Berkshire walk at Newbury along the Kennet and Avon Canal
PUBLISHED: 14:54 18 July 2017 | UPDATED: 14:54 18 July 2017
© Steve Davison
Steve Davison heads to Newbury for a wander beside the Kennet and Avon Canal and visits a ruined castle along the way
The first leg of the walk takes us past the stark ruins of Donnington Castle. Built in the late 14th century, the castle originally consisted of a curtain wall with four round corner towers and a substantial gatehouse. During the English Civil War, the Royalist castle was attacked on a number of occasions before surrendering to the Parliamentarians.
We then head south, crossing the River Lambourn to arrive a Speen. It was here, during the English Civil War, that the Second Battle of Newbury was fought on 27 October, 1644. We continue along the Lambourn Valley Way for a while, passing a ‘holy well’ and then St Mary’s Church; Queen Elizabeth I’s Italian tutor Giovanni Battista Castiglione (who was granted Benham Valence manor in 1570) is buried here.
Soon we follow the 200 year old Kennet and Avon Canal into the bustling centre of Newbury, passing a sculpture called Ebb and Flow, by Peter Randall-Page, which fills and empties with the movement of water through the lock. In the late 15th century, the cloth trade had brought wealth to the town and Newbury’s most famous clothier was John Smallwood (or Winchcombe), better known as ‘Jack of Newbury’. St Nicolas’ Church is a great example of an early 16th-century ‘wool church’, built in the Perpendicular style. To learn more, visit the West Berkshire Museum housed in the former 17th-century Granary and Cloth Hall.
We leave the canal behind and head through Victoria Park to reach the Elizabethan Shaw House, built in 1581 by Thomas Dolman, whose family had made their fortune in the cloth trade.
The house is now owned by West Berkshire Council and is open to the public at various times. From here its an easy walk back to the start.
• Start/finish: Car park (SU466687) on the B4494 opposite the Castle pub in Donnington
• Map: OS Explorer 158
• Distance: 4.75 miles (7.5km)
• Terrain: fairly level, tracks and paths, no stiles, some gates, sections of road
• Time: 2.5 hour without stops
• Refreshments Lots of choices in Newbury
1 (SU466688) – From the top of the car park go through a gate and head across the cricket and recreation ground to a gate in the top corner, to the right of the clubhouse. Turn left, then right along the drive to Donnington Castle. Turn left following a path along the top edge of the car park (castle on right) to a path junction (marker post). Turn left downhill (trees on left) and bear left along the drive. Keep ahead at the junction and cross a bridge, with views across the lake at Donnington Grove. Continue across the River Lambourn to a crossing track, bear right then left along a signed path, heading south across the golf course to a path junction, with a gate and road beyond. Stay within the golf course and turn right for 300m before turning left through a gate. Turn right along Grove Road for a few metres, then left up Station Road to a T-junction; opposite the Hare and Hounds pub.
2 (SU456681) – Cross over, turn left for 50m, then turn right along the enclosed path. Turn right along the lane for 75m, then left down the byway (Lambourn Valley Way); after 50m, detour right to visit the Lady Well. Continue downhill and through the churchyard, keeping left of St Mary’s Church. Turn left up the drive for 75m then right through the gate. Head south between open fields to a junction and turn left, soon going through a gate. Follow the track ahead under the disused railway bridge, built to carry the Lambourn Valley Railway, which opened in 1898, and keep ahead along the track for 500m to Goldwell Park. Turn along the path, which soon swings left past a car park.
3 (SU465673) – Just after the leisure centre, turn right along the tarmac path. Cross two footbridges, then head east alongside the canal towards Newbury (canal on the left). Ignore Kennet Road on the right and cross the canal via the swing bridge to continue along the towpath (canal on right) to Newbury Lock. Continue past the Lock, Stock and Barrel pub to join Bridge Street. Turn right over the bridge to a junction; ahead on the right is St Nicolas’ Church. Turn left, keep left through the Market Place and follow Wharf Street, passing the West Berkshire Museum (on right) to a junction. Turn left and cross the bridge over the canal; on the right is the Teashop by the Canal.
4 (SU473672) – Once across the bridge, turn sharp right then left along the tree-lined path through Victoria Park (boating lake on right). Pass the statue of Queen Victoria and continue along Park Lane (path between houses) to its end. Go through the underpass, bear left, cross the B4009 (Shaw Road) and turn left (signposted to Donnington) along the pavement as it curves right, to follow the A339 for 175m. Dogleg right and follow the enclosed path in the same direction. Cross a footbridge and follow the right-hand side of the small park. Cross the River Lambourn and continue to Church Road, with Shaw House opposite. Turn left, passing St Mary’s Church, then Trinity School. At the mini-roundabout turn left along the pavement for 800m to a crossroads beside the Castle pub, with the car park opposite.
• Architecture in Buckinghamshire: 18 beautiful builds - We often celebrate the views, people and restaurants of Buckinghamshire, but it’s time to appreciate some of the stunning architecture on show…