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Muddy Walks: St Mary Bourne

We live in the countryside, many of us have dogs — walking is in our DNA, but my gosh sometimes it’s a struggle especially when you factor in busy roads, parking and deeply reluctant mini-Mudlets (see this post on Geocaching).

With this in mind, can I recommend an easy circuit in St Mary Bourne, North Hampshire?

A manageable part of Hampshire’s Test Way, it’s a reasonably easy, pushchair-friendly circular route with off-street parking, a children’s playground and a pub that backs onto one of Hampshire’s famous chalk-streams.

I know this walk well, it’s part of my school run so if you visit at 3.30pm on a weekday and see a harassed woman with two argumentative girls, wave. It’s probably me.

Firstly head to the recreation ground (also known as Bourne Meadow) in central St Mary Bourne: SP11 6BE and park.

Head out across the field, in the far left hand corner you’ll find the gate — if kids are with you, give them a few minutes on the swing straight ahead. It’s 100% unofficial so do double check safety before you let them loose.

Then follow the path which hugs the man-make lake, watch-out for hordes of Canada geese creating general mayhem.

At the end of the path you’ll come to the Doctor’s Surgery, here a tough choice must be made: cross the road for a short hop across the meadows to The Bourne Valley Inn with its tasty riverside grub, or turn right up Derrydown Hill.

Who needs ‘Legs, Bums and Tums’ when you’ve got this to climb, especially if a pushchair’s in the equation, but trust me Muddies, the view at the top is worth it. We’re talking iconic Hampshire: sweeping farmland and the river Bourne, a chalk tributary of the Test, one of the most famous fly fishing rivers in the world.

Walk on around the tight corner, along a flat path with woodland to your right. Play I spy the squirrel if you have little ones in tow. Turn right at the crossroads then right again, hugging the field back towards St Mary Bourne. Keep all fingers crossed for a clear day and the view to your left will be astounding all soaring raptors, Georgian piles and Iron Age Hillforts.

Back down through woodland, it’s steep now but there’s a handrail for most of the way. Aim for May and the wood is thick with bluebells, or later look out for yellow cowslips.  Out of the woods, stumble down to the lakeside, through the field and back to the carpark for a play on the swings and a visit to St Mary Bourne’s brilliant village shop for hot pastries and sausage rolls.

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