Finchampstead Ridges, Berkshire
Explore one of Berkshire’s beauty spots and take a walk at Finchampstead Ridges, Simon’s Wood, or Ambarrow Hill. Follow the Centenary Trail or explore your own route and see what you might find.
Finchampstead Ridges is a group of small countryside sites nestled in southern Berkshire near to the borders of Hampshire and Surrey. The Ridges itself, with views as far as the Hogsback Ridge in Surrey, is one of the National Trust’s oldest acquisitions, having been in our care for over 100 years.
How to get here
Address: Simon's Wood car park, Wellingtonia Avenue, Finchampstead, Wokingham, Berkshire RG45 6AE
By road: Take the A321 (Lower Wokingham Road) and turn West into the B3348, Wellingtonia Avenue. The car park to Simon's Wood is on the right.
By train: Crowthorne station. On the Reading-bound side of the track, head west onto Duke's Ride. Continue over the roundabout onto Wellingtonia Avenue. Simon's Wood car park is about 0.5 miles on your right.
OS Map: SU83166519
Loved by locals
Finchampstead Ridges was owned by the Walter family, then owners of The Times newspaper. In 1913, following financial difficulties, the estate was broken up; Finchampstead Ridges was purchased thanks to a group of people who raised the money by local subscription and gifted it to the National Trust.
The lands making up Simon's Wood were previously known as the Heath Pool and were acquired by Thomas Coghlan Horsfall, a Manchester philanthropist, after he retired to Wokingham in the 1920s. They were gifted to the National Trust by Mr C G H Simon and Mr R Brooks and were given the name Simon’s Wood at the suggestion of Mrs Joan Rudkin, a very active National Trust supporter who played a leading role in establishing the local supporters group.
Points of interest
Simon's Wood showcases one of the most recognisable features in the local landscape with an avenue of impressive redwood Sequoia trees (also known as Wellingtonia trees), planted in 1863. The course of the very much earlier Roman Road from London to Silchester, believed to be second century and now nicknamed the Devil’s Highway, can still be detected in Simon’s Wood. The intriguing mound at the centre of Ambarrow Hill will drive your imagination crazy wondering what could have caused it - archaeologists have been unable to confirm various theories.
A paradise for wildlife
The sites are home to a significant area of heathland, which is a greatly declining habitat in Europe, but vital for many specialist species. If you walk slowly and quietly on a sunny day you may be lucky enough to spot a common lizard or slow worm basking in the warmth of the sun. Listen out for the songs of birds nesting amongst the heather or perched on the pines, and watch out for the displays of colour provided by the healthy population of butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies. Spout Pond at Finchampstead Ridges and Heath Pond at Simon’s Wood are great spotters’ corners, as well as delightful spots for a lunch stop.
The woodlands are not to be ignored either. Fungi and chestnuts in the autumn provide interest after the spring and summer wildlife has retreated, and the berries on the holly and rowan give the site a festive feel and provide winter bird feed. You could even try building a den from some of the logs and sticks you can find lying around the site.
Looking after Finchampstead
The National Trust ranger and volunteer team work hard all year round to maintain the sites and fight the constant battle against encroachment of silver birch and pine scrub encroachment on the heathland and rhododendron in the woodlands. These invasive species, if not managed, could result in the loss of important natural habitats. Finchampstead's dedicated volunteer team, some 35 people strong, includes members of the local community from all walks of life who give up their time to ensure that Finchampstead Ridges stays special for ever, for everyone - people and wildlife alike.