Circular walk 12 – three rivers walk from Swallowfield

A chance to explore the more rural paths and country lanes in the Valley. This walk passes the confluence of the Blackwater and Whitewater rivers where they become the River Broadwater, before joining the River Loddon further upstream.

About the walk

Start point: Swallowfield Parish car park, Church Road, Swallowfield. SU 726649
Distance: 9.5 km/ 6 miles
Walk time: 3 hours
Terrain: Relatively flat with slopes, uneven ground and stiles. Can be wet and muddy in winter.

Getting there

Rail to Trail: there is no train station nearby. The number 7 bus stops at the Crown Public House from where there is a half mile walk to the start point. Walk north east from the Crown towards Curly’s Way. At the roundabout take the first exit onto Church Road The church is 0.4 mile along this road.

Swallowfield Park

Swallowfield Park is a beautiful old manor house and estate. The manor of Swalfelle is listed in the Domesday Book but the first record of the Park occurs in 1316. The manor was home to many noble families in Norman times. The present house was designed by Talman for Lord Clarendon in 1670 but has been much altered since then. In the 18th Century, the house was owned by Thomas Pitt, grandfather of the Prime Minister of the same name who lived in Binfield. In the grounds of the Park there is a walled garden, the wall of which was constructed by Thomas Pitt in 1722. Since 1965 the house has been apartments for retired people in the Country Houses Association and there is no public access. However, from the road you can see part of the grounds with many large trees.
  • 1. Exit the car park onto Church Road and turn left. Continue along the road past Swallowfield Park taking care when the pavement runs out and when crossing two bridges over the river.
Swallowfield Church now named All Saints Church, was built by Sir John Le Despencer in 1256. Just like any church built in that time he had to obtain special permission from the pope for its erection. The churchyard is managed as part of 'the National Living Churchyards Project' which seeks to conserve wildlife. If you walk around the churchyard you will see that areas are left un-mown for part of the year to allow the wildflowers to grow which attract insects, birds and mammals.
  • 2. After the entrance to All Saints Church, there is a bend in the road to the right. Just after this bend on the left cross over a stile and follow the signed footpath along a field edge. Continue past a path junction and then pass through a gate on the left, to continue along a hedge line on the other side. Follow a tree-lined track straight on, to join Swallowfield Road.
  • 3. Cross the road with care and turn left. Continue along the road until a footpath on the right, just after 'Old Dunnings', on the left. Follow the footpath uphill into Great Copse. Carry straight on past houses, where the track becomes hardstanding.

Farley Hill

  • 4. At the crossroads go straight over to join Bunces Shaw. Continue until a signed footpath on the right, just after Castle Cottage. This path leads through a wooded strip alongside a riding stables and cricket club grounds.
  • 5. Turn right onto Church Lane and then left into Castle Road. Follow the road to Bunglers Hill. Taking care, cross to the far side and turn left. Continue along the pavement past a school and The Fox and Hound Pub.
  • 6. Just after the pub turn right down Jouldings Lane. Follow the lane downhill. Where the Lane bends to the Part of the countryside landscape seen on the walk right take the signed footpath on the left. This path emerges onto the Blackwater Valley Path. Turn right to go through a gate. Keep the fence close on your left until Jouldings Lane.

Along the River Blackwater

Thatcher's Ford is where The Devil's Highway from Staines to Silchester crosses the River Blackwater. Much of this Roman Road lies under modern roads and tracks. This point marks the boundary between Berkshire and Hampshire, probably because it was a visible and 'Venerable' marker when the early Saxon manors were delineated.
  • 7. Cross straight over the lane and enter a field, via a stile, to continue along the footpath. Follow the Blackwater Valley Path to the left of the field along the river bank. The Path leaves the river's edge and heads along field edges, before emerging at Thatcher's Ford. Cross Ford Lane and proceed over a stile into the next field. Continue along the edge of the field and do not cross at the bridge.
The River Whitewater emerges from the chalk near Upton Grey and Greywell, collects up the River Hart at Bramshill and flows into the Blackwater near Thatcher's Ford. It is the clear waters arising from the chalk springs that gives the River Whitewater its name. By contrast, the River Blackwater is coloured by the sands and silts deposited by the large ancient river that cut through the plateau gravel deposits to create the Blackwater Valley.
  • 8. Pass the confluence, of the Rivers Blackwater and Whitewater. Follow the Path right as it leaves the riverbank and head towards Nutbean Lane. Turn left onto the lane and continue past the cemetery to the main road.
The Red Kite is a very graceful bird of prey with a reddish-brown body, angled wings and deeply forked tail. Once a very common sight until the 16th Century when a series of Government Acts declared that the bird was vermin. By the late 1700s the Red Kite had become hunted to extinction in England and Scotland. Over the last 100 years efforts have been made to maintain the remaining fragile population in Wales, and in the 1980s a reintroduction programme began with birds from Sweden. Today numbers are increasing and they have been sighted frequently in this area.
  • 9. Turn left onto Swallowfield Road, crossing the bridge after All Saints Church. Take care where there is no pavement. Continue past Swallowfield Park and into the village, then back to Swallowfield Parish Hall car park on the right.