Walbury wander

My friends from Exeter University days, Mary Alexander and Drusilla Belfield, and I like to walk together twice a year.  We generally choose somewhere between our homes at Bodicote (Oxfordshire), Winchester (Hampshire) and Turville (Bucks).  Drusilla had seen Christopher Somerville’s eight-mile walk from Walbury Hill in West Berkshire in The Times, and so we did this on 19 May.  Chris helpfully puts the walks on his website for those of us who do not subscribe to The Times.

1 start

The view from the car park

We started from the Walbury Hill car-park, south of Inkpen, in the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  Soon we crossed a stile into a field which was broken and dangerous.  I reported it to West Berkshire Council on 27 May, and on 4 June received a reply that it had been repaired and was in the queue to be replaced with a kissing-gate.  What service!

2 stile

Stile: repaired already

The path took us down the field and onto a hollow way leading to the hamlet of Combe.

3 Hollow way to Combe

Hollow way to Combe

Here I saw a seat in memory of Mary Louise Brewster.

4 Brewster bench

Memorial seat

This rang a bell and I later confirmed that she was indeed the wife of former American ambassador (1977-81) Kingman Brewster; she lived in Combe after he died.  (I drove with them both across Dartmoor on the glorious autumn day of 26 September 1980: I was running the Devon American Fortnight festival, and they were visiting it.  We had a delightful trip and I felt I had known them for ever.)

We bore left from Combe across a field of wheat with an exemplary, wide path cut through it.

5 exemplary path

Exemplary path

Beyond is a strip of access land, Sugglestone Hill, where we stopped for lunch with an expansive view.

8 view from Shugglestone

View from Sugglestone Hill

We climbed to the highest point of the walk and then down to join the Test Way following a long valley.

9 Test Way

The Test Way

At the head of this we bore right up a steep hill.

10 Sheepless hill

Steep hill

We stopped by Combe Wood on the right and I ventured in, to listen first to a blackcap singing and then a treeful of tree creepers (click on the links for my videos).

12 Combe Wood, treecreepers here

Combe Wood

The path took us back to the ridge of Walbury Hill and we could look south to where we had walked.

13 View east

View of part of our walk. The exemplary path is visible on the right

We followed the byway back to the car park, passing the Iron Age fort on our left.  Unfortunately this is not access land but part of a field.  It could do with more recognition and opportunities for people to explore it.

14 Walbury Hill no access

Iron age hill fort: no legal access

We arrived back at the car park after an extremely enjoyable and varied walk.

15 End of walk

Drusilla and Mary near the end of the walk. The dog Janet is behind the stile

About campaignerkate

I am the general secretary of the Open Spaces Society and I campaign for public access, paths and open spaces in town and country.
This entry was posted in Access, AONB, Birds, Public paths, walking and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Walbury wander

  1. Bonnie McCay says:

    Hi, Kate. Enjoy all of your posts; this caught my eye in particular because of the wooden chair dedicated to the memory of Mary Louise Brewster, the widow of ambassador Kingman Brewster. I will share this with a friend, Kingman Brewster III, who is an architect working on Fogo Island, Newfoundland, where I spend much of my time. He will enjoy this, I am sure. By the way, you did not complete the date of the year you were with Mr. and Mrs. Brewster (his grandparents) at Dartmoor; do you perchance remember when that way? Not important, just asking. Will I see you in Lima? Hope so. Regards, Bonnie
    McCay. mccay@sebs.rutgers.edu

  2. Hi Bonnie, thank you. I have filled in the date, it was 1980. I will also email you a painting which my father did of Kingman. Yes I’ll be in Lima and it will be lovely to see you again. Love Kate

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