- County: Berkshire
- Area: Stanford Dingley, between Newbury and Theale
- Distance: 5.1km / 3.2miles
- Time: 1hr 15mins
- Refreshments: Two Pubs in Stanford Dingley
This is a lovely short circular walk from Stanford Dingley. The village gets its name from Stanford meaning ‘Stoney-Ford’ in Old English, and Dingley being the name of the lords of the manor. I recommend this route as a pre or post-pub lunch walk! My friend and I had booked a table at The Bull Inn in the village. We had planned to do a much longer, all-day walk, but for various reasons this was not to be. However, we didn’t just want to go to the pub, so we found a nice short walk to do beforehand.
It is a beautiful walk that passes through a lot of varied scenery for such a short route – meadows, fields, by streams and woodland. I wore walking boots – which I’d recommend if it’s been wet, as there were some muddy patches, and long grass. Some of the paths are clearly not walked on that much as they were quite overgrown. We both had shorts on, but did get a couple of nettle stings. But what’s a nettle sting here and there, just toughens your legs up, right?!
There were a couple of stiles on the walk, although the majority of the boundaries had gates. So, if you had a dog that could get through the odd stile, then this would suit them well. This would be a fantastic walk to do with children, due to its shortness, the promise of an ice cream at the end, and the amount of nature you could spot.
We both parked just off the main road through the village, on a bit of gravel ground by the church. Straight over the road from where we parked was our footpath. It was through a lovely grass meadow with an easy to follow mowed path through the middle of it. I recommend not rushing through this field though as there were some lovely creatures to be found. We saw lots of common red soldier beetles on the cow parsley, and honey bees enjoying the wildflowers. Although the sun wasn’t out, it was very humid – perfect for spotting the insects as they weren’t moving that much.
We then went over a little bridge and through a swing gate to enter a field that has sheep in it at times. This fertile soil was home to lots of little mushrooms – look carefully to spot them as the grass does a good job of disguising them. We then went up a track to join another field, which had a beautiful wildflower border lining the path. Keep your eyes peeled on this path as we saw two beautiful kites overhead. They were actually quite low and close to us, so we could clearly make out their wonderful markings.
The River Pang joins the edge of this field and footpath. And we followed its course, watching two dogs enjoying the coolness of the water as an escape from the muggy heat. The River Pang is a clear chalk stream tributary of the River Thames. It runs from Compton village to Pangbourne, a distance of 23km. The river is home to brown trout, but is famous for its water voles and it is this river which is thought to have inspired the book The Wind in the Willows and the character of Ratty.
Leaving the path running alongside the river, we came across some more common red soldier beetles, on the verge of the footpath. This time it was clear how they get their nickname of ‘bonking beetles’ as we saw numerous mating pairs in action! Walking along some fields full of sweetcorn, we came across lots of Common Chicory or Blue Dandelion. Despite being seen as an invasive weed, I actually really like the colour of this plant.
After a short distance on a road, we walked through some woodland, which provided a nice respite from the heat. Having booked a table at the pub, and having decided to not take the shortcut back to the village along the road, we were now having to frog march the rest of the route.
However, that didn’t stop me spotting what I at first thought was a colourful caterpillar. On closer inspection, I noticed it had legs, and was in fact a harlequin ladybird larva. Harlequin ladybirds, or Asian ladybirds, were only first seen in the UK in 2004, but they are now spreading rapidly. They were introduced into Europe from Asia for the control of aphids. However, they unfortunately also like our native ladybirds. It only took 25 years from them first being introduced in America to being the most common type of ladybird they had. In America, they are also called ‘Halloween Ladybirds’ as they hibernate in large groups in buildings during Autumn. If you would like to know more about ladybirds, then read this article I have written – they really are fascinating creatures.
Going down a track we quickly joined the road through Stanford Dingley. Stanford Dingley is in the Domesday Book, and is full of characterful houses. Passing the 18th century Old Boot Inn and crossing over the River Pang, we quickly came to the 15th century Bull Inn, where we had booked a table. We enjoyed a lovely meal of pork belly and part-baked cookie with ice cream. I got a double scoop of ice cream due to them not having the flavour in that I initially requested – much to my friend’s disgust! I would highly recommend the pub and I am sure we will be back when we do the original walk we had planned! You could even have a game of ‘ringing the bull.’ A classic pub game dating back to the 12th century in which you have to swing a ring hanging from the ceiling onto a hook on the wall.
So, do you want to earn that pub meal and work up an appetite? If so, then this a Stanford Dingley walk is great to do – full of nature and beautiful countryside.