West Berkshire, famous for the open expanse of the high chalk Berkshire Downs, provides invigorating walking with freedom, space and wide vistas. The Ridgeway National Trail, an ancient path dating back to iron age times, provides a good route from which to explore the Downs and their fascinating history. Notable sites include the Iron Age hill fort at Segsbury Camp, remains of the mysterious Grim's Ditch and the burial mound of Scutchamer Knob as well as bronze age barrows and Roman field systems. Lambourn, home to some of England's finest thoroughbred horses, is a good base from which to visit many of these pre-historic sites, including The Seven Barrows just to the north. You can follow the Ridgeway east across North Berkshire via East Ilsley, Compton, Aldworth and Streatley, following in the footsteps of neolithic ramblers.
Further south the landscape falls from grassy chalk downs, through birch and oak woodland and across commons to the Kennet Valley. Here the countryside is soft and tranquil with green meadows edged with willow. This is a more populated area dominated by the historic market town of Newbury, with the Kennet and Avon canal running through its centre. Newbury has a special claim to historic fame as being the location for two important battles in the Civil War. Donnington Castle, not far north of the town, was besieged during the War for nearly two years during which time Oliver Cromwell's forces destroyed much of the castle, although the royalist Sir John Boys held out. Only the 14th century Gatehouse remains, which can be visited in a walk from Snelsmore Common Country Park, returning via the picturesque Watermill Theatre on the river Lambourn. A relaxing day can be spent walking along part of the Kennet and Avon Canal discovering some of the villages and open countryside of the area and enjoying lunch at one of the canal-side pubs. For example take a circular route such as one from Woolhampton and including Midgham.
South of the Kennet Valley the chalk escarpment rises again to new heights, reaching nearly 1,000ft. at Inkpen Hill and nearby Walbury Hill. From here there are spectacular views across the Kennet Valley, but they would not have been appreciated by felons hanging from Combe Gibbet, the grisly landmark used to hang highwaymen in earlier times. From Inkpen Beacon the Wayfarer's Walk heads south into Hampshire.
Kennet and Avon Canal
Originally completed in 1810, the restored and re-opened Kennet and Avon Canal passes through a rich variety of walking country, home to an abundance of wildlife. Starting from the historic seaport of Bristol, the Kennet and Avon Canal passes through the Avon valley, and the richly fertile Vale of Pewsey, overlooked by the North Wessex Downs. Further east, the canal touches the fringes of the Savernake Forest, before making for the Berkshire Downlands and on to the Thames at Reading. Along the way, there are engineering marvels of the canal era such as the magnificent aqueducts at Dundas and Avoncliff, the Caen Hill 'staircase' of 16 locks, and Crofton Pumping Station, home of the oldest working steam engines in the world. Other points of interest include the delightful Sydney Gardens at Bath, the ornate landscaping of the canal at Wilcot Wide Water and a stretch of a more ancient earthwork, the Wansdyke. The main towns along the route are Bath, Bradford-on-Avon, Devizes, Pewsey, Hungerford, and Thatcham. The walk is often described the other way round, starting at Reading.
Ridgeway Path National Trail
The trail passes across the Wiltshire Downs, through two AONB's, The North Wessex Downs (27) and The Chilterns (5) and as a consequence provides a visual feast of landscape beauty. It is also very rewarding historically, passing several important Bronze and Iron age sites such as Avebury Circle, Barbury Castle and the long barrow, Wayland's Smithy. As it's name implies, the Ridgeway follows high ground, a ridge of chalk with poor soil, which made it much easier to travel in ancient times when lower plains and valleys were densely wooded and often flooded. This height affords the walker splendid views, big skies and wide open countryside with few villages or major roads. The landscape of the Chiltern Hills provides a contrast in being more intimate, passing through pleasant villages peaceful woods and across farmland.
The town has a rich and varied history. One of the oldest buildings, at the corner of the Bath Road, is the Bear Hotel whose origins go back as far as the 13th century. The John O'Gaunt in Bridge Street is a 17th century public house. Period houses and shops of the 17th and 18th centuries line the High Street and the town hall was built in 1870. The town has its own town council and Mayor and Hungerford's Hocktide ceremonies take place on the second Tuesday after Easter, more usually known as Tutti-day when the Hocktide Court or Commoners Court is held in the town hall. The customs are carried out today, very much as they had been centuries ago. Hungerford's Commoners Court is now unique in the country, the last remaining court with administrative jurisdiction over its affairs.
Hungerford is bordered on the west by Freemans Marsh and the east by Port Down, both part of Hungerford Common. The Kennet & Avon Canal, 87 miles of waterway, passes through Hungerford and links Bristol and Reading.
Newbury - 9 miles
Marlborough - 9 miles
Swindon - 17 miles
Reading - 25 miles
Mainline railway station from the town with regular service to Newbury, Reading and London (Paddington - just over 1 hour). The M4 motorway (junction 14) can be joined 3.25 miles to the north at Shefford Woodlands. Town bus service on Wednesday and Friday, also buses serving Newbury, Marlborough, Swindon and occasional service to Lambourn.
Hungerford is a renowned centre for the antique trade with numerous antique shops. It has two supermarkets, a delicatessen, a range of local shops, pharmacy, three banks, restaurants and public houses, also a public library.
A practice of five G.P.ís (Dr P. Hetherington, H. Dace, N. Sodhi , A. Anderson and S.Bruen) at The Surgery, The Croft (01488 682507) www.hungerfordsurgery.co.uk.
The Veterinary Hospital, A4 Bath Road, Hungerford (next to the Garden Centre) (01488 683999).
Church Lane Dental Practice (01488 682223).
Williams Dental Surgery, 96 High Street. (01488 684142).
|Anglican||St Lawrence, The Croft (built in 1816).|
|United Reformed||High Street.|
|Roman Catholic||Our Lady of Lourdes, Priory Road.|
|Playgroups||Pre-school Learning Alliance (01635 863937).
Hungerford Playgroup (01488 684561).
|Nursery||Hungerford Nursery School, The Croft, for children from 3 to 5
years (01488 682628).
Stepping Stones Nursery & Pre-Prep School, Froxfield (01488 681067).
Little Jogs Day Nursery (01488 683533).
|Primary||Hungerford Primary School, Fairview Road (01488 682230).
Chilton Foliat C of E Primary School, Stag Hill (01488 682630).
|Secondary||John O'Gaunt Community Technology College (with 6th form education), Priory Road (01488 682400).|
Hungerford offers a wide range of sport and leisure facilities on your doorstep. If you or anyone in your household would like to pursue a team sport in Hungerford, please call Jonathan Taylor on 07836 330815. Whether its football, cricket, rugby, tennis or bowls, any age group, he will be happy to provide you with a contact name and number of a club in the town.
Indoor Swimming Pool & Leisure Centre Priory Road (01488 683303).
The Hungerford Club A private club since 1910. Bowls, tennis and indoor sports. First class bowling green, four all-weather tennis courts and LTA professional coach, two full size snooker tables. Bar and meeting room.
and many more.
Police Force: Thames Valley Police
Address: Oxford Road, Kidlington, Oxon, OX5 2NX
Switchboard: 08458 505505
Local policing website www.thamesvalley.police.uk
Contact your local police force to report a non-urgent crime on 08458 505505. If you require an immediate response call 999 or 112.
Thames Valley Police is responsible for policing in your local authority. If youíve questions about policing levels or tackling crime, ask Thames Valley Police for the answers.
Your MP is Laura Farris (Conservative).
Groundwater Quality in the Marlborough and Berkshire Downs (including the Kennet Valley):
Groundwater quality in the Marlborough and Berkshire Downs and the Kennet Valley is monitored using a partially completed network of public supply and private abstraction boreholes. Chalk crops out in the west but becomes confined by the Reading Beds and London Clay to the south east of the study area. Drift covers much of the area with Clay-with-Flints capping the Chalk aquifer in the west and gravels covering some of the outcrop in the east. Bagshot Beds crop out over London Clay in places in the south eastern end of the area. This report addresses Chalk groundwater quality only.
The area is predominantly rural with Reading and Newbury being the main industrial and urban centres. High nitrate levels are experienced in parts of the region. The catchment for Ogbourne St.George pumping station (north of Marlborough) has been designated as both a Nitrate Sensitive Area (NSA) and a Nitrate Vulnerable Zone (NVZ). A NVZ has also been designated at Compton.
Some boreholes in the Reading vicinity yield groundwater chemistry indicative of urban groundwater contamination.
Overall, groundwater is of calcium bicarbonate type, with other major ions (magnesium, sodium, potassium, sulphate and chloride) present in generally low concentrations, typical of outcrop Chalk. Where the Chalk becomes confined by London Clay groundwater quality at some sites is shown to be typically modified by confining conditions. Such confined groundwater has elevated concentrations of magnesium, sodium, fluoride, chloride, ammoniacal nitrogen and strontium. With few exceptions, the groundwater quality at Chalk outcrop sources within the study area, does not appear to differ greatly from that abstracted from boreholes which have catchments partially or totally covered in drift deposits.
Environment Agency, Thames Region