Maidenhead Commons trail
Follow this moderate 6.9 mile circular walk south from Pinkneys Drive through to Pinkneys Green and Winter Hill Road Woods before stopping at the Brick and Tile Works and the beautiful mixed woodland of Maidenhead Thicket, which was once one of the most dangerous places in England for travellers as it was a hot-bed for highwaymen.
Please keep dogs on a short lead or under close control around livestock.
Pinkneys Drive car park
From the car park, head towards the entrance, turning left onto a wide track just before you reach the road. Follow the track through the woodland for 300m ignoring all crossing paths. As you emerge from the woodland onto a meadow, continue straight ahead towards the left end of a line of birch trees that run along the edge of a lane. Cross the lane following the path ahead of you towards a gap in the left corner of the small area of common. Continue, straight ahead on a wide path between the trees until you reach Lee Lane, with Sweeps Cottage to your left. Cross the lane onto Pinkneys Green and walk for 750m towards the far left-hand corner of the Green.
Pinkneys Green derives its name from the Norman Knight, Ghilo de Pinkney, who was granted lands in the Maidenhead area as reward for supporting William the Conqueror. Along with other areas of common land in the Cookham and Maidenhead area, Pinkneys Green was originally part of the Royal Manor of Cookham, but they were sold off by the Crown in 1818 and passed into private ownership. In the 1920s, for fear that the common land would be enclosed or developed, the Maidenhead and Cookham Commons Conservation Committee was establish, which raised £2800 to buy the land, which was donated to the National Trust in 1934. Today, Pinkneys Green consists largely of grassland, which is managed by local ‘commoner’ farmers as a hay crop for livestock; although some mature trees and areas of thicket provide valuable refuges for wildlife. The grasses in these open, unfenced meadows are left to grow tall all summer long so you’ll find a wealth of wild flowers.
2. Pass through a gap by a footpath sign onto a drive. Follow the drive to the main road (A308 Furze Platt Road). You will see the Arbour Public House to your right and the Golden Ball Public House to your left. Cross the busy road when it is safe to do so and head half left towards the red telephone box near the entrance to Golden Ball Lane.
Here turn right, following the Chiltern Way Berkshire loop signpost. This will take you along a gravel drive that passes to the left of a large white house named Fairwinds. Where the gravel drive enters a property, keep straight ahead, passing between some wooden rails. Here fork left, entering the western half of Winter Hill Road Woods and following the woodland path north.
Winter Hill Road Woods
The transition from species-poor plantation towards that of diverse coppice and semi-natural woodland began with the removal of larch from the site. Larch is not a native tree to Britain and as a result, it supports fewer species of British wildlife compared to our native trees. Larch is also a carrier of the fungus Phytophthora ramorum also known as sudden oak death. Aside from removal of larch from the site the National Trust has also been freeing the larger, open grown oaks from competition via a process called ‘halo releasing’ whilst also undergoing a program of ‘veteranisation’ on many of the younger plantation oak trees in an effort to creat a more varied and diverse woodland. Aside from management of canopy trees efforts have been taken to revert much of the understorey of Winter Hill Road Woods back to Hazel coppice. Coppicing mimics the natural processes that occur after a large mature tree falls, allowing light to reach the woodland floor and the opportunity of other species to thrive.
Cross Winter Hill road when it is safe to do so and head half right into the eastern half of Winter Hill Road Woods. Carry on heading south through coppice and old plantation woodland taking a left through the first kissing gate and a right turn after the second. Walk along the field margin until you reach Malders Lane, then take a right keeping an eye out for the National Trust sign indicating the entrance to the old Brick and Tile Works Nature Reserve. Exploring the Nature Reserve is highly recommended, following the clearly marked paths will add about ½ mile (800 meters) to your walk.
The Brick & Tile Works
The Brick and Tile Works, was established by Charles Cooper in the early 1800s, exploiting a local deposit of Reading Clay. At its peak, the Works employed about 150 people, and cottages were built in Golden Ball Lane for the skilled craftsmen. In 1950, the Cooper family sold the Works to the Maidenhead Brick and Tile Company, and the site eventually closed in 1967. In addition to bricks and tiles, the works produced gargoyles and pinnacles, many of which can be seen in the locality today. The National Trust acquired the site in 1989. The industrial activity left a legacy of lowland ponds, inhabited by an impressive range of aquatic invertebrate fauna, including several species of dragonfly. There are also three species of newt and a wide range of woodland birds and other aquatic or semi-aquatic plants and animals.
On returning to the Nature Reserve’s entrance gate, turn right down Malders Lane. On reaching Hindhays Farm, turn right to cross the concrete yard and walk through the wooden gate ahead to the grassy path ahead. Despite the limited height of the land here, on a clear day, you will see Cliveden House, Taplow Court, Winsor Castle and the spire of Maidenhead Church on the distant panoramic horizon. Continue in the same direction until you reach another gate in the corner of the field by some farm buildings. Go through the gate following a path that soon meets a gravel drive. Follow the drive straight ahead and to the left around a right-angle bend. Continue along the drive until you reach the main road once more. Cross the busy road with care, and then turn right, following the footpath that cuts the corner into Pinkneys Drive. Where the path meets the road again, cross Pinkneys Drive. You are now on Pinkneys Green once more. Turn half left, following a path to the right of a large tree and towards the corner of a thicket to reach the edge of a cricket field.
Keeping the cricket field and the pavilion on your left, go straight ahead to the next thicket. Skirt around the thicket towards your left, then head straight across an area of grass towards a hedge. Keeping the hedge on your left and another small thicket on your right, continue until you reach Lee Lane at the corner of the common. Cross the road and turn left on Lee Lane, past the Pinkney Arms until the road curves right. Here, cross the road to join an obvious footpath that diagonally crosses a triangle of grass meadow. Continue along the path, through a small area of woodland for 2 minutes (100 metres) until you meet Camley Park Drive. Cross this lane to the footpath opposite. Take the left-hand path, following the left-hand edge of Pinkneys Common, ignoring all other paths. Follow the edge of the common for 17 Minutes (850 metres). Where the Common tapers to a point, go through a gap in the hedge to meet the A4, Bath Road.
Taking great care, cross the busy main road to the left of the mini roundabout, using the traffic island, and continue along the pavement ahead. After about 2 minutes (90 metres), branch left along a path through a wooded area that runs parallel to the road. On reaching Atwood Road, cross the road opposite a shop and post box, and turn right along the pavement, following it to the left beneath the A404 underpass. On the other side of the underpass, and just past the mini-roundabout, turn right to cross over the road, following the signs to Claire’s Court School along the lane opposite.
Maidenhead Thicket along with the common land at Pinkneys Green is now owned by the National Trust. The Thicket was formerly open common land and wood pasture used mainly for the common grazing. The Thicket has now developed into scrub and secondary woodland with a few herb rich grassland glades. A network of rides and paths provide access for local users. The Thicket is particularly attractive in the early spring with its carpets of snowdrops, primroses and other spring flowers.
Just before you reach a car park, turn left and take the middle of the three footpaths ahead of you, heading into the wooded area of Maidenhead Thicket. Follow the path through the woodland for just over 16 minutes (800 metres). When you reach Cherry Garden Lane, turn right, then immediately left, keeping a large white house on your left. Follow this lane a short distance to reach the A4 Bath Road. The Shire Horse Public House will be on your left.
The Highwaymen of Maidenhead Thicket
As early as 1255, Henry III ordered the area around the London to Bath road to be cut back, as it was notorious for highwaymen. However, the problem reached a peak following the execution of Charles I in 1649, which left a growing numbers of desperate Royalists on the run and a number of them became highwaymen. Maidenhead was a busy coaching stop and the Bath Road, between Maidenhead and Reading, was one of the busiest roads in the country; in it had good cover with many escape routes through the Thicket. Highwaymen flourished here until the early 1800s. By far the best known highwayman was Dick Turpin. It is said that the Dew Drop Inn at Burchett’s Green was in his usual stamping ground. This pub had an underground room where Turpin would hide his horse, Black Bess, when in need of shelter after an escapade on Maidenhead Thicket.
Taking great care, cross Bath Road again and follow the path straight ahead into the woodland. Continue straight ahead, look out for two joining paths on the right. The first is signposted, the second is not. At the second path, do not turn left but take a less obvious path opposite (to your right) between two closely spaced trees. After 30 metres you will reach the site of a Bronze Age bowl barrow.
Bronze age bowl barrow
The bowl barrow in Maidenhead Thicket is a burial place dating from sometime between the Late Neolithic and the Late Bronze Age, between 2400-1500 BC. It is a single or possibly a multiple grave. Despite some disturbance to the surface of the mound, this bowl barrow survives in reasonable good condition, standing 24.5 metres across and about 0.8 metres high. Surrounding the central mound is a ditch, from which the material for the mound would have been quarried. The ditch has become infilled over time making it a less obvious feature.
Having visited the site of the Bowl Barrow, retrace your steps to the main path and turn right. After about 100 metres you will see a clear Y-junction in the path ahead. Take the right hand fork, taking another right across a small ditch and furrow, keeping an eye out for tagged elm trees that have been planted by Butterfly Conservation as part of their Disease Resistant Elm Tree project. Follow the path for almost 4 minutes (250 metres) until you reach a wide open woodland glade.
Butterfly Trail and Disease Resistant Elm project
The National Trust has recently established a butterfly trail throughout the woodland rides and clearings of Maidenhead Thicket where many common species can be seen, such as the large white, brimstone, silver-washed fritillary, speckled wood, red admiral, comma and small tortoiseshell. In recent years the National Trust has been working alongside Butterfly Conservation to plant elm trees that are resistant to Dutch elm disease in order to encourage the White-letter Hairstreak butterfly whose caterpillars feed on elm. In addition to butterflies, little grassland pockets through the woods have allowed common spotted orchids and other wildflowers to flourish, bringing flecks of bright colour to the glades. Amongst the younger woods are dotted many ancient and veteran trees, some up to 400 years old, where you may see many different fungi, insects and birds.
From here you will have reached a cross roads where you will need to take the left fork; following straight or taking the right fork will lead you to the site of the old larch plantation, which is in the process of being converted to Native Woodland and managed glades. After exploring the old larch plantation retrace your step back to the cross roads and continue north past the bench following the track and managed ride, taking the next left fork into a grassy clearing which is Robin Hood’s Arbour.
Robin Hood's Arbour
There are no known connections linking the legend of the outlaw, Robin Hood with Robin Hood’s Arbour. Indeed Robin Hood’s Arbour dates from much earlier times. The feature is an Iron Age rectilinear enclosure which is thought to have been a farmstead. An archaeological excavation in 1890 revealed ‘samian ware’, a type of Roman pottery produced mainly in Gaul. Further excavations in 1960 recovered some Iron Age pottery and some wattle marked daub. Other finds comprised flint implements including a Palaeolithic hand axe. These finds can be seen in the Reading Museum.
Cross Robin Hood’s Arbour diagonally until you reach a clear track with an avenue of trees, and turn left along the wide track towards a small house at the end of the avenue. This is the Lodge, a gatehouse for Stubbing’s House. About 150m before you reach the Lodge, turn right into a footpath. Follow the path until you reach a four-way signpost and take the path opposite and to the left indicated as the Maidenhead Boundary Walk. The path descends to a lane. Walk beneath the A404 under the bridge and ascend the path on the other side. Continue along the path to reach a road. Cross the road and continue along the broad grassy ride ahead. After just over 2 minutes (100 metres) turn right on a path. At the next junction, fork left to return to the car park where you started the walk.
Pinkneys Drive car park
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