This month’s walk meanders through fairly level farmland to the west of Reading and visits the interesting villages of Ashampstead and Yattendon; the latter being home to the award winning West Berkshire Brewery.
The village of Ashampstead, mentioned at the time of the Norman Conquest, when William the Conqueror gave the lands to William FitzOsborn, is home to the picturesque late 12th century St Clements Church with its wooden bell turret. However, the real treasure of this little Norman church is to be found inside, where the walls are decorated with fragments of 13th-century medieval wall paintings. Those on the north wall of the nave depict religious scenes from the birth of Christ, whilst on the chancel arch can be seen the remains of the Last Judgement, or Doom, with the figure of Christ and the Apostles and souls being admitted to Heaven (left) or dragged down to Hell (right). The paintings were uncovered in 1895 having been plastered over following the 16th-century Reformation.
Once past the church the walk heads towards Casey Fields Farm Shop before heading south through fields to arrive at Yattendon. Like Ashampstead, Yattendon was mentioned in the Domesday Book when the manor was held by ‘William son of Ansculf’.
Step inside the 15th-century Church of St Peter and St Paul to see a memorial to Sir John Norreys (d.1466), a distinguished soldier in the reign of Elizabeth I and lord of the manor who built the present church; the Norreys family, and their descendants, held the manor of Yattendon until the 19th century. On the north wall of the nave there is a tablet (Latin inscription) commemorating Harriet Molesworth, her son Robert Seymour Bridges (1844-1930) and his wife Monica Waterhouse; Bridges, a doctor by profession, became the Poet Laureate in 1913 and his works include London Snow.
Tucked within the village, to the south of the church, is the award winning West Berkshire Brewery. Originally established in 1995 in a barn beside the Pot Kiln at Frilsham, the brewery, which offers guided tours, is home to the Taproom and Kitchen cafe (www.wbbrew.com). There’s also the Royal Oak and a village shop to tempt you.
From Yattendon the route heads north through fields and woods back to Ashampstead; published in Berkshire Life, October 2018.