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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Emsworth 6 March 2024

  • Date: 6 March 2024
  • Walk Leaders: Sandy and Helen
  • Distance: 7.5 miles

Petersfield Ramblers enjoy a rare sunny, mud-free walk along the coast

After two months of wet, muddy, cancelled walks, we were looking forward to improved walking conditions in March. However previous checks for a potential Emsworth to Hayling Island coastal walk had not been encouraging: problems with tides, excessive gloopy mud and water torrents pouring off the sea walls did not bode well. Undeterred, the walk leaders rose at 06:30am on the first day of March to assess conditions. Such dedication! They were rewarded with stunning early morning light across the mud flats and – surprisingly – a ‘thumbs up’ for the walk two days later. 

So it was that 20 keen Ramblers set off from Emsworth recreation park, south through the delightful coastal village – resisting the temptations of the many charming cafes. Looking back as we circled the enclosed mill pond, the picturesque water-front scene – postcard pretty – was enhanced by a flock of swans enjoying food left by a kindly local.

As we passed the yacht club, reaching more open beach, we found ourselves in warming sunshine, under azure blue skies. It was simply amazing! Smiles broke out and jackets were discarded. There was even blossom on the hawthorn lining our path.

After a leisurely coffee break, basking on a grass bank, we continued around Conigar Point, past ‘seaweed bushes’ and railway sleeper remaining walls – each interesting in their own ways.

As Langstone approached, the unusual tidal mill (now a private residence) drew people’s attention; with its oldest parts dating from 1720, the black tarred outer skin makes the mill resilient to the full force of the coastal weather.

On past the white-washed Royal Oak pub, a house at the beach-end of Langstone High Street caught our attention, not just that its sandbags indicated the constant threat of high tides. The front-door water barricade and post box were colourfully painted with nautical scenes.

We ‘lost’ some walkers at the Ship Inn (there were tales of walking back!), before traversing Langstone Bridge to arrive on Hayling Island. Heading out west, we admired the nature reserve – once thriving oyster beds – before resuming the Billy Trail back to the NW corner of the island. Here everyone collapsed on the grassy sea-wall banks to consume lunch – and sunbathe!

After an extended, convivial break – vitamin D stores replenished! – we wended our way back across Langstone Bridge, having noted the ‘Danger’ signal for any ghost trains anticipating crossing the seriously depleted rail bridge!

Following along the extension of the Hayling Billy Coastal Path (ablaze with yellow celandines) to Havant we took a bus back to Emsworth – and our cars.

We all agreed that it was a most enjoyable walk, not least for the stunning sunshine after months of continual rain.

Historical note: Hayling Billy ran from 1867 to 1963. The line was closed because of the unaffordable cost of repairs to the bridge. Some of our walkers can remember travelling on the Hayling Billy when they were very young.

Author and Photographer: Sandy Arpino

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AGM 17 February 2024

  • Date:                  17 February 2024
  • Walk Leader:   Peter Berg
  • Distance:          4.5 Miles

Nyewood Walk and AGM

A total of 18 Ramblers met up outside The Henry Warren Hall, to enjoy a 4 mile walk around the amazingly varied environs of Nyewood, prior to our AGM.  A number of other Ramblers had also arrived who would be setting up the Hall for the AGM, and more importantly, lunch for us all. 

Start of walk

The morning was damp, overcast with low cloud, but the walkers set off in high spirits northeast out of Nyewood, joining Dumpford Lane, following the Serpent Trail.  We passed Nyewood House, shortly afterwards reaching The Woodcarvers Studio, which won the coveted South Downs Award for 2023. Some examples of their work were on display in their yard. 

Still following the Serpent Trail, but turning off Dumpford Lane, we followed the track down past the fish ponds, where the trail encountered wet and muddy conditions – particularly at stiles and bridges.  

Bridge appoach

Crossing the dismantled railway line, leaving the Serpent Trail to follow a path through a small copse of trees, we emerged to walk alongside a water meadow/marsh which is one of only a few breeding grounds of snipe and curlew along the South Downs. 

Turning off this path we headed for Woodhouse Farm, where we joined a sunken farm track heading uphill for East Harting.  At the top of this rise, the South Downs came into view, still topped with low cloud and mist – a lovely sight. 

Heading north along the road out of East Harting, we took a footpath bordered by a line of trees and meadows on both sides.  The going here was still slightly uphill, and as we came out of these trees, the view to the north provided a very welcome accompaniment to a brief coffee stop.  

From here, we could make out that our path, downhill all the way back to Nyewood, would be a little wet and muddy, underfoot.  Nonetheless, we all arrived back at the hall in good time for our AGM and a very welcome lunch. 

Annual General Meeting

The AGM was held in the newly built hall in Nyewood, small but perfectly formed. After checking that all the walkers had changed their footwear so that no mud would be brought into the hall, everyone settled down to start the meeting.

All members of the committee presented their reports on the different aspects of the group. The reports reflected the hard work that had been put into that aspect of the club- from membership, budgeting, publicity, website, walks, checking footpaths- not forgetting that the minutes from each meeting have to be typed up. A huge amount of work to keep the club ticking along for the benefit of the members.

Linda Farley, membership and publicity, had indicated that she wished to step aside after three years. Fiona El Hasnaoui kindly stepped forward to fill the vacancy (not too much bribery was involved!) and she was unanimously voted onto the committee.
At the end of the meeting (short but sweet as everyone was hungry for lunch after their walk) a vote of thanks was given to Linda along with a bunch of flowers in recognition of her hard work for the committee.

Then it was time to savour the soups that Anne and her team were preparing in the kitchen. A choice of three soups along with a ploughman’s lunch was served to everyone and much appreciated. This was followed by delicious cake and a cup of tea. Many thanks to Anne, Barbara and Chris, along with those who made the soups and cakes.

Kitchen Crew

Once the hall had been cleared up, tables back in the cupboard, washing up done the ramblers went home to await the packed (hopefully) programme of walks for the coming year.

Authors: Peter Berg and Lynne Burge

Photography by Paul Farley and Jeremy Bacon

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16 January 2024

  • Date:               16 January 2024
  • Walk Leader: Lynne Burge
  • Distance:         3 Miles each way (approx.)

Ramblers Social Lunch at the Seven Stars

Ten ramblers assembled outside the Outdoor Swimming to enjoy a 3 mile walk to the Seven Stars. Others would meet us at the pub ready for the pre ordered meal. With the sun high in the sky and the freezing temperatures we made our way through Merrit’s Meadow to Dark Hollow. Arriving at Beckham Lane we gained two more walkers, with another one joining us at the bridge over the A3.

Thankfully, due to the low temperatures the areas that are potentially boggy on the route were fairly firmly frozen, so we were able to keep our feet relatively dry. The views were spectacular as the sun shone down, a buzzard circled overhead searching for prey and the trees glistened in the sunlight.

On reaching the Seven Stars we all changed out of our walking boots and entered the warmth of the pub. Thirty Petersfield Ramblers sat chatting, enjoying a drink and then enjoying the food. It was a great time to catch up with friends not seen recently, to chat with several people at once rather than, when walking, chatting with one person at a time. I’m sure we livened up the pub on a cold Tuesday lunchtime in January. Pickle was not missed out, he happily ate the leavings of chips looking for more once he had finished.

As the afternoon drew on those walking back to Petersfield set off before it began to freeze. The route took us past Langrish School and out to the bypass. A fairly simple walk back except for the fallen tree. This blocked the path with the only way past it meant gymnastics- climbing over various branches to reach the other side. Then off into Petersfield and each to their different homes and into the warmth.

Negotiating the fallen tree

So, the question is- was it a success? Feedback says that everyone enjoyed the experience, so watch this space for the next Ramblers’ Pub lunch.

Author and Photographer: Lynne Burge

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6 December 2023

  • Date:                     Wednesday 6 December 2023
  • Leaders:               Gordon Churchill
  • Meet:                    10:15, Petersfield Railway Station Bus Stand F
  • Distance:             4.8 miles

A Bus and Walk Adventure including Petworth House Christmas Decorations

A small group set off by bus to Midhurst where Gordon led a short walk to ascend St Ann’s Hill where we read about the Iron Age fort that dominated the hill.  Later a Norman castle was built, then finally a fortified house with nearby South Pond supplying fish.  We descended steps to reach the footpath alongside the river Rother taking us to the ruins of Cowdray House.  Construction of the house started in about 1520 but it was destroyed by fire in 1793.  We then boarded the bus to Petworth where we enjoyed the Christmas decorations inside Petworth House, a National Trust property, which is set in a 700 acre deer park. 

As well as marvelling at all these historic items, we really did marvel at all the hard work by the volunteers in decorating all the many Christmas trees – really large trees beautifully adorned.

Christmas Feast

The 17th century house offers an infinity of paintings and sculpture which includes major works by Van Dyck, Turner, Reynolds, and Gainsborough. 

And by Titian, “An Unknown Man in a Black Plumed Hat”

Examples of Grinling Gibbons work in the “Carved Room”

On leaving the house we enjoyed our packed lunches in beautiful Autumnal sunshine while sitting around tables in the forecourt.  Fortified by food, we set out for a walk around part of the parkland, circumnavigating one of the large ponds, and marvelling at the landscaping work of “Capability” Lancelot Brown.  After ascending to the summit of one of the hills we saw a huge herd of deer below us in the distance.

On leaving Petworth House a visit was made to the Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin before waiting for the return bus to Midhurst.  After passing Benbow Pond and the golf course we alighted from the bus at Easebourne.   Our final short walk was through part of the Cowdray estate, and once again past the ruins of Cowdray House, before boarding the bus for Petersfield, having walked a total of about 4.8 miles.

Author: Gordon Churchill

Photography: Mark Lightburn & Flick

(Plus Linda & Paul Farley who couldn’t join the group but visited 2 days later)

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22 November 2023

  • Date:              22 November 2023
  • Distance:      9 miles
  • Start:             10:00 at South Meadow CP GR:  SU696164
  • Leaders:        Chris and Martin

Finally Petersfield Ramblers enjoy a dry walk in November

After weeks of wet, cancelled or squelchy walks 18 Ramblers at last gathered in Clanfield – with a dry (if cold) weather forecast – to enjoy a walk without rainwear and wet feet. Unusually the jaunt was led by Pickle – our 4-legged mascot – who executed his responsibilities with remarkable diligence!

It is always tricky to set a walking pace that suits everyone – some like slower, some like faster – but Pickle succeeded in maintaining a speed which satisfied everyone. Quite a notable achievement!

The first segment of the walk took us in a huge loop – across grass, round fields, through woods and along tracks – until we reached the Rising Sun Inn where we stopped for coffee. In truth no one took a great deal of notice of the route as this was our first opportunity in too long to have a good chat. Thankfully Pickle wasn’t side-tracked by all this conversation, staying focused on leading the group. Until that is, he heard pheasants in the undergrowth which proved a major distraction!

On leaving the pub we admired the impressive bells on St James church opposite. Passing Clanfield Junior School, the scout hut and a very striking olive tree outside someone’s house, two dog-themed signs made us chuckle:

The autumn colours were glorious – both in gardens and along the hedgerows – as we made our way through woodland to the South Downs Way. For the third time we passed tractors with massive cutters pruning back the hedgerows, the farmers politely halting operations until we had safely passed.

The views to our right – across the Downs behind Butser Hill – were lovely with rolling landscapes punctuated by stately oaks. Two eagle-eyed Ramblers spotted a caulifower fungi which they harvested for supper, assuring those of us less well informed that it was perfectly safe to eat. Too many of us have watched Midsomer Murders to feel quite so confident!

Cauliflower Fungi

Stopping at the Sustainability Centre for lunch, we enjoyed slices of their delicious (reasonably priced) cakes, alongside lunches from our rucksacks. Revitalised we strolled through the tranquility of the South Downs Natural Burial Site, marvelling at the effort required to dig graves in solid chalk.

As we entered our tenth and final mile, some people were starting to tire. Pickle continued to take his duties seriously, looking behind to check whether walkers were keeping up and adjusting the pace accordingly!

Our thanks to Pickle – and Chris and Martin, of course – for such a lovely walk. We look forward to more.


Author and Photographer: Sandy Arpino

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1 November 2023

  • Date:                          1 November 2023
  • Walk Leader:           Flick
  • Distance:                  7 miles
  • Start:                         10:00am, Kilmeston Church GR: SU591 263

We parked at Kilmeston church on the first day of November, the day that the forecasters warned of Storm Ciarán, so it was a party of just 11 of us who braved whatever the weather threw at us on the day.

We did start in rain wearing our full waterproofs, but very soon it cleared and we enjoyed a delightful walk of about 7 miles. Storm, what storm?

We set off in our usual fashion of walking and talking and headed along a muddy lane to the delightful hamlet of Beauworth (pronounced Bewith) which contained some very attractive thatched cottages. Later we headed uphill and came to a building where work was being carried out. It had been a public house called The Milburys where I remember buying a drink and a group of us having our sandwiches on a previous walk – sadly no longer possible. Another pub closed.

Trekking along the South Downs Way and admiring an abundance of berries and colourful leaves still on the trees, we came to a large field where our leader had planned an early lunch stop at the top corner where we could admire the view, but suddenly rain and wind set in, so we carried on for a while until the sun came out, so lunch was eaten and enjoyed.

We came across a field of attractive plants with lovely blue flowers which none of us had seen before. Upon investigation via Google, we discovered that it is called Fittleneck and is related to the borage family. It is apparently very attractive to insects, and it is a good soil improver – you learn something every day! We wondered if the farmers just dig it in to ‘feed’ the next crop?

We arrived back close to our cars, but our leader gave us a choice of walking an extra half mile to the National Trust house of Hinton Ampner for a cup of tea and cake. This was enthusiastically taken up by all!

As always, whatever the weather, it’s always wonderful to be out in the countryside; good for our health, physical and mental.

Author: Sheila Gadd

Photography: Various walkers

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15 October 23

  • Date:               15 October 2023
  • Distance:       9 miles
  • Start:              10:00 St Catherine’s Park & Ride, Winchester
  • Leader:           Sandy Arpino & Lynne Burge

Nine intrepid Ramblers don’t let Storm Babet dampen their enthusiasm

Although Storm Babet – named after a woman who visited an open day at the Dutch weather headquarters (!) – was still crossing the country, nine brave Ramblers stuck to their planned walk along the River Itchen one Saturday in mid-October. There had been heavy rain all night and the forecast was very patchy.

Being a linear walk – from Eastleigh to Winchester – there was the inevitable complexity of how to end up back at our cars when the walk completed. The walk leaders decided to tackle this issue at the beginning (rather than the end) of the walk, so we met in Winchester’s St Catherine’s Park & Ride and took the P&R bus to the city centre. From here a mile’s walking through the inviting market and up a hill led us to Winchester railway station, from where we took a waiting train south to Eastleigh. Our timing was perfect vis-à-vis the weather: the heavens opened as we reached the dry of the station forecourt and the downpour ceased as we disembarked at Eastleigh. A short stretch of pavement delivered us to an extensive recreation park and onwards – finally – to the River Itchen.

Perhaps not unsurprisingly, the normally gentle chalk-stream with its crystal-clear waters had been turned into a murky, raging torrent – and the riverside path was very wet. Thankfully underfoot was firm gravel, though extensive puddles had accumulated which required careful manoeuvring to avoid wet feet. Given the high water levels we were able to observe in action the navigation infrastructure along the river which serves to control flow. Indeed after a few miles walking upstream the waters cleared, held back by a series of weirs. Delightfully the sun broke through the leaden skies for a while, offering us picturesque scenes to photograph.

Once the waters calmed, we encountered groups of water birds, posing amongst the newly emerged autumn colours.

After passing Compton Lock – where families paddle on summer days – and taking a tunnel under the noisy M3, we forked left to follow the westerly side of water meadows to the Hospital of St Cross. Not a hospital in the modern sense, St Cross is an alms-house, founded in 1130 by the Bishop of Winchester, to provide charitable support for those in financial or physical difficulty. Today the Hospital still offers a home to 25 Brothers in its beautiful almshouses. Its striking Norman church impresses by its setting, size and simplicity.

Rain began to fall quite heavily as we approached St Cross so we hurried for the cover inside where we enjoyed our lunch. Some of us bought tasty tea, coffee and cake from the inviting cafe, while others participated in Wayfarers’ Dole. The tradition of Dole at St Cross – the giving of refreshment to travellers – dates back nearly 900 years. Modern travellers like ourselves can request Dole, receiving a small tumbler of pleasant ale and a little square of bread.

Reinvigorated – and with the rain reduced to a light shower – we strode back to the P&R and our cars. Setting off for home, we were grateful that the storm had been kind to us – and pleased that we had braved the elements for an interesting walk.

Author:  Sandy Arpino

Photography: mostly Sandy Arpino plus a few extra from Linda & Paul Farley

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