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Muddy Walks

Ever feel a tad hemmed in by Hampshire? I love this county to my bones, but sometimes an antidote to the farms and woodland is needed and you’ll see me running to the hills: a crazed Julie Andrews desperate for that big ol’ sweeping vista. St Catherine’s Hill outside Winchester is a favourite, but on those rare turquoise-sky winter days there is only one place that you’ll find me — White Hill, Kingsclere.

Part of the Wayfarers’ Walk, a 71-mile Hampshire odyssey that runs from Inkpen Beacon in the north to Emsworth and the sea, this section is a short but glorious leg stretch along a ridgeway with views sweeping north to Berkshire, and breath…

Spot the sheep (easy), red kites (still a doddle), fieldfares, yellowhammers and chalkhill blue butterflies (go on I challenge you). Pull on a doublet and hose, or a fetching wimple if you’d prefer, and zoom back to the Middle Ages. You’ll find yourself in prime rabbit farming country, yes you heard me right.  Look out for local place names: Ashley Warren and Hare Warren, on your drive home. The rabbit theme continues right into the Twentieth Century, the area that inspired Watership Down (R.I.P. Richard Adams) is only a hop, skip and a jump away. Sorry but that was too easy to resist.

You’ll walk past racehorse gallops and some absolutely enormous jumps. Yes folks, we’re deep in racing country here.  A short drive towards Kingsclere takes you past the gleaming Parkhouse Stables, childhood home of Hampshire-girl-done-good, Clare Balding.

Sorry Britain, but the lady was ours first. Before she became a national treasure, Ms B was a simple Hampshire lass, playing high jinks at Kingsclere Primary and racing a on horseback across this countryside.But back to the walk. Parking is a bit tricky, you’ll need to pull into a busy lay-by on the left hand side of the road if you’re driving towards Kingsclere. It’s just after a hump in the hill so slow down when you’re near. It’s a pain if you overshoot as there’s nowhere to turn until you reach Kingsclere.  The lay-by itself is quite narrow and cars fly past at speed so bear this in mind if taking small children or dogs.

Once on the walk though, the path is wide and open so fine for a cross-country pushchair unless it has been very wet.  There is a gentle hill upwards then the path undulates. You could walk for miles, right down to the coast, but there is a natural ending to this particular section when the path heads downwards into dense woodland.  From the layby to the wooded path and back is an easy hour long walk.

Then it’s into Kingsclere for world-class art at Jenna Burlingham Fine Art, a good rummage for gifts (to others or self) at No.1 George Street and then a well deserved refuel at Bel & The Dragon or Honesty Cafe.

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The Urban Guide to the Countryside - Hampshire & Isle of Wight