Boulter's Bash to Theale

The route to Theale

After Paley Street and just before the road rises over the M4 a left is taken. While you never get completely away from the sounds of the M4 and jets into Heathrow, you pass through an area with a rural feel. After a right at a roundabout you cross over the M4, passing a paintball place on your left. At Shurlock Row you pass a small but attractive village pond. From then on you need to pay attention to the routesheet as you will tackle a network of minor roads. Eventually you will end up at the Wheelwright Arms - a decent pub - and join the B3030 more or less opposite Dinton Pastures, a popular ride stop, which is used on some other Willesden Audaxes.

Turning left onto the B3030, you pass through Winnersh and its large Sainsburys. Continue on to Arborsfield and its five-way roundabout. Taking the fourth exit, you continue to Swallowfield, with markedly reduced traffic. Before Swallowfield you pass the popular George and Dragon with a 16th Century Cottage Opposite.

Sign for a popular pub on the way to Swallowfield

Clythers, opposite the George and Dragon a listed 16th C cottage
Leading off a sharp bend to a bridge is All Saints Church, with its overgrown churchyard. This church is said to have been erected by John le Despenser (lord of Beaumys) about the middle of the 13th century, but the 12th-century detail of its north doorway shows that a building existed before that period. It is probable that the chancel and nave were originally of late 12th-century date and were lengthened at the later date. The transept was added by the Russell family (who owned Swallowfield Park) in 1836 and covers their vault. In 1871 the building underwent a general restoration.
Church of All Saints, Swallowfield

Church of All Saints, Swallowfield

Church of All Saints, Swallowfield
Swallowfield Park, whose grounds are on the right, is a stately home now divided into apartments. Red Lodge is a gatehouse.

Red Lodge, Swallowfield Park

Swallowfield is an information control. The answer is easy to spot.

War Memorial, Swallowfield
A right turn towards Spencers Wood is followed by a left into a small industrial estate on Back Lane. A more rural section, without any notable sites follows. Just after you take a right towards Grazely Green ,the De Vere Wokefield Estate rears into view with its golf course and conference facilities.

Conference Land
A subsequent left and right bring you to one of the oddest places in the UK. AWE Burghfield is a 225 acre site where the Atomic Weapons Establishment assembles and maintains warheads while in service and then decommissions them when out of service. The decommissioning is done in special chambers called Gerties with roofs full of gravel.

In these circular chambers, buried under several metres of gravel, technicians take apart nuclear warheads and put them back together again to check they are still functional. Great care has to be taken not to accidentally detonate the conventional high explosives that are packed around the plutonium core. In the event of an explosion, the roofs of the Gravel Gerties are designed to collapse, enabling the gravel to pour in and prevent plutonium from being blasted into the air. The Gerties in Burgfield are on the opposite end of the site from the route.

Google Maps (2017) has recent and very high resolution imagery of the site. You can see the Gerties near the top right hand corner of the establishment with round white roofs and surrounded by masts and cables to prevent lightening strikes affecting the bomb mechanisms.

Continuing, a right turn takes you to the village of Burgfield and a left turn signposted Theale is then taken. This road serves an operational gravel pit and is fairly busy.

Just before the Fox and Hounds pub which is on your right, there is a path to the left to the attractive Hosehill Lake which is a local nature reserve, noted for birds and butterflies.

Negotiating a series of roundabouts and passing a station, you arrive in Theale. At the mini-roundabout in front of the Crown pub, turn right and the control, La Baguetterie, is around 100m on your right.

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