This trail explores Ashford Hill National Nature Reserve, a haven for wildlife. The area is home to over 40 species of birds, 32 species of butterfly and a wide variety of flowering plants and insects.
Ashford Hill village is on the Hampshire Berkshire border between Newbury and Reading. The village can be approached from the south via the A339 and B3051 or via the A340 and B3051 from the east. The Ship Inn has a car park but please ask for permission before starting the walk.
With The Ship Inn behind you turn left and cross over the wooden footbridge beside the road. Turn left opposite Old Lane and enter the nature reserve. Follow the path through the meadow keeping the stream to your left. At the fork in the path follow the left path and cross the small wooden bridge.
Cross the field and go through the kissing gate on your left. Continue diagonally across the field, through a kissing gate and enter the woods. Ascend the hill through the trees.
At the top of the hill the path forks, the left crosses an open field and the right continues into the woods. Take the right path through the woods, descend to the stream and then climb the embankment to the meadow.
Bear right and cross the field. Descend to the stream, cross via the footbridge and climb steadily into woods. As the path levels out turn right onto a signed footpath to head through the trees.
This narrow path drops to a small brook. There are handrails either side for support. Continue until the T-junction of paths, turn right and descend back to the meadow. After passing through a small gate, cross the meadow to a footbridge. Do not cross the bridge but turn left onto a footpath that runs beside the stream.
Follow the path keeping the stream and trees on your right. When you reach a footbridge cross the stream and then bear left across the field. Rejoin the path that was followed on the outbound route, cross back over the stream via the small footbridge and continue out of the nature reserve and return to The Ship Inn.
Ashford Hill National Nature Reserve
The meadows and woodland of Ashford Hill National Nature Reserve host an exceptionally wide range of flowering plants and insects. Over forty species of birds have been recorded in the area including Siskins, Nightingales, Yellow Wagtails, Tree Pipits and Woodcock. Mandarin Ducks and Snipe have nested in the past. Anthills created by the yellow meadow ant can be seen in drier areas of the reserve. Thirty-two species of butterfly have been recorded at the site, including the purple emperor and five species of fritillary.
A stream runs through the middle of the reserve. Partial flooding is regular in the winter and at times flash floods inundate a more extensive area. The meadows have been traditionally managed by grazing of horses and cattle and hay-cutting with little, or no, use of fertilisers.