- County: Berkshire
- Area: Ashampstead, Yattendon
- Distance: 7.5 Miles (with optional short cuts)
- Time: 4hrs
- Refreshments: Pub, Café and Shop in Yattendon, and farm shop/café near Ashampstead
This circular walk shows off the beautiful Berkshire countryside and the two lovely villages of Ashampstead and Yattendon– both of which we have said we want to revisit! If you are looking for a lovely mixture of open fields, woodland paths, and charming villages, then you won’t be disappointed. The route also offers lots of options for a shorter stretch of the legs. An OS map will show you lots of paths linking parts of the route, or alternatively follow one of the shorter loops as detailed on Fancy Free Walks.
I did this walk with a friend, and we both wore shorts and walking trainers. We knew it was going to be easy ground and bone dry. However, be aware that there are a couple of overgrown sections, and we both did get nettled during this walk. But I will offer an alternative route to avoid the most overgrown part. And if you have a dog, then this is a fantastic route to do.
The small, fairly remote village of Ashampstead is where we started the walk. Parking by the glorious village green, on a nice sunny morning, made us wonder if we should just sit on the green and enjoy the quietness and the sounds of the birds. However, we decided that it would still be there at the end of the walk and would make a great picnic stop!
While passing by Ashampstead’s famous church, which houses some of the country’s finest wall paintings, you will come across an old village pump. This is a nice reminder of the village’s history, which was called Esshamstede in the 13th and 14th centuries. Continuing straight on, the tarmac and stony track eventually just becomes a wide field track. This track leads you into your first patch of trees. It is visible in these woods just how muddy this track can become in winter. The track was an impressive 1/2metre below the normal vegetation level, having been eroded down by tractors. So be aware – lots of rain, and it could be incredibly muddy!.
Continuing on we reached Ashampstead Common. Ashampstead Common is a small hamlet and is meant to be very flower rich – with 232 plant and tree species having been identified. This certainly surprised me, as I wouldn’t have said that – however, we were not being particularly observant at this point! We did have to do a very short backtrack after missing the narrow winding woodland path. We were too busy chatting to notice it, and we weren’t expecting it to be so soon after crossing over the lane. Thankfully this is a lovely quiet piece of woodland, as the directions do take you in a circle, when there was a path further on in the wood, which would have taken you straight to the same point. However, I do love walking in a forest (maybe I should look into forest bathing!) so was not complaining.
I love being a bit nosy, and dreaming about houses I would like to own! So, coming across four houses, all of very different styles, in fairly quick succession, quickly got us discussing who might just live in each of them, and which we would pick! I will leave that there, so as not to influence your decision! Although I will tell you that my favourite name was definitely the ‘Nut and Bolt’ House in Burnt Hill Village – and no, it’s very unlikely to be what you are imagining right now!
Burnt Hill Common is owned by Yattendon Estate. During WW2 the woods were used to conceal troops during the build-up to D-Day. If you fancy a slight detour then you can explore the paths on the common to look for WW2 remains. However, do be aware, that the wood is very overgrown and clearly not explored that much. Going back onto the planned route, we quickly came across a lovely timbered house – another one to add to the wish list. Keep your eyes peeled while walking through this wood as we came across a King Alfred Cake. The first I have ever seen, or at least ever noticed!
We emerged from the broadleaf trees and the majestic tall pines, to a fantastically manicured long stretch of grass. Yattendon Court was visible in the distance, with their drive midway through the ‘long ride’ as it’s called. We decided to make use of this lovely grass and sat down for a little snack. Having started very early in the morning to avoid the heat, we were certainly in need of a snack. It was also a great opportunity to try my new iPhone macro lens – I have to say, I was quite impressed!
It was leaving this lovely manicured grass that we entered the very overgrown path – with lots of tall nettles and ferns. We didn’t realise until we had battled our way through this path, that we were going to join the drive that we could see when we were having our snack. Therefore, I suggest that you turn left and walk up the lovely manicured grass to reach the drive, where you then need to turn right. This will prevent you from getting any nettle stings.
After we left the drive, we then enjoyed the brilliant brown and red hues of farmland. We stopped to admire the wild roses that were growing along the hedgerows. I decided to properly put my macro lens to the test with a stunning iridescent beetle on one of the roses. Did you know that you can turn ‘garden’ roses back into their native wild variety by shocking them? My friend has admitted to doing this with one of her roses back home – not on purpose may I add!
As we got closer to Yattendon, we passed a couple eating what looked like homemade, but café bought cake. Our hopes were up, and we quickly increased our pace! Going through the churchyard of the lovely, spired 15th-century church, and passing the obligatory yew tree that seems to be in every cemetery, we entered the village centre. This was clearly the hub of the village, with both villagers and outdoor enthusiasts alike enjoying the delights of the café and village shop. It really is a great place to stop if you are doing a walk or bike ride.
The ‘Pantry’ sells tea and all sorts of cakes, and the village shop, well I just wish we had one like that in our village! It was full of local produce and was one of those rare village shops that have not succumbed to being a chain and clearly still has strong local values. We were so impressed by the quality of what they were selling that my friend bought a gin gift set and a vine of tomatoes. I feel I should add that the gin was not for the walk (disappointingly maybe!) but was a birthday present for someone. I also didn’t get away without buying anything – I bought a cucumber (I mean who wouldn’t!) and two tiny bottles of gin, also as gifts. Oh, and not forgetting the ice cream we both bought – these were consumed straight away on a lovely little bench in the village square.
Unfortunately, the pub, which attracts people from far and wide, was not open – but that only means we will have to do the walk again, which is certainly no hardship.
Yattendon has a rich history, which is easy to imagine when you stand back and admire the small village square. ‘Etingedene’, meaning valley of the people of Eata, was its name at the time of the conquest. It even used to boast a castle until this was flattened during the civil war. It was also in Yattendon that Anne Boleyn, at the time married to Henry VIII, dropped her handkerchief for the lord’s brother, which was the reason she was later beheaded.
However, it was time to leave this charming village of medieval origin behind. Crossing over more fields, we came across a deceased mole in the middle of the path. Now this may not sound very pleasant, but if a deceased animal can be described in this way, it was in good condition and was just displaying rigor mortis! It clearly wasn’t killed by an animal as there were no visible injuries. Our curiosity got the better of us, having never seen a mole before. Turning it over with a stick we could clearly identify it was a mole, with its stocky body, long pink nose and big shovel-like ‘hands’ as front paws. We could also see its very sharp pincer-like teeth. Thank you Mr Mole for letting us understand a bit more about you!
Return to Ashampstead
As we went over another field, with a lovely English oak in the middle of it, we saw two red kites hunting above us. So, keep your eyes peeled for birds of prey at this stage of the walk! After going through some woodland, we reached Casey Fields Farm Shop. If you haven’t already stocked up on goodies from Yattendon, then you have another temptation to resist here! It is also another place where you can get refreshments, with it also having a café. Not long after this, we could see Ashampstead church in the distance. Crossing over a field, we went through the churchyard to join the lane and return to the village green where we had started.
And what better way to finish a walk, on a lovely warm sunny day, than with a picnic? Sitting on the green, under the shade of a tree, we enjoyed a lovely picnic. Even having forgotten our sporks for the pasta didn’t put us off from enjoying this beautiful spot! Instead we made makeshift forks from the carrots I had brought with me and enjoyed the peacefulness even longer.
The guinea pig encounter!
However, the adventure didn’t end there. During our picnic two children brought out their guinea pigs for a run on the green. They seemed to be having a great time, running around in the freedom. However, I think the sun got a bit too much for one of the guinea pigs as it decided to run under my friend’s car just as she was putting her bag into the boot. We then spent the next 15 minutes trying to coax the guinea pig out. Eventually, after getting its cage, and putting it by the car, it hopped into the shade of its own hutch. Nothing like a bit of excitement to end a walk.
With such lovely countryside, beautiful historic villages and perfect refreshments stops, this walk is highly recommended. However, if it’s very hot, I advise you to start early, or look at doing the Brimpton and Hampshire Border Forest Walk. For a description of this walk just click here.