Finchampstead Walk - September

On an overcast but thankfully dry morning last Saturday, I was very pleased to be joined by twenty five other walkers for the seventh and penultimate walk in this series for the Blackwater Valley Trust. 

We met at the church of St James in Finchampstead. St James’ is an ancient Grade 1 listed Norman church built on a commanding spot overlooking the Blackwater Valley, a place that people have been worshipping at for nearly a thousand years. It has an old Roman earthworks around it and was probably built on a pagan temple. The church has had major developments over many centuries but has been described as a ‘reverse tardis’ as the interior size seems smaller than what would be expected when viewing from outside. I must revisit it on a day when the tower, built 1720, is open to the public.

We set off northwards past The Queen's Oak (apparently this is the only pub of that name in England) and almost caught up with another walking group at the end of the first field but they turned right while we crossed the Nine Mile Ride to enter California Country Park. This is a 100-acre area which was originally a brick pit but then became an amusement park with minature railway, a zoo and even a speedway track for the California Poppies. Now with the Longmoor Bog and Lake it is a SSSI. We saw various wildlife on the pond including little grebe, cormorants and tufted duck. We completed a loop through the park and woodland before heading back south on a scenic route leading upwards to a crossing of the Devil's Highway where we stopped to admire the view and have refreshments (unfortunately it was a bit cloudy but when I returned later to collect the tea kit the sun came out to reveal the distant hills - so just unlucky timing.)  

We followed the almost one mile long path to descend to Eversley and then turned left to pick up the Blackwater Valley path beside Fleethill Farm and Fleet Copse. We then turned along Longwater Lane with its interesting Catherine of Aragon plinth, before passing East Court, and a climb back up to the church and manor house.

So a big thank you to everyone who came along; it had been a six mile walk with only a couple of moderate slopes and I hope everyone enjoyed it. As always there seemed to be a good spirit in the group and I hope to see everyone again next month.

Once again thanks to Hillary for her photographs.

Paul Sanders