Saturday, 3 September 2011

Stage 18 A283 nr Ramsnest Common to Rake - 15.3m

I am determined to finish walking the SBP this year, so I really wanted to walk a good section of path on this section.  As public transport was not an option for completing a linear walk I decided to splash out on a taxi.  Whilst this ended up costing £26, I had to consider that, with a 150 mile round trip to/from the walk area, my petrol costs were hardly insignificant, and doing a longer walk meant that I would have fewer sections to complete the trail.

I therefore met the very fragrant (rather a lot of aftershave!) taxi driver at The Flying Bull, Rake at 8.30am, and he transported me to the junction of Rodgate Lane and the A283, near Ramsnest Common.  He clearly did not often receive fares from trail walkers and I had to explain why I wanted dropping off in the middle of nowhere.

The official start of my walk today - where the SBP leaves the A283
 A short walk along the already busy A283 took me to the driveway to Dickhurst Hall.  Bowling along it I quickly came to the entrance gate to the property where there was clearly no right of way. Backtracking a few yards I found a partly obscured path heading into a narrow strip of trees.
Track leading to Gospel Green
 The path headed SSW in this narrow wood between fields for about 1km to reach a lane at Gospel Green.  Towards the end of this path, the woodland got a little wider and there were numerous paths and I actually drifted a little too far left, emerging on the lane very slightly off route.
Lane junction at Gospel Green
 I headed up Jobson’s lane for about 200m before turning right along Jay’s Lane. After about 1/2m mile of very gentle ascent, the lane became gradually much steeper and climbed to meet a T-junction after a further ½ mile or so.
I spy an Alpaca
 Here I turned left and descended slightly for 250m, passing a field of Alpacas, before turning west up a bridleway near Upper Roundhurst Farm.  The bridleway climbed a steep woodland track towards my next destination, the National Trust owned Black Down.
The steep sunken bridleway to Black Down
 Where the path levelled off it briefly ran alongside a metalled track, which turned out to be the entrance driveway to Aldworth, the country retreat of Lord Tennyson, where he lived to his death in 1892.
The gates leading to Aldworth House
 After passing the National Trust car park, and converging with another long distance path, The Serpent Trail the bridleway continued to snake (no pun intended) through the woodland.  Reaching a junction of paths I decided to deviate from the route and head south for about 600m to visit the trig point and possibly a bit further to the viewing point called the The Temple of the Winds.

Murky views East
I did find the trig point but it was not quite as I expected.  Black Down is the highest point in Sussex at 280m, and I had therefore imagined that the trig would be standing proudly on or near a prominent path (with possibly a sign to indicate its status).  Instead I had to look hard to find it lost in a jumble of scrub and brambles.  There was a path leading to and from it of sorts, but it was clearly not on many people’s routes.
The elusive trig point and the highest point in Sussex
 Due to very low cloud cover, the views from near the summit were extremely poor, so I decided not to bother wasting any more time in continuing down to the Temple viewpoint. The Serpent Trail passes it, so if/when I walk that trail I will visit it then. Instead I retraced my steps (with variations) to return to the SBP.
The sun makes a brief appearance
 I continued SE across the Black Down plateau for a few hundred meters before the trail took a turn to the NW, where I passed a group of other hikers coming in the opposite direction.  Passing through a gateway the route begins to descend very slightly, first along the edge of woodland and then across the open meadow of Valewood Park, managed by the National Trust.  Before reaching the meadow, I nearly took a wrong turning, and once again the trusty GPS helped me confirm the correct path.

Valewood Park
 Reaching the end of Valewood Park, I followed the route as shown on the OS map, descending gently into the valley around the edge of a narrow field.  Here a lady runner caught up with me and she asked if I knew where the path went.  We consulted my map together and then she ran on ahead. Later consultation of the online SBP guide (W to E)  suggested that I should have taken the short cut straight down the hill, rather than take the longer route round the field.
Valewood Farm House
 In the valley bottom I turned right up a driveway past the very attractive Valewood Farm House and on to the buildings of Stedlands Farm.  Another map consultation, supplemented with a quick chat with a local dog walker showed I had just walked past a waymarker pointing the way onto a woodland path.  To be fair, the marker was a set back under trees and as it was a very gloomy day it was barely visible from the driveway.

Waymarker hidden in the gloom
  From here the route followed woodland paths and private roads for about ½ mile, before emerging on Fernden Lane.  Turning right I soon arrived at the A286, where I crossed over and made my way up Marley Hanger Lane.  After about 100m I turned right up a steep path between house gardens, where at the top of the climb I emerged onto sandy heathland – I had arrived at Marley Common.
Marley Common
 Although it was only noon, I was beginning to feel rather peckish – it was a long time since breakfast!  Fortunately, as I approached the end of Marley Common I found a handy bench located next to a tribute copse, so I stopped here for lunch.  I even managed to work out how to set the timer on my camera so I could take a self portrait.

Self Portrait, and a good spot for lunch

After lunch, I walked through the car park onto a lane where I turned left, turning right after about 50m onto a footpath leading to a pleasant hamlet of houses.  The lane continued past fields and a number of more isolated properties, the, at the last dwelling, where the metalled path swung right, the SBP maintained direction on a wide leafy footpath, fringed with trees.

Over the next km the route descended gently on a fenced path between fields, to reach Linchmere Road. Bearing left to a junction, a number of cyclists raced past me from the opposite direction.  A minute or two after turning right towards Liphook, a lone straggler came past, and suspecting he was part of the large group, I was able to call out to him that he had gone the wrong way.  He was very grateful!
"They went that way!"
 Shortly afterwards, I turned left off the road on a wood track which continued in a westerly direction for about a km through Linchmere Common.  For a brief moment the sun popped out and the heather and the early turning bracken were shown to their best advantage.

The heather in full bloom - Linchmere Common
 The path descended to reach a junction near an isolated property. My OS map showed the SBP turning sharp left and climbing a steep hill, only to descend again shortly afterwards.  I was pleased to see that the way-marked route actually now takes the perfectly good bridleway around the shoulder of the hill, rejoining the original path after about ½ mile.  Here it was necessary to swing west again, and although I was looking out for it, I nearly missed the turning as the path was a bit overgrown, and the waymarker was hidden in undergrowth.
Route sharing
 I was now in the lightly wooded Stanley Common.  At a path junction, I met up with another long distance trail – the New Lipchis Way, and was also still following the Serpent Trail at this point.  The route meandered through light woodland and around the perimeter of Highfield School from which there were sounds of shouts and the odd whistle.  I glimpse through the trees revealed that a game of football was in progress.

Highfield School
 I soon found myself on a straight metalled track which led after about 1/2m to Highfield Lane.  I had expected to come out at or very near a road junction, but I did not.  Another careful study of the map revealed that I must have missed a waymarker and carried on down some kind of old driveway, rather than follow what looks on the map to be a much nicer bridleway continuing its meandering course through the woods.  It also meant I had a 1/4 mile walk along the road to rejoin the SBP. 
Sussex-Hampshire border near Liphook
 After walking down Highfield Lane to the junction with Midhurst Road, and passing the point where I should have emerged, I crossed over and headed up a byway near to the outskirts of Liphook.  Initially on a dirt path, it soon met up with a metalled driveway and continued SW for approximately 2km.  En route I passed a couple of Forestry Commission conifer plantations (including the wonderfully named ‘Shufflesheeps’), and the edge of a hamlet of posh properties called Wheatsheaf Inclosure, before reaching Liphook Golf course.  Here I saw a couple of people who were busy with the unenviable job of picking up all the balls fired from the driving range.
Hatch Firs Plantation
 Emerging on the old Portsmouth Road from Liphook, I passed the Black Fox pub and then headed up a narrow tree lined bridleway which soon entered an attractive wood.  Here I passed an elderly couple out for an afternoon stroll, and we exchanged pleasantries.
Black Fox
 On a short northward diversion, the path then skirted the edge of Ripsley Farm, where I had a sit down  and snack break, before passing underneath the railway.
Under the railway
 Turning west I passed the fancy gates and long driveway to Home Park – the pathway here was made entirely of sand.  Here the map showed a large pond to my right, but it was tantalisingly out of sight behind vegetation.  I was determined to get a proper view however, so went briefly off piste and found my way to a spot where I could at least see more than a glimpse of water.
A glimpse of Folly Pond
 Swinging SW once more the route continued with woodland on the left and more open views towards MOD owned land on the right.  I had to endure another overgrown section of path before reaching the hamlet of Langley.  Here I spotted a touching little pet cemetery on a bank under a yew tree.
Pet cemetery
 I crossed the railway line again, this time on a road bridge and began the final 2km of today’s walk, which was unfortunately all on country lanes.  Towards the southern end of Brewells Lane I passed White Eagle Lodge, home of a British Spiritualist organization founded in 1934.
Brewells Lane
 Finally emerging on the B2070 at Rake, I made good use of the refreshment facilities at the Flying Bull pub where I had parked my car for the day (with the landlord’s permission, of course).  I paid £1.85 for a pint of lime and soda and a large packet of crisps, which seems a reasonable price, and it reminded me of the time when I was walking the Greensand Way and I was charged £3.85 for the same thing at the Black Horse in Pluckley, Kent!
Flying Bull, Rake
Once again I enjoyed today’s walk very much.  It was a shame the overcast weather prevented me enjoying much of the views from Black Down, but I did see the sun a few times during the day.  I was glad I had made the decision to use a taxi for the transfer – I felt very satisfied at having completed over 15 miles of the route today, after chipping away at this western section of the SBP since January, with short sections and circular walks. 

The route