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Nags at Chaddleworth

Enjoy an exhilarating walk into Berkshire's renowned racing country.

Distance 6 miles (9.7km)

Minimum time 2hrs 30min

Ascent/gradient 269ft (90m)

Level of difficulty Medium

Paths Field paths and tracks, stretches of road, 8 stiles

Landscape Classic farmland and remote, rolling country on edge of Lambourn Downs

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 158 Newbury & Hungerford

Start/finish SU 416773

Dog friendliness On lead near livestock and in region of Whatcombe

Parking Permission given by landlord to park at Ibex pub

Public toilets None on route

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1 From the Ibex take the path opposite the pub, emerging at the next road by Box Hedge Cottage. Keep right and follow the lane between cottages to some steps and a footpath on the right. The grassy path cuts between fields, towards houses. Keep to the right of the village hall and cross the next road to a kissing gate.

2 Skirt the field, avoid a footpath on the left and continue walking straight ahead beside oak trees. On reaching a stile, cross over and keep a horse paddock on the left. Turn left at the next path junction and keep along the field edge. Eventually the path broadens out to a track. Go straight on at the road and just before it bends right, look for a waymarked track on the left, descending to the extensive buildings of Manor Farm.

3 Cross the road and follow the path up the slope to a stile. Continue ahead, keeping the fence on your left, and make for the brow of the hill. Descend the field slope and make for some bushes in the field corner, concealing two stiles. Head straight down the next field, cross a stile and continue ahead in line with a row of telegraph poles towards the road. Cross a stile and head towards Whatcombe and South Fawley. Turn left at the entrance to Whatcombe and, on reaching the stud, keep left and take the waymarked bridleway.

4 Climb gradually, keeping to the right of some trees ahead. Make for a gateway into a plantation and cross the next field by cutting off the corner. If muddy, follow the left boundary. Look for a waymark in the trees, descend the bank to a path and turn left. On reaching a track, continue ahead, keeping to the left of farm outbuildings. Pass to the right of Henley Farm and follow the byway down to some cottages by the road. Cross to a single track lane and bear left at the next junction.

5 Take the first lane on the right and climb steeply to a left-hand bend. Walk along to the next junction, turn right and pass the village sign for Chaddleworth. The church is on the left. Turn right towards Great Shefford and take the first left path. Look for an electricity transformer, enter a field via a squeeze stile and cross the field, keeping to the right of a large house and alongside a line of trees.

6 Cross a stile in the corner and turn left after a few paces at the public footpath sign. Follow the field boundary to the next waymark and drop down to a modern housing development. Turn right at the road and retrace your steps, back to the Ibex.

The sweeping Lambourn Downs lie at the heart of Berkshire's loveliest and most isolated country - an area with a long tradition for racehorse training. Some of Britain's most famous winners have come from yards at Lambourn and West Ilsley and it is quite common to see strings of horses in the surrounding lanes.

Horse racing dates back to the days of chariot races in Greece and Rome, with blockbuster movies like the immortal Ben Hur giving us a flavour of what it would have been like to vie for honours in the mammoth arena. Racing as we know it today has its origins in the period of the Stuart kings. James I established stables at Newmarket and it was here that he kept racehorses and 'riders for the races' - the first royal jockeys.

Towards the end of the 17th century racehorses were beginning to appear all over the country, with many breeders introducing Arabian stock. Three of these stallions were the sires from which all our thoroughbreds are descended. As the sport began to draw spectator interest, it split into two different categories - flat racing and racing over jumps.

Training stables were soon a permanent feature of life in the countryside, but they had to have easy access to large tracts of open downland and grassland over which gallops could be laid for racing practice. As the flinty, chalk soil made this landscape unsuitable for ploughing, the Lambourn Downs were considered ideal terrain for horses to compete with one another and jockeys to sharpen and hone their skills.

Prior to the 1840s horses were treated with little care or compassion. They were taken on long gallops and wrapped in thick rugs to make them sweat. More suitable methods of training were introduced, which enabled trainers to look at each horse individually and assess its potential, fitness level and merit as a future winner.

Take a walk on the Lambourn Downs and you'll find it's not just horses and their jockeys who frequent this breezy corner of Berkshire - walkers love it, too. But often you can go there and be completely alone. Other than occasional birdsong and the sound of trees sighing gently in the breeze, there is not a sound to be heard. There are no obvious indications of modern day life - few dwellings, roads or cars. It is difficult to imagine being more remote or cut off from civilisation than here in the quiet rural backwater of the Lambourn Downs - Berkshire's glorious racing country.

While you're there

Extend the walk around the village of Chaddleworth, with its charming cottages and period houses. The manor was given by William the Conqueror to Robert d'Oyley and it later belonged to the mother of Edward I. The church has a memorial to the Nelson family, a member of whom 'fought two dragoons in the Civil War and was never well afterwards', according to the church register. Listen out for the reassuring tick of the clock inside.

What to look for

As you approach the buildings of Whatcombe, look for the striking bronze statue of Snurge who won the St Ledger in 1990. Whatcombe, one of the largest and most successful studs in the area, has produced several winners over the years. The farm stands on the site of a medieval village and there was once a 12th-century church here. When the church was demolished in the 16th century some of the carved stones were incorporated into the farm walls. Little remains of old Whatcombe, but a glance at the map reveals Nun's Walk, which was part of the road system when the village existed.

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