This morning I went for a walk to the south of Wokingham, ramble 21 in my booklet 'Rambling for Pleasure in East Berkshire' which I have done several times before. 'Chapel Green and Luckley Path' which will become clearer later. 4.5 miles. It was an opportunity to try and break out of lockdown and a prelude to more walks soon now that National Trust is beginning to reopen its parks and gardens but not their houses or cafes at the moment. And a trial of wearing a face mask prior to them becoming compulsory on public transport next week. It also doubled my venture distance from home since the start of lockdown to a massive 4 miles!
A map of the walk route but in reverse order can be found here.
It would have been quite possible to do this walk by car but there is no convenient free parking in Wokingham town centre so the train was more convenient. I was surprised when I got to my local station to find the ticket office open and my friendly ticket clerk told me that it is now open every day and they even take cash. So armed with a £2.90 ticket to Wokingham I waited for the 9.17 train. As you can see it was a hive of activity at rush hour! I dutifully donned my face mask and apart from my glasses steaming up and getting tangled in my hearing aids when removing there was no problem. But I was conspicuous as being the only one wearing one so I didn't bother coming home. How it will work out next week when they are mandatory remains to be seen. A handful of passengers got on at Bracknell and another handful were waiting when I arrived at Wokingham. Then half a mile or so along the roads out of town to the start of the walk proper.
Turning off the main road the walk started down a narrow lane. This and several other gates had yellow warning tape on them, I wondered why. After half a mile of farm tracks we reach Chapel Green farm and then Lucas Hospital, the only grade 1 listed building in Wokingham, originally an alms house when built in 1667 but now a private dwelling. Lots of its history here.
The walk now enters real woodland in an area of land managed by the forestry commission with pines and other trees. Quite a few others having walks, mainly women, and the occasional cyclist. The route here runs parallel to the Wokingham to Guildford railway line and normally I hear one or two trains but with the reduced service on that line there were none. Eventually we reach Gorrick Cottage, another pleasant little house, spoilt by that tractor outside. I turned off just after here deeper into the forest.
Lovely pine forest of which there is a lot in Berkshire. This takes me to the southern end of the walk and looping back northwards we now turn off onto a much narrower track through the trees. What a lovely place to spend a Tuesday morning.
More forest, passed by a cyclist enjoying the day as well and then I cross a small stream via a wooden bridge just before the path exits from the woods for the final time.
The public footpath now goes right through Gray's Farm, a popular pick your own fruit and veg farm. It was threatened with closure recently for housing development - it is a huge area - but it seems for the moment that has been deferred. Loads of tents with raspberry, blackberry and you name it growing in their masses. It was very tempting to sample the hanging juicy strawberries but I resisted... There were only staff in this area - and it seems they have been working throughout lockdown being a key business - the pick your own area was a much smaller plot further over.
After leaving the fruit farm I passed the entrance to Ludgrove School with a big notice saying the public weren't welcome Both princes William and Harry were schooled there together with all sorts of other big names. Diverted away from this gate the public path now goes along Luckley Path for about a mile. It has existed for over 500 years. So narrow that social distancing was totally impossible as the passing other walkers cheerily commented.
Luckley path crosses the diminutive Emm Brook, a local stream. I had missed this stream every other time I had done this walk, maybe there was a little more water this time. Then across the railway line via a footbridge. There were some workmen working in the electricity substation there dangling a long pole adjacent to the insulators, from their chat it was not clear whether they knew what the were doing. At least social distanced, no.
So that more or less completed the walk, just a short way past the Howard Palmer Gardens (named after the biscuit company) and past Wokingham town hall (closed) up to the station. This walk takes just a little over 2 hours and you are guaranteed just to have missed a train so a 20 minute wait on an almost deserted platform for the train back. Nice morning out, must do more of them.
With the third lockdown beginning to ease and with the restriction to 'stay local' largely being ignored I am branching out again. This is the first walk I did after lockdown 1 and decided to do it again today to see if anything had changed. The trains are still very quiet but signs that they are beginning to recover and I arrived on time around 9.30 at Wokingham station and then walked the half mile or so to the start of the walk proper.
Passing the BP garage I noticed that the postbox had acquired a new top which the label explained was for Berkshire Crocheters and hope that it cheered up my day. On to the walk proper, soon coming to Lucas Hospital which looked as grand as always. Although I have done this walk quite a few times now there are a couple of places where the directions are a bit confusing, as is the case with the short path after the hospital. I ended up turning left instead of right heading too soon towards Ludgrove School, maybe confused by all the signs which they had put up telling me what I could and could not do on their private drive. So a short delay while I got my bearings again. Then I saw a group of strange security posts had appeared, these are normally used to stop cars and caravans being stolen so assume the patch where they were is normally used for this, but they are a long way from any houses so who knows..
So now in the real woodland, much the same as last time and with the occasional stream and pond. The second area where the directions are a little confusing, a not very obvious small path specified as 75m from the last junction, now has acquired its own footpath sign so was not so easy to miss.
The path proceeded through the woodland and eventually out and through Grays Farm. The bridge over the stream has been repaired but still with bare wood so probably only temporarily. Still off season with the pick your own not opening until late April and many of the greenhouses empty. The area seems to have escaped plans for new building at least for now but at least part of it now seems to be under new ownership with Hall Hunter operating from nearby Heathlands Farm.
As I left the farm, past Ludgrove School and along Luckley Path there was a remaining treat in store. I had gathered from the local press that the Red Arrows were going to be flying over Wokingham on their way back from a flight over the RAF Memorial near Runnymede with the Queen in attendance to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Australian airforce. Just as I was crossing the bridge over the railway line they appeared, totally out of the blue and with no time to grab my camera. An excellent view of them all in formation for a few seconds as they turned north for their return to Scampton. A nice end to the morning.