With its close proximity to Reading and Newbury; and easy access by train or bus, this circular walk provides a great day out in the West Berkshire countryside. Combining country lanes, fields and woods, and a stretch of the Kennet & Avon Canal, this seven mile circuit includes three excellent country pubs: The Rowbarge at Woolhampton; The Six Bells at Beenham; and The Butt Inn at Aldermaston Wharf…
This walk is a companion to the Woolhampton and Aldermaston (Wharf and Village) circular pub walk published here in 2016. Whereas my previous walk stayed within the relatively flat terrain of the Kennet floodplain, this latest walk ventures north of the Bath Road into the hilly countryside overlooking the Kennet valley. Thanks are due to West Berkshire CAMRA whose recent branch social event Mr & Mrs Fueled by Beer had the pleasure of attending. It is the inspiration for this post.
The walk can be started at any one of the three pubs where ample parking is available however for a true Fueled by Beer experience take the train to either Midgham (for the Rowbarge) or Aldermaston (for the Butt Inn). Both pubs are a short walk from their respective stations. To complete the circuit allow between 3 to 3 ½ hours walk time. All three pubs offer food at lunch and dinner times on most days but do please check their websites for kitchen service hours if you would like to enjoy a meal as part of a walk. Better yet, why not call and make a reservation. For the purposes of this post we start at The Rowbarge and go clockwise.
Rowbarge to Six Bells (2.8 miles)
Turn left out of the pub, cross the canal, then the railway, and continue to the Bath Road (A4). Go left, crossing the A4 at the pedestrian crossing, then turn right and head up Woolhampton Hill. After about ½ mile the lane levels out and you should see the red brick wall that encloses Elstree School, with its most welcome pavement (sidewalk) appear on the right. Proceed along this stretch, passing the school’s Home Farm entrance, then look out for the public footpath on the left that is accessed through a metal kissing gate. If you come to a second, more grand school entrance, you will have passed the kissing gate.
From the kissing gate follow the footpath through field and wood, which along its course involves three stiles and a couple of footbridges. It also forks in a couple of places: in each instance take the right fork; then, after a left-hand bend and one more stile, the footpath emerges onto a lane. Turn right and walk along the lane a few yards to Kiff Green Farm then watch for the public footpath on the right accessed via a stile beside the last farm building. Follow this path, crossing the lane over another stile, and continue until the path emerges at the entrance to Rosecroft Cottage. From here, turn left and proceed along the farm track, keeping straight on field and wood paths until the route reaches Clay Lane in Beenham. Turn left and go straight on Clay Lane until it emerges in the village; the Six Bells will appear ahead and to the left.
Six Bells to Butt Inn (2.0 miles)
From the pub retrace steps and turn right back on Clay Lane. Stay straight on Clay Lane to Oakwood Farm (around ¼ mile) then continue to Oakwood Barn. After passing the barn on the right, look for a public footpath on the left leading into the wood. Follow this path through the wood, through a field, and into St Mary’s churchyard. Exit the churchyard through the covered gate to the lane and turn right. Proceed along this lane and keep going straight all the way to Bath Road (A4). From the church to the A4 is roughly one mile. Take care crossing the road here; it can be busy and traffic is fast. Once across the A4, cross the railway bridge adjacent to Aldermaston Station and continue along Station Road to the canal. From here turn right, cross the canal, and the Butt Inn will be found after about 200 yards on the right.
Butt Inn to Rowbarge (2.2 miles)
This is the really easy bit. Retrace your steps back to the canal and turn left along the tow path. There are a couple of bridges where the towpath switches to the opposite side of the canal then back again. But simply follow the towpath until you come to the Rowbarge. This section is part of National Cycle Route 4 so do expect some cyclists however since this is an unsegregated shared-use path, pedestrians have right of way.
If you have Internet and GPS on your mobile device, the following map can be used to navigate the route. There is also an image at the end of this post showing the route highlighted on a OS map.