the left of a cyprus hedge. Going across another field, you will then quickly re-enter the village of Brightwalton.
So, if you are looking for a walk through four beautiful downland villages and passing through lots of farmland, then this is the walk for you!