Thursday, 12 February 2009

Burghclere and Ladle Hill

Ladle Hill

I saw an opportunity for a mid-week walk, but I wanted to avoid the mud which would be the inevitable consequence of the recent heavy rain. That pointed to a walk on high ground and I thought immediately of the North Hampshire Downs, perhaps around Burghclere. My collection of walk books yielded a 3 mile option (too short) and a 7 mile option (not enough time before dusk). A Google search located the excellent Hantsweb site Walking in Hampshire, provided by Hampshire County Council. This produced a leaflet on walking around Burghclere, with a perfect 5 mile walk.

The walk begins just outside Old Burghclere at Manor Farm and you begin by following a lane signposted to Burghclere railway station. The former station has now been converted into a house however. The first stage of the walk follows the former railway line for a couple of miles, until it intersects with the Wayfarers Walk.

The one-time Burghclere station

The majority of this section is beside rather than on the rail bed, but the final stretch follows the track and under a bridge.

Turning left onto the Wayfarers Walk, you begin the long climb towards Ladle Hill, first passing through a narrow defile with hills on either side.

Looking back along the Wayfarers Walk

The sides of the hills were thronging with rabbits. They were invisible when stationary, and then all of a sudden my presence would propel half a dozen of them into a flight for safety.

Further along the climb I saw a fox stalking a couple of rabbits in a field. When my passage startled them, the fox loped off in search of further prey.

As Ladle Hill approached, the route veered off left on a delightful downhill track towards Sydmonton. This section was shared with another lovely walk we did recently: Sydmonton and Ladle Hill. From Sydmonton a short final stretch along the Highclere-Burghclere Road led back to the start.

Map: Explorer 144 (Basingstoke, Alton and Whitchurch).

Rating: Four stars. Delightfully simple. It's hard to beat the "walking on top of the world" exhilaration you get from a ridge walk.

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