St Swithun the patron saint of rain was kind to us on Saturday, 2 October. The previous day the skies had opened and there was unrelenting rain; the day after the walk was not much better. Consequently we were extremely lucky to complete our walk, with only a few drops of rain near the end.
We started at the entrance to Chawton House drive and proceeded, via Ferney Close, across the A32 just south of the Winchester Road roundabout. We continued down the dismantled railway line and headed up towards the Lower and Upper Woodside farms. Our route then took us through New Copse, Houghton’s Piece and Weathermore Copse, before crossing the A31 at the top of the Shrave.
We then trudged down a track to where we thought the walk bridge over the Watercress Line was situated. An intrepid David Whitaker led the way, beating down shoulder high bracken and gorse until we finally reached the railway line but with no bridge in sight. We clambered along the top of the embankment but, were finally forced to take sanctuary in the garden of one of the houses abutting the railway. The house owner told us that the bridge had been taken down some years ago.
On arriving at the Chawton Park Wood car park, our numbers began to diminish. Half-dozen walkers took the more direct route, down the main track, for an early and extended lunch break at the Greyfriar. The rest of us continued round the boundary of the wood, before cutting across the fields belonging to Old Park Farm. In deference to the owners, we did not insist on rigidly following the boundary, through their sitting room.
On we marched at a quicker pace, through Bushy Leaze Wood then Ackender Wood before dropping down to Chawton Park Road and thence to the Greyfriar. That six mile walk had taken us almost 4 hours.
Fully replete from a delicious lunch, we headed to Whitehouse Farm and Truncheaunts, via the footpath through Eastfield Farm. Once back on the south side of the Selborne road, we walked alongside the Caker stream, before turning right through Round Groves Copse, Three Acre Copse and Holm Wood. At Noar Copse we turned right again and headed diagonally across the field, then along the path adjacent to the A32 and back into Chawton. Four survivors departed for an early bath whilst Laura Rose, my daughter Emma and I adjourned to the Greyfriar, once more, to quench our thirst.
The wonderful thing about such a walk is that one sees stunning views, across gently undulating countryside, especially from Upper Woodside and high up in Chawton Park Wood.
In all we covered just over 11 miles, in a little over 6 hours – a mere stroll!
On getting home, Laura discovered that the footbridge over the Watercress Line is, in fact, still intact. However the track to it appears to have disappeared so, I will contact the relevant person on the parish council, to ascertain if it is still designated as a footpath.
Many thanks to the other fifteen people who came on the walk. Their companionship, conversation and humour were much appreciated.
Also my thanks to the numerous landowners, whose property we crossed.
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