Another beautiful day dawned. A quick nip into the town to post a card revealed a perfect and very beautiful little Georgian town. There were few people around but by the time we emerged to start the day’s walk, church bells were in full peal and early dog walkers were collecting their Sunday papers.
Our route took us out along the road to Bishop’s Sutton. To our left the track of the Watercress railway could be seen just down from the horizon. The village reached, as we turned out toward our next landmark we had to cross a ford. The tentacles of the Itchen are still with us! Luckily a bridge was available for those on foot – otherwise it could have meant a very soggy walking day. As it was it was glorious. Birds hopped in and out of the water and chattered in the hedgerows. The stream sparkled. Then there was a hoot and – great excitement – the Watercress Line steam engine trundled across the landscape!
Back down to earth and steam era attractions over the instructions went a little awry at this stage – the left turn that was due to materialise didn’t – which meant a loop along a country lane instead of a walk over the field which probably put another hours walking on the day. Hey ho! It was no hardship. There was no traffic except an old English motorbike chugging past. What’s another mile or so between friends?!?
The next village was stunning. Ropley had a whole row of thatched cottages. The gardens were stocked full of flowers and vegetables. We walked on through the beautiful stately homes that we have come to expect to line our route. In one ofthe smaller establishments, a family was out gardening – the little boy rather loudly asked the time of Dad…… It couldn’t really still be half past nine and hours of gardening before lunch?!? The balloon over his head indicated!
It was very warm and we dipped into the open village shop cum post office to buy more water which we consumed in their courtyard as it was cold and wat and not to be missed. We moved on again. Out of the village and away up a hill and over fields and up again. Every so often toot of the Watercress Line could be heard wafting over the landscape. For us it was then up again, this time to reach a forest carpeted in blue bells. It was breathtaking. Such a strong blue against the fresh green of the new leaves of the woodland. The canopy of the trees also provided some almost welcome relief from the sun as we had reached mid day. Beyond the branches the sky was a cloudless blue. England at its best!
We left the wood without any sightings of the roe deer mentioned in our guidebook and struck out across a newly ploughed field. It was then down to a road and up over another field. The horses in it lazily turned their heads as we passed. Even the horses in Hampshire seem a cut above the rest! Following this superiority it was down to earth when we reached a much heralded garden centre teaming with cars and elderly mums being taken out for Sunday afternoon tea. Trolleys laden with plants crossed our path heading for the patios and borders of their purchasers. Still we wandered on.
By now we were heading for the village of Chawton – the location of the last home of Jane Austen. The route there was incredible. First we walked along a broad track through woodland. Once again the woods were full of bluebells. Our path then took us out into bright sunshine and open fields and just the overhead a red kite wheeled – so low that its red forked tail and the distinctive markings on its wings were clearly visible – it was magical. What a treat!
The next ‘treat’ was probably one of the largest houses I have ever seen. It was described as a ‘farm’ but it was huge and from the look of the building works going on, it was still growing!! It was made out of red brick and looked out over the valley. To top it all it had huge iron gates and – incredibly – two large Chinese lions on the top of the gate posts! What were they doing there? I could not help but feel that there was a Chinese temple somewhere missing its lions…….!!
This was certainly the walk that just never stopped giving – for we then arrived at Chawton. One chocolate box picture house after another. Cricket being played on the village green….. The perfect Sunday afternoon. What was even better was that there was a tea shop and time to put the rucksack down and have a glass of cold lemonade. Nectar of the gods!
From there it was a short walk into Alton and a very worldly bed and breakfast in an ex Catholic Church!! ‘Joan’ was very jolly and just off out for champagne to celebrate her birthday. I almost volunteered to tag along!! Being a bit partial to a few bubbles – but I am not sure St Swithun would approve………
Instead dinner with an old friend and another day on the road drew to a close.