I love to go for walks, don’t you? I belong to a wonderful Purley walking group for ladies and also help to lead a Walking for Health group in Tilehurst. I‘ve been delighted that during the pandemic, exercise has been encouraged.
We know that walking in the countryside is excellent for our mental as well as physical health and it is great that there are so many beautiful places on our doorstep.
For example, five miles away from Tilehurst can be found a peaceful wildlife haven, Hosehill Lake. Managed by the Berkshire, Bucks and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust, this is one of my family‘s favourite places for a relaxed stroll.
Leave Reading by the A4 west and take the slip road in the direction of Theale Station. Drive past the station, over the railway and the canal, before turning left at a roundabout.
The entrance to the lakeside nature reserve is now just a few yards down the road on your right. It is opposite The Fox and Hounds pub, where we always park. (This hostelry has very recently been sold; I assume the new owners will be as welcoming to walkers as their predecessors have been.) The postcode for Hosehill Lake is RG7 4BD.
The path around the lake can be muddy, so walkers need to be suitably shod. Because there is so much to see, the stroll of approximately a mile may take longer than you expect. There are a number of benches around on the lake side offering great vantage points from which to view the water fowl.
Those wishing to extend the walk may like to wander back a short way along the pavement in the direction of the station. On the right, just before the traffic lights, is the Sheffield Bottom picnic area, from which you can continue to walk in either direction along the Kennet and Avon Canal towpath.
What to see and hear
There is something to enjoy here at every time of year. In spring and summer the wildflowers, dragonflies and butterflies are a delight; listen out for nightingales and, at dusk, nightjars. Blackberries are aplenty as summer gives way to autumn.
On our most recent visit in November we were told by a bird-watcher that he had that morning spotted about one hundred wigeons, thirty tufted ducks as well as the usual shovelers, coots, herons etc.
There are often horses to be seen in a lakeside field and in spring and autumn BBOWT brings in Exmoor ponies to graze too. Look out for the large sand martin bank constructed to encourage these birds to breed. There are also areas for kingfishers to nest, sheltered reedbeds and other habitats.
Where to have a snack
In normal times The Fox and Hounds is an excellent place to enjoy a coffee or something more substantial, either in its large garden or inside. Dogs have always been very welcome.
In fact the pub was the national winner of the Rover Dog Friendly Pub Award last year. For those who prefer to picnic, there are the benches in the reserve or parking is available at Sheffield Bottom picnic area.
Enjoy your walk!
Penny, ChristChurch Tilehurst