This week sees the 25th anniversary of the opening of the Lambourn Valley Way. The twenty-mile walk follows a route taking in some of Berkshire’s most picturesque scenery.
Connecting the ancient Ridgeway with the Kennet valley, the Lambourn Valley Way runs across the Berkshire Downs from near the Uffington White Horse to Newbury, along the valley of the river Lambourn. The route passes through the villages of Lambourn, East Garston, Great Shefford and Boxford.
The Lambourn Valley Way, a collaborative project between Berkshire County Council and the Ramblers Association, was officially opened on Saturday 11 July 1992, by the well-known actor Sir Michael Hordern, at a ceremony at Lambourn Sports Club. Sir Michael, who lived at Bagnor, was a Shakespearean actor of world reknown, appearing in over 100 films throughout his long career. One of his best remembered roles was as the voice of Paddington Bear in the popular 1970s television series based on Newbury-born Michael Bond’s books.
The Ramblers Association, now known as Ramblers, was formed in 1935, from the National Council of Ramblers’ Federations. Walking in the countryside, or rambling, became a popular form of recreation in the nineteenth century. For those living in towns and cities, walking offered welcome relief from a polluted environment and the stresses of daily life. The Enclosure movement was an attempt by private landowners to restrict access to their land. In response, many walking clubs and groups were set up to campaign for walkers’ rights to access the countryside, and in 1931, six regional federations joined together to form the National Council of Ramblers Federations, a body that could advocate on behalf of walkers at a national level. The following year, 400 walkers took part in the landmark Kinder Scout trespass, in what is now part of the Peak District. Landowners had sent their gamekeepers to keep the walkers away, and violent clashes and subsequent arrests and imprisonment of ramblers ensued. This swayed public opinion in favour of the trespassers and began an access movement eventually leading to the development of National Parks and long distance footpaths. A further major development came with the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, granting unrestricted access to 10,000 square kilometres of countryside in England and Wales.
The local branch of Ramblers, West Berkshire Ramblers, celebrated their 50th anniversary earlier this year. The group organises walks locally and further afield for all levels of ability, as well as work parties to maintain and repair routes, and campaigns on environmental and access issues.
West Berks Ramblers http://www.wberksramblers.org.uk/