Cookham wetland and wildlife trail
Follow this leisurely 2.8 mile circular walk south from Cookham Moor along the Strand Water, meeting up with White Brook stream and Widbrook Common before rejoining the Moor.
Please keep dogs on a short lead or under close control around livestock.
Cookham Moor car park
Start at the National Trust Car Park at Cookham Moor. Being wary of traffic, cross the road (B4447) and take the short path up to the Fleet Bridge Turn right, crossing the Fleet Bridge and follow the elevated causeway to its end. Here turn left, following the Green Way West sign, through a wooden pedestrian gate alongside the entrance gate to Chadsworth House.
Just to the west of Cookham High Street, on the floodplain of the River Thames, this low-lying wetland is divided by Strand Water, which is referred to locally as the Fleet. The Moor is used frequently by local people for informal recreation and for organised events. The Fleet Bridge, built in 1929, was a gift to the village by Mrs Balfour Allen as a memorial to her husband Edward. Together with the elevated causeway, the bridge has proved to be invaluable in times of flood. It features in Sir Stanley Spencer’s painting of Cookham Moor and Cookham village.
Follow the sign-posted Green Way path for 20 minutes (1.25 km) through several gates until you meet a gate leading to a crossing path and a narrow footbridge. Here turn right, across the footbridge, and then immediately left following the Green Way West across an open field for 7 minutes (350m).
At the next junction, continue straight ahead on the Green Way West for 1 minute (50m) and then leave the Green Way, turning left onto a footpath signposted as the Maidenhead Boundary Walk. Continue along the path for 10 minutes (500m), until you reach a gate leading to another narrow footbridge across White Brook, leading onto Widbrook Common.
Widbrook Common, which is owned by the National Trust, is an enclosed common of pasture where commoners can graze their cattle from mid-May to mid-November for a seasonal fee which is donated to the Cookham Educational Charity. The White Brook Stream adds diversity to the habitat, and among the many species you may see on the Common include swans, mallards, moorhens, coots and herons and snipe. In summer, willow and sedge warblers, chiffchaffs, yellowhammers, goldfinches and blackcap visit the Common. Dragonflies and damselflies present in summer include Southern and Brown Hawkers, the spectacular Emperor dragonfly and the Banded Agrion. Many species of butterfly can also be seen and in summer months.
Follow the path that runs alongside the hedge on your left (you will pass a wooden seat on your left) for 5 minutes (250m) until you reach a wooden gate. Go through the gate and cross the field. On reaching the corner of the field turn right along the Green Way East, following the field boundary, with Strand Water on your left.
A sluggish stream that drains water from this area into the Thames near Cookham. Here, the stream has been widened, probably for recreational or aesthetic purposes, in association with a house called Ye Strand Castle (now demolished) that once stood on the west bank of the stream end of Strand Lane. All along Strand Water you are likely to see a wide variety of water birds and dragon flies. Artist Stanley Spencer, who lived in Cookham, spoke about the walks he took on the path to Strand Castle as the place ‘where the shepherds seemed to be’ the path and the Castle feature in his pen, pastel and ink work, ‘Study for Joachim Among the Shepherds’ (1912, Tate Gallery).
On reaching a crossing track at a field boundary, continue straight ahead on the Green Way East, with a field on your left and a field boundary on your right. As the field ends, continue along the path between buildings and gardens. You will soon emerge at a road which skirts the southern side of Cookham Moor. If you wish to visit Cookham Village, turn right. Otherwise, turn left, keeping to the right of the entrance to Moor Hall and Conference Centre. Follow the Green Way West across Cookham Moor until you reach the causeway. Turn left on the causeway towards the Fleet Bridge. Just before the bridge, turn right, cross the road and return the car park where you started.
The area around Cookham has been inhabited for thousands of years. By the 8th century there was an Anglo-Saxon abbey in Cookham and it became the center of a power struggle between the Kingdoms of Mercia and Wessex. Later King Alfred made Sashes Island one of his burhs to help defend against Viking invaders. It is recorded in the Domesday Book (1086) as Cocheham, meaning 'cook village' in Old English. The village was listed as containing '32 villagers, 21 cottagers, 4 slaves, 2 mills, 2 fisheries and woodland at 100 pigs’. In The Middle Ages, most of Cookham was owned by Cirencester Abbey and the timber-framed 'Churchgate House' is thought to have been the Abbot's residence when he was in town. The ‘Tarry Stone’, which still to be seen on the boundary wall of the Dower House, marked the extent of the Abbey’s lands. Author, Kenneth Grahame is said to have been inspired by the River Thames at Cookham to write The Wind in the Willows, as he lived at 'The Mount' in Cookham Dean as a child and returned to the village in 1908 to write the book when he retired from his position as secretary of the Bank of England. The English painter, Sir Stanley Spencer was born here in a semi-detached house called Fernley (on the south side of the High Street) and most of his works depict villagers and village life in Cookham.
Cookham Moor car park
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