This part of the world in Hampshire is wonderful …..and the walking trails aren’t too bad either! I would highly recommend the walks around this area of Kingsclere, Hannington, The Gallops, Sydmonton, Ecchinswell. You can make the walk as long or as short as you like and organize it so you finish up for lunch and/or a pint in one of the surrounding country pubs. A wonderful day out and don’t forget to take some snap shots to look back on.
The views from Watership Down are a prize. After you leave The Gallops, the path takes you to Watership Down (and all down! hill from there!) Pick a clear day, even cold! and you won’t be disappointed….the views down into Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber’s country house are sensational at Sydmonton.
What do you do on a coolish, sunny bank holiday in England? Go for a long walk in the countryside is the perfect answer for me……and that’s just what Steve and I did. The lovely Sarah next door dropped us off at our starting point in Kingsclere, that way we could finish at Ashford Hill with lunch at The Ship Inn and only a short walk back home.
Today’s walk would be around 13 miles (22 kms) starting in Kingsclere and finishing at The Ship Inn at Ashford Hill for some lunch, then another 25 minute walk home through the water meadows.
The weather was perfect really for a long walk, partly sunny with a slight breeze and no rain forecast!!
As usual, Steve set a rather keen pace and this continued for the entire walk! with the poor photographer having to run to catch up all the time after every shot! Can’t complain as this enabled us to finish just on the 4 hour mark for lunch in Ashford Hill.
Because we started at the bottom of a hill, this meant we had a great deal of hill climbing to do! and this went on for quite some time….even when we reached The Gallops the acent continued, although at a gentler gradient. The higher we climbed, the better the views.
Our gym fitness was paying off as we seemed to march up these slopes without too much difficulty and the views were wonderful.
We continued over The Gallops to Nuthanger Down and Ladle Hill on to Sydmonton. This would have to be the start of the most favourite part of the walk for me. We would soon be entering Sydmonton Court Estate, the wonderful country house of Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber.
On we marched…entering Sydmonton Court Estate towards Ecchinswell and loving every minute of this beautiful landscape. Weather was perfect. The coolish breeze was enough to cool us down and stopping for a coffee break was wonderful……..
Ecchinswell was the next village we would pass through, but this time we would take a different route, up a steep hill passing Laundry Cottages. “Bring it on”, I thought to myself as I saw what was in front of me! I would prefer to have seen a lovely level, flat path now, but that was not to be! Steve still kept the pace at a keen level!!
As we entered a field over a style my heart began to pound heavily as the sight before me was not what I wanted to see. A field full of young frisky bullocks was quite frightening to me. “Oh my god! we are not going through this field, are we?” I said to Steve in disbelief. “I’m afraid so!” he said. So, on we marched……..I seemed to have picked up the pace at a rate of knots, picking up a hefty stick just in case the interested bullocks liked the look of me. They kept running in groups and stopping to look, then running again. They were so muscular and heavy, no doubt an easy task for them to knock down either of us at high speed.
Wow, that was unexpected! but we were on the home straight now, and close to reaching 20 kms (12 miles) The liquid refreshments at The Ship Inn at Ashford Hill were making my muscles relax and I was beginning to feel a little weary now, after 4 hours pounding through the countryside!! What a great achievement we have accomplished today….and being together sharing the same goals has made it even greater!
What a great feeling it was reaching our destination. We would have lunch at The Ship Inn then walk around 25 minutes back through the water meadows until we reached our cottage. Can’t wait to take a hot bath!!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!