Historic Pathways A walk round Broadmoor, Berkshire :  18th October 2013

As with the Uffington walk, the weather forecast wasn’t promising but six hardy (local) walkers turned up at the car park near Crowthorne, for the fourth Historic Pathways walk, round (the outside of !) Broadmoor.
I started by talking briefly about the rise of Crowthorne from an insignificant hamlet in the mid-19th century to a bustling village – triggered by the choice of the isolated area for both Wellington College and for the “Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum” – opened (or closed!) a couple of miles apart and within a few years of each other on either side of 1850. A map of 1830 shows only a crossroads of forest rides at ‘Crow Thorn’, where the village now stands. These two buildings required staff, tradesmen and suppliers in ever increasing numbers. Helped by the new station, built specifically for the college, people flocked from far and wide to join the new prosperous opportunities.
Our car park was also buzzing – with dogs and their walkers – but things quietened down once we were on our way. We skirted the Wildmoor Nature Reserve, apparently used for exercises by the Canadians during the war but seemingly having recovered well, and we headed east for about a mile.  Much of this was along part of the 60 mile long Three Castles Path from Windsor to Winchester, via the halfway point of Odiham.  King John used this on his regular commuting trips. We then headed north and got our first views of Broadmoor on the hill to the west.  It’s only from the east that you can fully appreciate the size of the sprawling compound, with its concentric set of retaining walls.
As we reached the halfway point the quiet route was disrupted by a major construction project.  A new road is being built from the main Bracknell/Frimley road to the east, straight across our path, towards the hospital.  Initially this will be used by construction traffic – the hospital will soon have a major redevelopment – and then become the main access route.  At present all traffic has to go via the centre of the village.
We next skirted the small ponds at Butter Bottom and climbed the gentle slopes of Butter Hill, to meet a Roman Road. It’s known as “The Devil’s Highway” because originally the locals couldn’t comprehend who else could have built such a wide straight road through the forest.Here we took the obligatory group photo!


Turning westwards we went along the wide sandy track towards the main hospital buildings. We turned south, past the main entrance and a number of ancillary buildings outside the walls and down a hill past a number of similar small semis, obviously built originally for the hospital staff or workers. Once back in the woods, we turned westwards again and made our way back to the car park.
The weather report, as usual, was overly pessimistic and we enjoyed dry and quite bright conditions all the way.
The blackberry season was almost over but the fungi were flourishing. We conscientiously avoided picking any, even the pretty ones with red caps.
Patsy had recommended the Crooked Billet, halfway back to Wokingham, and three of us had the time and inclination to have a very good lunch there – a good ending I thought to the morning’s walk. The distance was measured at 4.2 miles – we did it in just under 2 hours.

Some photographs of the route are available as a slide show to tempt those who couldn’t make it on the day.

I’m also including link to the U3A section of my web, because on there you’ll see in section 6 – the last – a note about documentation related to this walk. There are links to the pre-walk documents which I gave out and, should you want to do it at a later time, or tell someone else about it, there’s a map and notes on the exact twists and turns of the route.

Chris French


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