On a crisp winter's day, wrap up warm and head out for a brisk walk, in and around West Berkshire. From National Trust to BbWOT, there are anumber of places to visit. Disability access advise is on the website and many areas a re dog friendly- not to mention at good place to find that hot cup of something to warm you up!

The Loddon Nature Reserve's lake and shallow fringes create ideal conditions for wintering birds, such as gadwall, tufted duck, pochard and snipe.

Twyford
Reading
Berkshire
RG10 9RR

bout the reserve

Shallows and islands

This large, flooded gravel pit has several islands and a ragged, scrubby fringe that skirts around the shallows. This creates ideal conditions for wintering birds such as gadwall, smew, tufted duck, pochard, cormorant and snipe. The shallows of the lake are perfect feeding areas for wetland birds, while its islands provide quiet spots where common terns and oystercatchers can breed safely away from predators such as foxes. During the winter months, the handsome male smew attracts many birdwatchers. The Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust looks after this community nature reserve with the help of local volunteers, who enjoy this delightful retreat in the heart of Twyford. 

Bird delights

The scrubby perimeter of the lake is home to blackcaps, whitethroats and other songbirds. Look out also for nesting wetland birds such as great crested grebe, moorhen and coot. These birds nest among the reeds and other aquatic plants where overhanging branches of willow trail into the shallows. Herons may be seen like statues waiting to spear a fish. In early spring, you might be lucky enough to spot the elaborate courtship 'mirror dance' of the great crested grebe in which the male and female swim beak to beak and rise out of the water whilst shaking their heads.

Bats and insects

The plant life around the lake attracts a range of butterflies, dragonflies and other aquatic insects. On summer evenings, bats will take advantage of the rich pickings as they hunt over the lake. 

Winter at Basildon Park is a beautiful time of the year, and the perfect place for a refreshing winter walk. The winter trees open up new views of the garden and house, and you can see long vistas of natural beauty. Put on your wellies and coat and get ready to let off some steam!

Parkland walks

The 400 acres of parkland offers routes to suit everyone, with four way-marked walks to choose from. From half a mile to 3 miles, our routes can take you around the estate through the woodland and frosty fields, with fantastic views of the mansion through the bare trees. Look out for wildlife and see if you can spot the first snowdrops of the season in January.

Our most popular route is the green walk, with spectacular views of the estate, and a stroll back through open parkland.  If you’re feeling more energetic, the orange route will take you on a 3 mile loop around the boundary of the estate, past the oldest trees at Basildon.

he Chase is a small property of 143 acres of woodland near the village of Woolton Hill, close to the Hampshire/Berkshire border, which supports a wide community of walkers and regular visitors through schools and naturalist groups. The land was bought by Sir Kenneth Swan in 1930 and the site soon transformed into the nature reserve that stands today.

iven to The National Trust by Sir Kenneth Swan in 1944, the Chase suffered terribly in the great storms of 1987 and 1990, losing enough trees to make it into the national newspapers.

The Chase that stands today is a beautiful mosaic of habitats found within its 143 acres. Predominantly made up of broadleaf and coniferous woodland interspersed with lades and rides with several streams cutting their way through the reserve to the lake in the east corner of The Chase.

The Chase has an area of wet woodland is made up of alder carr which we coppice on rotation, a meadow with an area of emerging heathland that can be found near the centre of The Chase, just a short walk from the car park off Station road.

We know that spending times outdoors in the forests and woods is good for our mental health and wellbeing.Forest Bathing is the Japanese practice of relaxation and is a very ancient process. In Japan it's known as shinrin yoku; where shinrin means 'forest' and yoku means 'bath', so it literally means bathing in the forest atmosphere, or taking the forest in through our senses. 

Badbury Hill is well known for its bluebells, which in May bathe the centre of the ancient Iron Age Hill Fort in a carpet of vibrant colour accompanied by their sweet, almost intoxicating fragrance, but there’s much more to Badbury Hill that can be enjoyed at any time of the year. The mixed woodlands of larch, beech, sycamore, oak, pine, cherry and silver birch offer a haven for a wide variety of wild plants and animals, and they conceal a number of interesting arcaheological and historical features dating from the Iron Age through to the Second World War. Please note - the walk is way-marked with pink arrows mounted on wooden posts at all major changes in direction. Dog Friendly.

Buscot Park is the family home of Lord Faringdon, who looks after the property on behalf of the National Trust, as well as the family collection of pictures, furniture, ceramics and objets d'art, known as the Faringdon Collection, which is displayed in the house.

 

Built between 1780 and 1783 for a local landowner, Edward Loveden Townsend.  In 1859 his great-grandson sold the estate to an Australian tycoon, Robert Tertius Campbell.  He died in 1887 after spending a fortune turning Buscot into a model agricultural estate.  In 1889 the estate was purchased by Lord Faringdon's great-grandfather, Alexander Henderson, a financier of exceptional skill and ability, who in 1916 was created the 1st Lord Faringdon.  He greatly enlarged the house, commissioned Harold Peto to design the famous Italianate water garden, and laid the foundations of the Faringdon Collection.  Among his many purchases were Rembrandt's portrait of Pieter Six, Rossetti's portrait of Pandora, and Burne-Jones's famous series, The Legend of the Briar Rose.

 

His grandson and heir, Gavin Henderson, added considerably to the Collection, acquiring important furniture designed by Robert Adam and Thomas Hope, and was instrumental in returning the house to its late eighteenth century appearance.

 

The present Lord Faringdon, Gavin's nephew, together with his fellow Trustees, continues to add to the Collection, to improve its display, and to enliven the gardens and grounds, in the hope that visitors might gain more enjoyment from Buscot whilst ensuring that it still feels very much a family home.

o enjoy Buscot Park to the full, time should be taken to explore the extensive pleasure gardens that surround the late eighteenth-century house.  To the west of the house, the mellow red-brick walls of the original kitchen garden now shelter the Four Seasons garden, bright with the blooms of spring bulbs, flowering trees and drifts of multi-coloured day lilies, according to the time of year.  To the east, woodland walks lead to one of Britain’s finest water gardens, an unusual marriage of Italianate formality with an English parkland landscape.

 

From the south front of the house, the carriage drive sweeps away to the south east, down through mature woodland.  From the north front of the house, the views take in the Little Lake and the Thames plain beyond.  From neither point is any clue given of the splendid water garden that lies to the east of the house, reached by following the steps from the north terrace.

In a bird survey conducted by the British Trust for Ornithology in 2002, a one-kilometre square sample area on the Buscot Park estate was found to have the second highest count of breeding birds in the UK.  Sixty breeding species were counted here, exactly the same number as the top spot, a one-kilometre square site in the Kennet Valley in Berkshire.  However, one of the Buscot nesting species - the black swan - was discounted from the survey because it is not strictly regarded as a native species.  The other 2,000 squares in the UK survey had an average count of thirty-five different species.  Altogether the total number of different species counted at Buscot is in excess of one hundred.  They include such rarities as Golden Plover, Woodlark, Snow, Reed and Corn Bunting, Barn Owl, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Reed Warbler, Sedge Warbler and Kingfisher.

 

In more recent years, Red Kite have been sighted on the estate, and in the surrounding fields.

 

Sadly, we lost our last surviving Black Swan over the winter of 2010/11.

 

Opening Times and Entry Prices 2022

 

Opening Times: (1st April to 30th September)

 

The grounds are open from 2.00pm to 6.00pm
The House opens at 2.00pm, and last entry in to the House is 5.00pm

The Tea Room is open on the same days as the House, from 2.00pm until 5.30pm (last orders).

 

Visitors are welcome to bring a picnic lunch from 1.00pm: tables and seats are available adjacent to the Visitor Car Park. The lavatories will be open, but please note that entry to the House and Grounds is not permitted until 2.00pm.

 

Entry Prices:

House and Grounds: 

Adult - £12

Over 65s - £10
Child (5-15) - £6 (Under 5s - Free)
NT Member - Free

Grounds Only:
Adult - £9
Over 65s - £7
Child (5-15) - £4.50 (Under 5s - Free)
NT Member - Free

 

 

The Ticket Office is not manned on 'Grounds Only' days. An 'honesty box' is in use on these days, and we would ask that paying visitors please put cash in the milk churn by the Ticket Office. Please would National Trust members sign in on the clipboard at the Ticket Office door. For purchases of plants, again, an 'honesty box' is in use - this is a cash box in the plant sales area. Thank you.


All visitors, including members of the National Trust, MUST acquire an admission ticket BEFORE entering the Gardens and Pleasure Grounds. These are provided at the Ticket Office door.Dogs are not permitted in the Formal Gardens, the Pleasure Grounds, or any visitor areas.  However, they may be exercised in the Paddock Field (the overflow car park).

Visitors with Disabilities

 

House:

  • 14 Steps to Entrance Hall with handrail (ambulant visitors may need help).
  • Regrettably, the House is unsuitable for wheeled vehicle access.
  • Stairs with handrails to the first floor.

 

Grounds:

  • Map of accessible route
  • Due to steep gradients, uneven terrain, steps to terraces, gravel paths, and distances, the grounds are more suitable for powered mobility vehicles (PMVs).
  • Four PMVs (and one wheelchair) available - please book in advance with the Estate Office (Monday to Friday - 9am to 5pm), and collect from the Ticket Office. 
  • Paths can be muddy in wet weather, particularly the Water Garden.

                    

Tearoom:

  • Wheelchair access via ramp to rear of the Ticket Office.
  • Induction loop.

 

Ticket Office:

  • Accessible.
  • Induction loop.

 

Lavatories:

  • Accessible.

 

Car Park:

  • Designated parking bays.
  • Special arrangements can be made at the Ticket Office for parking cars in front of the House.
  • The Tea Room

    The colourful Tearoom, decorated in the 1990's with murals by Ellen-Ann Hopkins, is open from 2.00pm to 5.30pm (last orders) on the same days as the House, and offers cream teas, an extensive range of cakes and slices, cheese scones, and a varied selection of hot and cold drinks.  There is also usually at least one gluten-free cake or slice on offer.



     

 

his festive season, families can enjoy two garden trails; Percy the Park Keeper’s winter wander and the Winter garden trail. In the house you’ll find two more trails; People of the past and Woodland animals. Exploring Morgaston Woods, you can try the Woodpecker walking challenge. That’s not to mention self-led activities such as hunting for bugs, tracking wild animals and bird watching. The first bridge past visitor reception is great for playing Pooh sticks. Bundling into the cosy Brewhouse tea-room next to the gift shop and main house, you can buy hot drinks and an indulgent bite to eat.

Nature-thirsty eyes can drink in the sight of a stark landscape in which the silhouettes of leafless trees salute open skies. Bright mornings illuminate dew laden grass and spiders’ webs causing them to sparkle and glisten, sometimes through light, swirling mists. As well as the calming sound of rustling branches and flowing streams, families are encouraged to notice the sensation of the wind on their faces and the crisp quality of the air on frosty days.

AccessibilityThe gardens have hard gravel paths.
Daily until 23 Dec then 26 Dec – 30 Jan, 10am-3pm On this sensory journey through a Hampshire hidden gem, adventurers of all ages can connect with the outdoors.With the exception of children’s play areas, you can take your dog everywhere outdoors, including the gardens, wetlands and Morgaston Woods. Assistance dogs are allowed everywhere.

Starlings form large flocks in winter as British birds are joined by others from the continent. They roost together in huge flocks and as they gather at dusk they can form huge murmurations.

Watching a murmuration of starlings wheeling and whirling across the sky is one of winter's highlights. In our area Thatcham Reeedbeds can be a good place to spot starlings as they gather at dusk before roosting.

Unlike many species of owl, you may see short-eared owls hunting during the day as well as at dusk.

In the winter, our resident birds are joined by more from the continent. Look out for them hunting small mammals, and occasionally small birds, over wetlands and marshy grassland such as Chimney Meadows and the Upper Ray Meadows.

They have piercing yellow eyes and streaky feathers that camouflage them well against the grassland. Their 'ears' are actually tufts of feathers.

Pied wagtails are very distinctive as they walk along the ground wagging their tails while searching for food.

At dusk in winter they gather in large flocks to roost. You can often see this in urban areas where they may roost in trees near offices and shops so look carefully if you hear lots of birds twittering overhead.

Look for 'whistling' wigeon on lakes, reservoirs and rivers and listen out for their distinctive whistling call. The males have a bold orange stripe along their heads while the females have a browner head and back. They eat vegetation and are often seen feeding on damp, marshy areas next to rivers and lakes.

Get started identifying different ducks and geese at College Lake, where you can ask reserve staff for help to tell them apart.

You can learn more about the difference between 'divers and dabblers' in our blog.

small number of pochard live in the UK all year round but you will see many more during the winter when the numbers increase as birds arrive from the continent. The males are very distinctive with their chestnut heads.

College Lake is one of the best sites to see a whole range of wintering birds in the Buckinghamshire. There are many bird hides overlooking the lake and a circular walk to explore the whole site

These distinctive ducks are seen on large lakes and rivers during the winter months. The population increases in winter due to migrants from the continent but they don't tend to gather in large numbers. Keep an eye out for them at places like Hosehill Lake and Calvert Jubilee, you never know when you might spot one in amongst the other birds.

Did you know goldeneyes nest in cavities in trees so their chicks have to perform a great leap of faith the day after hatching to leave the nest and reach the ground!

Goosander catch fish such as trout and salmon with their long, serrated bills. These large ducks are part of the sawbill family. Their scientific name, Mergus merganser, roughly translates as 'plunging goose' as they dive down into the water to hunt for fish.  

Calvert Jubilee and Foxcote Reservoir are great places to look for a whole range of water birds during the winter months.

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