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Kingsclere, Hannington, Sydmonton, Ecchinswell walk.

sheep on the Gallops near Kingsclere, Hampshire.
sheep on the Gallops near Kingsclere, Hampshire.

We woke to a beautiful sunny Sunday morning but extremely cold, around -2 degrees C.  Perfect walking conditions for a long hike with only a breath of wind.  The night before we organised our gear, set the table for breakfast and made a few wholemeal cheese and onion scones to have with our thermos of coffee along the way.  Today’s hike would be a round trip of 20kms (around 12.5 miles) and would start in the lovely village of Kingsclere towards Hannington, Sydmonton through to Ecchinswell and finally back to Kingsclere.

Approacing the Village of Hannington...still freezing!!
Approaching the Village of Hannington...still freezing!!

Walking in freezing sunny conditions, with hardly a breath of wind is a sure way to wake one up early in the morning…..and we started early, just as the sun was coming up and the cold air was at it’s chilliest. 

After walking a continual slope for ten minutes or so, we were as warm as toast and enjoying the peacefulness and breathtaking views on such a still sunny Sunday morning.

The church at Hannington Village, Hampshire.
The church at Hannington Village, Hampshire.

We stopped for coffee just after Hannington seeing only a few dog walkers in the distance.  That went down wonderfully well but we didn’t stop for long as the cold was settling in my body again.

Breathtaking fields near Hannington
Breathtaking fields near Hannington

 We made our way along The Wayfarers path towards the Gallops.  The views towards the Gallops was amazing with large sweeping fields lit up by the clear bright sunshine. 

We crossed the main road at White Hill and noticed a huge number of cars parked along the roadside.  As we continued to walk we could see a number of kites being flown near to Combe Hole.  It was an impressive sight.

Viiews towards the Gallops and Watership Down
Views towards the Gallops and Watership Down

So over the Gallops we go and passed Watership Down and through the magnificent Sydmonton Court Estate, the country home of Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber.  This leg of the walk is definitely my favourite.  The grounds are beautifully maintained and the trees on the Estate are just magnificent to say the least.

The Gallops, near Kingsclere
The Gallops, near Kingsclere

We also pass by some beautiful Pollo horses at Sydmonton Farm.  They all looked very relaxed feeding on the grass in their well maintained fields.

Through Watership Down approaching the Estate of Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Through Watership Down approaching the Estate of Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber.

 By this time we had been walking for around 2 and 3/4 hours so time to have another coffee and try out one of my cheese and onion scones.  Well, they were pretty decent I would have to say and Steve loved them (of course!)  We were off again enjoying the morning and now appreciating the efforts of getting out of a cosy warm bed early to brave the cold!

Steve enjoying a coffee looking towards part of the Sydmonton Court Estate and Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber's House.
Steve enjoying a coffee looking towards part of the Sydmonton Court Estate and Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber's House.

We pass a row of lovely country cottages called Laundry Cottages.  Maybe in the past they were housed by workers on the Estate?  They are in an elevated position and the outlook from their front must be beautiful.  So now the walk takes us through Watership Farm and Stables.  We pass quite a lovely pond which is still frozen over……temperatures were still hovering around zero!

Walking towards Laundry Cottages on the Sydmonton Court Estate.
Walking towards Laundry Cottages on the Sydmonton Court Estate.

On to the village of Ecchinswell now and I was starting to feel a little tired now……but we had to keep going!

 Through Ecchinswell and we felt like we were definitely on the home straight now.  We passed over a lovely bridge and stream and the ground seemed a lot softer under foot which meant temperatures were rising.  A little too late for us though.

Crossing the bridge towards Southwood Copse just out of Ecchinswell.
Crossing the bridge towards Southwood Copse just out of Ecchinswell.

The slight slope back to Kingsclere seemed to go on forever and I felt I was dragging my feet a little!  Steve kept the pace up well though.  I think he was thinking “The faster we go, the quicker we’ll finish!!”  We were also thinking about The George and Dragon Pub in Wolverton Townsend where we were going to rest our weary feet.  I think perhaps that is more likely why Steve’s pace kept up!

So, it felt like a great achievement walking the 20kms and although I felt a little knackered I knew my fittness was improving and that was an extremely satisfying feeling.

So to The George and Dragon we go for a pint and review our walk and photos…….a great way to spend a Sunday morning that’s for sure.

The George and Dragon was quite busy being Sunday lunchtime and our favourite table by the inglenook fireplace was already taken which wasn’t at all surprising on such a cold day.  We settled for another table….closer to the bar and not as far to walk which pleased Steve very much.  We talked about the walk and looked at all the photos we had taken throughout the morning….hope you enjoy a few that I have included in this post.  Cheers!

A pint of Henry's IPA for Steve and my choice is Aspall Suffolk Cider.
A pint of Henry's IPA for Steve and my choice is Aspall Suffolk Cider.

Great Litchfield Down

My day off today and I couldn’t think of a better way to spend it in this country than a walk through the countryside.

The past couple of days of heavy downpours has made the ground very wet and boggy, so today’s long walk was extremely challenging, physically.  My husband Steve planned the route for today and we were up early making sure we had an energy fueled breakfast and packed bananas, granary/wholemeal bread, a little dark chocolate with a small amount of seeds, nuts and dried fruit.  This worked well for us as the estimated time of 4hrs Steve worked out actually turned into 5hrs!  We also had a lovely big thermos of coffee and water bottle……..very organised!!

A sensational walk I have to say.  We started off at the Gallops, walked for 25 minutes until we took a new path to walk through Ashley Warren Down and the footpath along the old Roman Road along Caesars Belt.  From here we made our way to Litchfield and onto the tiny hamlet of Dunley.  This was lovely….beautiful cottages overlooking a peaceful, hedged green.  Wonderfully maintained and a delight to walk by.

From Dunley, the path took us through Lower Woodcott Farm which had a fantastic barn conversion built next to the impressive main farm house.  But the path continued up a constant slope and I was thinking when were we going to have a break from all this hill climbing as I was beginning to feel like a mountain goat!  No relief in sight yet as the walk up to Ladle Hill and the fort ruins was all up hill and it wasn’t until we were past the fort that we noticed our muscles relaxing.  This section was magnificent.  The field by the looks of it had been kept under growth control by a decent flock of hungry sheep but it was so green and looked like it had been mowed by the gardener!  From this height we had a magnificent view of Sydmonton Court Estate, the country house of Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber. Massive chimneys towered over the rooves of this impressive house….it was a fantastic sight from this viewpoint.

So, we were on the home straight from here really but we had one more rather unwelcome climb back up to the Gallops before we could collapse! into the comforts of the car seat!  It was extremely satisfying though as we walked the last leg of our lengthy journey.  Five hours walking up and down slopes was certainly physically challenging.  Our fitness was increasing to a higher level and that feeling was fantastic.  All up, we walked 14.5 miles (about 25 kms) and we still had an hour of dog walking to do when we returned to the estate/cottage!!!  No pint in the George and Dragon today…we had too much to do.