Woods near Aldworth

A tale of two churches and a cheese and onion roll, Aldworth, Berkshire

The short grey days of winter do their best to encourage hibernation. Or at least give the kids an excuse to spend all day indoors on technology. Instead I lured them out with the promise of a pub lunch. I may have forgotten to tell them about the walk afterwards but they’re old enough to realise this for themselves now.

Lunch at The Bell Inn, Aldworth

I generally prefer cafes to pubs for lunch (more chance of cake) but I make an exception for the Bell Inn in Aldworth. This tiny traditional freehouse epitomises the classic English village pub; it even has a cricket pitch out back.

The Bell Inn, Aldworth
The Bell Inn, Aldworth

Whenever we visit the pub is packed with locals, walkers and families. As you enter there’s a small serving hatch to place your order for food and drink. A room leads off to one side with several tables and a fireplace but we’ve never managed to get a seat indoors yet.

Instead, after placing our order, we retreated to the pub garden to find a seat. There aren’t many places I’d consider sitting outside in the depths of winter but this is one of them. Fortunately we had a picnic rug in the car so I popped back to get it to cover the wet benches.

Cheese and onion roll, The Bell Inn, Aldworth
Cheese and onion roll, The Bell Inn, Aldworth

The food is simple, cheap and delicious. A choice of soup, rolls or ploughmans; I opted for a cheese and onion roll. The warm buttered roll arrived with a huge chunk of cheese, half an onion and various accompaniments. I don’t drink beer but the pub’s local ale offerings are evidently excellent.

Before leaving I squeezed back through the pub to pop to the Ladies. Compared to the men’s open air option this was luxury, although the plumbing looked circa 1930s.

A circular walk from Aldworth to Ashampstead

I had bought my trusty OS map with me so put together a circular walk of sorts, taking us from Aldworth to the next village, Ashampstead, visiting their renowned churches. The area is wonderful for walking with the Ridgeway and many downland options nearby. We were short on daylight though so only had time to squeeze in a couple of miles.

St Mary’s Church, Aldworth

St Mary’s Church is famous as the home of the Aldworth Giants, nine stone effigies of the De La Beche family. The family were local landowners in the 14th Century and were supposedly all over seven feet tall! Sadly the effigies were damaged during the Civil War so many sport broken limbs.

St Mary's Church, Aldworth
St Mary’s Church, Aldworth

The church is also notable for its thousand year old yew tree. When I mentioned this to the family I was met with howls of despair. A few months earlier we had driven ‘halfway across France’ (so they say) to look at a thousand year old oak tree, which had rather underwhelmed them. The yew tree made even less of an impression than the oak. But at least we hadn’t made a special journey just to see it.

On to Ashampstead

Our onward route to Ashampstead wasn’t the best. It started out well with a muddy wander through the woods. Lots of pheasant feeding stations. Along with pheasants. Always ready to cause a heart attack by unexpectedly flying out of the undergrowth.

Muddy walks in the wood, near Aldworth
Muddy walks in the wood, near Aldworth

The downside was the road walking. There aren’t many direct routes, solely using footpaths, between the two villages so we resorted to using country lanes. These were nice enough and easier walking than mud. But the drivers were making the most of the open road, whizzing by us with little space to spare. Not the relaxing walk I was hoping for.

Telephone box library, Ashampstead
Telephone box library, Ashampstead

It was a relief to walk on footpaths again as we arrived in Ashampstead. Fun to spot this re-purposed telephone box cum library too. I’m glad the village managed to keep hold of it when so many are sold off to private owners.

St Clement’s Church, Ashampstead

I’m not a churchgoer so it’s pretty unusual for me to visit one church, let alone two in one day! But I’d read about the medieval wall paintings at St Clement’s Church and decided a visit was worthwhile. Probably painted by a monk in the 13th Century they were covered up in the 16th Century and only discovered again in the late 1800s when some plaster fell off the wall.

St Clement's church, Ashampstead
St Clement’s church, Ashampstead

Some of the paintings were hard to make out but when you consider they’re more than 700 years old it’s an achievement they’re still there.

I was taken by the wooden bell tower too. I’m sure that when I had an I-Spy Churches book back in the 1970s, a wooden tower would have been worth a few more points than the common stone one!

Walking back to Aldworth
Walking back to Aldworth

With only an hour to go until dusk we didn’t hang around on the way back. Although some of the route was through woods we still had to contend with the roads and I didn’t fancy being caught out on them in decreasing light.

Walking back towards Aldworth we passed Beche Farm, once the site of the De La Beche family castle. Nothing remains these days, the only evidence of its existence being a silver seal which was dug up and donated to Reading museum. Onwards past Aldworth’s second pub, The Four Points. How does a village with only 300 inhabitants support two thriving pubs?

Back into Aldworth and the treat of some chocolate chip shortbread that I’d left in the car for our return. You didn’t really expect me to complete a walk without cake did you?

More info

  • The Bell Inn is closed on Mondays, with the exception of Bank Holidays. Bar food is served at lunchtime and early evening on all other days.
  • I wouldn’t recommend our particular walking route! If you’ve got a day to spare the circular route from Goring along the Ridgeway is good. Alternatively grab the OS map and devise a longer route that avoids the roads where possible.
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22 thoughts on “A tale of two churches and a cheese and onion roll, Aldworth, Berkshire”

  1. Good to know what works well and what doesn’t when choosing a walking route. I do love the telephone box library – well worth the effort!
    And I do this with my family, take them miles out of the way to look at something I’ve heard about – trees included!
    #mondayescapes

  2. I agree about the country lanes – I’ve had a few walks where the road walking has been pretty unpleasant. Such a shame. The pub sounds great though, and unlike your brood I’d have been very impressed to see a 1000 year-old tree! #MondayEscapes

    1. Thanks Nell. Annoyingly the lanes had steep banks so it wasn’t really possible to jump up on them when we heard a car. Made me nervous!

    1. The food is great; the rolls are warm so the butter is melted inside. I’m getting hungry just thinking about them now.

    1. There’s a village near us that has a St George’s Day celebration – a large dragon gets placed in their redundant phonebox!

  3. Ooh I love the phone box library that is so cool, and there is nothing better than a long walk to a country pub. Thanks so much for linking up and have a great 2017 #MondayEscapes xxx

  4. The pheasants and cars sound like they made for an eventful walk, but much of this sounds like a lovely way to spend a winter walk. The pub sounds great too and I love that old phonebox!

    1. There’s obviously a thriving pheasant shooting business in the area so I should have been expecting the birds. But I still jump at them!

  5. This sounds like such a perfect day! I love everything about it, from the pub to the churches, and especially the phone box library! #MondayEscapes

  6. Hi Christine, one thing I do enjoy when back in the UK is a nice pub lunch, but quaint old pubs are hard to come by. I’m not sure I would be brave enough to sit outside, though.

    I’m not a church person either, but St. Mary’s church looks like I imagine English churches should look. I remember visiting a church that Oliver Cromwell and his men had been and defaced and it was quite fascinating to think that he may have stood where I was standing.

    I do love that library, it’s so nice that it hasn’t been vandalised or wrecked. And as for a population of 300 keeping two pubs thriving? I can hear the hiccuping from here.

    xx

    1. The Bell Inn is a pretty rare type of pub in these parts, most of them have had a makeover. I was already mentally prepared to sit outside so it didn’t seem to matter as much, one day I will get a seat inside!

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