Allan King Way Part 1

  • Date: 3rd April 2024
  • Walk Leader: Sandy Arpino
  • Distance: 10 miles (approx.)

Petersfield Ramblers take on the challenges of the Allan King Way

The Allan King Way – named after a former Publicity Officer of the Hampshire Ramblers – is a long-distance footpath that runs from Portchester to Winchester via Bishops Waltham. Despite Google Maps defining a 23 mile / 43 minute driving route between these two locations, the AKW meanders for 43 miles to achieve the same end over 4 days of walking! Nonetheless, a hardy group of Petersfield Ramblers decided to embark on this challenge … and what a challenge!

The issues came thick and fast as soon as recces commenced in March. After so much rain, numerous sections of the route were rendered impassable by flooding, endless deep gloopy mud and sly meadows that looked fine until you sank into hidden water that rose above the top of boots! And aside from the conditions, way-markers were few and far between so navigation errors were inevitable.

Every recce left a host of problems to be checked again, in the hope that water had drained and mud had got drier as the weeks passed. Fortunately conditions slowly improved but still – by the time we started our walks in early April – very muddy, wet boots and socks were inevitable, with mud caked on trousers well beyond knees. And a great deal of team resourcefulness was required to overcome the many obstacles.   

Part One – Portchester Castle to the Horse & Jockey, Hambledon

So it was that 12 fearless Ramblers gathered in the rain at the Horse & Jockey pub near Hambledon to kick off their adventure.

After managing the complexities of what kit to put on, what to take and what to leave behind, four drivers with all the walkers set off back to Portchester Castle – leaving behind four cars needed at the end. By 10 o’clock everyone was gathered at the sea wall – still in the not-forecast rain – and off we set.

After a circuit around and through the castle walls – with the tide too high for a safe beach walk – we took Wicor Path westwards. The rain eased off and some of us appreciated the tarmac under our feet, knowing what was to come!

After a mile and a half we joined the low-tide route, encountering our first muddy, puddly footpath. Crossing a grassy sports ground offered better footing, before we stopped at Cams Bay for coffee from our rucksacks. One member provided flapjacks, which were very welcome!

Refreshed, we continued north through more mud until we met the busy A27 … and our next obstacle! Major roadworks were spread across the precise junction where we were required to make a right turn. Ducking in and out of traffic, in-sync with the traffic lights, we thankfully assembled on the far pavement of Downend Road.

Resuming our march north, we crossed over a railway before heading west, north then east around three sides of fields – alongside the railway, the A27 and the M27. The purpose of this diversion wasn’t clear – nor was the navigation! – but finally we walked over the M27 on a road bridge and climbed gently up to the wonderful Fort Nelson on top of Portsdown Hill.

Looping around Nelson’s Monument, battling strong head-on winds, we again turned north along a minor road. As we dropped down from the hill top, the winds relented, which was a great relief.

It was time for lunch, so we availed ourselves of the sheltered seating by Boarhunt church – the graveyard a mass of celandines (tightly closed in the absence of any sunshine).

Revitalised, we set off across muddy fields to a footbridge that had been impassable with flooding 3 weeks before. Beyond the bridge, following the course of a stream, we slogged through 2 miles of very wet meadows, bouncing from one grassy mound to the next, never pausing for too long in case we sank in. Twice we encountered wide flooded gateways, requiring all our determination and ingenuity to find a way through. Delightful were the buckthorn hedges in bloom – less delightful was the field of cows impeding our way. Fortified by the knowledge that the end was in sight, we boldly marched through the herd who respectfully let us pass.

At Beckford Bridge it was good to feel a solid tarmac road beneath our feet, until too soon we turned left onto yet another muddy, squelchy field for a last half mile. With the white pub and our cars now clearly in view, the pace quickened and soon – in dry footwear – we were all gathered in the pub garden to savour warm drinks (or beer in one case!) and biscoff cheesecake. Then everyone squeezed into the cars-left-behind, heading back to Portchester to reunite drivers with their vehicles. As far as I know, that was successful and everyone made it home … ready for next week’s part two!   

Author and Photographer: Sandy Arpino

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