A long walk with some uphill sections. Reformation – Hook End – Wyfold Court – Wyfold – Reformation.
Calculated time is computed with the distance, the height difference, and an average speed of 2.2 mph. For an intermediate walker, this time includes small breaks.
(D/A) With your back to the front of the Reformation Pub turn left along Horsepond Road and after 100m take the first left into The Hamlet. After about 100m where the road bears left, turn right and enter the woods through a hole in the hedge.
(1) Here you will see three paths – take the left hand path and walk on up the hill through the mixed woodland. After about 600m the path turns sharp left through a gap in the fence (see white arrow on tree) and continues close to the top of a field until you reach Kate’s Cottage. Close by Kate’s Cottage is the site of the gallows tree that gave Gallowstree Common its name. A few metres North of Kate’s Cottage are the well preserved remains of an Iron Age hill fort.
(2) Turn right and walk along the road past Kate’s Cottage for about 600m then turn left at the bridleway sign and follow the bridleway along the edge of the woods in a south westerly direction for about 1km.
(3) When you reach a lane (Park Lane) cross to the bridleway opposite and continue through the fields. After roughly 600m you will walk between two houses and just after this turn right past a small garden pond on to another bridleway. Continue up the slope for 500m to Hook End. As you approach Hook End Manor the path turns sharply to the right and passes through a delightful tunnel of laurel trees to emerge at Park Lane in front of Hook End Farm.
(4) When you reach Park Lane, turn left and walk along the road for roughly 400m past Hook End Manor. After passing Lower Farm and The Old Barn House take a right turn onto a bridleway and continue along this path through fields and then beech woods for about 600m when you should see some houses in the woods. Just before you reach the houses turn right at the junction of paths and walk on along this path keeping to the left at a junction, then past Beech Wood Farm, which is of course surrounded by Scots Pine trees. Carry on for about 600m crossing a minor path on the way (white arrow straight on).
(5) The path takes a sudden turn to the left and runs along a plantation of magnificent Douglas fir trees. Keep to the right where the path bends and after 200m this path joins a track – turn right and after a further 200m the path reaches a minor road (between Stoke Row and Gallowstree Common).
(6) Turn left towards Stoke Row, and then almost immediately turn right onto a small signposted path (to Stoke Row) leading up a steep hill with Scots pine and Fir trees to the right and mixed woodland to the left. Near the top of the hill you pass through a kissing gate leading into the Wyfold Court Estate. The path becomes rather indistinct at this point, due to forestry operations, but follow the white arrows on trees.
(7) After about 100m take a sharp right turn up to the top of the hill, where you should see the main road running through the estate. Cross the road, turning to the right with the stables on the left, then bear left on to a path and follow the arrows through the woods. Continue along the path for about 200m then turn left where another path joins from the right. Continue along the path for a further 400m and as houses become visible you will come to a bridleway. Turn right along the bridleway until it re-joins the main road running through the estate. At this point, you will see Wyfold Court to the right, one of the few places from which it can be seen from a public right of way. The house has been converted into upmarket flats, but it retains its elegant exterior. After viewing the house, turn left onto the main drive and continue past the turning for Hazel Grove until you soon reach a bridleway. Turn left on the bridleway towards Kingwood. Continue to the last house on the left and the path bends right passing between stout wooden posts, then after a short walk you will reach the main road between Stoke Row and Sonning Common
(8) Turn right and walk along the road with care. After about 70m note a left turn with a post box and a house that was once The Grouse and Claret public house. Keep on the main road for a further 30metres. There is a footpath signpost (to Gallowstree Common) on the right which you must take. It’s easy to miss this turn. The path starts off to the left along the track of an overhead power line then forks to the right – this is halfway between the first two wooden supports for the power line and marked by a small post and yellow arrow. You can see the power line from the path for most of the way but it gradually diverges. After 400m cross the main drive from Wyfold Court bearing slightly to the right and straight on through the woods for a further 100m to a kissing gate. Walk across the fields of Kingwood Farm towards Wyfold keeping the boundary hedge on the right. The hamlet is accessed through a kissing gate and on along a short road, which leads to a public road. Cross the road and continue past Wyfold Grange, which must be the site of an early medieval fortified house, as it still has the bank and ditch defences clearly visible (from the public road). Walk slightly downhill through the field for about 400m, at the field boundary follow the path into a magical tunnel of laurel, it’s very easy to miss this entrance but it is marked by a partially obscured waymark post.
(9) After another 400m pass by a wooden gate and enter the woods of New Copse, then after a short distance go through a gap in a wooden fence and continue straight on in a southerly direction (ignoring another path that forks off to the left – North East). Carry straight on and across another path and after 600m the path arrives at the exit to The Hamlet.
(1) Turn right and enjoy the many interesting styles of houses – old and new. The Haystacks is particularly interesting, with an odd shape and thatched roof. At the end of The Hamlet turn left on the main road to reach The Reformation after 200m for a well deserved pint. (D/A)
D/A : mi 0 - alt. 335ft - The Reformation
1 : mi 0.13 - alt. 338ft - Woods
2 : mi 0.75 - alt. 410ft - Kate’s Cottage
3 : mi 1.67 - alt. 400ft - Park Lane
4 : mi 2.44 - alt. 486ft - Park Lane
5 : mi 3.13 - alt. 535ft - Sudden turn
6 : mi 3.54 - alt. 446ft - Busgrove Lane
7 : mi 4.11 - alt. 545ft - Sharp right turn
8 : mi 4.77 - alt. 440ft - Main road
9 : mi 5.61 - alt. 358ft - New Copse
D/A : mi 6.58 - alt. 335ft - The Reformation
Visorando and this author cannot be held responsible in the case of accidents or problems occuring on this walk.
The gallows tree which gave Gallowstree Common its name was a solitary oak standing apart from woodland. It is said that the last hanging, for sheep stealing, occurred in 1825. The stump was removed at the time of the Enclosure Acts but for some time the gibbet and chains were left on a post nearby.
Wyfold Castle is a plateau fort of an irregular oval shape covering some 5 acres. Access to the site is just north from Kate’s Cottage but you will need to negotiate a holly thicket. The earthwork remains are probably half as deep and the ramparts half as high as they were when in use, but they are still impressive. The ramparts are partly damaged on the SE side but are in the best condition on the West. The remains of the causeway entrance are on the SW side. The northern part of the fort is heavily overgrown, probably due to existence of the spring.
Many famous rock stars have lived and worked here at Hook End Manor including Dave Gilmour of Pink Floyd and more recently Trevor Horn. It is considered by some in the business as probably England’s most luxurious recording studio.
Wyfold Court a Grade II* listed mansion in the French
Gothic style built between 1872 and 1878 by the architect,
George Somers Clarke, for Edward Hermon, a wealthy
Lancastrian cotton master, MP for Preston and a lavish patron
of contemporary artists. George Somers Clarke was a pupil of Sir
Charles Barry who is best known for his design of the Palace of
Westminster. Later the mansion became Borocourt Hospital, but
more recently has been converted to luxury private apartments.
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