Living Landscape Wild Walk One

Enjoy varied wetland wildlife, ancient woods and rare heathland. Starting in Thatcham, this 6-mile circular walk takes in Bowdown Woods nature reserve.

Technical sheet
No. 13160686
A Thatcham walk posted on 13/08/21 by BBOWT. Update : 23/06/22
Calculated time Calculated time: 2h55[?]
Distance Distance : 5.96mi
Vertical gain Vertical gain : 161ft
Vertical drop Vertical drop : 161ft
Highest point Highest point : 400ft
Lowest point Lowest point : 220ft
Easy Difficulty : Easy
Back to starting point Back to starting point : Yes
Walking Walking
Location Location : Thatcham
Starting point Starting point : N 51.40018° / W 1.274364°
Download : -


(D/A) Leaving the Nature Discovery Centre, head south with the lake on your left. At the corner of the lake, head west across the junction of tracks signed Reedbeds. When the track bears left, continue straight ahead along a small path under the electricity wires. Follow the path through the reedbeds, crossing two small streams, until you reach the river and canal.

(1) At the canal towpath, turn right to go over a bridge. Pass Bull’s Lock and cross the canal on the swing bridge. Turn left onto the road and walk under the railway. Keep to the right along a track following the footpath sign until you come to a lake created from a disused gravel pit on the right. Continue on the track up the hill. Warning: After heavy rain, it can flood under the bridge.

(2) Turn into the car park for BBOWT’s Bowdown Woods Nature Reserve on your left. Take the path in the top corner of the car park and follow it up a slope between two banks until you reach a fence on your right. Follow the path along the fence. When you reach a T-junction, turn right on a Tarmac path.

(3) When you reach the car park, walk along the Tarmac drive to Bury’s Bank Road. Cross the road onto Greenham Common. Turn left onto a small path through the gorse, heading for a flagpole. Before going left, you might detour ahead to the old Airfield Control Tower.

(4) Re-join the walk at the flagpole, walking east along the Common on a wide gravel track. After some distance, take the left fork and follow this path as it goes through the trees.

(5) Keep the lakes on your right until you come to a gate on your left. Cross the road and head down the gravel bridleway. Turn left at the metalled track and cross the River Kennet to Chamberhouse Farm. Continue ahead between the hedges to the canal.

(6) Our walk turns left on the towpath, but you might detour right along the towpath to Monkey Marsh lock. Head back along the towpath to the next lock, Widmead. Just after, turn away from the canal through a gate. Cross the railway being extremely careful and walk straight ahead back to the Nature Discovery Centre where our walk ends. (D/A)

Waypoints :
D/A : mi 0 - alt. 240ft - Nature Discovery Centre
1 : mi 0.83 - alt. 233ft - Towpath
2 : mi 1.75 - alt. 361ft - Bowdown Woods Nature Reserve car park
3 : mi 2.44 - alt. 387ft - Bury’s Bank Road
4 : mi 2.85 - alt. 387ft - Flagpole
5 : mi 3.48 - alt. 377ft - Lakes
6 : mi 4.56 - alt. 230ft - Towpath
D/A : mi 5.96 - alt. 240ft - Nature Discovery Centre

Useful Information

Start : Nature Discovery Centre Postcode: RG19 3FU Grid ref: SU 506 660
By bus: There are bus stops on Lower Way near the Centre.
By train: Thatcham railway station is near to this route. Starting there increases the walk by just under one mile.
By car: There is parking at the Nature Discovery Centre, Bowdown Woods and Greenham and Crookham Commons.
By bike: There is a cycle rack at the Nature Discovery Centre.

  • The Nature Discovery Centre is approximately 1 mile from the start of this walk. It is managed by BBOWT on behalf of West Berks Council, has parking, a shop, toilets and café. Visit for opening times.
  • Ordnance Survey Explorer Map 158 1:25,000 scale, covers the area of this walk.

Visorando and this author cannot be held responsible in the case of accidents or problems occuring on this walk.

During the walk or to do/see around

West Berkshire Living Landscape
Living Landscapes are big and bold; they create space for wildlife and people, reconnect isolated habitats and give wildlife room to adapt and thrive.
The West Berkshire Living Landscape is on the edge of Newbury and Thatcham. It covers 27 km2 and is a mosaic of land rich with history and wildlife; a place for people and wildlife to thrive side by side.

Walking past history

  • Excavations near Thatcham Reedbeds uncovered many flint tools from 10,000 years ago: used for cutting vegetables, scraping animal skins, making holes and sawing.
  • In Bowdown Woods the ‘Old Bomb Site’ was used as a wartime munitions site. Bricks left from the demolished buildings provide shelter for reptiles and small mammals.
  • Greenham Common is best known for its turbulent history. The airfield was used by the US Airforce during the ‘Cold War’, attracting anti-nuclear protests. The fences finally came down in 2000. 1.25 million tonnes of concrete and gravel were removed, new pools and slopes were landscaped. Today it’s a ‘common’ place once again and full of very special wildlife.

Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT)
BBOWT relies on the support of our members to help us look after local wildlife. By joining BBOWT you can help to secure the future of special landscapes like Bowdown Woods nature reserve.

Opinions and comments


Global average : 3/5
Number of opinions : 1
Description quality : 4/5
Routemap quality : 1/5
Walk interest : 4/5

Admin hiker
on Mon 24 Jan 2022 09:44:12 CET

Hi Nicola,

Thank you for this feedback. What was the exact issue ? So I can ask our developer to fix the problem.

Kind regards

Delphine - Community Developer

on Mon 24 Jan 2022 09:33:38 CET

Global average : 3 / 5

Date of walk : 23/01/22
Description quality : Good
Easiness to follow the route : Very disappointing
Walk interest : Good

An error occured with the PDF download so had to download Outdoor Active to be able to do the walk.
Walk otherwise good, plenty of birds and horses. Walked through the pretty village of Chieveley. Lovely pub at the end.

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