Finchampstead Walk Report

On an overcast but thankfully dry morning last Saturday, I was very pleased to be joined by twenty five other walkers for the seventh and penultimate walk in this series for the Blackwater Valley Trust.

We met at the church of St James in Finchampstead. St James’ is an ancient Grade-1 listed Norman Church built on a commanding spot overlooking the Blackwater Valley, a place that people have been worshipping on this site for nearly a thousand years. It has an old Roman earthworks around it and was probably built on a pagan temple. The church has had major developments over many centuries but has been described as a ‘reverse tardis’ as the interior size seems smaller than what would be expected when viewing from outside. I must revisit it on a day when the tower, built 1720, is open to the public.

We set off northwards past The Queen’s Oak (apparently this is the only pub of that name in England) and almost caught up with another walking group at the end of the first field but they turned right while we crossed the Nine Mile Ride to enter California County Park. This is a 100 acre area which was originally a brick pit but then became an amusement park with minature railway, a zoo and even a speedway track for the California Poppies. Now with the Longmoor Bog and Lake it is a SSSI. We saw various wildlife on the pond including little grebe, cormorants and tufted duck. We completed a loop through the park and woodland before heading back south on a scenic route leading upwards to a crossing of the Devil’s Highway where we stopped to admire the view and have refreshments. (Unfortunately it was a bit cloudy but when I returned later to collect the tea kit the sun came out to reveal the distant hills – so just unlucky timing.)

We followed the almost one mile long path to descend to Eversley and then turned left to pick up the Blackwater Valley path beside Fleethill Farm and Fleet Copse. We then turned along Longwater Lane with its interesting Catherine of Aragon plinth, before passing East Court, and a climb back up to the church and manor house.

So a big thank you to everyone who came along, it had been a six mile walk with only a couple of moderate slopes and I hope everyone enjoyed it. As always there seemed a good spirit in the group and I hope to see everyone again next month.

Once again thanks to Hillary for her photographs,

And also thanks to the Friends of St James Church for allowing us to use their car park, any profits from the walk will be donated to the group for help with their aim in maintaining the church.

Walk Leader Paul

About blackwatervalleycountryside

The Blackwater Valley is located on the borders of Hampshire, Surrey and Berkshire and runs for approximately 30km from the source near Aldershot, northwards to Swallowfield. At its confluence it joins the rivers Whitewater and Loddon. The Loddon eventually flows into the River Thames near Reading. Work in the Blackwater Valley is co-ordinated by the Blackwater Valley Countryside Partnership on behalf of the local authorities that border the Valley. Despite being surrounded by urban development the Valley provides an important green corridor for local residents As well as the Blackwater Valley Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a small part of the Basingstoke Canal SSSI, three nature reserves within the Valley catchment and many other areas have been recognised for their ecological importance. The local planning authorities covering the Valley have designated 31 other areas as ‘Wildlife Sites’.
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