Walk 15 from Shorter Walks Near Hungerford by Alex Milne-White (available from Hungerford Bookshop and the White Horse Bookshop in Marlborough).
This is a really nice 3.4 mile walk with plenty of variety. With few nettles or hills this is a good walk for kids if you think they can manage the distance which will take just over an hour. It is dog friendly and just about pram friendly if you take the second route avoiding kissing gates. Park at Donnington Castle car park.
Donnington Castle is a ruined medieval castle. It was founded by Sir Richard Abberbury the Elder in 1386 and was bought by Thomas Chaucer, son of poet Geoffrey Chaucer, before the castle was taken under royal control during the Tudor period. During the First English Civil War the castle was held by the royalist Sir John Boys and withstood an 18-month siege; after the garrison eventually surrendered, Parliament voted to demolish Donnington Castle in 1646. Only the original gatehouse survives.
During the Second World War Snelsmore Common was taken over for military uses, and had quantities of petrol stored in jerrycans by the 3900 Quartermaster Gasoline Supply Company stockpiled for the Normandy landings. Then during 1995-6 woodland at the south end of the common became an early base for campaigners protesting against the proposed Newbury bypass. Following eviction of the protesters, the construction of the road went ahead through a part of the common, and an equivalent area of common was added to the west.
1. At corner of car park there a footpath sign pointing left and towards castle, go up the slope towards the castle. Skirt round right edge of castle along to a gate with footpath sign pointing left.
2. Follow wide track past a couple of houses and a barn and keep going until the track bends to the left, following a public bridleway sign. Proceed down to large concrete bridge over the A34.
3. Follow path round to the right. After about 300 meters a track branches off to the left, but keep on the main path following a small footpath sign. Towards the end of the track there is a footpath heading left (which you could take for a shorter walk), carry on on track to skirt left edge of new building.
4. Go through gate into Snelsmore Common and follow the path that goes straight on. Shortly you will come to a junction of paths, take the middle path, following a blue arrow. Carry on for about 500 meters, passing a bird watching tower on your left, until you come to a restricted byway heading left and right, follow the left path.
5. Cross straight over concrete track, following blue and purple arrows, then do the same again with another concrete path and you will soon reach another junction of paths, keep following those arrows.
6. As the paths enters some trees there is another junction of paths, follow the blue arrow to the left (marked ‘BHS Long Distance Route – 3 Downs Link’). Keep following the blue arrows straight on down slightly muddy path until you reach a gate at the edge of Snelsmore Common.
7. Go through gate and carry straight on past Honeyblossom Cottage and take the left path where the path forks, then straight on where a path heads left (where short cut would lead to). Follow tree-lined path, as it becomes narrower and slightly nettley, for about half a mile.
8. Go through a kissing gate on the right, then down a grassy slope and between houses onto the road through Bagnor (turn right here for the Watermill Theatre). Turn left towards the Blackbird Pub, then take the left gravel track after the pub. At the end of the track bear slightly left and go through a kissing gate, following a sign for the ‘Lambourne Valley Way’.
9. Follow concrete path up the hill and then over the bridge, then skirt around the 18 th tee of the golf course and go left on track, then immediately right following footpath sign into the woods. Go straight on until the path forks, take the right fork to go back to the car park (or left to go back to the castle).
Alternative step 8 – Ignore gate and continue on path, which becomes narrower and a bit nettley, until you emerge next to a house. Turn left, then left again on concrete path.