Leading walks is not always as effortless as it may seem - preparation is all. Sometimes the looking out of the walk does not go smoothly and sometimes the weather seems set on sabotaging the best laid plans.
OUR FIRST EXPERIENCE OF LEADING A WALK
This walk starts from the lay-by on A338, adjacent to Avon Tyrrell Farm, (GR 147 993). It’s a circular from Avon Tyrrell, Ripley, Bransgore, Neacraft, Winkton, Sopley and is 9 miles. We had walked the route out twice – just to make sure – both times on dry days. But this time (some time in late Spring) it had been raining all night and, as we pulled in to the lay-by, it was still raining – hard.
Hoping desperately that no-one would turn up, we sat with the windows tightly shut and waited. Three cars arrived but nobody moved. One car, complete with passengers, drove off. Suddenly Len Hold tapped the window and said, “Come on then, of course we’re going. I’ve never been on a walk where it’s rained all day. It’ll be dry by lunchtime.”
So off we went, Julie, Peter and me with Len Hold, Joan Rose, and two others. Over stiles, newly ploughed fields, up country lanes, through villages, and it rained, and rained, and rained…..
Our first walk as leaders and Len’s first walk when it rained all day. We’ve walked it since on a fine day and it’s a very good walk.
Peter and Doreen Dixon
(It’s interesting to discover that it rained so hard on Peter’s first walk. It doesn’t always rain on Peter’s walks – it just seems that way! Eds.)
WALKING FROM PEPPERBOX HILL
This is a walk I remember most vividly because it was the first John, my husband, led and so we walked it out twice before we felt confident that we knew where we were going! Its 10 miles long and we walked it in June. From the car park we enjoyed the view towards Salisbury Cathedral. In the bottom of the valley the churchyard of East Grimstead provided seats for our first – and last – break for refreshments. On one of our “recces” John and I came across a mobile smithy parked alongside the track – the smith was shoeing a horse as we passed. Through woods towards Farley Church, which aroused the interest of Ian and Quiver, his ever-faithful dog. While we waited a man driving a horse and cart apologised for not being able to give us a lift. Lunch was taken at the edge of woodland where we had seen a deer. Fields of yellow oil seed rape as high as our eyes made for an interesting photo. Along the hedge by the railway somebody trod on a snake. I heard the scream but, being back marker, I did not see it. On one of our trial runs the long pull up to the Pepperbox was enlivened by the sight of a fox loping along the valley below, but on the day of the group walk a marble white fluttering on the top made my day.
My most memorable ramble was the Bluebell Ramble from Godshill to Fordingbridge, which, with variations, I led for many years.
I always found looking out new rambles most exciting. When Marjorie Thatcher, Margaret Hunt and I decided to look out the bluebell ramble our starting point was “The Fighting Cocks” at Godshill. We walked across some fields to Cutts Farm and up to Castle Hill (coffee stop), then on via Woodgreen village to the old mill. We entered the woods of the Breamore estate where the beech trees, with a carpet of bluebells underneath, was a sight to behold. It was extra special if you were seeing it for the first time. We then made our way to the Mizmaze (lunch stop).
After lunch we went on to the Whitsbury Stables, at that time used by Gordon Richards. Some of the horses were beautiful. We followed the paths to Rockbourne village, where the flowers bordering the stream that ran by the roadside were lovely. We then entered Rockbourne Woods. It had to be seen to be believed - the beauty and perfume of the bluebells, red campion and wood anemones (red, white and blue) under young beech trees undulating down the slope.
On leaving the woods it was getting dusk and we took a wrong turning – we were lost! We decided to cut it short, and went through a bog onto a road which joined the main Fordingbridge road, just in time to see our bus pass by. Nothing for it but to walk to Fordingbridge; by now it was quite dark and starting to snow a bit. Eventually we got there and had to wait for a bus to Salisbury and then another to Southampton.
By this time Margaret’s mother was ringing Chalkie (my friend) to know if I was home (bit of a panic, where were we?). We eventually arrived home at 9 o’clock. What a day!
As Marjorie was retired at the time, she went out the following week to where we should have ended. Believe it or not we were only a couple of fields off track.
Thanks for the memory
We read the next account several times before we realised that it was describing the same route as the Bluebell Ramble. There’s so much to see in the countryside it should come as no surprise that people note and enjoy different things while they are walking and that the same walk, at another season of the year, provides a new viewpoint.
TEA ON A BED
This linear walk from Godshill to Fordingbridge via Woodgreen, Breamore, Whitsbury and Rockbourne was usually held on a bank holiday and was led by Harold Carre. It has been enjoyable every time.
The walk started by bus from town to Godshill, where we alighted at the pub. The first part of the route was a mixture of road and grass verge where we followed the escarpment overlooking the River Avon and then the route to Woodgreen. Here we had a short pause while the leader phoned the tea place to tell them the numbers to expect for tea.
On again – unfortunately more road walking and across the A338 – to Breamore and a quick look at the Saxon church, but no time to look at Breamore House. Both are worth a visit, as is the Farm Museum.
Now came a very pleasant easy uphill walk through the woods to the Mizmaze – there was always someone who wanted to walk round the maze! – and on via grassy tracks, some of which are wide enough for drove roads, before stopping at a village pub where the landlord allowed us to sit in the garden to eat our sandwiches. Needless to say, some disappeared inside!
More tracks took us on to Whitsbury and its famous well-kept racing stables. There were always magnificent race horses to be seen in the paddocks.
Then on again to the tea place at Rockbourne with the nearby Roman villa.
The tea place, recommended by the Cyclists’ Touring Club, was in a cottage. The landlady well knew the needs of hungry cyclists and walkers! Not a large place and with our numbers it was necessary to invade the bedroom where there was a large table but not enough seats. Some had to sit on the edge of the bed, only to be interrupted by the tea lady diving under the bed to pull out jars of home-made jam to provide more eats for the hungry horde. I never understood how she made a profit!
The walk after tea back to Fordingbridge was a bit of an anti-climax and not very memorable. We had to keep an eye on the time to make sure of getting the bus back to Southampton.
I am not sure that this walk can be done now as bus services have altered so much. It was all done - bus fare, tea and goodwill contribution - for around 2/6d (aka 12p !) which was the maximum the Group’s rules said we should spend.
The walk from Yarmouth to Freshwater along the western coast of the Isle of Wight has been a favourite of the Group for many years, as is evidenced by the next three accounts.
YARMOUTH TO FRESHWATER
This coastal walk of 9 miles between Yarmouth, the Needles and Freshwater Bay is one of the most spectacular in Southern England, and has been a popular annual walk with the Group for well over 30 years. It used to be on Easter Monday and led by Harold Rosendale, but for the past 20 years it has been on August Bank Holiday Monday. The views on a clear sunny day are perhaps the finest in Southern England.
The walk leaves Yarmouth following the coast to Fort Victoria (which is a good stop for morning coffee). The walk then climbs through woodland and here there are excellent views across Hurst Narrows to the Castle. Continue following the path, sometimes close to the sea and sometimes a little inland until descending to Headon Warren. Here there are remains of old gun emplacements. This is a good spot to stop for lunch and to enjoy the splendid view of the Needles, the Isle of Purbeck and Bournemouth.
Leaving Alum Bay and the crowds behind climb up the coast road and then up the path to the coastguards’ cottages and here bear right for 300 yards to get a panoramic view of the Needles and Needles Battery. The redundant Black Knight missile testing bunkers lie below.
Turn left near a transmitter and walk eastwards along the coast path to the Tennyson monument, enjoying the magnificent views to left and right and ahead. From the monument descend to Freshwater Bay and catch the bus to Yarmouth.
The Group has also walked the Down when staying at the HF House at Freshwater. On one such walk in early November the wind was blowing a full gale and it was so strong that diminutive Betty Astin was unable to stand up and had to hold onto me to keep on her feet!
Alfred, Lord Tennyson lived at Farringford House at the foot of the Down. He would regularly walk up to the summit and he claimed the air was so good it was worth 6d a pint. [In Tennyson’s day six pence would have been a huge sum for the ordinary working man. – editors’ note]
TENNYSON DOWN WALK
My favourite walk is Don’s August Bank Holiday Monday walk. I love any walk by the sea and this one taking you round by the Needles and up Tennyson Downs is a delight. I will never forget walking this route in 2005 - a beautiful day, the heather on the Downs looking glorious and the sea a magical Mediterranean blue.
WALK: EASTER MONDAY, APRIL 3RD 1972
It was a lovely sunny day for my first Bank Holiday ramble on the Isle of Wight. I was amazed to find so many joining us at Lymington. Altogether there were 56 people, including 12 from the Ramblers Association, who had met for the 10am ferry to Yarmouth.
The route I took was via Totland and Colwyn Bay, then the steep climb up and across Headon Warren. Here we stopped for lunch and saw lovely views down to Alum Bay and the Needles. The climb to the Needles and up to Tennyson Down and Tennyson’s Monument was the most spectacular part of the walk – the views were superb. We descended to Freshwater Bay where we refreshed ourselves with tea in the old Post Office. After tea some walkers caught the bus while the main party followed the old railway track to Yarmouth, where we all boarded the ferry back to Lymington.
I led this walk for 15 years, the last time in 1987. Only four people arrived on account of the bad weather. We decided it was not worth the trip to the Island and so walked part of the Solent Way, around Lymington. As we all sat on a bank at Norley Wood (Harry Pascoe, Jim Hockey, Jim Casey and myself), it could have been a scene from ‘Last of the Summer Wine’.
Naturally, the weather features hugely in our memories of rambles. On some occasions it combines with attractive scenery and good walking to provide a perfect day. Sometimes it can prove exhilarating and sometimes it can seem set to spoil the day the leader had hoped to provide. But memories of such days do often acquire a special place in folk lore. And it’s usually the rain and its effects that we remember!
A WALK FROM ROMSEY VIA SQUABB WOOD
Trefor and I were leading a walk on a spring day. We’d had weeks of heavy rain and some previous walks had been cancelled but as the weather was fine we decided to go for it. There were a lot of puddles and mud to negotiate along the paths, but when we came out of Squabb Wood we found the fields had been transformed into a huge lake. We stopped and cogitated – should we go back and add another 2-3 miles to the walk or should we go on and risk the water coming over our boots? Several people had wellingtons on, and we were all very muddy anyway, so we voted to go on – only to find that the water got deeper and deeper and eventually the water was lapping our thighs! We squelched into Romsey and I still have a picture of Pat Le Roy sitting on a seat in the Square taking off her wellingtons and pouring the contents into the gutter, much to the amazement of passers-by!
THE BEST PART OF THE CLARENDON WAY
In May 1998 I led this 12 mile linear walk eastwards across the high land of the Wiltshire/Hampshire border from Pitton to Kings Somborne along a section of the Clarendon Way. We parked our cars in Kings Somborne and took the “Two Cathedrals” bus (Winchester/Salisbury) to Pitton.
Heavy rain had occurred during the night and the small country lanes through the villages on the bus route (Stockbridge, Houghton, Bossington, Broughton, Lopcombe, the Winterslows, Dunstable Corner and Pitton) were all badly flooded. The exciting and hilarious bus journey was more like a sea voyage as the bus created large waves, some of which penetrated the bus doors and we all moved to the back! Nine members enjoyed the memorable ride of whom I remember Keith, Dulcie, Len, Margaret, Elizabeth and Harry.
After the hour’s bus ride we started a steady climb from Pitton to Winterslow Church where we paused for the usual look round and short rest. The Winterslows are criss-crossed with many local footpaths and using several of these we arrived at Winterslow’s new community centre where I had pre-arranged elevenses – every Tuesday morning a fund-raising coffee morning was held and we enjoyed coffee, cakes and biscuits and made contributions to the funds!
After this we walked a stretch of straight Roman Road to Buckholt Farm. There the track climbed into open country. We took a diversion off the Clarendon Way up to Broughton Down where we were able to sit in, on, or above the tumuli for our lunch stop, and admire the fine views at the same time.
A series of small footpaths through a coppice led us back on to the Way and a downhill run into Broughton for refreshment. A compulsory walk through the churchyard was made for a visit to the large dovecote, then we went down an exclusive bit of road to cross Wallop Brook and onto field paths behind some fairly large houses in Broughton.
Broad tracks took us through the extensive pig farming area on Houghton Drayton and down again into Houghton. We crossed the River Test at a well known spot where we paused for a tea stop.
We crossed the old railway line and made the steep climb uphill that eventually led to a right turn and a field path that took us straight down to Kings Somborne and the car park and home.
It remained warm and sunny which added to making it a really special day.
PURBECK WALK AND RIDE
This is a 10½ mile linear walk with magnificent views of Poole Harbour and the Isle of Wight. It starts from Corfe Castle and goes via Studland returning from Swanage on the steam railway.
Start at the National Trust car park at Corfe Castle, walk towards the village and then take Sandy Hill Lane on the left. Go under the railway bridge and climb steadily up the Down. Extensive views over the north side of Poole Harbour, Sandbanks and Bournemouth now open up.
Walk on the crest of the hill and pass the tumuli of Nine Barrow Down. Soon you will be seeing Swanage on the right. Descend to the Swanage-Studland road. The path goes through a wood to a golf course. When the Agglestone Rock is reached, stop for a picnic as there are good views across the heath. The Agglestone is a large lump of sand and ironstone approximately 400 tons left by the Ice Age. John Webb in 1863 wrote:
The famous Agglestone,
Said to be by Satan Thrown
At Corfe Castle in the night
From the neighbouring Isle of Wight.
Go through some woodland, then the path emerges above the beach at Studland. The Bankes Arms is a good hostelry to stop for refreshment and to enjoy the sight of the sea view from the garden. When Old Harry Rock is reached, there are extensive views across Poole Bay from Bournemouth to Hurst Castle, the Needles and the Isle of Wight.. The coast path takes you on to Ballard Down and past the trig point. Follow the stream to reach the shore and walk into Swanage. Make for the Mowlem Theatre and turn for the railway station. Here take the steam train back to Corfe Castle. In the early 1970’s the Swanage Railway Co Ltd was formed to restore the Wareham branch line which had been axed by Beeching and the line dismantled. Currently a number of steam locomotives including the Bulleid Pacifics (Merchant Navy and West Country classes) pull trains to Norden, just north of Corfe.
This walk has been very popular with HF members. However, on one very wet occasion, to my surprise, eleven members turned up. I told them they were mad! As we climbed up to Nine Barrow Down, visibility was so poor I had to use my whistle to keep the group together. Later we had lunch in the Studland bus shelter and the very convenient lych-gate opposite and we were most grateful for the protection they afforded us. At Swanage station, before we boarded the train to Corfe Castle, we emptied our pockets out and half a pint of water splashed on to the platform!
WALKING IN SNOW
Many years ago, well, let’s say in the 1980s, Bert Ames was known for his Hampshire mile rambles. The mileage indicated on the card was a mere approximation and the Hampshire mile was usually a very generous 1760 yards.
As duly appointed leader one snowy Sunday in winter, he went to the meeting point at Meonstoke village hall car park, never expecting to find any crazy people braving the roads and wanting to ramble, but in true HF fashion at least five people had arrived.
However, the sun was shining brilliantly and we all agreed to set off intending to climb to Old Winchester Hill via Harvestgate Farm and back through Peak Farm and along the old railway line.
As we went across the fields, the snow in the ditches got deeper and the stiles became impossible to negotiate. The wind had blown the snow into drifts as high as the hedges and several of the lanes were impassable. We made very slow progress and never reached the top of Old Winchester Hill. We were forced to shorten the walk, had a hasty lunch, all standing around and then returned via Peak Farm and the fields to our cars after having thoroughly enjoyed a snowy ramble.
We, being Olive & Frank Rogers, Peggy Cross and her nephew, Eileen Metcalf and Bert and myself. Were there any other crazy people with us that day? We can’t remember
Some members, while enjoying walking generally, do have a favourite walk in a particular area. Here are some their accounts.
The area round Selborne is a national treasure, as is the village itself and its most famous erstwhile inhabitant, the eighteenth-century naturalist, writer and cleric, Gilbert White.
Selborne is 4 miles from Alton and close to the South Downs, which our friend Gilbert, no supporter of minimalism, firmly described as a ‘vast range of mountains’
The geology of the area is varied – the village is on chalk, Selborne Common is on clay, Newton Valence to the west is on flinty soil and Hartley Wood to the north on marly and sandy clay. This is partly why we have such a lovely mixture of scenery round Selborne – wooded hillsides, heathland, downs and let’s face it, the occasional bog.
We’ve walked from Selborne on many Bank holidays, including the Queen’s Jubilee, when the church was a lively centre of hospitality. The bell ringers were demonstrating their skills and the village ladies had made lovely cakes.
Sometimes we go towards Upper Farringdon and return by Newton Valence, where the pond is a joy. In early summer you’ll spot white campion, speedwell, red clover, silverweed, yellow iris and vetch. Dragonflies skim over the water and martins through the sky.
One way of starting a walk from the village is by the Zig-Zag Path, which Gilbert created with his brother John. Thoughtful successors in land ownership have provided seats where we can recover our breath and rest our legs. Other routes from the village are known as the Long Lythe and the Short Lythe. The Lythe walks take you to a succession of beautiful meadows bordering the Oakhanger stream, and through deciduous woodland where you never lose sight of the sky.
On your return from a walk, find time to return to the historic church and explore the village. Go to Gilbert White’s home, The Wakes. The house, which includes a small museum, is maintained in the eighteenth-century style. In the garden, as well as the beautiful lawn and flowerbeds and comfortable seats, you will find a ha-ha and a fruit wall. Gilbert’s orchard, vegetable garden and melonry have been re-established.
And it’s never rained on me in Selborne, nor have I ever found its tea shops closed.
Leaders on our Selborne walks include Fran Hibberd, Ray Kemmish, Peter Dixon, Trefor Fennell, and Fred Augur.
This area holds very vivid memories for me. At some places you’re quite high above sea level and George Hibberd would regularly point out and name the surrounding hills. Sometimes you would see the Isle of Wight.
From the village of East Meon, we make an anti-clockwise circuit. Strike south from the village with Small Down on the right, then turn left to go through Lower Farm. Cross the road to follow on through South Farm to the source of the River Meon. Take the gentle climb through Upper Barns to Hyden Hill. When you’ve reached the South Downs Way, follow it eastwards for a short distance then swing north along the Meon Valley cycle trail. Enter the Queen Elizabeth Country Park. It’s an ideal place to slow down, really enjoy your surroundings and of course stop for lunch.
Briefly go north then fork left. Make for Limkiln Lane and Leythe House Farm. Turn left, then right to reach Cumber’s Lane. At the cross roads bear left to Rookham Lodge Farm, turn right at the lane towards Park Cottages. Follow the path on the left opposite the cottages and climb Park Hill. You will be above Vineyard Hole. At this vantage point the views are truly spectacular – you’re looking down onto East Meon church and the roofs of the houses in the village. The path drops you down to the village, where we’ve finished walks at a welcoming teashop.
Once the weather was really extreme. In March 1995 I was walking near East Meon with a few HF friends. The wind blew so hard it was like a monsoon! We lay face down on the ground and held onto each other for safety.
My favourite ramble? not a difficult choice to make. From the first time I decided to do a ramble in the Cranborne Chase area, I enrolled two trusty friends to walk it out with me – Eileen Metcalf and Peggy Cross. We started at Tollard Royal where parking space was limited but found a small space by the village pond.
The track ahead leads to a fold in the hills. From the moment we were on this track, the magic began its work, for that is what I felt each of the four times I led this walk. A feeling that cares were dropping away and anything might happen. Though I love the South Downs they have become so popular that it’s hard to find a quiet spot but here on the Chase was peace of a special kind. The one flaw was the car park at Win Green, but compensation came soon when the view ahead opened out.
We did the walks in both spring and summer varying them slightly according to the season – each season has its special charms and attractions. At one time the path was all pinks and purples of various orchids which attracted a variety of butterflies – a feast of colours.
On our way to Berwick St John we passed and admired a cottage garden which was a riot of colour and talked to the elderly couple whose pride and joy it was. A couple of years later it looked neglected and so did the lonely owner, whose wife had died. I often wonder if he soon joined her.
Fleeting memories – of a sudden torrential downpour, when we tried to shelter, not too successfully, in a hazel copse while taking a vote on whether to keep on or backtrack. The voters for keeping on carried the day and our reward came with a sudden burst of sunshine and a beautifully brilliant rainbow. Sorry Peggy! Your boots got muddy that day. Then there was a sunken path, which was dry and negotiable when we had walked it out two weeks before. Since then there had been a downpour and we were slogging it out, knee-deep in gooey clay. On that occasion, Nell was not amused!
The Ox Drove features often on this walk, an interesting track of great antiquity.
Back to Tollard Royal via Rushmore and the Pitt Rivers estate, once a pleasure ground, now partly occupied by a boys’ school. Information can be found in the Pitt Rivers museum nearby but, alas, it was never open when we were there. We did find a memorial stone to one of the family, almost lost in the tall grasses. See if you can find it for yourself!
When I told Margaret Howard, now living in the Nottingham area, that I was writing about these walks, she said “Joan, I loved that walk above all others, it was so lovely”. She’s right and it’s well worth the journey. If you go in June, the best month for long hours of sunlight, you’ve plenty of time to stand and stare! Enjoy, as they say.
A few years ago our HF Group did a series of Tuesday Walks that covered the beautiful Dorset coast form Weymouth to Sandbanks. My favourite part of this walk has always been the stretch of coast from Osmington Mills to Lulworth Cove. Back in the 1950’s and 1960’s this was also a favourite destination for the Group. In these decades each second or third Sunday in May a Summerbees coach full of Group members would transport us on this annual pilgrimage.
Coaches were allowed to navigate the narrow Dorset lanes at that time and we would alight at the gate of the café in Osmington Mills where we enjoyed a cup of coffee and a comfort stop.
At 11am we would leave for our walk, first across a field where cowslips were blooming in large quantities and then onto the cliff path. Our lunch break was overlooking Ringstead Bay. On one occasion two Group members, who were staying at the round house on the cliff, provided us with fresh tea and coffee. There was no time to linger but we started out again with renewed vigour. The path is very undulating and some members decided to traverse the steep downward slopes on their bottoms. If there was time when we reached Durdle Door we scrambled down to the beach before walking up the hill and making the final descent to Lulworth Cove. In the early years we enjoyed a booked tea, usually followed by ice cream. Our homeward journey was most pleasant and the coach driver always tried to kid us that the stags on the gates at Charborough Park followed us with their eyes. Did it ever rain on those delightful Sundays? In my recollection, never!
This 7-mile walk starts from Alresford station, home of the Watercress Line railway. The path goes through the churchyard and crosses over the railway line. After some road walking and crossing over the main A31, you follow the path to the golf course (beware of flying balls!). After a steady climb and crossing over a few stiles, you will come to a nice viewpoint overlooking the downs towards Winchester. This is an ideal place for a coffee stop. The walk continues to Hinton Ampner where lunch can be taken at The Hinton Ampner Arms. It then goes on to Cheriton – always an attractive village to walk through – and back to Alresford via the path near Tichborne House.
This walk provides good views of the Mid-Hampshire countryside and varied terrain on the footpaths. There are also some very good watering holes en route. It’s a good walk at any time of the year but in June you do have to be prepared for the growth of weeds and nettles on some of the footpaths.
THREE MEON VALLEY VILLAGES
I first walked this route with the group when the leader was Joan Rose and have led it myself since. The path leads from Droxford Square on a gentle and then a not so gentle climb to the top of Fir Down. It follows a path more or less on top before descending to Steynes Farm and then going through the woods before crossing over the Bishops Waltham-Corhampton road. More woods and then through Littleton Copse for a lunch stop. Afterwards along fields to the sunken track from Warners Cottage to Exton. Cross over the main A32 at Corhampton church and then through Meonstoke village before taking the path parallel with the River Meon back to Droxford.
This walk is one of my favourites because of its varied scenery. There are beautiful views of the Meon Valley from the downs, there are woods, fields, tracks, fine old churches, attractive villages, and then the River Meon water meadows. And, if you’re very lucky, there may be tea and home made cakes available in Droxford Village Hall!
I find one spot particularly magical on this walk and that’s the lunch stop in Littleton Copse. It’s a large open space within the wood and I feel as if the woodland creatures are about to emerge into the hushed atmosphere and allow us to view them if we keep very still and quiet. If I’m feeling particularly fanciful, I could imagine nymphs flitting between the trees and then dancing in the arena in front of us.
HISTORY BY THE SOLENT
I led this walk starting from The Rising Sun, Warsash, and following the Solent Way south. Turn left towards the School of Navigation – now the College of Nautical Studies. Turn right at the road and cross Hook Lake and on into Hook Nature Trail and the site of the lost medieval village of Hook. By coincidence we learned about this village only the previous day on a visit with a WEA class to the Lost Villages of Hampshire.
William Hornby was Governor of Bombay and returned to England in 1783. The British Government gave him the land at Hook. He built a mansion (1785-89) there in the style of the Residency in Bombay. He built a dam across the tidal creek and planted trees at regular intervals from there to the east end of the village. Many of these trees are still standing today.
William Hornby died in 1803 and his son John became owner of Hook Park until he died in 1832 when his son William became owner. This grandson of the original William decided to move the medieval village which was very close to the mansion and he set up an industrial hamlet further inland. The new village of Hook consisted of a smithy and a wheelwright and a terrace of four cottages. The date 1846 is worked into the cobbled pavement in front of one of them.
There was a fire in 1903 and again in 1908 which destroyed the mansion but the coach house, orangery and outbuildings survived.
To continue the walk from the ‘new’ village of Hook we walked on lanes and footpaths, skirting land-fill sites towards Brownwich. The land-fill areas are obliterated now, I suspect, and also some of the footpaths we used. We had our picnic lunch at Brownwich Pond (pronounced Brunnitch). A footpath through Brownwich Farm brought us to the coast and the Solent Way. The tide was high so we had to detour inland round Solent Breezes caravan park (at their request). We regained the Solent Way and passing the Hook with Warsash nature reserve, arrived back at Warsash and the cars, having walked just over 9 miles.
There have been morning walks, afternoon walks, evening walks, all-day walks on the programme card and, for the very early birds – dawn rambles, especially on May morning.
The very idea is viewed with disbelief by some of our members – but yes, there have been a few. The first one was along the banks of the River Itchen on a misty May morning with rabbits everywhere. We finished up at Harry Pascoe’s place cooking a huge fried breakfast for eleven people.
A more official dawn ramble began at Cemetery Road (3.30am) in a May heatwave. A tramp slept peacefully on a bench and was not even disturbed by the arrival of three police cars. They had somehow heard that our shady-looking group was gathering. The policeman wound down the car window to question our intentions and I got him to shut off his engine so that he could hear the nightingale. He was not impressed. He said he saw a lot of dawns.
We went to Winchester Hill and began the walk by avoiding seated Friesian cows looming black and white through the mist and snuffling loudly. Don’t we all forget that they are out there all night long? The dandelion clocks are so tight-packed with dew that they look as crunchable as meringues. Of course the dawn chorus of birds is marvellous, and there is a tendency to speak in hushed tones to each other.
Marilyn organises a slap-up breakfast somewhere and they certainly did us proud at Lepe Beach last year. There is a ‘tee-hee’ pleasure in knowing that one has done ten miles before breakfast, but it is wise not to accept invitations for late dinners on the same date which end up in ‘face-in-the-soup’ fiascos. But come and join us! It’s magical.
Some of our members are very knowledgeable about birds and plants so naturally their memories of rambles also contain references to flora and fauna.
ON FINDING A WILD GLADIOLUS ON A WALK FROM BEAULIEU STATION
Although I had seen wild gladioli flowering abroad I had never seen one in this country as they are rare. One day we were walking in an area of the Forest where I knew the flowers could be found at the right time of year – June/July. We found a number of leaves but no flowers. Then Harold (Rosendale) was lucky and found just one gladiolus in flower. It was magenta in colour with sword-shaped leaves and 1-2 feet tall.. I was so excited to have seen one close to home.
I understand there are several sites in the New Forest where the flowers grow, but they are particularly elusive as they can soon be smothered by bracken if it grows in the same area.
(From the sixteenth century gardeners knew and used the European gladiolus. In 1856 a clergyman was peering into the bracken near Lyndhurst and found our native wild gladiolus – gladiolus illyricus. Between them, Margaret and Harold recreated this pioneering moment. Eds.)
Once, Trefor and I were looking out a walk from Farley village in Wiltshire and, walking along a lane from the village, we saw a most extraordinary tree. I think it is a lime tree. It has many huge branches, twisting and contorting, and in winter, without its leaves, one can see a halo of mistletoe, all carefully growing on the furthest reaches of the branches looking rather like baubles on a Christmas tree. It is a sight at any time of the year and we always point it out to our walkers when passing.
MY FAVOURITE BLUEBELL WALK
The starting point for 8 miles of easy going walking is the lay-by (GR607418) opposite the school in Preston Candover (thought to derive from Priests Ton [farm] situated by the Candover stream). Use Explorer map 144 for this walk. Walk back towards the church, turning left at the road junction and after 100 yards picking up the signposted footpath which heads up to Preston Down. Turn left on reaching the field edge path leading to Bradley Corner.
Cross over the track and follow the path to the junction with the Three Castles Path where you turn left to Bradley – a good spot for either lunch break or coffee break. Seating provided by the Parish Council next to the duck pond!
After the break turn left and pick up the track leading to Down Wood. Turn left when you reach the road and continue until turning right down Red Lane to Bagmore Lane, then turn left as far as the signposted bridle path on your left. At this point you will be confronted by hundreds of acres of bluebells. Follow the path up to the main track through Preston Oak Hills. A short break here in the woods will be beneficial. As far as you can see you will be surrounded by bluebells.
A word here about the bluebell. The full name is Hyacinthoides non-scripta, known to those on the other side of Hadrian’s Wall as the ‘Wild Hyacinth’. The bluebell to them is what we call the harebell. According to Greek mythology, a Greek youth, by the name of Hyacinthus, was accidentally killed when struck by a discus thrown by the God Zeus. As he lay on the ground, some spots of blood fell to the ground – from which sprang a beautiful flower which was named Hyacinth. On the leaves of the plant were some red spots which spelled out the message in Greek for “alas”.
The Northern European and British bluebell does not have the spots on its leaves, therefore it is not written on – or is non-scripta”. Hence the full title.
In the Middle Ages the bluebell was regarded as a useful plant, as in the big houses a starch was extracted and used to starch “ye ruffes”. Also fletchers or arrow makers used glue extracted from the plant in order to fix “ye flights to ye arrows”.
Continue the walk past Moundsmere Farm, then turn left on the track leading to Oak Hill Lane. Turn right and follow the lane back to the starting point. There are very few stiles on this walk.
Hope you enjoy the walk!
A CIRCULAR WALK FROM PIG BUSH
This walk in October 1995 was interesting to me as it was one I led myself when Gwen Stiff was unable to take one of her Thursday walks. This was when the Gwen walks were slightly longer than the Thursday walks of today, and Betty and I, together with Valerie Curtis plus two dogs regularly walked out the routes beforehand and had many happy days with Gwen.
The meeting place was the Pig Bush car park on the Lyndhurst to Beaulieu road. We set out to the right of the car park and at the bottom of the wood headed over the brow of the hill towards Rowbarrow pond. When we got to the boardwalk over the bog we were surprised to find the path closed with a new notice saying it was dangerous. After discussion, and due to the fact that a diversion would add some distance to the walk, we all climbed over the barrier and carried on over the boardwalk. Although there were some broken boards it was easy to negotiate and not dangerous. We picked up the grassy path from Rowbarrow and carried on to the right up to the bridge over the railway. We looked at the old horse pound at the entrance to the bridge where the Forest horses are marked at the annual roundup. Over the bridge we turned right and, keeping Denny Lodge Inclosure on our left, we continued on until Woodfidley Passage and went right across the Bishop of Winchester purlieu out to Shatterford car park. Crossing the road over the railway we lunched at the Beaulieu Road Restaurant in the converted old stable block.
We continued after lunch by taking the path towards Decoy Pond Farm from the car park opposite, and then took the first grassy path on the right across Yew Tree Heath and out to the car park on the road. Crossing the main road we picked up the footpath on the right of the gravel path leading to Ferny Crofts, a permanent camp site for the Scout Association. Our walk continued past Ferny Crofts and we passed a strange pond. The trees and bushes around the pond appeared to be all dead and stunted and the pond itself stagnant. One could imagine in bad light seeing ghosts and goblins rising out of the pond. Quite eerie! Continuing we turned right at the next T-junction and soon found ourselves opposite our starting point at Pig Bush, a ramble of 4-5 miles.
Betty and I used to do this walk on our own, particularly the section between Shatterford and Pig Bush because of its natural history. At Pig Bush Dartford Warblers can be seen on the gorse and across the boardwalk there are many interesting water plants. From Woodfidley Passage fallow deer show themselves, also the Wood Lark. Near the railway line on rare occasions Grey Shrikes can be viewed. The Shrike is known as the Butcher Bird because it kills its prey and hangs it on thorns as a pantry. Happy days.
SUMMER EVENING AT LEPE
One June evening I led a ramble around Lepe; a lovely evening, calm and bright. Crossing the last field we came face to face with a herd of horses led by a fine stallion. He was most upset to see us all and thought it imperative to save his harem from this long train of people, so galloped around herding them all together. They all seemed to panic and took flight, galloping around the field and getting a little close for comfort. But what a sight it was! We stayed near the hedge and managed to get out safely and so on down to the beach. All was peace and calm and we stopped to eat our supper whilst watching the herons fishing and the other wading birds having their last meal of the day. We watched the sun sinking and then, reluctantly, made our way back to the cars, reaching them just before the sunset turned into night.
Sometimes the fauna is not what one might expect to find in Hampshire!
IN AND AROUND QUEEN ELIZABETH COUNTRY PARK
Buriton is a classic English village, a few miles south of Petersfield with old shops along a single street. The walk starts at Buriton Church (grid reference 741 200) which, with its adjacent manor house and village pond, provides a most attractive setting.
This walk is lovely at any time of the year but is especially picturesque in Autumn. In November 2000 we walked it on Remembrance Sunday and duly stopped for one minute’s silence after our coffee break. The walk goes uphill through woodland in Queen Elizabeth Country Park, up to Dean Hill Barn and then through open country into Ditcham Woods, part of the route running parallel with the Sussex County border path, with delightful views into the neighbouring country.
On that November day there was the unexpected sight of husky dog racing in the Country Park. Teams of up to four huskies were pulling not sleds but racing rigs which resembled lightweight chariots reminiscent of Ben Hur. We scattered to the sides of the track as the dogs raced along urged on by their drivers. They were beautiful animals and looked as if they were relishing the competition. Apparently this is an annual event with entrants to the race coming from as far afield as Lancashire.
We all have memories of eating our sandwiches in idyllic spots with glorious views of the southern counties spread before us or finding an attractive and welcoming pub. On occasions, of course, when the weather fails to co-operate, we have to seek any possible shelter in church porches or barns. Failing that there are usually trees or bushes to keep off the worst of the rain. But some lunch stops are in a class of their own.
AN ELEGANT SPOT FOR LUNCHEON
I’ve twice been on a circular walk led by Tony Noyce starting from Shawford and going via Cranbury Park, Hursley and Silkstead Farm. Tony had obtained special permission to walk through the IBM grounds at Hursley Park. Luncheon was taken there in the sunken garden. Pergolas provided shelter from the sun or from the rain. There were seats, flowers, shrubs, a pool with fish – you could sit on its raised edge and dabble your fingers in the water. What would the shades of Edwardian ladies strolling in the gardens dressed in their long skirts and elegant hats carrying parasols to protect them from the sun have made of 21st-century women in trousers, heavy boots, sleeveless tops, and bare headed? And please don’t mention disappearing into the surrounding bushes for a comfort stop before the afternoon stretch. It might have been comfort but was not at all comme il faut!
Most of us can remember walks on which the leader, while never admitting to getting lost, certainly added an extra one or two miles to the walk. Or walks on which mishaps occurred, perhaps causing irritation or discomfort at the time but providing fond memories afterwards.
A VERY LONG WALK - 13TH FEBRUARY 1972
We had done the best part of a twelve mile ramble in the Forest when we came to Ober Heath; it was beginning to get dark.
At this point our leader was persuaded (by-someone-who-should-have-known-better) to take a short cut across to Queen’s Bower. But when we got there both the Highland and Ober Waters were in full flood.
Fortunately, a tree had fallen across the Highland Water and most of the party used it as a bridge. However, one lady member said she was not going to cross on that. So two of us (one being the one-who-should-have-known-better) said we would find a better way. We failed! So once again we found another tree which had fallen across the stream. We managed to persuade our lady to cross by going astride the tree trunk and shuffling along. Despite odd knobs and other obstacles, she succeeded.
By now it was dark and rest of the party were well ahead; we stopped and listened and, as with most HF parties, we could hear them (where they get the breath from to chat, I shall never know). So we caught up with them and all was well.
Moral: NEVER tell the leader what to do.
George Hibberd (AKA "he-who-should-have-known-better")
A SLIGHT DETOUR
Blame it not on the Bossa Nova but on a book. One of those old, long forgotten books that had been gathering dust in a second hand shop until I – in defiance of the interrogation ‘You’ve got too many books already, what do you want that one for?’ – bought it. The book contained interesting information about sights on the South Downs Way, including Neolithic dew ponds, and I was shortly to join the intrepid HF walkers in striding the route from Eastbourne to Winchester. Dew ponds are man-made clay lined depressions designed to hold rainwater for any sheep or cattle grazing on the dry chalk downlands.
The South Downs walk was done in stages with a drop off and pick up by coach for each section. On the day of which I speak – a very hot day in August 1997 - we were walking from Upper Beeding to Amberley via Chanctonbury Ring near which was one of the dew ponds mentioned in the book. Ambling along with Harold Rosendale, near the rear of the group, I suggested that we might take a look, to which he enthusiastically agreed. It was only just off the path, was a fascinating feature of the landscape and the detour would only take a couple of minutes.
Returning to the path, we were confronted with a largely wide open view but no human being in sight. The track stretched invitingly downhill (a clue to the way the afternoon was to go) and the view here was blocked by a clump of trees on a bend. ‘They must be just beyond there’, we reasoned, ‘we’ll soon catch them up’. Rounding the bend, again no sign of anyone but here was a gate into a field and when we reached the brow of the hill we would be able to see right down to the A24 for which, we were sure, the walkers were heading. Soon, the lower part of the field and the road lay open before us but there was no sign of HF. In these circumstances, it is as well to apply the famous test used by Sherlock Holmes: ‘When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth’.
It was very hot as we retraced our steps back towards the dew pond where we discovered a side track we had missed. Going west now (and we certainly were!) we soon encountered the reception committee thoughtfully stationed along the track by the rest of the group who had continued on to Amberley to complete the section of the walk and join the coach. What was said to Geoff and Harold must remain censored, suffice it to say that not much else was said to either of us after that - or on the way home – and that, for us, the last part of the route back to the coach was, ignominiously, by taxi.
Everything else apart, that section of the South Downs Way Walk remains for me a lovely memory of a pleasant afternoon in the company of Harold Rosendale.
PS. In case you are wondering about the title of the book that started it all, I should have realised that it contained a bad omen. It is called ‘Off The Beaten Track In Sussex’ …
A SLIGHT MISHAP
The sight of Margaret Howard on a Dorset ramble, falling off a bridge into the deep stream, which was overgrown. We spotted her by her hat, and we were calling to her “You’ll be all right”. Frank Rogers, the gentleman he was, waded in and pulled her to safety. After a short rest, Margaret carried on spotting birds and pointing out wild flowers as though nothing had happened. A great lady indeed.
(Margaret’s account of this incident is much more prosaic. She was not submerged, and several people came to her aid. But we would not wish to spoil a good story! Eds.)
I have so many pleasant memories of walks I have done with the Group. One special Moment that will always stick in my mind was on a walk a few years ago. I can’t now remember where it was or even who was on it.
We were having a well-earned rest near the end of the walk. We had wonderful views with not another soul in sight. It was sunny, warm and peaceful. I think we were all a little tired after a rather strenuous walk. For some reason Trefor started to hum a tune. We could all hear him and, unexpectedly, throwing care to the wind, he burst into song. It was so spontaneous, it was wonderful. Imagine …. Lovely countryside, blue sky and silence, except for this glorious Welsh voice singing so beautifully. I felt I was in Heaven, at peace with the world!
When he had finished there was a slight pause before we all came down to earth and clapped. The “Moment” had passed! We still had the last couple of miles to finish anyway. But the “Moment”…… No rehearsal could have made it more perfect.
With Southampton's oldest walking group ( probably )
86 years old and still going strong - every weekend
Some of our Favourite Walks ...
... described by those who were there!
Many thanks to: