I am lucky to live in a part of the country where I can walk out from my home into open countryside in just a few minutes of leaving my house. This is despite living in the busy and crowded south east of England, only thirty miles west of London. I have lived in Bracknell for the last three years and over that time have explored some of the countryside close to where I live. We have rarely met anyone else when we have been out exploring the quiet country footpaths, bridleways and lanes close to home, with the exception of a few people out walking dogs when we have been close to housing. It is amazing how quiet and peaceful it can be once you get just a shot distance away from where people live. As we have explored, I have noticed signs here and there for a Rambler’s Route. Looking this up I found that the route passes by our house, giving the opportunity for a long walk from our doorstep. The route is a 26 mile circular walk around the outskirts of the Bracknell Forest Council area. It seemed a good way to get to explore more of the area close to home so we have taken this on as a challenge. My current levels of fitness mean that 26 miles is too far to walk in a day, so we are splitting the walk into sections. This weekend we started with an 8 mile walk from where we live, close to Easthampstead Park, to St Michael’s Church in the pretty hamlet of Warfield. For us, this will be the first of hopefully two sections to the walk, one shorter section and then a long walk around the rest of the route, back to our home.
Turning out of our front door we soon found ourselves crossing the A329 and the London to Reading trainline over a footbridge, heading up through an industrial estate, before, within twenty minutes walk we were entering Pope’s Meadow, a green flag certified park in Binfield. Pope’s Meadow formed part of the estate of Pope’s Manor, where the poet Alexander Pope lived as a child, after moving from London as there were restrictions at the time over where Catholics were able to live. We had never heard of Alexander Pope, but a google when we got home from our walk filled the gap in our education.
Pope’s Meadow is a tranquil park, with mature trees, a children’s playground and grassland. It was beautiful in the spring sunshine, with leaves beginning to unfurl. In the centre of the park is a large pond, which would make a lovely place to sit next to and relax. We were only just starting our walk, so didn’t pause, but headed out of the park in the bottom corner and onto quiet country lanes, passing some beautiful old houses, pretty gardens filled with spring bulbs and trees full of blossom.
Binfield Place was pointed out in the route directions, a lovely old house, dating back to the 1600s and situated just across the road from the library that we frequently use. Despite this, neither of us had ever noticed it before, as it is set back from the road. I love the way that you notice more when you slow down to walking pace and pay more attention to what you are passing.
From here we headed along country lanes, passing a municipal looking pond, edged with red bricks upon which a grey heron perched, scanning the water for a snack. As we strode on along the lane the heron alighted and circled above our heads before floating off over the fields on the other side of the lane.
Before long we had left the lanes behind to follow field margins, alongside fragrant hedges blooming with foamy white blackthorn blossom, buzzing with bees and other insects. We followed butterflies, commas, peacocks and small tortoiseshell as the glided and fluttered along the warm sunlit path. The first really warm days of the year are such a pleasure, colours popping on the bright green grass, spring flowers and new leaves as winter finally yields its grasp and life bursts forth.
The blue of the sky was filled with airplane trails and interesting clouds had formed, a perfect double helix hovered over the horizon and flat pancake clouds, white with a darker edge, like UFOs hovering above us.
We climbed gently, with wide views to our left, across the fields, down to central Bracknell below us. It felt like we were a long way from the hustle and bustle of the town and the busy roads. We left the fields onto another country lane, dropping us downhill and onto a lane, with bluebells blooming in the strip of woodland alongside. This led us next to and archery range, with a lone archer shooting arrows into the centre of a target and the football ground for local side Binfield FC, quiet this afternoon, with just a few young boys kicking a ball around.
Following country lanes again, we were directed to turn at the sign for the Bracknell Sewage Treatment Works. This didn’t sound like it would be the most picturesque part of the walk, but in actual fact the sewage works were for the most part shielded from view behind a hedge, and the lane turned into a tree lined bridleway with ancient woodland bursting with celandines, dog’s mercury and fresh spring leaves to one side of the path. Butterflies accompanied us again, and we spotted our first orange tip of the year, as well as small whites. Ahead of us a young woman led her pony for a gentle stroll, the white of the horse and the girl’s bright pink clothing contrasting pleasantly with the green of the trees in the gentle diffuse light beneath the tunnel of trees. As we reached the end of the lane we passed them coming back the other way as we continued on.
Passing cottages on a further section of lane a rabbit sat, stock still in the shade under a low tree limb, in a small orchard. Moving closer to check whether the rabbit was real or a small statue, I startled the creature and it bolted, quickly disappearing into a hedge. Behind it, another rabbit also fled, the fox who had been closely stalking it, slinking away hungry in the opposite direction.
At the end of the lane, a pub, The Shepherd’s House, and its welcoming beer garden, lay waiting. We stopped for a refreshing drink. At the bar, Longdog Brewery’s Bunny Chaser was on tap, an apt choice after the natural drama we had just seen unfold. After a swift half, we were back on our way, not far to go before journey’s end. Carefully crossing the busy A3095 we headed up the lane opposite, before turning onto concrete field paths, with views across the hedges and fields to the church we were heading for.
After passing a field with detailed signs on the gate explaining about the oil seed rape that was being grown and about the measures that the company farming were taking to support wildlife and farmland birds, we skirted the edges of some large field, and finally walked along the edge of the well kept graveyard to emerge opposite the church. We’d covered just a little under 8 miles since leaving home and the calm, peaceful surroundings, the steady exercise and the fresh air left me feeling very calm, contented and relaxed. I’m looking forward to the next stage of the Rambler’s Route. Walking close to home has given me a better appreciation of the beautiful countryside around us and I’m intrigued to see what other new places we will notice as we continue our circumnavigation.