West Ilsley - The Ridgeway - Farnborough (Berks) - Circular

You need to log in as a member of Walkingworld to access the details for this walk. Join or log in above if you are already a member. Access is available to Walkingworld subscribers or you can buy the walk individually for £1.95 once you are logged in.

The route starts and finishes in the West Berkshire village of West Ilsley, probably most famous for its racehorse stables and as the original home of the Morland Brewery, which lives on in the well-known brands Morland Original and Old Speckled Hen. Farmer John Morland first set up a brewery here in 1711.

Climbing up towards the downs, early morning visitors may encounter strings of racehorses riding out across the landscape. They are likely to be from the West Ilsley stables of Mick Channon. See below for a link to Mick's very informative website. If a string is crossing the road, cars have to stop and wait – racehorses take precedence around here!

From where you join the Ridgeway, you can see both Didcot Power Station and the former Atomic Research establishment at Harwell below you to the east. Both these establishments have their own significant part in the history of the later 20th Century. However you may be more interested in Scutchamer Knob, passed a short way along the ridge, with its links to Saxon times. See additional info' in respect of all three.

The Ridgeway is a National Trail, 85 miles long, opened in 1973. Starting at Overton Hill, near Avebury in Wiltshire, the trail ends at Ivinghoe Beacon in Buckinghamshire. Much of it follows the ancient chalk ridge route used by prehistoric man.

The part of the Ridgeway on this route is characterised by the views and the wildife. We saw racehorses – hardly wildlife! – and herds of fallow deer, several hares and a rare treat, a stoat with its striking, black-tipped tail. Birds included skylarks, red kites, kestrels, stonechats and corn buntings.

As you leave the Ridgeway, you pass the attractive marble memorial to the recipient of the first VC in the Crimean War, Robert Loyd-Lindsay, who became Lord Wantage and whose amazing cv is summarised below. A short while later, in All Saints Church Farnborough, you will see a memorial of a different kind, the beautiful window dedicated to Sir John Betjeman, who lived in Farnborough at the old rectory. See additional info'.

The walk back from Farnborough to West Ilsley is almost exclusively along ancient and enclosed byways. Parts get very muddy at times and can make it a challenging walk, but it is very quiet and the wildlife continues to catch your eye and your ear. West Ilsley Stables are passed near the end and from there on, you can almost taste the burger and the frothing pint of ale waiting for you at The Harrow!

England - South England - Berkshire - Ridgeway

Features

Ancient Monument, Birds, Church, Flowers, Great Views, Hills or Fells, Industrial Archaeology, National Trust, Pub, Public Transport, Wildlife, Woodland
13/08/2012 - John Minchin

In August 2012 after a wet summer the by-way from point 12 was almost completely overgrown. Brambles and nettles made this part of the walk a miserable experience. Walkers should make sure their arms and legs are well covered and ideally carry secateurs. This section of the route spoilt an otherwise good walk.

03/08/2010 - Rob Westerman

A fantastic walk with stunning views from the Ridgeway. It took us six hours as stated including two stops of about 15 mins each. I have a couple of comments though on the directions. 1) The author often states 'carry on in the same direction' when arriving at at a staggered junction, when in fact a simple left or right would be much clearer. (Point 20 is a prime example where the route meets a road and actually turns right, and 22 where you turn left into the private road)(and point 17 where instead of 'continuing more or less straight ahead' the track bends to the right and you have to go left into Muddy Lane.

16/03/2010 - Andrew Long

A cracking (and lengthy) walk on the downs on what felt like the first Sunday of spring! West Isley and Farnborough are picturesque and the Ridgeway can be windswept so take some extra layers! Great instructions - few very minor tweaks to follow.