East Ilsley - The Ridgeway - Compton - Circular

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East Ilsley is an attractive downland village in West Berkshire.

The walk takes you from here up on the Ridgeway - although 'up' is relative, the Ridgeway is not as high here as further west or further east. The Ridgeway is a National Trail, 85 miles long, opened in 1973. Starting at Overton Hill, near Avebury in Wiltshire, it ends at Ivinghoe Beacon in Buckinghamshire. Much of it follows the ancient chalk ridge route used by prehistoric man which became known as the Icknield Way. It is characterised by the views and the variety of birds, as well as in this area the abundance of horseracing stables and gallops.

You can't miss Didcot Power Station in the distance from the Ridgeway. It was actually two plants: Didcot A, built in the 1960s and now closed, and Didcot B, built in the late 1990s. It was voted Britain's third worst eyesore in 2003 by Country Life readers, although following its construction it did win architectural awards for how well it blended into the landscape.

Compton is rich in evidence of ancient British and Roman occupation. To the south of Compton is Perborough Castle, an Iron Age hill-fort. The remains of Roman buildings were found in the area, as well as a phenomenal number of Roman coins. A lead coffin, evidence of what is believed to have been a wealthy family burial plot dating from late Roman times, was found on Roden Down.

Your walk twice crosses the old Didcot, Newbury and Southampton Railway line. Construction of the line was started in 1879 and Compton Station was opened in 1885. The DN & S, always unprofitable, was absorbed by the GWR in 1923, but came into its own during the Second World War when it became a vital link in supplying the forces invading Normandy. Much of the original single-track was doubled by the US Army Railway Corps. However, after 1945 the line returned to its lightly-used state. Post-Beeching, the line was closed in 1965.

Compton Laboratory is the administrative centre of the Institute of Animal Health, whose focus is the immune systems of cattle and poultry and selected diseases of these species. Nearby is the institute's farm, which covers a large area of the chalk downland and includes a herd of Holstein Friesian dairy cows and a flock of Dorset sheep.

The last stage of the walk brings you back into East Ilsley along ancient tracks and past the church, which stands on a very prominent hill to the south-west of the village. The church dates back to the twelfth century. Unfortunately it is usually locked, but if you have a few minutes, the key is available from the cottage across the road.

England - South England - Berkshire - Ridgeway

Features

Birds, Church, Food Shop, Great Views, Hills or Fells, Pub, Wildlife, Woodland
29/01/2009 - Walkingworld Administrator

Thanks to Andrew Long for updating this walk January 2009.

12/01/2009 - Andrew Long

Good walk but the tracks were a bit muddy and rutted! Enjoyed the railway aspects & am pleased to say that Compton pub is now open again! Comments to follow.