Well, I walked the walk.
It turned out to be 11.4 miles. I took an option which reduced the road-walking miles but missed out Nuthanger Farm and the steep bit of Watership Down. This was partly down to me misreading the map, but was probably a good thing as far as my feet were concerned!
The map shown to the right is a link to the Google map that I plotted my route on to determine the distance.
One of my lovely friends gave me a lift to the far side of Sandleford Common in Newbury. The theoretical end of the walk was White Hill, at the end of Cannon Heath Down, where there is a road and a car park, but I walked a few miles more to get home.
During my walk, I texted brief progress reports to Facebook. I’ve copied them here (in italics) and added photographs and extra details.
Have crossed Sandleford Common. Opposite St. Gabriel’s
That’s Sandleford Common on the left. And in the foreground on the right; the building is St. Gabriel’s school, the other side of the busy A339.
There was a bit of road walking…
… (not all of it along such a big road) and then I got to:
Herbert Plantation was just down the road:
where I went the wrong way around the school and carelessly decided to follow the alternative route.
There was a long bit of farm track where I met no-one but some cows waiting patiently at a field gate, then the track went into more woodland:
Just passed rambling group going the other way near Pheasant Cottage
The group – comprised of older, cheerful walkers – was surprisingly large. I exchanged greetings with most of them.
The gates belonged to Earlstone Manor, as did the geese. The new group of walkers was smaller and unconnected to the first (although they had all parked at the same place). The new people were following a published walking route to Sandham Memorial Chapel, in Burghclere. They noted my Parkinson’s UK flag (stuffed into the unused drinking tube hole in my rucksack) and wished me well.
The hinterlands between Burghclere and Kingsclere are crisscrossed by a labyrinth of beautifully wooded single-track roads. Here is one of them:
I let that road soon after taking the photograph. I knew that I was on the right track because of the Big helpful sign proclaiming Sydmonton Estate. The Chinook was flying low and making lots of noise.
Past Watership Farm and Laundry Cottages
It wasn’t the first time that I could see Watership Down, but it was the first time that I managed a clear photograph. As a bonus, the farm that shares the hill’s name (probably because of the view) lay below me. I’ve walked through that farm before, and it’s a polo pony farm (or should that be “stud”?).
It was around about this time that I realised:
Map reading error means ascent will be up Ladle Hill. Less road walking 🙂
Every cloud (and there were plenty up there beyond the helicopter) has a silver lining. Ladle Hill is to the right of Watership Down as you approach from the north. I continued my walk past Sydmonton Court itself …
Wonder if Mr Lloyd Webber is home?
… to the road from which a footpath leads up the side of Ladle Hill.
I love this view. The Chinook is getting a bit wearisome, though.
It’s not a very good photograph.
That photograph – while not so dire – does not do the view justice.
Then I reached the top:
The Beeches. Windy up here!
” The Beeches” is an informal name for a lovely place. Across the road, the path continues…
The trig point is in a field on the western edge of Watership Down. I was delighted to find poppies growing in the margins of the field.
Continuing along the Wayfarer’s Walk over the down, parallel to the gallops, I passed the commemorative tree, planted by fans of the book.
(Thlayli is a rabbit from the book and the screen name of a German lady who runs www.watership-down-page.de; she visited the area a few years ago and placed a plaque on the surround of the tree. I mistakenly assumed that she had planted the tree, but she corrected me in the comments to this post.)
See that radio mast? That marks the direction of “home”.
Camera batteries died. Feet ache. Nearly at White Hill:-)
I was feeling slightly sorry for myself, but too proud to ask for a lift (White Hill has a car park and a layby. The road runs directly into the village that I live in).
I did have spare batteries in my rucksack, but I decided to leave them there. I crossed the road and went through the car park onto Stubbington Down. Turning back, I could see Cannon Heath Down in all of its (slightly overcast) glory. The trees between The Warren and Combe Hole were looking especially stripey.
Cue the inevitable sketch. I only had my Artpen (a cartridge pen made by Rotring, loaded with modified Indian Ink) and my small sketchbook. It was enough.
Just after finishing this, I fell in briefly with a dog-walking lady from Ecchinswell and her black labrador (who objected to my flag; having technically finished my sponsored walk, I hid the flag under my jacket and the dog seemed happier).
Stubbington Down… And down, down, down. Quickly!
Stubbington Down is steep.
Along the foot of Cottington’s Hill, through the woods, along the slightly boring straight bit next to the gallops, and on to
Hollowshot Lane – and the Chinook is back. Home stretch!
Home, boots off, laptop on.
The last post wasn’t texted.