Several years ago (before I used Strava, my God!), one of the first county tops I made a special trip to bag was that of historic Berkshire, Walbury Hill. Significant in that at 297m it is the highest point in the southeast of England, beating Leith Hill in Surrey by just three metres, I was keen to get there and tick it off my list.
A plan for a weekend away was hatched – along with my girlfriend Helen, we would park up in the small village of Inkpen, dash to the top and back, and then carry on to Abergavenny for an overnight stay and a more mountainous run in the Brecon Beacons the next day. Being only 15 minutes drive from junction 14 of the M4, it is one of the more accessible runs in this part of the country and is well worth a visit if you’re heading west from London.
Starting from The Swan Inn – a traditionally-styled village pub with an excellent Italian chef – we followed the lane out of the village to the southwest, before taking a left onto a bridleway towards the steep escarpment that forms the inside edge of the horseshoe-shaped North Wessex Downs. Getting to the top required a big effort up a steep grassy traverse, but this was the only major obstacle in an otherwise untaxing route which then reached the summit by following the Wayfarer’s Walk to the east. The trig can be found in the middle of a field adjacent to the chalky farm track that forms part of this historic long-distance path.
The view from the actual high point is insignificant given the very shallow gradient in the immediate area, but the panorama from the ridge is wonderful and more than makes up for the slog up from the valley floor.
For ease of navigation, we decided to retrace our steps back towards the car and lunch (broccoli soup if I remember correctly, though it was it was delicious regardless), completing a delightful overture to the bigger test that lay ahead of us the following day. Like so many of the chalk downland climbs in southern England, this would be an easily extendible run due to the wealth of footpaths and waymarked trails in the area and the expansive nature of the landscape. It’s some of my favourite terrain in the UK for trail running.
Start: Inkpen, Berkshire
Map: OS Explorer 158 (Newbury & Hungerford)