Saturday, 13 April 2013

The Wayfarer's Walk: A review

I started the Wayfarer's Walk on impulse one afternoon in November 2011: I felt like a walk and I wanted to do something different. I had already touched on one or two parts of it in circular walks in North Hampshire. The only practical approach seemed to be a series of there-and-back walks and that was the main way I tackled it, with a few linear sections. I suppose that explains why it took so long and required so many separate "goes".

It is effectively north-south walk across Hampshire - a sort of Hampshire Way. It can be compared to our first experience of long distance paths - the BBC's informal Berkshire Way - and the Oxfordshire Way, which we are currently walking in occasional stages with friends. There is something tremendously satisfying in walking across a whole county

A plaque on a signpost that I noticed at Brown Candover explained that it was initiated in 1981 by Bill Bide who was then the Principal Officer for Footpaths. I have since read, on the Traildino site, that it follows the route of an ancient drove road, but I am not totally convinced by this. Some sections, notably the initial ones along the North Hampshire Downs feel like old trails, but much of the rest seems to be local footpaths stitched together to make a long distance route.

An alternative, detailed description of the route can be found on the British Walks site.


The initial stages are noticeably rural, with great views from the ridge of North Hampshire Downs, and the whole route gives a strong reminder of what a rural country Hampshire is outside of its main population centres. I have been thinking about cities lately and I was surprised to realise that Hampshire, with three cities (Winchester, Portsmouth and Southampton) has the most of any English county apart from East and West Midlands. That said, big fields and field edge paths are probably the abiding images.

I don't think it is too harsh to say that there are no major places or sites of great grandeur or impact on the route. I think Alresford was probably my favourite town and I enjoyed the views from Ports Down over Portsmouth and the coast to the east of there. Cheriton, Droxford and Hambledon are pretty villages. I think I probably enjoyed the last leg most: an interesting mixture of Victorian history and birdwatching.

I think the there-and-back model was quite effective. It gives a high level of control over what you do: you can do more or less than you planned, according to how you feel or what the weather is like. And the experience is different on the way back. The main price is it all takes so long and gradually as you get further away from home you become conscious of how far you have driven relative to how much forward progress you have made.

So overall, pleasant but not great. I am glad to have done it though.

My stages

1 Walbury Hill to Bunkhanger Copse

2 Bunkhanger Copse to Upper Woodcott Down

3 Upper Woodcott Down to Nuthanger Down

4 Nuthanger Down to North Oakley

5 North Oakley to Deane Down Farm

6 Deane Down Farm to Bull's Bushes Farm

7 Bull's Bushes Farm to Breach Farm Cottages

8 Breach Farm Cottages to Brown Candover

9 Brown Candover (I strayed off the track!)

10 Brown Candover to Abbotsford

11 Abbotsford to Alresford

12 Alresford to Hinton Ampner 

13 Hinton Ampner to Wind Farm

14 Wind Farm to Corhampton Down

15 Corhampton Down to Hambledon

16 Hambledon to Portsdown

17 Ports Down to Emsworth

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