Our latest walk took us on a route that was possibly new to the Berkshire Walkers; certainly, as far as I was concerned we had not previously completed it in my lengthy time with the group. We were due to meet in Whitchurch (the Hampshire version) and partake in a linear hike finishing at Overton, the location of one of my circular walks in 2015. It was another good opportunity to make use of the public railway as both the start and end points were on the Basingstoke to Salisbury line. Those that had driven had sensibly opted to park at Overton and board our train so that they had their vehicle waiting for them at the conclusion.
The weather forecast for today was not great to say the least but nonetheless we had a reasonably good turnout of 10 which included members of three other walking groups as well as ourselves. We stood in the light rain for a bit at Whitchurch station waiting for the official start time of 11am to hit us. As soon as it did and the usual speech done we were off on our nine miler.
We headed in a southerly direction on hard surfaces for the best part of a mile, passing a church before we took to the footpath that hugs the River Test. It was a very tranquil setting with some shelter which allowed some folk who hadn’t already put on their waterproofs to do so. Rather than head on towards and past Fulling Mill we took a sharp left down the weir and out onto the edge of Whitchurch. We paused again as further waterproof clothing was required for some people. In fairness despite the forecast it was only for a couple of minutes here that we had more heavy rainfall, it generally remained light albeit fairly persistent.
We soon carried on past a grocery shop and out onto a recreational park continuing to snake our way across the footpaths picking up the River Test again and another weir. We had a nice quirky bit that took us on a small incline which rewarded us with some views of the valley on the eastern side of the small town. Two miles in and we still hadn’t left Whitchurch! However, it was not long before we took a more direct route along the Test. A planned water stop was postponed briefly as I hadn’t anticipated a herd of cattle to be in our way. We liked this lot though as they very much kept themselves to themselves and let us proceed without a care in the world.
Continuing in an easterly direction I was thinking on my feet as to where would be a good lunch stop given the indifferent weather conditions. In the end I chose my original planned spot, there was an element of tree cover and a bench for some of us to sit on. The rain had pretty much stopped at this point anyway although not for long.
We carried on over soft farmland taking a left turn near Manor Farm and out to the village of Laverstoke most notable perhaps for having a mention in Richard Adam’s Watership Down. When I did the recce what grabbed my attention here was the number of thatched roofs in the vicinity over some almshouses, a couple of wells and even on two bus shelters standing either side of the road. I don’t think I had ever seen that before on a walk. We did not linger too long and so preceded past one of two churches built in the immediate vicinity.
The group carried on at a fairly brisk pace heading northwards passing a farm. We then turned easterly again, soon picking up the Harrow Way which we traversed for maybe three kilometres. The Harrow Way forms the western part of Old Way which is reputably an ancient track way that dates back to the Neolithic period. It was mentioned by one or two in the group that this stretch was rather monotonous to a point – I tended to agree – but with good tree cover it allow us some shelter form the elements. In the hot blazing sunshine it would also allow good respite from penetrating sun rays, something always worth considering for any would be walk leaders out there.
The final stretch of our route took us down a path that I hadn’t previously done but it was easy to navigate albeit we had to duck our heads at one point from some rather inconveniently placed branches. We had further obstacles to encounter as we clambered over what can only be described as some of the largest steps I have seen on a walk in the south of England. Having safely negotiated the railway crossing we arrived at our destination, Overton. The quickest route to the train station, where the walk would conclude, was ignored as it would have meant missing the pub stop! Refreshments drunk we made our own way back to the station some twenty minutes later.
Note – this can be described as a wet walk. The photos therefore were taken from the recce.