Saturday, 25 June 2011

Hinton Ampner

Hinton Ampner

We met up with our friends Viv and Giles at Hinton Ampner, a National Trust property famous more for its garden than for its house. We started with a little detour to see the Saxon church of All Saints. Most of what you see is 13th century, although the wooden tower dates only from 1879.

We crossed the A272 to follow a track which quickly passed an information panel telling us that the field to our left was the site of the Civil War battle of Cheriton. It was apparently a strategically important victory for the Parliamentarians and meant that Charles I never regained the offensive in South East England. Of course, it looks like any other field.

Heading north, we crossed the Wayfarer's Walk (one of many long distance paths I aspire to walking) and continued along a hedged lane. On a better day this would probably have been a good place for butterflies, but we saw only a few whites and Meadow Browns, and a single Comma and Small Tortoiseshell.

After a mile or so, we turned left beside a corn field ...

... crossed a small road and reached the tiny, but clear and fast-flowing, river Itchen, near to Cheriton Mill.

The mill race was still visible, but the watercourse which passed under it was choked with reeds.

We followed the track parallel to the course of the river and were puzzled by the sight of a stationary figure one the other side of a field. As we got closer it was revealed as a remarkably life-life statue of a huntsman. It really was an excellent piece of work.

There was no clue as to its identity, but bit of Googling unearthed a report in Horse and Hound which revealed that it was the work of artist "Miranda Michels, a former joint-master of the Radnor and West Herefordshire, [who] spent last season crafting The Huntsman out of hammered and welded stainless and corten weathering steel". I have to confess I was disappointed to find that her motivation was to support the repeal of the Hunting Act. Still, it is a fine statue and it enlivened this section of our walk.

We soon came into Cheriton village and stopped to see the church of St Michael and All Angels. It is predominantly 13th century, with some interesting tracery in the chancel, a scratched mass dial by the porch and a priest's door visible on the side of the chancel. The church was altered after a fire in 1744 and the squat tower dates from this period.

After a sustaining lunch at The Flower Pots pub and brewery, we walked down the lane towards New Cheriton, crossed the A272 again and found a track which passed beside fields to go behind Hinton Ampner. One more turn past a field full of very noisy sheep brought us to the house.

It now started to rain and while we enjoyed a look around the house, we had to forgo the garden.

Conditions: cloudy, but quite warm.

Distance: about 6 miles.

Map: Explorer 119 (Meon Valley, Portsmouth, Gosport & Fareham).

Rating: four stars.

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