Enborne Wood Walk
Hamstead Marshall

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From Hamstead Mill to Enborne Road: nearly 1.5 miles

From Hamstead Mill take the canal towpath eastwards towards Newbury. On your left are the Benham Valence water meadows; on your right is the Craven Fishery. After half a mile you cross Benham sluice, where the river leaves the canal to take a more winding course to the north. Another half-mile brings you to Benham Lock.

Just beyond the lock cross the canal by Benham Bridge, taking a footpath over the water meadows and up into the edge of Enborne Wood. Enborne Wood is mentioned in one of the earliest medieval documents to name the parish. You will pass two cottages on your right: the first is old, a former keeper’s cottage, and the second was built in the early 1880s. Just past this house, the track joins the Enborne Road.

Enborne Road and through the park back to the mill: 1.5 miles

Turn right onto the Enborne Road and walk for about a third of a mile. Opposite twelfth-century Enborne Church (well worth a detour) lies the entrance to Hamstead Park. Although private as far as wheeled traffic is concerned, most of this
driveway is a public footpath. Enter by the stile, and walk for a few hundred yards to a point where the driveway bears right, and there is a crossroads of footpaths (plus a disused stretch of driveway to old white gates on the left). On the left stands a white limestone memorial to the 101st Airborne Regiment of US forces who encamped here in the closing months of World War Two. Further ahead is a much smaller memorial: a little stone inscribed "P 1902 VS", believed to mark the grave of a dog belonging to Victor Schmidt, estate steward in the early years of the twentieth century.

Take the right fork and walk towards the the back of the big house, passing between two stone plinths. A hundred yards or so short of the house the footpath takes off to the right across the grass and down into a dip, skirting the grounds of the house. Rising from the dip, the footpath rejoins a tarmac driveway leading northwards away from the big house. On the right is a spinney used as a working area of estate management, and the Dower House, a large bungalow built by the Cravens in the 1960s. Continue on the surfaced footpath, enjoying a delightful prospect of parkland, with ancient fishponds to the left, and the remains of a medieval castle earthworks to the right (neither is accessible to the general public). Curving left around the lakes, the path crosses a cattle grid and proceeds on to the mill, passing the Craven Fishery on the right.
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Copyright Penelope Stokes
24 September 2009