Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Hambledon and Hascombe

St Peter, Hambledon

Another walk in the series with our friends from Chichester. This one starts at the Hambledon Church (St Peter of 1846). We were very taken with the tile-hung barn to the left of the church.

And immediately on the right as we began our walk was a lime kiln, which a helpful notice explained was in use up to the 19th century.

We struck out across fields and through woodland to reach the viewpoint of the oddly named Hydon’s Ball (179m).

The view towards Black Down was impressive. A vast concrete seat provided the information that this land had been given to the National Trust by Octavia Hill, of its founders. It would have been nice if it had been renamed Octavia Hill Hill.

From here, the route took us through woodland, along a short stretch of road and then down one side of Juniper Valley and up the other to reach the hamlet of Hascombe. We first noticed the pretty pond ...

... and then the the church of St Peter, one of Simon Jenkins’s 1000 best churches. It dates from 1864 and is by Henry Woodyer. The outside is pleasant but unremarkable ...

... , but the decoration of the inside is just wonderful. The chancel arch and the apse beyond are fabulous; the beams of the roof of the apse are magnificently gilded to create an almost abstract pattern. Pevsner describes the church as being "worth a very special look" and thinks the decoration of the apse produces "an ornamental effect as rich as anything that Art Nouveau produced".

Next up was an excellent lunch at the White Horse pub. Afterwards we headed across a field to enter the Hurtwood, and eschewed the official route to pass close to the precipice at Breakneck Hill. The views were mostly obscured by trees, but eventually we were rewarded by a gap where there was a bench and fine view towards Black Down, near Haslemere.

We now followed part of the Greensand Way back to Hambledon.

From: Walks in Surrey and Sussex (Pathfinder Guides).

Distance: 6.5 miles.

Map: Explorer 133 (Haslemere and Petersfield) and 145 (Guildford and Farnham).

Conditions: slightly showery at first, but then just cloudy, mild.

Rating: Three and a half stars. Very varied, with a surprising number of climbs, but perhaps a bit enclosed.

Flower of the day

This impressive Cardoon caught the eye.

Saturday, 24 July 2010


The skyline of the Royal Pavilion

We went to Brighton to see the excellent "From Sickert to Gertler" exhibition at the Brighton Museum and to do this walk published in Walk magazine (Winter 2006). The walk begins at the station and you soon follow the first of several "twittens" (narrow lanes) to descend down to the 14th century church of St Nicholas.

Shortly after this you arrive at one of Brighton's most famous buildings - St Michael and All Angels. This wonderful Victorian church has a surprising story. The original church, to the right in the photo, was built in 1861-62 by GF Bodley and features stained glass by Morris and Burne-Jones.

However, it was soon found to be too small and William Burges designed the much larger church you see today, which embodies the original church as the south aisle. It was not completed until 1893, after his death.

This is the pair of Morris windows in the Lady Chapel. The one on the right features the Three Marys. We were delighted when the parish priest came over to talk to us and point out other interesting features of this lovely church: the patterned ceiling painted by Webb and the amusing miserichords in the choir stalls.

From here we walked through the fine late Georgian and early Victorian houses of the Montpellier district - and were put very much in mind of Bristol, which shares a district of the same name.

We saw the Western Pavilion, a sort of echo of the Brighton Pavilion, built by the developer Amon Wilds in 1832.

And then followed Montpellier Road, with these fantastic villas with their Ionic pilasters, down to the sea.

We now walked along the sea front, past the bandstand, with a nice little cafe underneath and the ruined east Pier in the background.

Gradually it became even more traditionally sea-sidey as we passed the Pier. Then we headed inland to soon reach the Pavilion. The park in front of it was quite crowded, as it was inside.

This fantastic pleasure dome, built by George IV when he was Prince Regent, contains in the Banqueting Hall and Theatre two of the most ornately decorated rooms you are ever likely to see. We laughed out loud.

The museum is nearby and the exhibition of paintings from the collection of Bobby and Natalie Burton at Boxted House was excellent. Bobby Burton's father, Robert Burton was a very accomplished painter, although hitherto unknown to us. The rooms of the exhibition corresponded to rooms in the house, with walls of more or less the same colour - a nice touch.

Almost opposite is the charming old court building.

And just up the road is the splendid Jubilee Library, with a nicely animated square in front of it.

Distance: 3 or 4 miles.

Conditions: hot, sunny..

Rating: four stars.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010


Sherborne Abbey

We met up with friends, midway from our respective homes, to do this walk. The walk starts at the railway station and goes nowhere hear the abbey, although we did visit it after lunch. It is such a magnificent building, with some of the finest fan vaulting I have ever seen, that I thought it should be the first picture.

From the station, you head up to a path which leads into the park surrounding Sherborne Castle. The first view was impressive, although the damp cloudy weather wasn't very flattering.

Quite soon there is a fine view away to the left of the Castle, a fine late Elizabethan house built by Sir Walter Raleigh. A bit further on there is a more classic head-on view, but by then it was pouring with rain.

You then go through a section of the deer park (although there were no deer in sight), through some woodland and then back into the deer park again. Now you cross the embryonic River Yeo.

After a detour around a farm, you leave the park via ornate gates and enter woodland and then cross a couple of fields to reach the road back into Sherborne. At this point there is a disused chapel - St Cuthbert's chancel - the chancel of a former parish church. It dates from 1533, but the remainder of the was demolished in Victorian times, having fallen into disrepair.

The last section, mainly along the road, passes reasonably close to the Old Castle. It dates from the 12th century, but was largely destroyed during the civil war. The most impressive part of the ruin is the former gatehouse; its tip is just visible on the right of the photo.

After that, you cross the railway line and the river and walk along by the river back to the station.

From: Walkingworld.com (walk ID 582).

Map: Explorer 129 (Yeovil and Sherborne) - not needed, the directions were very clear.

Distance: 5 miles.

Conditions: cloudy, lots of showers, muggy when it wasn't raining.

Rating: four stars.

Saturday, 10 July 2010


Lacock Abbey

We met up with friends for this short stroll around Lacock, followed by a pub lunch and then a visit to Lacock Abbey - a great model for a day out! We found the route on the Visit Wiltshire website.

You turn right out of the only car park and follow the road out of the village. Almost immediately you are treated to the view of the Abbey shown above. A bit further on you cross a narrow bridge over the River Avon and then turn left across fields, "just before" this chapel.

There was some lively debate about how close to the chapel you had to get to be "just before" it. We thought it looked Victorian and it turns out to be a Wesleyan Methodist chapel dating from 1863.

After crossing the meadows you turn left through a field and into another meadow which leads down to a bend in the river. You now cross another meadow to reach a bridge over the river at Reybridge.

You cross a large meadow with a nice view back towards Bowden Hill (172m).

And then enter a lane which leads down to an 18th century pack horse bridge on the outskirts of Lacock.

You pass one of King John's innumerable hunting lodges, almost opposite the church, and find yourself in the picturesque Church St. Left into East St and left again at the end of the High St return you to the car park.

Distance: 2.5 miles

Conditions: cloudy, mild

Rating: three and a half stars

Flower of the day

This Teasel was strikingly silhouetted by the river.

Lacock Abbey

An interesting but not, taken as a whole, beautiful building. Originally monastic, it was taken into royal ownership by Henry VIII when he dissolved the monasteries and then promptly sold to Sir William Sharington. Sharington and his desendants made many alterations, but rather surprisingly left the beautiful cloister and many of the original monastic rooms on the ground floor untouched. Today it offers an extraordinary mix of religious and secular elements from a wide variety of periods. Latterly it was associated with the Fox Talbot family (the pioneer photographer).

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Horseshoe Lake and Finchampstead Ridges

The Blackwater

I was very taken with the Broad Bodied Chaser - a type of dragonfly - that I spotted on my last walk, near Crockham Heath. So I decided to go out today on a walk expressly chosen with dragon fly spotting in mind. It was effectively Moor Green Lakes and Finchampstead in reverse.

You start at Horseshoe lake, between Yately and Finchampstead and follow the Blackwater east for about a mile and a half, with the three Moor Green Lakes (Horseshoe Lake, Grove Lake and Colebook Lake - all former gravel pits) on the right. I saw lots of damsel flies in several colours, but found them very hard to photograph, being so small. It seemed fairly clear that to have any chance you needed to find one posed with a nice leaf behind it - otherwise I could not persuade my camera to focus. There were a lot of presumably newly-emerged Commas basking on Bramble leaves, which perhaps I would not have noticed if I hadn't been scanning for dragonflies.

Reaching the end of Colebrook Lake, you turn right along its side to reach the road and shortly to enter Finchampstead Ridges. After a every pleasant section of woodland you reach Spout Pond.

At first it seemed a bit dried up, but it was soon revealed to be teeming with life. When the sun was shining several large dragonflies could be seen cruising up and down. The instant the sun went behind the clouds they stopped and roosted on the tips of the large reeds at the centre and sides of the pond.

The telephoto lens revealed that one was a large and impressive Emperor Dragonfly, and another was this splendid Four-Spotted Chaser. I felt this was mission accomplished.

Meanwhile, the sunny clearing which surrounded the lake had attracted a pair of Silver-Washed Fritillaries, some Brimstones and this White Admiral.

I spent about an hour there, watching and taking the odd photo. Eventually I dragged myself away to walk the rest of the way through the woodland, along a road a bit and then down through a pretty flower meadow back to the start.

From: Blackwater Valley Circular Walks (Blackwater Valley Countryside Partnership).

Map: Explorer 159 (Reading, Wokingham and Pangbourne).

Distance: just under four miles.

Conditions: hot and sunny, intermittent cloud.

Rating: four stars - at least at this time of year.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Kew Gardens

The Pagoda

A family outing to Kew Gardens. We parked by the river and entered the gardens at Brentford Gate and then made a leisurely clockwise circuit.

The gardens originated in 1759 when Princess Augusta, mother of George III, started a 9 acre garden around the royal palace. So it was fitting that the first thing we saw was the royal palace. It was built in 1631 and leased by the royal family in 1728. George III lived there from 1802.

A little further along is the Orangery, a building of 1761 by Sir William Chambers who designed most of the buildings to be seen at Kew - including the celebrated Pagoda. It was used originally to grow oranges, but this use lapsed. When orange-growing was reintroduced it was found to be damaging the fabric of the building so it again ceased; the Orangery is now a restaurant.

Just beyond the Orangery is another handsome structure: the Nash Conservatory. It was originally one of four pavilions designed by John Nash for Buckingham Palace and was moved to Kew in 1836 and then adapted to be a glass house.

Now we focused more on the plants and visited the Secluded Garden and then went into the Princess of Wales Conservatory. The initial Wet Tropics zone had a wonderful temporary Butterflies, bugs and beasties event which was just wonderful. We joined groups of school kids in rapt admiration of the dozen or so species of tropical butterflies. Eventually the heat and humidity forced us out.

We then walked round the lake opposite Decimus Burton's great Palm House and climbed the spiral staircase for a high level tour of the central area.

Then round the back of the Palm House, through the newish Rose Garden to the Waterlily House. This small building contained a selection of startlingly beautiful lilies.

Now we walked along the long grassy Pagoda Vista, the vista being spoiled only by a temporary marquee which had been erected half way along. We passed the Temperate House, again by Decimus Burton and the largest surviving Victorian glass structure.

After a pause for lunch we reached and admired the Pagoda. It is 50m high and dates from 1762. It was built apparently as a surprise for Princess Augusta. It must have been quite difficult to keep its construction secret!

Round the corner is the beautiful Japanese Gateway with its lovely Japanese gardens around it.

From here we slightly doubled back to find the Treetop walkway.

This fascinating construction, 18m high, offers views of the treetops and back over the Temperate House. At ground level you can descend to the Rhizotron and find out about the roots of trees.

We however carried on to the lake which dates from 1861. We crossed the sinuous Sackler Crossing, the work of John Pawson, opened in 2006. The lake was home to an interesting collection of ducks and I was especially struck by the orange-beaked Red-crested Pochard.

Conditions: very hot (mid 20s), but with a relieving breeze much of the time.

Distance: we managed to walk nearly 5 miles altogether.

Rating: five stars. So much to see in such a beautiful environment.

Butterfly of the day

I can't identify this beautiful spotted Swallowtail, but it was the most successful of my efforts to photograph the butterflies in the Princess of Wales Conservatory.


I am very conscious that this account focuses mainly on the built environment. It is a special interest of mine, obviously, but it also gives the Gardens structure, variety and interest - like sculpture in a smaller garden, or follies in an 18th century park. That said, one could describe another, very different-seeming, walk by reference to trees (of which of course there are many magnificent specimens) or flower plantings (likewise) and that must be a project for the future.