2024 marks the 80th anniversary of the Normandy (D-Day) landings that began the liberation of Western Europe and ultimately tipped the course of the Second World War.

A small farm nestled in the North Wessex Downs, just outside Boxford in West Berkshire, played a significant but top-secret role in this world event. The valley near RAF Welford was used on 23 March 1944 as a site for a practice for the D-Day landings. Prime Minister Churchill and Eisenhower inspected the American troops of the elite 101st Airbourne Division. This was followed by a mass parachute drop of about 3,000 men and equipment.

This event was witnessed by a small boy and his family who stood by a hedge to watch. That small boy is the owner of Court Oak Farm. We will follow a new route around the farm to learn more about this momentous occasion, see newly installed information boards with archive photos of the event as well as personal memories.

During the walk we will also learn about Court Oak Farm, a recipient of a Farming in Protected Landscapes (FiPL) grant. It is an arable farm that has been in the family for nearly 150 years. Growing mainly wheat and barley, with some oilseed rape and oats, it is now farming regeneratively. In the last few years, several miles of new hedges and have been planted to encourage wildlife.

The walk will be at a gentle pace following public rights and of way and a permitted path in a circular walk.

Walk leader/organisation: Jenny Smith, Court Oak Farm

Walk information

  • Booking: Free – Booking essential – 15 places
  • Distance & approximate duration: 2.6 miles (4.2 km) – 3 hours
  • Difficulty: Fairly easy (some gentle inclines, possible steps/stiles).
  • Accessibility: Suitable for older children (12+). Under 18s must be accompanied by an adult (see useful information). Not suitable for wheelchairs or prams/pushchairs.
  • Dogs: Dogs on leads welcome.
  • Refreshments: Bring snacks and drinks as needed. There are no places to purchase refreshments on the route (see below).
  • Toilets: There are no toilets on the route (see below).
  • Meeting point: At start of byway, Boxford, Welford, West Berkshire, RG20 8RH. What3words: warblers.chefs.sides. OS grid reference: SU 433 734. Google Maps.
  • Public transport: None available.
  • Parking: Free private parking for the event only in a field at the start of the walk.

For general booking information, health and safety advice, terms and conditions please see our useful information page.

Further information

Refreshments and toilets can be found at The Boxford in Boxford (about 1.5 miles from the meeting point) and at the Crab and Boar (about 3 miles away).

Newbury is about 8 miles from the meeting point and has public toilets, plus a wide selection of pubs, cafés and restuarants.

The Farming in Protected Landscapes Programme seeks to provide investment in protected landscapes to help deliver outcomes for the environment, people and places by working in partnership with farmers.

The Big Air Drop - with permission of RAF Welford Museum