This month’s dog & horse friendly wander is based at West Ilsley, tucked amongst the rolling landscape of the Berkshire Downs that make up part of the North Wessex Downs area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB).
The village was the original home of the Morland Brewery. John Morland, a local farmer, started brewing his much-sought-after ale here in 1711, though the business eventually moved to Abingdon in 1887 and was bought by Greene King in 2000. Along the Main Street is the old village school, rectory and church. All Saints Church underwent major alterations in the 1870s, though the underlying fabric of the church is much older. Inside there is a fine carved wood Jacobean pulpit along with a rood screen and cross.
The chalk downs with their soft, springy turf, coupled with the free-draining nature of the soil that ensures the ground does not get too ‘heavy’ during the wetter winter months, makes the chalk grassland around West Ilsley ideal horse-training terrain; well-known horse trainers, Mick Channon (West Ilsley Stables) and Denis Coakley (Keeper’s Stables), both train horses in the area.
From the church, the route heads south, offering some views before following a wooded route past Woolvers Borders to join Old Street, an old droving track.
We follow this track north-westwards for three quarters of a mile before heading past Starveall Farm; from up here there are some great views across Old Down to the Chiltern Hills, some 20 miles to the north-east.
The final leg of the walk heads back through West Ilsley, passing the perfectly located Harrow pub that looks out over the village cricket pitch and pond; published in Berkshire and Buckinghamshire Life, November 2018.