Hurley House is a beautiful restaurant with rooms located in a quiet village. The 10 stunning…
The history of grand red-brick Hall Place dates back nearly 800 years, to the time when La Halle, the manor house of Hurley (immediately north of here) was built. Throughout the centuries the estate underwent many changes of hands, and the current Georgian pile was built between 1728 and 1735 by William East, a London lawyer who held the lease of the Manor of Kennington. Hall Place remained in the Clayton East family for over 200 years. The final heir, Richard, died in the 1930s. He was a Royal Navy pilot, and he and his young wife Dorothy, also a qualified pilot, were the basis for the tragic young English aristocratic couple in Michael Ondaatje's 1992 novel, The English Patient, which went onto become a hugely successful movie.
In 1948 Hall Place was sold to the Ministry of Agriculture and then acquired by Berkshire County Council. Today the ground floor of the house is a conference and functions venue (popular in summer for weddings), and around it sprawls the campus of Berkshire College of Agriculture (BCA). Its higher education courses include equestrian, animal care and veterinary studies, and its extensive estate is a fascinating place. As you walk through it you will see aviaries (including exotic breeds), kennels and dog training facilities, science laboratories, and fields and paddocks stocked with cattle, goats and rare breeds of sheep and pigs, plus exotic species such as wallabies, rheas and llamas, and rare British wildlife such as Scottish wildcats and red squirrels. The estate is managed for both arable and livestock farming to support the college curriculum.
The landscaped grounds and gardens to the west of the house have an uninterrupted view of fields and woods beyond, and its verdant lawns are bordered by mature trees, several of which were planted in Victorian times. These are lovingly maintained by the college to provide both a natural framework for the grand mansion, and for the enjoyment and interest of students and visitors. The back lawn of the house (enquire at reception to see if access is possible) contains a cock-fighting pit, in the form of an amphitheatre, and an elaborate ten-sided candy-pink beehouse. This was built in 1870, and is the finest surviving example of its kind.
Cross the road opposite The Crown pub, diagonally left into Hall Place Lane, and keep left at the entrance to Lane End House. Continue to a gate and then walk straight ahead, following a grassy path across the field to an avenue of lime trees. Turn left and head along the drive towards Hall Place.
Swing right in front of Hall Place and go past various buildings and car parks. After the General Teaching Building, veer left at the waymarker, with bird aviaries to the right. Continue past more enclosures; to the left are views over fields and paddocks. Emerge from the enclosures to a startling 180-degree vista. To the right and left broad pathways head off across fields, while straight ahead a broad grassy path, divided by an island of trees, plunges down into a dip then ascends to woodland.
Continue ahead, to the right-hand side of the trees. To the right of a galvanized gate, take the kissing gate to enter High Wood. Go straight ahead to a wire fence which provides a spectacular balcony with views north over the Thames Valley. Swing left, following the fence, to reach a kissing gate and waymarker.
Turn left to return through the wood, parallel to the path on which you entered. Leave the wood, heading down the hill. Continue straight ahead through another kissing gate, between the fields of the BCA, towards the tree-clad slopes of Ashley Hill. Continue straight on, into the last field, via a short ascent of steps, and continue along its left-hand edge, passing wooden showjumping ditches. Pass a house and go through a kissing gate to the road.
Turn right and follow the woodland edge. Go straight ahead at the bend, passing the turning to the Dewdrop Inn, hidden away in a hollow in the woods. Continue ahead to the left of a ‘private’ sign, and follow the path to a waymarked junction. Turn sharp left, making a steep ascent through the trees. Pass over a crossing track and keep left at the fork. Ahead is the entrance to Clifton, an isolated house.
Turn left and follow the steep drive down through the woods. As it eventually sweeps to the right, go straight ahead on a paved path which runs to the road. Turn right, and when the road begins to curve to the right look for a footpath branching left through the trees. Go through a kissing gate and skirt a fence and (hidden) stream. Follow the path over a track by a gate and keep ahead towards houses. Walk beside the houses, through a kissing gate, cross the road and look for two paths opposite. Bear left through the wood for a short distance until you come to Furze Cottage on your left. Emerge onto the road opposite Little Stubbings, turn left and The Crown is just around the corner, a few paces to your left.
Field and woodland paths
Mixture of farmland and woodland to west of Maidenhead
Lead required across farmland and on college property
AA Walker's Map 24 The Chilterns
There is no on-street parking on this route, but pub patrons may use the car parks at The Crown, or at the Dewdrop Inn near Point 5 (both are closed on Mondays)
None on route
WALKING IN SAFETY
Read our tips to look after yourself and the environment when following this walk.
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About the area
Berkshire essentially consists of two distinct parts. The western half is predominantly rural, with the Lambourn Downs spilling down to the River Lambourn and the Berkshire Downs to the majestic Thames. The eastern half of Berkshire may be more urban but here, too, there is the opportunity to get out and savour open spaces. Windsor Great Park and Maidenhead Thicket are prime examples. Threading their way through the county are two of the South’s prettiest rivers – the Lambourn and the Pang. Beyond the tranquil tow paths of the Kennet and Avon Canal, Greenham Common’s famous airbase has been transformed to delight walkers of all ages.
Reading and Newbury are the county’s major towns, and the River Kennet flows through them both. Reading is a vibrant, multicultural centre with great shopping and plenty of history. Oscar Wilde was incarcerated in Reading prison in the late 19th century, and wrote The Ballad of Reading Gaol about his experience. Newbury is probably best known for its race course, which opened in 1905, although the first recorded racing at Newbury was a century before that. Famous people born in the county include Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Winlset and Ricky Gervais.
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