Through the Lambourn Valley from Bagnor




3 miles (4.8kms)

82ft (25m)
1hr 30min

About the walk

The name Lambourn means 'stream where lambs are washed', and the valley’s historic prosperity has been due in large part to sheep, which you will still see grazing in the fields on this walk. The River Lambourn is a sparkling chalk stream, filtered to a rare clarity and fertility by rock laid down 100 million years ago. Now classified as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, the river appears up and down the valley according to rainfall – unusually in modern times its flow is near-natural, largely unchanged by groundwater abstraction. It has a single perennial tributary, the Winterbourne Stream, which joins it at the unspoiled hamlet of Bagnor, which is intrinsically linked to the river. In fact Bagnor means 'riverbank frequented by badgers' in Anglo-Saxon. You will be lucky to see badgers here now but the village, sustained by watercress beds, the mill, and the Manor Farm until recent times, has hardly changed over the last century.

A converted watermill

The Lambourn is particularly beautiful where it flows through the grounds of the Watermill Theatre in Bagnor; here you might spot kingfishers – a flash of electric blue – or, more likely, herons. The original mill on the site is mentioned in the Domesday Book, but the present incarnation dates back only to the 1820s. It has been used as a fulling mill (for the beating and cleaning of cloth in water), a paper mill, and probably became a corn mill in the 1850s. In the 1960s it was magnificently restored and converted to become a privately owned repertory theatre. It retains many of its original architectural features, including its waterwheel, which may be viewed through a screen on entry to the auditorium.

Despite the fact its stage is small and it can only hold an audience of 220 people, the theatre is acknowledged as one of England’s finest regional playhouses, and is one of only five to have been awarded a National Touring remit by Arts Council England. Many shows produced here transfer to the West End and/or tour throughout the UK or overseas. Successful actors who have begun their careers at the Watermill include Sean Bean, Bill Nighy and David Suchet.

Walk directions

With The Blackbird pub at your back, turn right along the beautifully planted main street, cross the Winterbourne Stream and turn left to pay a visit to the Watermill Theatre. Come out of the theatre, turn left back onto the main road, then fork next left to follow the drive towards the gates of Bagnor Manor. Follow the track as it heads to the right of the house, past a traffic mirror on the left and a bridleway on the right. Go over a stile and continue ahead to another stile.

Do not cross the second stile. Instead swing right and follow a long, straight grassy stretch between tall hedgerows, with the farmland of Bagnor Manor to your left. Eventually the track curves gently to the right by a grove of trees. Just past an overgrown stile and open field on the right, the trail runs through a dense copse. As you emerge from the woodland, turn left at the waymark, and after a few paces cross the concrete bridge over the River Lambourn. Turn right, taking the path by the meadow. Cross a weir and bridge to a kissing gate, continue up a flight of steps and out to the road.

Cross over and follow the byway ahead, to the right of Priddle’s Farm. After a steep start it continues with views left to horse paddocks, then fields and eventually panoramic views. After it bends left, go past the entrance to Woodspeen Farm, past the footpath right to Stockcross Jubilee Wood, and continue to the road on a bend at Rookwood. Swing left at this point to join a byway, following the sunken path as it descends to Snake Lane (muddy when wet). Bear left and walk to the road junction. Cross over and follow the waymarked lane, swinging right to a footbridge when you reach Crossways Cottage.

Follow the pretty but narrow and muddy riverside path. Cross two bridges to a stile and continue between fields and fences to the next stile. The spectacular dovecote on the right belongs to Bagnor Manor. Continue ahead along the drive and turn right, retracing your steps to the centre of Bagnor village.

Additional information

Grassy paths, paved tracks and woodland paths, some road walking; 3 stiles

Woodland, farmland and riverside

Under control near Watermill Theatre and by river near waterfowl

OS Explorer 158 Newbury & Hungerford

Patrons welcome to use car park at The Blackbird pub (or Watermill Theatre)

None on route

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About the area

Discover Berkshire

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.