Places to Visit in Berkshire
Beacon Hill near Newbury
One of the best known hill forts in England. It was once the site of the most famous beacon in Hampshire, though in fact the Beacon at Burghclere was called the Berkshire Beacon. The firing of beacons kept on prominent hill tops was for many years an integral part of the defense system of this country and the last chain of beacons were lit on 2 June 1977 to commemorate the Queen's Silver Jubilee.
The hill fort which forms the entrance on the top of the hill has never been systematically excavated, but the land and ditch are sharply defined and well preserved. The entrance, at the south-east, is carefully defended by in-curving banks and guard houses outside. Inside the bank there are a number of hut sites and storage pits, scattered about the enclosure. Within the fortifications, is the grave of the fifth Earl of Carnarvon who played a prominent part in the expedition to the Nile Valley of the Kings which led to the discovery of Tutankhamen's Tomb in 1922.
An historic event of a different era is recalled by a memorial stone situated in the Seven Barrows field to the south of Beacon Hill. The inscription on the stone recalls that it was here that Sir Geoffrey de Haviland (1882-1965), pioneer aviator, aeroplane designer, and founder of the aircraft company which bore his name, made his first successful flight on 10 September 1910. Beacon Hill is a landmark for miles around, and can be seen from all over Hampshire, even from Butser on a fine clear day. All around are other hill forts, and there are views of Bury Hill, Quarley, Danebury, and Old Winchester Hill. Views from atop the hill include Highclere Castle the family home of the Carnarvons
The site can be reached by car along the main Winchester-Newbury road (A34). Access to the top of the hill can only be gained on foot by a steep climb from the car park. A newly constructed step way runs up the middle of a hawthorn/blackthorn corridor providing some protection from the elements in the winter and a break from the sun in the summer.
Before the construction of this walkway the hill could only be climbed via a steep grassed slope. This slope was extremely eroded due to the foot pressure and during wet weather became virtually impassable. It was in part due to the inability of the slope to cope with this pressure that the stepped walkway was created.
Although unsurfaced and equally as muddy as the slopes used to be, the going has been made easier due to the levelling of the soil behind the revetment type steps. It is recommended after or during wet weather that good walking boots be worn to cope with the conditions. Now free from the constant pressure, which they previously bore, the slopes of beacon are now recovering their grass and herb cover.
The Ladywell near Speen
Holy Well or Sacred Spring in Berkshire
In the village of Speen, take the grass path downhill beside the house called Ladywell. A few yards down is a further path to the right, behind a bench seat. The well is sited at the end of this short path.
Speen is an old village and the grass track was a road between the crossings of the Rivers Lambourn and Kennet. A local tradition has it that the waters of the well can cure eye diseases.
Map Ref: SU454679
Highclere Castle - Newbury
Highclere is an area that is believed to have been inhabited since prehistoric times and there is evidence of this both here in Highclere Park and in nearby Seven Barrows. The Castle itself stands on the site of an earlier house that, in turn, was built on the foundations of the medieval palace of the Bishops of Winchester who owned this estate from the 8th century.
William of Wykeham (Bishop of Winchester 1367-1404) stayed here frequently on his journeys between Winchester Cathedral and the two educational establishments he founded: New College Oxford (1379) and Winchester College (1394).
In the mid 16th century Highclere passed from the clergy into secular hands. It was purchased in 1679 by Sir Robert Sawyer. He bequeathed the house and estate to his daughter in 1692. Her marriage to the 8th Earl of Pembroke brought Highclere to the Herbert family, ancestors of the Earls of Carnarvon.
Opening times: The Castle and gardens open at 11.00am and close at 4.00pm. Last admission to the Castle is at 3.00pm.
As the House may be subject to closure at other times, please call 01635 253210 or our 24 hour information line 01635 253204 before traveling.
Tel: 01635 253210 Visitor Information Line: 01635 253204
Highclere is now only 10 minutes
from the M4 on the Newbury Bypass
From M4 Junction 13 turn off A34 at Tothill Services exit (Brown Sign for Highclere Castle & Stud at this exit)
Walbury Hillfort near Combe
The highest chalk hill in Britain is capped by Walbury Hillfort, the largest one in Berkshire. It encloses 33 hectares, is trapezoidal with a single bank and ditch and it has two entrances. Incredible views. Car park adjacent and reached by minor roads from Inkpen to Combe Hill.
Map Ref: SU374617
Bapsey Pond near Taplow
Sacred Spring in Berkshire. Bapsey Pond is located in the grounds of Taplow Court, just downhill from Taplow Mound. It is fed from a sacred spring probably located near the site of the old brew house, which was to the north of the House.
The spring and the channel to the pond were culverted over in the early 19th century. The pond was apparently used by St. Birinius for baptisms about 642 AD, hence its name.
Map Ref: SU90582
St. Andrew's Well near Bradwell
Hope's "Legendary Lore" states that St. Andrew's Well is a few miles from Bradfield, but in fact in is only a few hundred yards from the Church of St. Andrew.
Taking the road northwest from the village, towards Upper Basildon, cross the River Pang and turn left on to the riverside path just past the bridge. A few hundred yards along the path, and to the north west of the church was a capped well, fenced around and in a field bounded by barbed wire. Fortunately it was close enough for photography; attended by a tree, despite the wind and rain it still retains a presence.
Map Ref: SU602726
St. Anne's Well Caversham
Holy Well in Berkshire
Caversham is an ancient settlement, and a shrine existed here beside the River at the time of the arrival of the Normans. Later, a chapel dedicated to St. Anne was situated on the Caversham side of the first bridge here across the Thames. It is to be found, appropriately, on Priest Hill just next to the junction with St. Anne’s Road.
Map Ref: SU712750