Iping and Stedham

  • Date: 25 May 2024
  • Walk Leaders: Jenny Broadhead and Val Wood
  • Distance: 10 miles (approx.)

Iping – Stedham – Chithurst

Jenny planned this route and when we walked it out a few weeks ago, we were still in the grip of what has been an exceptionally wet and chilly spring.  Happily, on Saturday the weather was superb giving us warm, sunny conditions showing off the glorious countryside at its best.

Thirteen ramblers met at Iping Common CP for this 10 mile route, and we headed east parallel to the busy A272.  Crossing the road carefully, we soon left its noise behind heading north across open pasture to reach Stedham village, then Stedham Hall and Mill, both looking as impressive as ever.

Many of the native wildflowers looked at their best, along with beautiful old village houses and cottages, with or without climbing roses, in Stedham and Iping.

Below could be Monet’s garden at Giverny, but where are the water lilies?

At Woodgate Farm, we give a wide berth to the “Great Bovine Escapers”: mothers and calves, clearly feeling very pleased with themselves as they munched forbidden pastures new. 

Within minutes we met the farmer in his farm vehicle on his way to round them up and return to the secure pasture below. Known as British Whites, this is a an old established breed, related to the horned White Park Cattle.  They are good as dairy or beef cattle.

The White Lupin Crop growing low to the ground.

There are currently three species of the lupin (Lupinus) family available in the UK, the white lupin (L. albus), the narrow leaved or blue lupin (L. angustifolius) and the yellow lupin (L. luteus). White lupins are more tolerant of alkaline soil conditions in the UK and are used for naturally improving the ground for grain production.   

Below, the recently erected rustic and strong “Stairs Style”, a great improvement replacing a poor structure which was climbed with difficulty and much care.

Impressive tall and important looking chimneys on a very modest farm building at Woolhouse Farm where we also passed what appeared to be an original Shepherd’s Hut, long since abandoned, and in need of some TLC.

Our route took us through delightful varied countryside – plenty of woodland and wide open spaces.

St Mary’s Church, Iping – with a well-earned break for weary feet.

Walking along the permissive path through the Hammer woodland of Chithurst Buddhist Monastery, enjoying the peace and tranquillity of this space, we noted the many woodland shrines.  About halfway along we stopped in a glade for lunch.

Hammer Wood lies next to a large hammer pond which was used to provide power for iron working in the seventeenth century. The pond was made by damming the southward flowing Hammer stream.

Finally, our fascinating circuit almost complete, we re-crossed the A272 and re-joined the car park from the western side of the common. 

All agreed – a delightful day.

Author: Val Wood

Photographer: Sandy Arpino

Additional photography by Claire Anderson and Dulcia Furber

With thanks to Dr Google for some of the points of information.

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South Harting and Elsted

  • Date: 18 May 2024
  • Leader: David Roberts
  • Distance: 6 miles

A morning walk from South Harting

Five intrepid ramblers set out from South Harting on a morning walk in humid overcast conditions. The predicted rain never materialized and we even had spells of sunshine.  We walked on footpaths along the South Downs with stunning views of the hangers on the hills to our right. Boggy underfoot in places but perfectly passable, we passed by houses and farms on the way.

After passing through a dried up brook we emerged on the road to Treyford. After a brief photo shoot of the group – Andrew, Jackie, Paul and Fiona – we were met with a display of vintage cars from the preceding century driving down the road on their way to a vintage car rally. Andrew impressed us all with his knowledge of these cars, quoting names like Riley and Lagonda.

Walking up the road we admired the beautiful village of Treyford and its lovely houses.

Climbing a path we continued across fields which were boggy in places. We passed many sheep on the way and Fiona in particular seemed fascinated by them and their ‘fat arses’. Paul noticed a sheep who appeared to be giving birth and informed a farm worker who was driving a tractor. 

Crossing a grid we continued along the road for a short way passing more fields, before crossing a small bridge and climbing up the steep hill to Elsted. The notorious hill, where we lost our boots four years ago, had been recently ploughed once again but was dry so climbing up was hard work but easily made by everyone. 

We walked through the car park of The Three Horseshoes pub, along the road then up to the Elsted Village Hall where we had our coffee break sat on the benches outside under the shade of the trees. The panoramic views over the South Downs were magnificent as we drank and ate fruit and milk chocolate during the nicest weather of the day. This was also the perfect opportunity for more photos.

After the break we walked through a field full of crops before descending through the woods and more fields and over a small bridge on the way back home.

Author and Photographer: David Roberts

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Ambersham Common-Heyshott-Graffham

  • Date: 15 May 2024
  • Walk Leader: Fiona El Hasnaoui
  • Distance: 9 miles (approx.)

A Wednesday walk from Ambersham Common nr Midhurst

Twelve hale and hearty ramblers met at Ambersham Common car park on a lovely sunny day, perfect conditions for walking.  We set off across the common at a good pace, enjoying the sandy tracks, green woods and tall broom bushes and heather (admittedly past their best) of this lowland heath.  We more or less followed the Serpents Way and then the New Lipchis Way.

A recent bout of rain had rendered some parts of the tracks muddy again with pools of water but we managed to navigate around them, eventually descending to the road.  Continuing on the New Lipchis Way, we traversed two fields with extremely long grass which was quite hard work but we got into our stride until we reached the road in Heyshott village near to the popular Unicorn Inn.  A sharp right took us to St James Church where we stopped for coffee (having to retreat to the back of the churchyard due to a large bonfire and accompanying smelly smoke!)  One of the gravestones had some beautiful irises growing next to it.

After coffee, we set off across fields of crops and grasses and began the steady climb up towards the South Downs Way at the foot of Charlton Forest.  A medium uphill climb turned into a very steep one, so we slowed right down, plodding our way to the top, with a fair bit of accompanying huffing and puffing.

A brief rest saw us refreshed and we headed off across the top of the hill towards the viewing point.  A wonderful view across to Blackdown Hill, the tallest point in Sussex (thank you Peter) awaited us, made all the better by the fine weather.

After enjoying this, we headed back to the SDW path and continued for a while, passing grassy areas strewn with beautiful early purple orchids and yellow wild primulas.  At the sign for Graffham Nature Reserve with information about the archaelogical features from the Bronze Age, we began the descent towards Graffham.

Passing over a stile between thick trees, we were greeted with a magnificent scene (better than the one at the top in my view) with an incredibly wide vista.

 At the bottom, we crossed a further stile and turned right towards Graffham.  A plan to stop at the churchyard of St Giles was abandoned due to it being more uphill walking (!) so we sauntered through Graffham, passing Lavington Stud and admiring the beautiful homes and gardens of this lovely village, until we reached a peaceful seating area next to the village war memorial.  A well earned rest and refuel for everyone. (Pickle enjoyed more than a bit of my brioche roll).

After lunch we continued onwards, turning right opposite the White Horse pub onto a public footpath that runs through Nonnington Farm.  Pickle was put on a lead as there were some farm animals nearby (llamas, alpacas, ponies, donkeys and Highland cattle), although most were unfortunately nowhere near as close to the fences as they had been when the author previously visited.

A short section through woods brought us to a stile into a field with horses, and a couple of gates led back to the road.  Pressing on for a section of road walking, we turned on to Hoyle Hanger and more woodland which brought us to a small bridge leading back on to Ambersham Common.  Ascending a wide sandy track, and a brief stroll across the Common once more, we returned to the car park.

Author: Fiona El Hasnaoui

Photography by Fiona El Hasnaoui, Sandy Arpino and David Roberts

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A Sunny Walk from Froxfield

  • Date: 11 May 2024
  • Walk Leader: Mandy Ray
  • Distance: 10 miles

A Saturday walk Froxfield – Colemore – Priors Dean

A beautiful sunny Saturday morning greeted the group. Walking from The White Horse (The Pub With No Name), Froxfield, we headed out over dew-drenched fields of buttercups to emerge on the lane by Slade Farm.  The route lead us past a crumbling Lye Farm and on to St Peter ad Vincula church, Colemore.  

Leaving the church, we set off in the direction of Newton Valence across more rolling hills and pasture – most of the group managed to dodge some well concealed cowpats but there’s always one that takes a direct hit!  Past long stretches of skilfully laid hedges and turning east to Cuckoo Copse, we ascended Holtham Lane, where the radomes ‘golf balls’ at RAF Oakhanger were visible in the distance, and on to descend Button’s Lane.

We passed the pond, overhung with blossom, at Vann Farm and joined Hangers Way in an ascent through woodland. We needed to take evasive action several times by leaping in wild garlic to give way to runners descending the path.  Leaving Hangers Way with a sharp right turn, we continued to climb until the path opened out to fields of oilseed rape and borage.

Descending past Manor House to the hamlet of Priors Dean, we visited the churchyard to see the ancient yew tree before the climb back, past Windmill Copse, returning to The White Horse.

Author and Photographer: Mandy Ray

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The Water and Chocolate Walk by David Roberts

Off we set Petersfield ramblers all – 14 strong

From Bishop’s Waltham we drove

In a convoy to the World’s End

Fortifying ourselves with delicious mini jaffa cake

Handed out by the doughty Clare

We set off through country footpaths

While doing our best to avoid to mud and water

Through Hambledon, Soberton, and Swanmore

Admiring the mind- blowing scenery

 A coffee stop on a muddy footpath near Soberton

Lynne had already left with with Doodle in tow

Some people just have no staying power

More jaffa cakes and chocolates from Chris

One of the two birthday ramblers – along with Fiona

By the time we reached Swanmore

We were tired, drenched and in need of food and warmth

A local hostelry appeared over the horizon

So we went in ordering teas and coffees to drink with our lunch

Fiona provided us with ginger cake and chocolate

brownies

The brownies the most delicious I’ve ever tasted

A perfect sweet to eat after our sandwiches       

Dulcia and Tony completed the Liss contingent

Oh how we laughed as we recovered our spirits

Gerald was the joker in the pack

His puns all delivered with kindness and humour

He even thought of the title of the walk

Helen stood by the door of our dining room

Fighting her cynicism as the wind and the rain lashed down

Christine and Sheila were as upbeat as ever

Mandy so blonde and vibrant

Photos were taken by our intrepid walk leader Sandy

Rallying the troops for the final leg

Off we marched fortified by food and drink

For the final stretch back to Bishop’s Waltham

The rain increased although the terrain was flat

Hoods up and heads down past the  castle

The ruins towering gloriously over us

More photos were taken as we strode along

the railway line footpath

We arrived back at our car park

Tired but happy as we had completed our walk

There was still one more journey to take

After finishing the fourteen mile hike

Driving back to the House and Jockey in waterlogged Hipley

Farewell’s were given as Fiona dished out more cakes

Just 3 of us went for tea at the pub

Chris, Martin and David were the only men standing

More chocolate brownies were eaten

With our final cup of tea of the day

A feeling of contentment warmed our bodies

What a glorious day it was

A group of 14 merry ramblers

On a journey from Hipley to Bishop’s Waltham

On the water and chocolate walk

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Allan King Way Part 4

  • 1st May 2024
  • Walk Leader: Sandy Arpino
  • Distance: 10 miles (approx.)

Final Part (4) – Tichborne to Winchester

The drive to Winchester Park & Ride – the meeting place for the fourth and final part of the Allan King Way – was a doddle compared to the journeys of previous weeks, so everyone arrived early. The usual footwear changes, rucksack and pole transfers between cars, and redistribution of walkers into half the cars was executed like clockwork, a now familiar routine. Four cars shot out of the car park, heading for Tichborne. Suitably assembled at the walk’s starting point, it was time to set off on our final leg – a fairly flat 10 miles.

Sunshine and blue skies greeted us, much to everyone’s delight, and soon jackets were cast aside. A few members of our party even admitted to applying sunscreen before leaving home – probably for the first time in 2024! In good spirits we crossed arable fields to reach the dual carriageway of the A31.  

Crossing with care, we continued through woodland and fields before turning north on a road into Ovington. Just past the church our amended route took us west along little Lovington Lane for over a mile. The AKW loops up around Itchen Stoke, dropping to the lane further along, but recces had shown this course to be unviable. It crosses a water meadow – fed by natural springs – to reach a footbridge over the River Itchen; soaked feet are guaranteed!

But we were more than happy to keep our feet dry and enjoy the full length of this delightfully scenic lane all the way to Avington Park golf course. We passed Yavington farm house, which looked amazing, covered in wisteria.

There were huge oaks and copper beeches, splendid in fresh spring foliage, and some unusual natural wonders. One field was so carpeted in daisies it looked like snow – while big balls of parasitic mistletoe filled the tops of tall trees on the golf course.

Turning north again we crossed the fast-flowing River Itchen on a road bridge before passing through the lychgate into Itchen Abbas cemetery. Another churchyard, another coffee break! And this being the AKW walk, there was a kindly handout of delicious caramel shortbread. Some walkers remembered the location – indeed much of this part of the walk – from our trek along the Saint Swithun’s Way in 2023.

Revitalised and warmed from the sun, we continued west on a path running parallel to the river for a mile, until we came to Martyr Worthy – yet another charming little village. Thankfully there were no cows in the fields; less agreeable was the kissing gate that was so poorly designed that even we trim ramblers had difficulty getting through, though we removed our rucksacks!

Passing St Swithun’s Norman church with its rounded end, the way resumed its course just above the River Itchen for a further mile – lined with swaying cow parsley. Then unwelcome road noise hit our ears; we were getting ever closer to the M3.

After observing the high levels and wild currents of the river, we shared its subway under the motorway, through a dark tunnel. Emerging into the light, the path briefly touched the B3047 before dropping down onto riverside meadows rich with wild flowers, including early dainty red campions.

After clambering over a huge fallen tree (with accompanying mud) and crossing the busy A33, the refuge of Kings Worthy church was very welcome. As it was lunchtime, the wooden benches in the churchyard beckoned and once again we found ourselves enjoying refreshment by a church. Hospitality knew no bounds: we were invited to use the church’s toilets and one walker handed out cherry liqueur chocolates!

The walk leader brought the break to a timely end as rain was forecast by 3pm. Ducking under the A34 dual-carriageway through two subways, the group followed a long – sometimes muddy – fenced footpath south, then passed through more restful water meadows and a nature reserve. A nesting swan was observed, as were emerging colourful yellow flag irises – and an unattractive sewerage pipe.

The route shielded us from urban sprawl for as long as possible but finally the High Street was upon us, alien after a day in such lovely rural scenes. We soldiered on to our goal past Sainsburys and Debenhams, the historic Guildhall and imposing King Arthur statue. At the Bridge pub we took a sharp right, down steps into pretty gardens by a raging stream – the start of the South Downs Way. But today we were seeking something else: the post marking the end of the Allan King Way after 44 miles of trail. Then we found it – underwhelming and rotting! Nonetheless we gathered for an essential photo, our journey accomplished.

Time to celebrate! We cantered back to the Park & Ride, just in time to miss the rain, then hurried back to the Tichborne Arms for drinks and cake. Conversation flowed, laughter rippled. There was one final surprise: one talented walker had written an admirable poem covering part two of our adventure. This tremendous poem “The Water and Chocolate Walk” (see separate blog) was read to us in suitable style, eliciting murmured agreement and some laughter as each of us got a mention.

And so our venture ended … until next time.

Author and Photographer: Sandy Arpino

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Allan King Way Part 3

  • 24th April 2024
  • Walk Leader: Sandy Arpino
  • Distance: 14 miles (approx.)

Part 3 – Bishop’s Waltham to Tichborne

Unlike the recces of Allan King Way parts 1 and 2, recces for part 3 revealed much better conditions underfoot – another long 14 mile section with 1,000ft of elevation gain to boot. Thankfully the weather forecast was good – no rain and even a little sun – so everything looked fine for an obstacle-free walk.

Until that is, a diligent scout encountered a road closure on the lane leading into our meeting place – Tichborne. The AKW gods had struck again! Frantic reconnaissance in the afternoon before our trek found a road north into Tichborne: a longer but doable drive. Suitably briefed, our party of 14 walkers assembled at the Tichborne Arms in a timely fashion. Squeezing into half the cars – leaving the remaining cars behind – we looped around and down to Bishop’s Waltham, our finish point for AKW part 2. Before 10 0’clock we were back on the trail.

The first mile was the only wet segment of the day. We squelched through lush green and carefully manoeuvred around a tricky duo of kissing gates, where the walk lead had taken a tumble into mud and brambles three weeks before.  

Passing a fenced off nursery packed with small trees – and traversing a patch of scrubland – we crossed Winters Hill Road, to continue along a Roman Road to the B2177. Onwards we skirted a field of peaceful cows, followed by a large field being actively ploughed as we trekked across. In a small copse a surprising sign appeared: Danger active airfield! It looked like a joke, until an error of navigation on an earlier recce had taken the walk leaders onto a grass airstrip. The airfield was indeed very active, judging by the volume of light planes encountered in the area.   

A firm track led us into the delightful village of Upham, where we took a coffee break in the well-maintained churchyard.

Refreshed, our route joined the Monarch’s Way for a distance, before heading north over undulating downland. The springtime countryside was wonderful, enhanced by the emerging sunshine. Abundant cowslips replaced the fading celandines, stretching over entire fields, whilst richly coloured bluebells and pungent wild garlic lined our path.

The rolling, agreeable landscape continued over the next few miles, punctuated by a series of unwelcome stiles. Nonetheless these were approached with good humour, as walkers compared the degree of elegance – or lack of elegance – that companions exhibited in clamouring over the obstacles!

A long wooded track advanced us towards the open arable fields south of Cheesefoot Head. Then the long, slow drag up to the A272 began. The more we gained ground, the wider the views. No one ever tires of the glorious, unbroken 360 degree panorama beneath Cheesefoot Head. No picture does it justice.

But some of our members were flagging – needing lunchtime replenishment. We agreed to plough on to Cheesefoot so that we could put climbing behind us and enjoy the views north of Cheesefoot while we rested and ate. And what a view it is – down into the large natural amphitheatre of chalk grassland.  

We might have lingered longer but a cold wind blew, so we set off with renewed vigour along the South Downs Way for a mile and a half, before the AKW turned north for the final stretch into Tichborne. Generally a comfortable slope downwards, more wooded lanes – lined by impressive trees – gave way to open arable fields.

Soon the stunted tower of Tichborne church was in sight, beckoning us forwards to our goal.

Passing through the little village to the Tichborne Arms we admired the picturesque thatched houses before collapsing in the pub’s vast garden, enjoying well-deserved teas and coffees – with the biggest slices of flapjack ever imagined!

Author and Photographer: Sandy Arpino

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Arundel Tulip Festival Day Out

  • 17th April 2024
  • Walk Leaders: Sandy Arpino and Rose Field
  • Distance: 7 miles

Petersfield Ramblers enjoy a day out in Arundel

On an encouragingly sunny morning in mid-April, a large group of walkers from Petersfield Ramblers set off for a day trip to Arundel and its famous Tulip Festival. We drove in packed cars, assembling in Mill Road car park by the castle gates for a 7-mile morning walk.

We followed the meandering River Arun all the way to South Stoke, promenading on top of the raised flood defences. This gave wonderful views – not just of the looping river, lined with reeds – but also across green meadows and wetlands, back to the fairytale castle.  

Jackets were removed as walking in the sunshine warmed us up – then quickly replaced as a brief shower rained down on us. Enroute we passed the Black Rabbit restaurant pub – our rendezvous for dinner at the end of the day.

Circling around South Stoke vicarage, we found the hidden entrance to the churchyard – and a few surprises. A couple of sheep with their lambs were relishing the delights of the long grass amongst the tombstones! No doubt they were an easy substitute for mowing – though the frolicking lambs paid little respect for their surroundings!

With the sun returned, everyone appreciated a leisurely coffee break in the churchyard, followed by the obligatory photoshoot.

As so much impassable mud had been encountered by the walk leaders when that undertook a recce 2 weeks before, it was decided to take the road south into Arundel town. But this wasn’t a problem as the road is rural with little traffic – and everyone was so busy chatting, they were barely aware of their route! We passed Swanbourne Lake with its preening swans and vast flock of resting seagulls, before crossing the lake outlet via a stone bridge from which marsh marigolds could be spotted on the banks.

It was 1 0’clock when we returned to our cars, so people were keen for lunch. Walking boots and clothes were discarded, replaced by clean shoes and trousers for ‘more refined’ activities – starting with a search for the best lunch location. Requirements varied: some headed into town to select a café (there are many – all excellent), while others proceeded into the castle gardens to sample coffee and cake there. This latter group first admired the red tulips climbing the banks up to the castle buildings, reminiscent of the poppies at the Tower of London a few years prior.

Revitalised, most people then strolled the beautiful castle gardens, to admire the tulips: many big, bold and brassy; others subtly blending into the grass and the swathes of tall, blue camassias; some framing impressive architecture beyond the garden boundaries.

Also not to be missed were the cork trees with their unusual, gnarled bark.

Sufficiently binged on tulips, a group made their way up the hill in the town to the (Catholic) cathedral – a fairly dark, austere building inside and out. By contrast, our next location was bright, breezy and refreshing: the benches outside the Black Rabbit beside the River Arun! Conversation flowed, drinks flowed (except for the drivers) until it was time to sit down inside for a welcome, hearty dinner.

A good time was had by all – and no doubt many walkers will be planting more tulip bulbs this autumn!

Authors and Photographers: Sandy Arpino and Rose Field

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Allan King Way Part 2

  • Date: 10th April 2024
  • Walk Leader: Sandy Arpino
  • Distance: 14 miles (approx.)

Part Two – Hambledon to Bishop’s Waltham

The recces in March for the Allan King Way part 2 – later nicknamed “The Water and Chocolate Walk” by Petersfield Ramblers – did not go well. There were sections of copious impassable mud, footpaths underwater and a flooded River Meon. Disappointingly, subsequent recces in April revealed little improvement in conditions. One member suggested paddling through the river – and even demonstrated what this might involve – but the majority opinion was to retain dry feet!

To add to our impediments, the Met Office forecast a wet afternoon.

Nonetheless 14 hardy ramblers gathered in Priory Park car park, tucked away in Bishop’s Waltham, to tackle the challenges of the next part of the Allan King Way. There were hearty hellos, much chatting and the first round of cake distribution (mini Jaffa cakes) before everyone compressed into 4 cars – with their kit – and headed back to the walk’s start in Hambledon. After more shoe changes – and further sharing of cake (exceptionally delicious homemade gingerbread this time) – we set off well before 10 0’clock, in sunshine, on what would be a demanding day’s walking.

The leader elected to avoid the official AKW route for the first half mile to Worlds End (!) as it followed a busy road without pavements. Instead we took a pleasant footpath through grassy (but dry) fields, encountering a group of cute donkeys along the way.

No sooner had we joined the AWK proper than we met our first muddy path. It was passable … just! The distraction of horses – to be admired and petted – was welcome, before we embraced squelchy ground through woodland.

Two difficult stiles had to be climbed over – both surrounded by gloopy mud – before we at last found solid footing on a country lane.

Bypassing Bent Farm, as it held the worst of the mud in the area, we enjoyed the tarmac of a small road across Hoegate Common. Trying to regain the AWK at the posh Kelanne Stud Farm, we faced an employee’s annoyance when we ended up on the wrong side of a locked gate. We retraced our steps to the road and took a close-by, second footpath to reach the same gate on the correct side for walkers.

The next couple of miles on the AKW were a veritable delight. On either side of our path through woods ran swathes of bluebells, wood anemones and wild garlic in the early stages of flowering. It was especially wonderful to see English bluebells with their richer colour and gently arching stems.

Leaving woodland behind, we emerged into vast fields of rapeseed around Hoe Cross Farm, dazzlingly bright yellow – pungent with the smell of brassicas.

Then alternating between lanes and footpaths, the route took us down into the Meon Valley … and its impassable river. The AKW takes a direct route over a footbridge but it was impossible to reach this bridge with all the flooding. We were forced to head south on roads through Soberton, so that we could cross the river on a road bridge, adding a mile and a half to our walking. We were rewarded with more lovely flowers: colourful honesty, a few early cowslips – and the first 2024 spotting of the weirdly flowering ‘Lords-and-ladies’. 

We rejoined the AKW after crossing the busy A32, marching uphill out of the Meon Valley and turning north along a track called Green Lane. It was good to be back on course … though the weather was starting to change. Through drizzle and quite a breeze we crossed ploughed fields, admiring the winter silhouettes of the trees.

On the outskirts of Hill Grove, it was again necessary to circumvent mud on the AKW path by staying on roads, not that this wasn’t a good option. Firstly we were able to view the most remarkable old house with its timber frame and the expansive orchard of small fruit trees, just coming into bloom. Secondly – and more importantly – we could collapse into the warmth and dry of the accommodating Hunters Inn for an overdue lunch break.

After ordering warming cups of coffee, tea and chocolate – or a chilling pint in one case! – we crammed ourselves into an inviting shelter in the pub’s gardens to revive with food from our rucksacks. More welcome chocolate sweets were shared – along with the most scrumptious homemade brownies – thanks to two of our party having birthdays a few days before. It was cheering to escape the rain – and soon peals of laughter filled our refuge. It would have been lovely to stay tucked away for longer but our cars were still some miles away, so we rallied, heading back into the elements.

Hill Grove gave way to Hill Pound and the strangely named track – The Lakes – where we took a right turn. Though the rain eased, it was still necessary to watch where you put your feet, as the puddles were numerous and large.

The Lakes morphed into tarmac which hit a junction with the B2177 leading into Bishop’s Waltham. The AKW route used a footpath to reach the village but this was incredibly muddy so we used the pavement alongside the B-road. It was noisy but – on the plus side – the rain had eased enough for us to pull down hoods. Thankfully exiting the road, we rejoined the AKW one final time.

After passing around three sides of a huge, hidden walled garden, the impressive Bishop’s Waltham Palace ruins came into sight. In the Middle Ages the Palace was one of the finest residences of the Bishops of Winchester, who were among the richest churchmen in Europe. First built by Henry of Blois in the 12th century, the complex was remodelled and extended in the 14th and 15th centuries, becoming a palace capable of housing the king and his court on a number of occasions, as well as the bishop and his household. The palace was badly damaged in the Civil War (1642–9) and subsequently abandoned.

Though at this point only half a mile from the Priory Park car park by road, the AKW was – as ever – circuitous and unrelenting, requiring us to walk an additional mile along the Pilgrims’ Trail before stopping. Flopping at the old railway gates for an impromptu photoshoot, our group took this last challenge in their stride.

In total we trudged 14 miles in difficult conditions – a distance record for some, a “I haven’t walked that far for a long time” distance for others. Everyone was certainly very pleased to remove their boots and collapse into vehicles to start the journey home. We did ourselves proud. No doubt all the walkers felt a sense of achievement once settled at home with a warming drink … and eager for part three!

Author and Photographer:  Sandy Arpino

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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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