West Berkshire Council

New travel route to connect Hermitage and Hampstead Norreys

Route encourages walking, cycling and horse-riding between villages

Track through woodland

Work has begun on a new 'active travel route' on the old railway track between Hermitage and Hampstead Norreys.

Active travel routes are designed to encourage alternative means of travel for short journeys, with this new path intended for walkers, cyclists and horse-riders. The route will go from Dean Meadow Recreation Ground in Hampstead Norreys to the Village Hall, Pinewood Crescent in Hermitage. The majority of the route passes through land owned by the Eling Estate who have granted public access.

The scheme came about from an initial feasibility study conducted by West Berkshire SPOKES, a local cycling campaign group, who have since been working with the Council leading on community and stakeholder engagement. The new travel route is funded by Highways England, and is being constructed by Kier - with the route expected to open later this year. Planning permission was originally granted back in October 2018 but the project was delayed due to the discovery of Hazel Dormice along the route. A number of mitigation measures needed to be agreed with Natural England in order to obtain a license for the work and ensure that their habitat remained protected.

Along the route, some work is required to fell a few of the self-seeded trees and clear vegetation to make way for a 2.5m gravel path. There are three old railway bridges along the route which require some minor repairs and the steeper embankments will have new wooden post and rail fencing. A new footway will be constructed on the eastern verge of the B4009 to allow all users (pedestrian, equestrian, and cyclists) safe passage under the M4 bridge and connect the disused railway track on both sides of the motorway.

The development of local infrastructure - including travel and transport options - is a key priority set out in the new pdf icon Council Strategy (2019-23) [13Mb], which was approved in May.

Councillor Steve Ardagh-Walter, Executive Member for Environment said:

"We are pleased that Highways England have invested in this new green active travel route that will provide a pleasant, safe environment for families and children to access the countryside. At West Berkshire Council we are committed to providing safer routes to encourage walking and cycling and hope that the railway path will not only provide a transport link for the two communities but attract visitors to the area too. If the path is a success, which we're sure it will be, we would like to explore options to extend the path further south towards Newbury."

Councillor Richard Somner, Executive Member for Transport and Countryside said:

'"I absolutely echo the comments made by Councillor Ardagh-Walter on this project. It is essential that we continue to review transport links throughout West Berkshire, and that means enabling our residents to utilise alternatives to our existing road network. If this can be achieved with the support of local residents, and land owners and the additional funding from external sources, then it makes the project beneficial on multiple levels. I would urge residents in both Parishes to come forward and volunteer their time if they are able."

Hermitage and Hampstead Norreys Parish Councils are looking for volunteers to help clear vegetation on the site. If you are interested in becoming a volunteer, please email the parish clerks:

Contact Hermitage Parish Council

Contact Hampstead Norreys Parish Council