Sunday, 4 January 2009
Sydmonton and Ladle Hill
This four mile walk begins outside the Lodge of Sydmonton Court, about 3 miles west of Kingsclere. The first stage is a tour of the perimeter of the estate and the path then cuts through it, passing close to the house itself, which belongs to Lord (Andrew) Lloyd-Webber.
You first get a glimpse of the house through the trees ...
... and then, as you get closer, a further glimpse behind a magnificent cedar. On the right you can also just see the Norman church of St Mary, now redundant.
Crossing the road, you embark on the second distinct stage. This involves a gradual ascent to the ridge of the North Hampshire Downs, with in the latter stages wonderful views over Watership Down, of Richard Adams fame, to the left.
On reaching the ridge, you turn right and follow the Wayfarers' Way for about a mile, with splendid views back over Sydmonton and beyond. Towards the end you pass Ladle Hill (768ft) on the right, apparently the site of an unfinished iron age fort.
Shortly after the hill, a very pleasant bridleway leads down, first through an open field, then through light woodland, to return to the start.
From: Rambling for Pleasure: Kennet Valley and Watership Down, by David Bounds for the East Berkshire Ramblers Group.
Map: Explorer 144 (Basingstoke, Alton and Whitchurch).
Rating: four stars. Short, but varied and exhilarating.
We passed under this rather striking storm- or lightning-damaged tree.