Sunday, 4 May 2014


Odiham castle

A nice little Sunday morning stroll starting from the centre of the charming town of Odiham. You walk down the High St passed Georgian houses and into London Road, which is more cottagey, but still very attractive. Just before we reached the Basingstoke Canal, we noticed this block of cottages, bearing the inscription over the central passage "May's model cottages, 1862". I would love to know what was model about them.

We crossed over the bridge and began the main section of the walk, along the canal towpath.

We last came this way in May 2009 when we were walking the Three Castles Path from Odiham to Tunworth. The canal was built around 1790, but was apparently never a commercial success and ceased operating commercially in 1910. It was restored between 1973 and 1991. The further we went along it, the more abandoned it looked. The water was still and brackish and signs warned of the danger from poisonous algae. This section, with a large abandoned barge, was especially grim.

The next section, with the path lined on both sides by luxuriant Cow Parsley brought us to Odiham Castle. This is the view from the river bank, the picture above gives a better idea of what it is really like.

The castle was built by King John between 1207 and 1214 and had the only octagonal keep of any English castle. It seems that he lived there for a while, but mainly used it as a Hunting Lodge.The dressed stone used for the outer face was stolen after the castle fell into disuse, which is why all that is visible today is the flint core.

A little further on the canal was closed to boat traffic and we saw mallards, moorhens and swans, all with their young. We saw the male swan chase off a passing mallard in no uncertain terms.

We left the canal at the Greywell Tunnel, which is apparently the largest bat roost in Europe. We didn't feel minded to explore. We were then quickly in the pretty village of Greywell. Houses, on one side only of the road, face fields and hills. The Malt House (once called the Kiln House) was certainly the most attractive.

We crossed the road and walked down to the church of St Mary.

This is not especially pretty, but does date from the 12th century. To the left of the porch is a sort of curved projection which once housed the rood stair. Pevsner says it is probably 15th century. (The rood screen separated the chancel from the nave in pre-Reformation churches and carried a statue of Christ on the top. The stair allowed access.)

From here we walked across fields and later along the road back into Odiham.

Conditions: mostly warm and sunny.

Distance: 4.5 miles.

From: AA - 50 walks in Hampshire and Isle of Wight.

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

Rating: three and half stars. An ideal choice for a pre-lunch walk.

No comments: