27 April 2022

  • Date:               27 April & 4 May 2022
  • Distance:      21 Miles
  • Start:             Alton Station
  • Leader:          Sandy Arpino

The Challenge of the Hangers Way

The Hangers Way is a 21 mile long-distance footpath through Hampshire – running north to south – stretching from Alton to Queen Elizabeth Country Park.  The path passes along a series of steep-sided wooded chalk hills known as “The Hangers”, so offers plenty of undulations – some quite steep – for the walker.

As much of the walk is through woodland, we chose to make our journey at bluebell time when the route would be most beautiful – and we decided to split our venture across two days.

So it was that – on the last Wednesday in April – six of the Ramblers’ keenest walkers gathered at Alton Station to start part one of their hike. Fortunately, we found the route well signposted; in places there were bold signs that couldn’t be missed but largely the signposting was discrete, comprising small discs nailed to posts, displaying the Hangers Way logo – a slope with a tree on it in green and white.

We quickly cleared the outskirts of Alton, crossing the A31 to find ourselves in fields, overlooking an extensive solar farm. A gentle ascent took us through arable land and green pastures on the side of Neatham Down, with wide views in all directions, until we dropped gradually into East Worldham. Regaining higher ground, we skirted King John’s Hill, passing through sheep fields with more panoramic views over a cluster of small lakes to the north-east.

For the next mile or so the route took us south through woodlands – bursting into life. Hugging the side of the Hangers, our path was consistently edged with pungent wild garlic. In fact, this combination of woodland and wild garlic on the slopes of the rolling chalk hills became a recurring theme of our walk right down to Queen Elizabeth Country Park.

Occasionally we encountered patches of bluebells – generating much debate about whether these were delicate English bluebells or the more invasive Spanish variety. In drier areas we found lime-green euphorbia and then – to our delight – a clump of Early Purple Orchids    

After 5 miles, Selborne church came into sight – the churchyard a hive of industry with grass cutting and tree trimming. We dropped rapidly into the village, stopping at the café by Gilbert White’s House for a break with coffee, ice-cream (sublime!) or very inexpensive craft beer, depending on your fancy.

Cheers!

Refreshed, we set off for Noar Hill – but not before stroking a beautiful little pony who we nicknamed Boris, on account of his floppy blonde mane.

Noar Hill, thankfully, was the driest any of us could recall in over 6 months. This was such a blessing as our route required us to circumnavigate the mound almost completely, hugging the 180m contour.

After a steep descent we commenced our trek to Hawkley, via Hawkley Hanger, along wild garlic edged woodland paths. There – after 12 miles of walking, climbing 1175 feet in total over 6 hours – we ‘called it a day’, leaving the rest of the Way for the next Wednesday.

Luckily the weather was as perfect for the second part of our venture as it had been for the first: dry, sunny at times but not hot.

Leaving Hawley we soon encountered the steepest climb of the whole trail: the ascent to the top of Ashford Hangers. We stopped at points to admire the views behind us (and to get back our breath!) – and cheered when we reached the summit.

Now on very familiar territory, we descended the Hangers via a safer, zig-zag path reaching the road by ‘Petersfield’s Waterfall’, an old mill race. Our route then took us down into Steep, passing the church and Bedales School, crossing the A3 and dropping into Petersfield.

We all commented on how strange it felt to traverse our home town on a walk, continuing south via the Causeway to green fields leading to Buriton. It was here that we found our best bluebells, and also newly emergent hawthorn blossom.

Our final mile took us through QECP, over a final chalk ridge, to our journey’s end – the visitors’ centre – where we celebrated our achievement with coffee and very tasty cake.

Author & Photographer: Sandy Arpino (Petersfield Ramblers Treasurer)

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29 April 2022

Lynne’s Italian Adventure – April 2022

In the Province of Pesaro and Urbino, the Marche region of Italy

Walk to Bacciardi

Castle Brancaleoni photo courtesy of “The Marche Experience”

The day began with a visit to the small town of Piobbico where we visited the 13th century Castle Brancaleoni. This castle was built as the home of the local gentry but also as a fortification.

After a picnic lunch sitting in the sunny courtyard of the castle we began our walk along the flowing river up to the tiny hamlet of Bacciardi, our bed for the night. It started gently alongside the river, slowly climbing upwards along a fairly well worn path. Crossing the main road we left civilisation behind us as we walked through the forest alongside the water. Then came our first crossing of the river. It was fairly wide and fast flowing, with potential stepping stones being washed by the rain of yesterday.  Dominico, our guide, tested the water first and we all tentatively followed, feeling pleased to have accomplished it with dry feet. On we ambled, past the trees, listening to the water gurgling until now more than 300 metres later we crossed back.

This time it was a little trickier, the stones were certainly wet and the gap between them wide. Again we triumphed and continued on our way. You get the picture, walk, cross the river, walk. The further up the valley we went the narrower the river became but the faster the water flowed. Getting across became more difficult with Dominico putting large stones into the river for us to use. By now our boots were beginning to become wet. Still we continued upwards.

There came a point, on about crossing number 9 or 10, that you had no option but to walk in the water with socks, trousers and boots getting wet. Whenever we thought that it was the last crossing there was another! To be fair, it was fun and a challenge. Walking poles were thrown across the river for each one to use for stability, so that no one actually fell into the water.

Tricky Going

Eventually the path came away from the river and went steeply uphill into the mountains. It was difficult to see how we would come out of it, everywhere you looked there were trees and escarpments.

Where is the path taking us?

On we walked up the mountains with no end in sight. The pathway became narrow and stony, it continued in upwards into the trees. Eventually the edge of a small hamlet was espied, at which time we all breathed a sigh of relief. As is typical in Italy all the houses were built closely together, hugging the hillside and our accommodation was no different. It was a small B and B, catering for walkers and riders.

Eureka!

We were greeted by two dogs, one of which I have never seen such a mixed colour, and taken into the house once we had removed our sopping wet footwear. Once in, a refreshing shower and change of clothes restored a sense of well being. We were served a fantastic Italian meal, all made and cooked on the premises as we enjoyed the spectacular views from our mountain top venue. A sound night’s sleep and we were ready for the next adventure.

The odd dog and boots drying overnight

Author & Photographer: Lynne Burge

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23 April, 2022

BOXGROVE / HALNAKER WINDMILL TRAIL

(Apparently pronounced Ha’naker)

  • Date:              23 April 2022
  • Distance:      5 Miles
  • Start:             10:00am, Boxgrove Village Hall CP, GR: SU 907 074
Admiring the Windmill

This walk can best be described as a balloon on a string, being both circular and part linear.  Whilst not a particularly strenuous walk, there is 359ft (109 metre) of ascent involved and a walk with many points of interest.

Ten keen walkers arrived at the spacious Boxgrove Village Hall Car Park that is but a stone’s throw from the start of the Windmill Trail which is very clearly marked.  The weather was surprisingly sunny, given the forecast, but there was a cold wind blowing strongly from the north which caused deliberation about how many layers to start off wearing.  Decisions made and enacted upon, we set forth.

We could immediately see the windmill in the distance to our left as we walked around the edge of fields, newly sown with crops.  The going was good and quite dry despite looking as though it had not long ago been very muddy and churned up by the passing of tractors going about their business.

The trail then passed between 2 attractive rows of trees, beside leafless vines, waiting for bud burst and for the season to progress.  These vines are part of the Tinwood Estate, their first planting being in 2007.  Since then, they have established a reputation for producing fine sparkling wine.  It is possible to arrange to tour the vineyard, learn about wine making and taste their range of sparkling wines.

We crossed the busy A285 and made our way along Mill Lane and through the famous archway of trees that was once part of the 57-mile-long Roman road that ran between London and Chichester.  Fortunately, the shrubs, bushes and trees that formed the archway were now in leaf so we had the full effect of a tunnel.

Ancient Roman Road

The windmill was, unsurprisingly, approached by walking up a hill, a gradual climb and very easy.  The surrounding fields were sporting rape seed and in full dazzling colour.  It was well worth the climb up the hill to admire the iconic Sussex landmark close up.  It is possible to walk all around it and there is a bench to rest and admire the 360° views.  The wind was blowing so strongly, however, that we sought the shelter of the WW2 radio direction finding structure nearby to have a banana break.  This structure had been used to support a radio direction finder, monitoring the comings and goings of aircraft.

Seeking Shelter from the Wind
Banana Break

Halnaker Hill and the WW2 structure are part of a Scheduled Ancient Monument and the windmill is Grade 2 listed.  We were disappointed to see that the sails had been removed from the windmill but hopefully they will be returned once assessed and repaired if necessary.

We returned by the same route, (the balloon string) so able to admire the tunnel of trees again.  We then diverted to the left, taking the lane that passes the buildings of the vineyard to the right and to the left, the disused Boxgrove Quarry that is now inaccessible woodland and carpeted with bluebells. This has become an important palaeolithic site where a 500,000-year-old part of a human leg was found, currently the oldest human (hominin) remains in the British Isles and known locally as “Boxgrove Man”.

The path bordered more bare grape vines and eventually took us to a field across which there were views of Boxgrove Priory and the Church of St Blaise.

The walk almost over, we took a brief but worthwhile visit to the Church and the Priory.  The Church is surprisingly large and dates from about 1120 and is now the Parish Church.  The Priory was founded in 1105 when 3 monks were sent from Normandy to administer the changes of the existing Saxon Church.  The Priory was dissolved in 1537 but the Church’s development continued and the ceiling was painted at the behest of Thomas de la Warr, Lord of the Manor.  From an entry in the Domesday Book we know that Boxgrove had the status of a parish and that a church existed there before the Norman Conquest.  The ceiling is still a sight to behold and visitors are welcomed.  We were unexpectedly treated to a clergyman accompanied by a dear little dog who patiently waited while his master chimed the church bell ahead of a prayer.

Our final stretch took us through the village, past some historic Alms Houses and then back to the carpark. A very interesting morning’s walk.

Author:           Linda Farley

Photos:           Paul & Linda Farley

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20 April 2022

A Walk Full of History Including

Danebury Iron Age Hill Fort

  • Date:               20 April 2022
  • Walk Leader: Gordon Churchill
  • Distance:         8.5 Miles
  • Start:               Stockbridge, main street, GR SU 354351
A Spot of Enterprise

On a cool and misty Spring morning we left Petersfield behind, driving to Stockbridge in the heart of the Test Valley for a circular walk of about 8.5 miles.   We had not driven far before the sun began to burn off the low cloud.  As we strode along Stockbridge High Street, we felt the warmth of the sun and we lingered awhile gazing into the river Test as it crossed under the road, and yes, there it was, a large trout on full view!  We walked on and were reminded this was once an ancient Drove Road from Wales, and drovers would rest before moving on further to sell their cattle and sheep.  Reaching the road junction we joined the Test Way, passing three metal sculptures depicting a shepherd with his dog, a railway worker, and a horse and jockey – more about horse racing later.   

The Test Way is 44 miles long, starting at Inkpen Beacon and finishing at Eling where the River Test flows into Southampton Water.  Our section of the Way follows the course of the Andover to Romsey Railway, opened in 1865 by the London & South Western Railway and closed in 1964. 

After a about a mile, we left the Test Way and joined a minor road called The Bunny which led us to the little village of Longstock. 

On the way we paused as the road crossed the river Test to take in the view of this magnificent “chalk stream”.  We stopped for our mid-morning break at the war memorial opposite the Peat Spade Inn.  A reminder that in days gone by peat would be cut and dried for burning.  Our photographer busied herself with taking numerous shots of the very attractive thatched cottages with their crooked beams. 

River Test

Turning right at St Mary’s Church we joined an ancient Byway, climbing steadily, passing a field of ewes with their very young lambs.  Very soon, the Byway brought us to the main road leading to Danebury Ring, and the Iron Age hill fort.

Once away from the busy road we could enjoy our climb on grass closely cropped by three horses to reach the summit of the hill and the entrance to the Iron Age Hillfort.  It is a site of national importance and one of the most studied ancient sites in Europe.  Built about 2,500 years ago, with huge ramparts it must have been an impressive sight commanding superb views of approaching enemies.  We sat on the summit among the Spring flowers, including cowslips, to eat our picnic lunch and to take in the panoramic view

Now refreshed, we set off along a different Byway leading back to Stockbridge passing a number of wild cherry trees in full blossom.  We also noted the sunshine, hot by now, had brought out a profusion of different butterflies.  Then, looking across a cultivated field an ivy-covered building could be seen.  This was the Grandstand, all that now remains of the old racecourse.  Racing had taken place since 1775 and this new course was opened in 1839 on the slopes of Danebury Hill with the final race meeting on 7th July 1898.  A regular person to be seen at meetings was the Prince of Wales, and on one occasion he watched as his horse came in last and fell down dead!   During WW II the old gallops were used as a testing site for Spitfires.  Just a little further and we branched off from the Byway, taking a field path leading us to the crossing point of the A30 Winchester to Salisbury Road.  Then it was all down hill via another drove road leading us back to Stockbridge and our parked cars.  A most interesting walk with plenty of history, much enjoyed by all.

Author:  Gordon Churchill

Photos: Sandy Arpino

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16 April 2022

Wheatham Hill and the Hangers

  • Date:              16 April 2022
  • Walk Leader: Lynne Burge
  • Distance:         11 Miles
  • Start: 10:00 am at the Outdoor Swimming Pool, Heath Road, Petersfield
Hot Cross Buns at Cobbett’s View

The walk begins outside the outdoor swimming pool in the centre of Petersfield, a good rallying point. Take the little used path alongside the stream along Tor Way against the flow of traffic. Cross the road, follow across Merritts Meadow, a permissive path that is locked at dusk and then across the recreation ground. To the left of the path that leaves the recreation ground there used to be a small holding that had chickens, sheep and goats- a magnet for small children to watch the animals. Follow the path up over the A3 and on towards Bedales, the route gradually becoming more peaceful as the noise of the busy road is left behind. Pass Steep Church, which is well worth a visit, and follow the path as it leads off right from the small recreation ground found over the road.

Steep Church & Cowslips

This time of year, as the path descends downwards, bluebells can be seen along with wild garlic and many other wild flowers seen in Spring. Steep Farm is next as the path meanders through a delightful wooded area that crosses Ashford Stream. Take a quiet few moments to listen to the birdsong and watch the water as it flows under the bridge. Continue through the trees bending around to the left (ignore the spur off to the right) and walk under the canopy of the delightful woods. The path descends slightly to go through the grounds of The Moors, a lovely house with its own allotment and piles of wood, enough to keep a wood burner burning for years.

A Chat Along the Way

The path rises up to a large building, thought to be a chicken farm, and then follow along the back of it. Over the stile to the left fields open out and the path begins to go up. Now you come to the potentially muddy part. For 50 metres the going can be impassable in winter but thankfully after the dry weather we have had, it was navigable. Now the hard work starts. Crossing diagonally over the field to the kissing gate and then a hard walk up to the road.
At the junction with the road look back to admire the view, get your breath back and prepare for the climb ahead. Follow the road to the right, making sure you don’t start to descend, keep to the higher way and just at the parting of the roads a difficult stile takes you on your journey towards the Hangers.

A sharp climb up the hill leads to a stile and more uphill under cover of trees. Climb the stile at the end and head to the left. Take your time to get to the top, a few false summits can fool you into thinking you are at the top and eventually you will be.

Continue onto Cobbett’s View where benches can be found with a panorama that will take your breath away if you have any left after that long, steep climb.

Well Worth the Climb!

Having drunk your coffee or whatever refreshments you have brought with you, the route continues along the main path and ridge. Follow Old Litten Lane which transforms into Cockshott Lane as you wend your way along it. At the junction of the two lanes it is worth diverting off to the top of Shoulder of Mutton, the view from the top is worth the extra walking.

Continue along the road, past the Edward Barnsley workshops to the top of Stoner Hill. At the junction with the road turn right, cross the road and follow the metalled road heading towards High Cross. This part is all road walking but with interesting houses to view and lots of wild flowers it is only a short time until you reach the turn off point. As soon as you come into High Cross the path leads down the back of houses and out across fields past Soal Wood and out onto the road. Climb over the stile and continue straight forward to the next junction.

Snake’s Head Fritillary

At this point you can go either left or right. The original plan was to go right, but a field full of pregnant cows, and mother cows with very young offspring made it prudent to avoid them, so we took the left turn. Quickly turn right and wander down what was a metalled road but is now more mud than tarmac. Pass Wheelers Farm and turn right along Ridge Top Lane. This is a fascinating lane which once was an ancient drovers track. Eventually you will meet a road, at this point take the path off to your right down Ridge Hanger.

Beware, this is a very steep path down hill, with some very deep steps. As the gradient eases the path will take you across a glorious field to go over the road to the next path.

No More Ascent!

Keep following down towards the A3 and cross over the bridge to come into the fields behind Buckmore Farm. Once in the edge of Petersfield choose your own route back to the swimming pool or stop off in one of the many coffee stops for a well deserved beverage and piece of cake.

Author: Lynne Burge

Photos: Various Walkers

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9 April 2022

Griggs Green Take Two

  • Date:  Wednesday 9 April 2022
  • Walk Leader: Val Wood
  • Distance: 9 Miles
  • Start: Griggs Green, GR SU824 319
Super View

The second attempt at completing this walk in its entirety.  I’ve walked it out on several occasions to make slight alterations; one to avoid the middle of busy Liphook Golf Club and recently to make sure we avoid the bridleway that runs a little too close to the ranges currently flying the red flag with very audible military activity going on.  Each time the weather has been pretty uninspiring; either heavy rain, the threat of rain or leaden skies.  However today nine enthusiastic members (along with two lively but well-behaved dogs, Jess and Pickles) ignored yet another gloomy forecast and we set off at the usual time. Happily, the conditions were much kinder than predicted and apart from one short spell the rain stayed away.

Signs of Spring!

As I’ve previously reported the route is varied, with a good mix of woodland, heath and some open country.  We headed south on popular well used trails and tracks, meeting various dog walkers around this very open area.  Over the mainline railway bridge at Langley, we’re soon heading towards another favourite walking area – Chapel Common.   We skirt the short south side of the common and walk up the lane to cross the B2070 (former A3) and on through Coldharbour Wood.  We stop here making use of fallen logs and the bank for seating as we enjoy elevenses; with hardly any leaves out the view east across the valley is splendid.  Down to turn left on to Canhouse Lane briefly before turning left again up towards Maysleith Wood and Hanger.  Next the steep climb up towards Milland church and chapel, first on the steep woodland track then up the 74 or so stone steps. 

A Challenging Climb up 74 Steps Towards Milland Chapel

If we’d felt slightly chilly thus far, we were certainly quite warm enough by the time we reached the top.  Easy going now towards handsome Milland House which has a convenient push button for walkers and horse riders alike to access the bridleway that goes through the drive along the property front.  We pass through numerous paddocks well populated by handsome horses.  I’m reliably informed by one of our members that they are all polo ponies and will soon be in training for the forthcoming season starting later this spring. 

Dry Llamas on this Walk!

At the top of the knoll the wind is draughty but heading to the lee of the woodland we find a good spot for our well-earned lunch.  Now we’re on the homeward section and on largely level terrain east up the final leg past Hatch Birch Piece towards Wheatsheaf Inclosure which we skirt via the Sussex Border path.  Under the rail line we shortly reach the main road again; this time turning left along the pavement for a hundred metres or so before crossing to take the drive briefly through Liphook Golf Course on up toward Foley Manor. 

An Enormous Tri-trunked Holly Tree
Impeccably Well Behaved, Damp Pickles

We pass the imposing statue of Lord Strathnairn who, as far as I can ascertain, has no associations with the Manor at all.  The last of the many homes which stud the estate are soon left behind as we take one of the main bridleways back to our parking at Griggs Green.  Thoroughly enjoyed by all, it would be lovely to do again in high summer when the sun is shining.

The Statue of the Imperious Looking Lord Strathnairn

Author: Val Wood, Programme Organiser

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16 March 2022

4 Bus Journeys and 3 Interesting Walks

  • Walk Leader: Gordon Churchill
  • Distance: Approximately 6 Miles in total
  • Start: Petersfield Railway Station:  09:30 bus departure, 16 March 2022
Boarding the bus in Petersfield

Following a beautiful sunny Tuesday, the forecast that evening was for heavy rain showers over the South of England.  However, Wednesday dawned dry albeit with a very overcast sky.  Eight hardy ramblers boarded the Chichester bus in Petersfield, and sat back and admired the beauty of the South Downs National Park as we were driven by way of Rogate, South Harting, Compton and Walderton.  There is no doubt we do live in the midst of beautiful countryside, and also of course, so close to the South coast.

Hearing about the oldest Yew Tree Avenue in England

Reaching Westbourne, we alighted from the bus and met with another of our members.  We learned the village was mentioned in the Domesday Book and has 66 listed buildings.  The Medieval Church of St John was “modernised” in Victorian times, the box pews destroyed and walls moved.  We photographed the yew trees leading to the main door and although there are countless ancient yew trees, these are said to be the oldest avenue of yews in England.  In 1785 James Biden and Anne Silverlock, both Westbourne parishioners, were married here.  They are the four times great grandparents of the US President Biden.

Harbourside in Emsworth
River Ems

Leaving the Church, we crossed the road and followed the footpath alongside the river Ems which flows into the sea at Emsworth, a town with many attractive Georgian buildings.  During the Middle Ages it was a busy port importing wine, and using tidal power to grind the grain into flour.  The oyster beds were an important business, as was ship building.  It was high tide and a large number of swans were swimming close to the shore.  As we approached, several came ashore to check us out!  Our “seaside” walk continued along the pleasant walkway separating the estuary from the mill pond, then made our way to the main road and the bus to Chichester, our next destination. 

A light drizzle was falling as we admired the Spring flowers in the very attractive Bishop’s Palace Gardens which date back to 1147.  Had it been a dry day we would have sat on the many conveniently placed seats to eat our picnic lunch.  A great shame as so close to the bustling city centre, the gardens are a tranquil place to sit and relax, soaking up the peace that prevails there.  Reaching the Cathedral, we joined other visitors sitting in the Cloisters, also eating packed lunches.

The Approach to The Bishop’s Palace Gardens

Walk through and lunch in the Cathedral Cloisters

Time to move on and into East Street, past the elaborate Market Cross.  This is a grade One listed building constructed between 1477 and 1503 was the traditional place for the inhabitants of Chichester to buy and sell their wares.  Reaching the end of East Street, we turned left and up onto the walkway along the City Wall.  Here we obtained a good view of what used to be the meat and fish paste factory.  The Shippams family started production in 1786 moving to various sites within the city.  This factory was completed in 1913 but closed in the 1990’s.  As we continued walking along the North East section of the city wall with the grass slope down to the road below, we saw an attractive mosaic of flowers including primroses, fritillaria and a solitary early cowslip.  We continued on around Priory Park and looked across at the Guildhall, an example of late 13th Century architecture.  Even on a dreary day it made a grade picture with the distant Cathedral towering above.  Nearby in the park during an archaeological survey in 2017 two Roman town houses were discovered.

Leaving the County town of West Sussex behind, we boarded the Midhurst bus.  Had it not been for the relentless drizzle and gloom we would have enjoyed another scenic drive, roughly following the course of the river Lavant.  Often a dry river bed, but following heavy winter rains, springs rise to the surface and water once again flows, following its ancient course through Chichester and onwards to the sea.  Having passed West Dean with its famous walled kitchen garden containing many original Victorian glasshouses, we glimpsed through the trees some of the historic buildings rebuilt in the Weald and Downland Museum at Singleton.

For our final short walk we left the bus on the outskirts of Midhurst and paused for a while at South Pond, constructed originally to supply fresh fish to a nearby 12th Century manor house.  The usual Mallards and Canada Geese eyed us suspiciously, or was it expectantly?  Perhaps hoping for some food.  I was pleased to see the pair of Egyptian Geese still with their youngsters that I had spotted a few weeks earlier when they had only just hatched.  Once such tiny balls of downy feathers and very vulnerable, but now looking like a smaller version of their parents.  Saying “Goodbye” to them we crossed the road to The Wharf, once a busy place where the canal boats terminated many years ago on their journeys via the rivers Rother and Arun to reach the Wey and Arun Canal.  Following the footpath alongside the Rother we reached the ruins of Cowdray House then turned to join the ancient driveway that led us to the Midhurst bus stand.

Approaching South Pond
Cowdray Ruin, Just Before Our Final Bus Stop

Our fourth and final bus ride of the day took us via Stedham and Rogate. arriving mid-afternoon back in Petersfield.  We were of course wearing our waterproofs and Goretex lined boots.  This proved that walking in the rain can make for an enjoyable day provided everyone is correctly dressed for the occasion.

Author: Gordon Churchill

Photos: Linda & Paul Farley

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2 March 2022

  • From Griggs Green:  2 March 2022
  • Walk Leader: Val Wood
  • Distance:   4-5 Miles
  • Start:    Griggs Green GR: SU824 319 (Please do not park in the Deer’s Hut CP)
A Murky View

How the weather can interfere with the best laid plans.  Having recce’d the planned 9-mile Griggs Green circular on two occasions, I found it ideal as a winter walk.  Given that muddy and churned up paths and tracks can be hard-going at this time of year, the sandy soil in the Weavers Down locality along with terrain that drains well, is about the best underfoot composition we can get, short of sticking to gravel/metalled roads which most of us find rather unsatisfactory; not really “proper” rambling, plus the nuisance of vehicles.   So… I planned the walk with confidence.  However, the weather gods had other ideas.

Bedraggled Llamas

This morning dawned grey, with sullen clouds and the promise of more heavy rain throughout the day.  Having viewed the pessimistic forecast I revised the walk; making it much shorter, about 4-5 miles with the proviso that when we met at the start (that’s if any Ramblers at all decided to give it a go), we would abandon the walk altogether if necessary.   Happily, there were two intrepid members awaiting and the three of us agreed that the conditions overhead didn’t look too threatening so off we set. 

Storms Eunice and Franklin Made Their Mark

This is a lovely area of north Hampshire, often not far from the Surrey and West Sussex County borders which meander across the OS map; and the Weavers Down and Chapel Common locality are criss-crossed with a plethora of footpaths and bridleways.  On higher ground the views are splendid, especially in winter when visibility through leafless trees is good.  Sadly, not much chance today of enjoying the landscape, draped as it was in mist and the odd squall of rain rolling in.  In addition, many of the well-drained paths were now sodden and waterlogged, as we picked our way through a string of puddles, boggy passages, and some paths that had turned into streams.

A Track That Thinks it’s a Stream

I was reminded of an old country adage often quoted to me as a child “February fill dyke be it black (rain) or white (snow)” – and although we’re now just about in March, it felt more like February.  However, we were all wearing suitable clothing so not a wet foot amongst us.  Given the violent stormy conditions that occurred about two weeks ago, there was little sign of too much damage to trees, although we did come across one or two that had split and broken spectacularly, plus there was still quite a lot of smaller debris on and adjacent to the paths.  Damp and miserable as it was there are signs of spring all around – snowdrops are now almost over, but several patches of wild daffodils ready to bloom and hawthorn leaves are about to burst.

Buy Your Own Woodland

Not a vintage walk on this occasion – but we enjoyed it nevertheless – such days make us appreciate the lovely sunny ones even more.  So, let’s hope for some of them in the near future as spring progresses. 

The full 9-mile walk will be added to the programme later in the spring.

Author & Photographer: Val Wood – Club Programme Organiser

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23 February 2022

  • Meon Valley Trail:  23 February 2022
  • Walk Leader: Sandy Arpino
  • Distance: 10 Miles
  • Start: Wickham Meon Trail CP, GR:SU575 117

Exploring the Meon Valley Trail: from ghostly stations to welcoming pubs

Bridge over the Trail

Mindful of the horrible muddy paths of last winter, the Ramblers sought for less squelchy places to start our walking in 2022. What better than a disused railway track such as the nearby Meon Valley Trail. Once part of a railway line running from Alton to Fareham – transporting local livestock, agriculture and people – the trail spans 11 miles through beautiful countryside from West Meon in the north to Wickham in the south. It follows closely the course of the River Meon.

The original railway opened in 1903; passenger services ceased in 1955 and the line was closed completely in 1968. What the trail offers now – aside from delightful walking, cycling and horse-riding – are some fascinating glimpses into our industrial heritage. In fact one of our members can remember tales of her grandfather helping to build the railway and losing a finger!

Some of the Group

For ‘day one’ of our adventure, sixteen of us gathered in the trail’s car park in West Meon – on what turned into an unusually sunny day for the time of year. Our intention was to walk to the mid-point of the trail and back via some of the picturesque Meon Valley villages.

We started by exploring the ghostly remains of West Meon station, overgrown with bushes and ivy, where even the quarry tiles of the waiting room can be seen by the eagle-eyed. 

Then we headed south along the trail, a cheerful-looking group in our colourful jackets. Sometimes the path took us on to embankments above the surrounding countryside, providing far-ranging views across arable fields to Winchester Hill. At other times we dipped into cuttings with steep wooded slopes on either side. And frequently we walked beside or over the swollen River Meon with its fast-flowing, clean waters. 

River Meon

After passing numerous impressive Victorian bridges and Droxford station – now enclosed in a private garden along with its signal box and a goods carriage! – we reached our turning point. But not before learning from an information panel that Winston Churchill had monitored the D-Day landings from a coach in a siding near Droxford station. 

St Andrews Church

Leaving the trail, we walked through the pleasant village of Meonstoke, noting St Andrews church with its striking tower – and an elegant white little egret fishing in the river. Crossing the A32, our route took us to Corhampton and its charming 11th century Saxon church, which was fortunately open, enabling us to view its 12th century wall paintings. We couldn’t depart the churchyard without measuring the circumference of the 1200-year-old ancient yew tree: 7 people!

Encircling a 1200 Year Ancient Yew Tree

Then it was on to Exon and the welcoming Shoe Inn. The weather was so warm that we were able to sit in the pub garden, beside the River Meon, enjoying tea, coffee, ale and gargantuan pub sandwiches on homemade bread.

There were two more entertaining surprises before returning via the upper section of the trail: the first two huge, vibrant giraffe statues in a garden; the second a sign on a gate “Attention au chien”.

For ‘day two’ of our adventure a month later, a smaller group of us gathered in the trail’s car park in Wickham – our numbers diminished by half-term grandparent duties and concerns about weather and conditions following the weekend storms. Our plans were to follow the trail north until we came to ‘Churchill’s siding’ – so completing the full length of the whole trail – if debris from Storm Eunice permitted.

Things started well – indeed we were able to appreciate some real signs of spring: our first wild primroses of the year and some huge catkins. But after a couple of trouble-free miles, our path became more challenging. Ivy-covered trees had been blown down, obstructing the route.

Undeterred we clambered over, climbed around and limbo’d under. Just when we thought our obstacle course might become too much for us, we heard chainsaw sounds ahead: Hampshire County Council had sent a team to clear the trail. With renewed optimism we carried on, finding an unblocked pathway ahead once we passed the tree surgeons. 

Determined Walkers
Fallen Trees Courtesy of Storm Eunice

Reaching our intended most northerly point, we again left the trail, passing into Soberton and stopping at the inviting, traditional White Lion pub for lunch. With energies restored, we tackled our one ascent of the day – Chalk Hill – before returning to the trail for a steady walk back to our cars.

Perhaps the most poignant observation on our venture was the Mislingford railway sign. Once a bustling goods depot for transport of milk, livestock, watercress and strawberries, all that remains of Mislington is a sign relegated to the side of a garden shed.

Author & Photographer: Sandy Arpino

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on 23 February 2022

9 February 2022

  • From Frensham Little Pond:  11 February 2022
  • Walk Leader: Tony Goodwin
  • Distance: 8.5 Miles
  • Start: NT CP, Frensham Little Pond GR: SU 857418
Some of the 23 at Frensham Little Pond

Twenty-three of us turned out on a delightful sunny and warm day for Tony’s walk in the Surrey countryside. We walked from a cark park close to Frensham Little Pond. This pond, together with the Great Pond, was created in the 13th Century when King Henry III was on the throne. The Bishop of Winchester wanted fish to eat when he visited Farnham Castle so he ordered that these ponds be created and stocked with fish.

Striding Out

After a circuit of the little pond in the very sandy soil, and a quick visit to the NT café for a cuppa, we headed north and after crossing a lovely wooden bridge over the river Wey we passed Pierrepoint Home Farm where cheese-making takes place. It is open on certain days to see the process of cheese-making, and presumably to buy some cheese! Just up the hill is a small brewery, sadly not open on the day.

Smiles Abound

The heathland in the area is delightful with clumps of heather and other plants, and strewn with the remains of dead trees – we wondered what had caused their demise. Drought maybe?  Still, I expect these bits of old wood are being well used by insects, creepy-crawlies and the like.

Uphill is easy when you chat!

We really enjoyed the birdsong along the way; the icing on the cake came at Tilford Reeds where two Red Kites were hovering about the fir trees right over our heads which required a lengthy stop – these birds are stunning and much admired for their beautiful colour, their 1.8 metre wingspan and forked tails.

One of the Woodlands

Crossing Reeds Road close to the Rural Life Centre, we passed through woodland and into Bourne Wood, an area which is often used for filming. I’m reliably informed that scenes from the likes of  Gladiator, Transformers, and Wonder Woman are among the many films made here. It is also very hilly and kept us well exercised! Taking a circuit of the tracks through the forest we eventually came out on to Farnham Nature Reserve where we had our sandwiches on the hillside with a wonderful open vista in front of us.

Walk Leader’s Briefing

After lunch we backtracked through the heath and over the river Wey back to the car park. A great way to spend time with friends and explore the countryside.

Author: Sheila Gadd

Photos: Rose & Paul

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on 9 February 2022