Walk Distance: 9km
Walk Duration: 2 hours (including breaks)
OS Map: OS Landranger Newbury & Wantage 174; OS Explorer Newbury & Hungerford 158;
Suitable for: Families, off-terrain pushchairs (ridge section only), babies in backpacks.
Walk features: Iron-age hill fort, Berkshire County Top, Marilyn, great views, shortened & easy walk options
Walbury Hill, at 297m high, is the highest point in both Berkshire and South East England. Views from Walbury Hill are lovely and long-reaching across the surrounding lush countryside and for the ambitious, this marks the start of the Test Way and Wayfarer Way long distance walks. Best of all though for those looking to bag a County Top but accompanied by little explorers is that you do not have to work hard to attain the magnificent views from Walbury ‘s heights. In fact, should you so choose, you can park in the car park directly below the path to the top of Walbury and meander up the path, pushchair ahead!
The Walbury walk does start in a car-park on the ridge and should take under 2 hours if you walk at a steady pace but does drop down into the valley on the return leg, making you work for the second round of views on you ascent back to the car-park. If you prefer to leave the views until last, try the Walbury circular walk out in reverse. The loop is a great one for winter weather or families looking for a short walk but who still want to feel like they have been out in the elements. It’s also fantastic for looking back up at Walbury and appreciating just how imposing it must have been when its iron-age fort was in existence.
The walk starts from the car-park near Coombe (see directions below). The car park is just on rough ground so do take care after prolonged periods of rain as it can get quite muddy.
Turn right out of the car park onto the stony track that leads up to Walbury. Even in wet weather the track here is passable for all-terrain pushchairs and in the dry summer months you should even get away with using a good regular pushchair. From here it is a short walk to the top of Walbury Hill. The trig point itself is about 100m down the private farm track to the southwest.
Continue along the track and you will come to the second parking area and a view-point. Don’t be surprised to find many radio enthusiasts with full kit camped out here – as the highest spot for a long way, it is popular with amateurs and even BBC broadcasting vans!
Continue on the track as it bends round towards the right and you will walk towards a small uphill in the path ahead. Just before the path rises, take the footpath marked to that turns left off the main track. If you are walking with a pushchair and would like to walk further, it is advisable to remain on the Test Way track before retracing your steps, as the circular walk surface and gradient from here on is not suitable for buggies.
Carry on this path into the field and look out for the footpath sign. Turn left with your back to the footpath sign and walk down over the field to some rough ground and another sign on the far side. At the time of writing, the field was ploughed and no discernible track visible but the footpath is marked again clearly on the far side of the field and if you keep your back to the footpath marker you should easily find it. Kids will enjoy the abundance of shiny flint to be found here – bringing its links to ancient Briton to life.
Pass through a gateway and into an open field with fantastic views of Walbury Hill. Sheltered from the wind that buffets the hill-top, this is a great spot for a picnic and allows you to fully appreciate Walbury’s impressive and imposing shape which is only truly visible from below. It is easy to imagine from here how it would have looked crowned with its iron age hill fort glaring out over the surrounding land.
From here the path follows the left side of the field down-hill, where it will bring you to a farm track. Turn right and walk along the track past some farm buildings. Ignore the track that bends away to your left just after these buildings but continue until you join a small lane.
Turn right along the quiet lane and continue to walk until you reach the small village of Coombe. When you come to a few houses at a sharp bend to the right in the lane, turn left, following the signs to Lower Farm.
Continue past lower farm, keeping left on the track as the path begins to rise back up fairly steeply towards Walbury Hill. As the track bends off towards the right you will find a Public Bridleway signpost directing uphill left. Take this and pass through a gate.
Walk up hill through a small copse and out onto the brow of the hill where you can enjoy the welcome views across Walbury Hill and beyond whilst you catch your breath. From here, the byway and the car park are a short walk up to your right.
Map of Route:
The walk starts from a public car-park near Coombe, just under Walbury Hill.
Grid reference for the Walbury Hill car park is SU 38022 61570;
Longitude/latitude coordinates 51.351941, -1.4554014 (you can use these like a postcode with Google Maps)
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