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Thatcham and Greenham Common

There are currently 5 comments and 3 photos online for this walk.

Thatcham and Greenham Common
Author: clairesharpuk, Published: 06 May 2013 Walk rating : Rating:star1 Thatcham and Greenham Common Walking Guidestar1 Thatcham and Greenham Common Walking Guidestar1 Thatcham and Greenham Common Walking Guidestar1 Thatcham and Greenham Common Walking Guidestar0 Thatcham and Greenham Common Walking Guide
Berkshire, Newbury
Walk Type: River or lakeside
Thatcham and Greenham Common
Length: 6 miles,  Difficulty: boot Thatcham and Greenham Common Walking Guide boot Thatcham and Greenham Common Walking Guide
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A 6 mile circular waterside walk in West Berkshire. The walk starts from the Nature Discovery Centre in Thatcham, heading past the main wildfowl lake before joining the towpath of the Kennet and Avon Canal. After following a stretch of the canal, the route turns south along a country lane to reach Greenham Common and then re-crosses the canal back to the Discovery Centre.

The walk has a couple of steady hills but is mostly level and follows well made paths in the main. The underpass beneath the railway can flood with a few inches of water (ankle height) after heavy rain. There is one (open and low) stile plus a few gates. Cattle are used to graze the common at certain times of the year so take care with dogs. The Discovery Centre at the start of the walk has public toilets and a cafe. Approximate time 2 to 2.5 hours.

The walk starts from the Nature Discovery Centre in Thatcham, West Berkshire. The centre is accessed off Lower Way (about opposite Heron Way) and is marked with a brown tourism sign. Car parking is free. Approximate post code RG19 3FU. If you are coming by train you can alight at Thatcham Station and adjust the walk to start at waypoint 2 (which is walking distance from the station).

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Walk Sections

Start to Kennet and Avon Canal
Start to Kennet and Avon Canal

Start point: 51.4 lat, -1.2741 long
End point: 51.3935 lat, -1.2722 long

From the car park make your way to the Discovery Centre building. Stand facing the building with the car park behind you. Turn right and follow the path alongside the lake (with the lake on the left).

Thatcham Lake is a flooded gravel quarry now a haven for many wetland birds. In the spring custom-built rafts are installed to allow Common Terns to nest. You’re also likely to see Great Crested Grebes, Sand Martins, Coots and Mute Swans.

At the bottom corner of the lake, where the path swings left, fork right alongside a green metal vehicle barrier to reach a junction of tracks. Take the second left track signed as a public footpath. Within 200 yards you will reach a railway crossing.

Cross the railway here with care (the crossing is unmanned and un-signalled so listen carefully for trains) and keep ahead following the obvious path as it swings between reed beds and fishing lakes. At the end of this path pass through a wooden gate and go up the short slope to reach the towpath of the Kennet and Avon Canal.

Kennet and Avon Canal to Swing Bridge
Kennet and Avon Canal to Swing Bridge

Start point: 51.3935 lat, -1.2722 long
End point: 51.3923 lat, -1.2523 long

Turn left along the towpath with the canal running to the right. A few paces in you will pass a lock. Follow the towpath for some distance.

The Kennet and Avon Canal is 87 miles in length and has 105 locks. Overall the waterway follows the River Avon from Bristol to Bath, then the canal provides a link to the River Kennet at Newbury and finally the River Kennet completes the stretch on to Reading. The two river stretches were made navigable in the early 18th century and the canal section was added between 1794 and 1810.

Continue until you reach a swing bridge marked as a bridleway which crosses the canal.

Swing Bridge to Greenham Common
Swing Bridge to Greenham Common

Start point: 51.3923 lat, -1.2523 long
End point: 51.3825 lat, -1.2588 long

Turn right over the swing bridge and keep ahead on the gravel track between hedges. Follow the gravel bridleway for some distance straight ahead. Towards its end you will pass between old brick built cottages. Keep ahead over the concrete bridge across the river.

Follow the tarmac lane ahead then after just a few yards, as the tarmac lane swings left, fork right on the gravel track heading uphill and signed as a bridleway. Follow the track climbing steadily and you will emerge to the T-junction with Bury’s Bank Road. Cross over with care and take the gate opposite to enter Greenham Common.

Greenham Common to Burys Bank Road
Greenham Common to Burys Bank Road

Start point: 51.3825 lat, -1.2588 long
End point: 51.3856 lat, -1.2808 long

Turn immediately right onto the stone path through the edge of the common. Follow this main path for some distance, enjoying the views across to the left.

Greenham Common was a former military airbase. It was a base for the United States Air Force during the Cold War. The Common rose to international fame during the 1980s when the Women’s Peace Camps were formed around the perimeter fence in protest to nuclear cruise missiles being placed on the airbase. In 1982 30,000 women held hands to form a ring around the entire 6 mile perimeter fence. The airbase was closed in 1993 and the common was opened as parkland in 1997.

Some distance in, you will pass an old white flag pole to the right with the control tower visible ahead. After passing the flag pole, take the second path on the right with a small copse of trees and the control tower now over to the left. Follow the path as it swings to the right passing an old fire hydrant on the right and a pond on the left.

At the crossroads of paths turn left heading towards a metal corrugated warehouse. Just in front of the warehouse turn right through a gate and follow this path as it swings right. Fork left onto the narrower path with a shallow gulley on the left. Keep left again at the next fork and follow this narrow grass path between gorse until you reach a gate on the left. Pass through the gate and go down the short slope to reach the road.

Burys Bank Road to Bull's Lock
Burys Bank Road to Bull's Lock

Start point: 51.3856 lat, -1.2808 long
End point: 51.3972 lat, -1.2852 long

Cross over the road (take particular care listening for traffic as you are on a sharp bend) and go straight ahead on the gravel track opposite, signed as a public footpath. Soon you will be following the stone driveway steadily downhill, passing a nature reserve car park on the right. In spring the woodland here has a beautiful blanket of bluebells.

Further down you will pass a golf course on the left. A little distance further you will reach a gate ahead with a stile alongside. Pass over this stile – ignoring the main path swinging away to the right. Pass some properties on the left and straight afterwards you will have views across to the left to Newbury Racecourse.

Follow the path as it swings left alongside the fence and follow the path ahead as it passes under the railway bridge. Follow the tarmac lane and opposite the gates to an industrial park, turn right to cross the canal via a swing bridge. Turn right again to join the towpath on the far side with the canal on the right. You will soon come to a lock – Bull’s Lock.

Bull's Lock to End
Bull's Lock to End

Start point: 51.3972 lat, -1.2852 long
End point: 51.3989 lat, -1.2748 long

Pass by the lock and you will have the canal on the right and the River Kennet on the left. Cross the wooden footbridge ahead across the river and then immediately turn sharp left onto the path alongside the river. Keep right at the fork and follow the path as it passes between reed beds.

This section is part of Thatcham Reed Bed Nature Reserve, a 165 acre site which comprises reed beds, alder woodland, lakes and fens. The habitat is home to the very rare Desmoulin’s whorl snail and the Cetti’s Warbler.

Cross over a footbridge to reach a T-junction and turn right here. Further along cross a metal footbridge and the path finally passes under power lines and emerges to a T-junction with a wide track. Keep left to follow the track running parallel with the power lines.

The track emerges to the junction of paths nearby the lake corner that you crossed earlier. Go ahead past the green vehicle barrier to reach the lakeside path. Turn left and follow the path ahead back to the Discovery Centre and car park where the walk began.

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network Thatcham and Greenham Common Walking Guide Original GPX source file

Text and images for this walk are Copyright © 2013 by the author clairesharpuk and may not be reproduced without permission.


5 responses to "Thatcham and Greenham Common"

Thanks Claire - I did this with my dog yesterday to escape from my wife's tinnitus inducing Aunt during a visit to Thatcham....... The descriptions are all spot on and made the route really easy to follow without the benefit of map, compass etc. The Grid References are also on the money. All in all an easy walk in pleasant surroundings that allow you escape much of the traffic noise prevalent in the area - the areas around the locks had seats so I spent a while at each chatting to the passing boat traffic; managing to eke out my period of AWOL from the Aunt's to almost 4 hours. Thanks again.

By andy612 on 2013-08-14 11:56:57

Hey Claire, I did this with my partner yesterday, it was very enjoyable, thanks! I have always wanted to walk up on Greenham Common to see what it is like and now I'd like to go back and do some more walking up there.The directions were spot on and it was interesting to read the little bits of information you provided about the Common.

By emjayar84 on 2014-06-16 10:34:43

Great walk and very easy to follow. Good variety of things to see.

By mikeadams on 2015-05-28 17:37:52

We really enjoyed this walk, the only bit that really put us off was the sharp bend it was very dangerous!!
Be careful after wet weather as the tunnel under the railway bridge floods and unless you have wellie on your a little stuffed.
My boys helped with a canal boat through the lock😀

By Pob75 on 2015-11-02 07:33:54

Enjoyable walk with a fair bit of variety, My Gps app came up with a mileage closer to 8 than 6. The under railway bridge near the racecourse was flooded above boot height on 13/5/16 acouple of days post heavy storms and caused consternation from wife! I sail and am used to wet feet. I think it likely this could be the case quite regularly so a set of dry footwear to change into post walk might be a sensible precaution if doing it during a wet period.( It is only a few yards though and it may be possible to piggy bag any reluctant walker through!

ADMIN RESPONSE: Thank you Bob, we have added a note to the walk introduction to warn other walkers about the potential for flooding.

By BobAshby on 2016-05-13 18:50:42

The information in this guide has been provided in good faith and is intended only as a guide, not a statement of fact. You are advised to check the accuracy of the information provided and should not use this guide for navigational directions nor should you rely on the accuracy of the weather forecast. You are advised to take appropriate clothing, footwear, equipment and navigational materials with you according to the current and possible weather and nature of the terrain. Always follow the country code and follow any additional warnings or instructions that may be available. Some walks may be very strenuous and you are advised to seek medical advice if you have any doubts as to your capability to complete the walk.

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3 images to "Thatcham and Greenham Common"

2102_0christianpead1426252123 Thatcham and Greenham Common Walking Guide Image by: christianpead
Uploaded: 01 Jan 1970
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2102_0christianpead1426252180 Thatcham and Greenham Common Walking Guide Image by: christianpead
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2102_0christianpead1426252181 Thatcham and Greenham Common Walking Guide Image by: christianpead
Uploaded: 01 Jan 1970
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