28 April 2021

  • Shoulder of Mutton Mystery Tour, 28 April 2021
  • Walk Leader: Christine T
  • Distance: 8 miles
  • Start: Beckham Lane Car park GR SU740238

Walk leader Christine had planned the route to provide an abundance of beautiful spring flowers and far-reaching, unobstructed views. She certainly delivered on the former, but the weather unfortunately had other ideas regarding the latter, with a fine drizzle and low cloud blocking the fabulous views of the Downs and Hangers. One for another day. 

To follow in our footsteps, set off across the fields of Buckmore Farm towards the bridge over the A3. Sadly, the halcyon days of first lockdown, where there was virtually no traffic below, are long gone. On the other side you are heading up towards Ridge Common Lane. The first stile you cross is now beautifully sturdy, having been reported on http://hantsrow.esdm.co.uk/standardmap.aspx and repaired by the council. It takes just 5 minutes to do, so I would urge you to report any that you find in a state of disrepair – it makes everyone’s walk so much easier. After a short section of road, pick up the path that starts just past the Cricketers Pub and skirts the Island. This is quite tucked away but provides a different view over Steep. Remarkably, many of us ramblers had never been on it before. 

Like us, you might require a quick refuelling break close to the aquamarine pond at the bottom of Ashford Hanger, before starting the long zig zag climb up to the Shoulder of Mutton (SoM) viewpoint. 

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On our way up we came across some community volunteers repairing path infrastructure. It is rare to actually meet these hard-working people, so we took the opportunity to pass on our thanks. I should also point out that one of own also has a well-earned reputation for doing her bit to keep paths clear. As you can see in the photo, Johanne always walks with a pair of secateurs close at hand, ready to give pesky brambles and other vegetation a quick short, back and sides! 

Once on the ridge, your efforts will hopefully be rewarded with sweeping views from both SoM and Cobbett’s Viewpoint at the far end of the lane. After so many weeks of dry, sunny weather it was such a shame that we climbed up into rain. We had also forgotten quite how slippery the baked-hard paths become after a slight sprinkling of rain, so the decent down to Ashford Farm was done a little more gingerly. Just before the farm it is possible to veer off the main track and take another path through ‘Jack’s Meadow’. Despite asking around we have no idea who Jack was and why there’s a meadow named after him, but it is a beautiful spot to currently see an abundance of primroses and cowslips, with orchids apparently next in line. 

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After reaching the road, continue along the lane in the direction of Steep Marsh, so as to pick up the path towards Steep Marsh Farm. This is still a bit sticky even after such a long, dry spell, so you can imagine how bad it was in winter! Christine had clearly been saving the ‘best ‘til last’ on the flower front, as the woods through to Steep Farm are a carpet of bluebells at the moment, with some kingcups thrown in for good measure down by the stream. Safely back into Steep village it is then downhill along the Hangers Way and Dark Hollow all the way back to Beckham Lane, with one final note of thanks to the kind person/people who have filled in many of the deep pot holes in the path with hardcore….. your community service hasn’t gone unnoticed by the ramblers. 

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