Berkshire Downs

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The Downs near Goring-on-Thames
Eastbury Down, Eastbury
Racehorse on farmland in Lambourn

The Berkshire Downs are a range of chalk downland hills in southern England, part of the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The Berkshire Downs were wholly within Berkshire until the 1974 reorganisation of local government boundaries divided them between the counties of Berkshire and Oxfordshire. The name "White Horse Downs" was proposed following the 1974 change in county boundaries,[1] but has not been widely adopted.

The western parts of the downs are also known as the Lambourn Downs.

Geography[edit]

The Berkshire Downs run east–west, with their scarp slope facing north into the Vale of White Horse and their dip slope bounded by the course of the River Kennet. Geologically they are continuous with the Marlborough Downs to the west and the Chilterns to the east. In the east they are divided from the Chilterns by Goring Gap on the River Thames. In the west their boundary is generally taken to be the border between Berkshire and Wiltshire, although the downs in Wiltshire between the Berkshire border and the valley of the River Og are sometimes considered to be part of the Berkshire Downs.

History[edit]

English downland has attracted human habitation since prehistoric times. The ancient track known as the Ridgeway runs along the Berkshire Downs. Prehistoric sites in the Downs include Wayland's Smithy (Neolithic), numerous tumuli (Neolithic or Bronze Age), Uffington White Horse (Bronze Age), Liddington Castle and Uffington Castle (Bronze Age and Iron Age), and Segsbury Camp and Grim's Ditch (Iron Age).

The Ridgeway (Uffington Castle ringfort in distance on left)

It is generally thought that in Anglo-Saxon times the downs were known as Æscesdūn or Ashdown, and that it was here that the Battle of Ashdown was fought in 871.[2]

Economy[edit]

Downland pasture is firm and well drained, suited to grazing sheep and grazing and training horses. Horse racing is a major business in the area, with much of the downs covered with training areas, and stables centred on the village of Lambourn.

Railway links[edit]

The Berkshire Downs can be accessed from the Great Western Main Line and First Great Western run the local stopping trains as well as the high-speed trains that race along the Vale of the White Horse between Swindon and Didcot Parkway. From Reading to Newbury there is the Berks and Hants Line in the River Kennet Valley. From Reading there are the scenic Thames Valley stations of Pangbourne, Goring & Streatley and Cholsey (linked to the Cholsey and Wallingford Railway).

References[edit]

  1. ^ Anderson, J.R.L.; Godwin, Fay (1975). The Oldest Road. p. 12. ISBN 0-7045-0168-6. 
  2. ^ Royal Berkshire History website

Coordinates: 51°34′30″N 1°34′12″W / 51.575°N 1.570°W / 51.575; -1.570