The meadows and woodlands of Streatley
Lardon Chase, the Holies and Lough Down are three adjacent National Trust countryside properties located above the village of Streatley and overlooking the Goring Gap. Lardon Chase, and a part of the Holies known as Holies Down, are designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest. Before acquisition by the National Trust, the Holies was used for motorbike scrambling, resulting in considerable damage to the ground. Since they were acquired by the National Trust, the landscape at all three sites have been managed by a mixture of scrub clearance and cattle grazing to encourage the growth of chalk-loving plants. The slopes of all three properties now form one of the largest remaining areas of chalk grassland in the county and support a wide range of wildflowers and rare and endangered butterflies. Please park responsibly, and if the area is busy on your arrival please help us keep everyone safe by coming back another time.
Start at Lardon Chase National Trust car park at SU583806
Leave the car park by the road entrance. Cross the road (B4009) to a footpath taking you into the National Trust woodland called The Holies. Follow the path up a short slope by a hand rail. The path soon widens to become a clear track through the woodland. In late spring look for carpets of bluebells in the adjacent woodlands. The track soon starts to dip towards a gate as it crosses the head of a dry valley to your left called The Coombe. Continue straight ahead through the gate.
Soon the track starts to curve to the left, and on your right, the woodland gives way to open acid grassland with views to the south.
Common Wood is a mixture of mature woodland and acid grassland. The underlying rock is not chalk, but a superficial deposit of sand and gravel laid down 3 million years ago in the Quaternary Period by rivers. The resulting free drainage leads to acid soils, so acid loving plants like gorse and silver birch grow well. On a clear day, you can enjoy views to your right as far as the North Downs.
Continue on the obvious track passing through two gates and ignoring any side paths. At the second gate you will emerge at the top of a broad dry valley. This is the Holies Down Wildlife Conservation Site. Continue to follow the main track down into the valley. After passing through another gate bear right long a short uphill stretch as the track heads for the side of the valley. Follow the track around the curve of the side of valley around to the left.
Part of the Holies known as Holies Down is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest. Before acquisition by the National Trust, Holies Down was used for motorbike scrambling and turf stripping, resulting in considerable damage to the ground. The National Trust rangers have encouraged the natural recolonization of the area by chalk-loving plants. The slopes support a wide range of chalk grassland plants include autumn gentian, blue fleabane, chalk milkwort, clustered bellflower, common rock-rose, common spotted orchid, eyebright, hairy violet, hawkweed oxtongue, horseshoe vetch, kidney vetch, marjoram, pyramidal orchid, purging flax, wild carrot, stemless thistle, wild thyme , squinancywort and yellow-wort. Scattered bands of hawthorn scrub provide shelter for insect life and several butterfly species can be found, including chalkhill blue, marbled white, Adonis blue, grizzled skipper and dingy skipper.
At the foot of the hill, in the far corner of a wood, there is a gate. Go through the gate to follow a permitted footpath running parallel with the main Reading Road (A329). Continue until the path meets the Reading Road.
Taking great care, cross the road and continue in the same direction for 20 metres until you reach a sign-posted footpath on your right. Follow this path between paddocks, hedges and fences until it emerges into Vicarage Lane. Turn left and follow the lane for 150 metres until you reach the High Street in Streatley. Turn right to reach the river bridge where you can enjoy fine views of the River Thames and Goring Lock. If you wish to explore Goring village, continue across the river, otherwise, go straight to step 7.
The Goring Gap between the Chilterns and the North Wessex Downs is acknowledged to be one of the most beautiful stretches of the River Thames. Streatley was mentioned in the Domesday Book, but its history is even older; Neolithic tools have been found at the base of Lough Down, and Bronze Age artefacts have been found in the village. There is also a Roman milestone still present in Streatley, at the Bull crossroads.
Explore the village of Goring and the riverside at your leisure. For a suggested route, continue along the High Street to Manor Road. Here turn right and continue until you reach the junction with Ferry Lane. Turn right again and follow Ferry Lane to its end. Continue in the same direction a footpath until you reach the Thames path. Turn right once more and follow the Thames path until you meet the road bridge. Turn right again, past Goring Mill to reach some steps on your left which take you back up to the bridge. Turn left to cross the River Thames back to Streatley.
Goring is the larger of the twin villages and has a number of shops, pubs and cafes. As well as the village and its 12th Century church, you may wish to explore the attractive river bank. Look out for the Goring Mill building which was once a water-powered corn mill. In the summer of 1893, Oscar Wilde stayed at Ferry House in Goring with Lord Alfred Douglas. There, Wilde began writing his play ‘An Ideal Husband’, which includes a major character named ‘Lord Goring’. The Ferry Cottage was the home in retirement of Sir Arthur Harris, the wartime leader of RAF Bomber Command, from 1953 until his death in 1984.
From the bridge, retrace your steps and continue up Streatley High Street on the southern (left) side. Look out for Streatley Church and Streatley Meadow on your right. Streatley Meadow was purchased by the local community in 2011 and conserved as open space. At the far end of High Street, cross the main road using a traffic-light controlled crossing opposite the Bull Inn, and with great care, follow the narrow Streatley Hill road past the Bull Inn. There is a pavement on the left side of the road after you pass the Inn. Continue up Streatley Hill until you pass the Old School House on your right. At this point, cross the road and follow the track between fences, garages and houses to reach a gate on your left leading into Lardon Chase. Go through the gate and take the steep, grassy path straight up the hill. You will eventually reach the first of two wooden benches at the top. Here you can enjoy a fine view across the Goring Gap and the River Thames, with the twin villages of Streatley on the nearside of the river, and Goring on the far side.
Lardon Chase and Lough Down
Lardon Chase and Lough Down are managed by the National Trust to encourage the growth of a large variety of chalk-loving plants using a combination of scrub clearance and cattle grazing. The diverse flora supports a wide variety of insects including many rare and endangered species of butterfly (See Holies Down at Step 3 for details). Lardon Chase is also an excellent viewpoint over the Goring Gap; a geological feature formed during the Ice Age. Half a million years ago the River Thames flowed on its existing course through Oxfordshire, but then turned northeast to eventually reach the North Sea in East Anglia near Ipswich. During the last Ice Age, an ice sheet blocked the river's exit to the sea, whilst the amounts of meltwater entering the river caused it to pond up into a vast lake. The water eventually cut a new route through the chalk hills at the site of the Goring Gap
To visit the top of Lough Down, follow the hedgerow behind the bench to the left to reach a gate in the corner of the field. Go through the gate to overlook Lough Down with distant views to the north. If visibility is good, you should be able to see the twin wooded hills called the Wittenham Clumps, one of which has an Iron Age hillfort on its summit. When you are ready to continue, return through the gate and turn right. Keeping the hedge on your right, follow the path to the Lardon Chase car park where you began the trail.
Lardon Chase National Trust car park at SU583806
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