Hampshire walk along the Basingstoke Canal
- Credit: Steve Davison
Steve Davison takes a peaceful wander along parts of the Basingstoke Canal between Fleet and Odiham
The Basingstoke Canal now runs for 32 miles, from Woodham in Surrey to Greywell in Hampshire. Originally, the canal was built to connect Basingstoke to the River Thames and London via the Wey Navigation - however the last five miles to Basingstoke were effectively cut-off following the collapse of the Greywell Tunnel in 1934. The canal, which took six years to build, opened in 1794, however, the opening of the railway between London and Southampton brought about a gradual decline in business for the canal, and by the 1960s the waterway was in a derelict state. Fortunately, Hampshire and Surrey County Councils purchased the canal and volunteers from the Surrey and Hampshire Canal Society set about its restoration, and it re-opened in 1991.
From the Barley Mow car park the walk heads through fields to reach All Saints Church, which was built in 1843, before passing a number of thatched cottages. After The Queens Head pub the walk continues towards Crookham and the distinctive outline of the 17th-century Brook House, said to have been a retreat of King Charles II and Nell Gwynne. After a quick walk through part of the village, the walk arrives at Crookham Wharf and the Basingstoke Canal.
From here we meander alongside the canal as far as Blacksmith’s Bridge, passing a couple of WWII pillboxes (the canal was used as part of a GHQ anti-tank line designed to hinder any German invasion) before passing Tundry Pond overlooked by Dogmersfield Park. Now The Four Seasons Hotel, the house was built in 1727 by St John-Mildmay on the site of a medieval palace that once belonged to the Bishop of Bath and Wells. It was here that Henry VII’s eldest son, Arthur, first met the Spanish Princess, Catherine of Aragon - she later became the first of six wives to his brother, Henry VIII.
The final leg of the walk follows the canal back to the car park - along the way keep a lookout for the statue of a horse in the garden of a thatched cottage on the opposite bank.
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• Distance: 6 miles (9.6km)
• Time: 2.75 hours without stops
• Terrain: Fairly level, tracks and paths which can be muddy, stiles and gates, sections of country road
• Start/Finish: Barley Mow Car Park on Sprats Hatch Lane (SU777537) beside the Barley Mow pub to the east of Hook
• Map: OS Explorer 144
• Refreshment: The Barley Mow (01252 617490) at Winchfield; The Queens Head (01252 613531) at Dogmersfield; The Exchequer (01252 615336) at Crookham
1 (SU777537) - Exit the car park, turn right and go straight across at the four-way junction past The Barley Mow pub, following the lane towards Elvetham and Fleet for 200m. At the slight left-hand bend turn right, cross the stile and follow the left-hand fence through the paddock. Leave over a stile at the corner and continue along the fenced track. At the trees bear slightly left along the path with a fence on the right, then continue through the trees to a path junction. Turn right and follow the narrow path between the hedge and fence. Go through a kissing gate and continue through the field. Cross a stile at the far-left corner and follow the path diagonally left and then right to the road in Chatter Alley.
2 (SU781531) - Turn left for 75m, then right along the track with the primary school on the left. At the end of the track go straight on along the path, later curving left and then enter the churchyard. Pass left of All Saints Church and exit onto the lane.
3 (SU781525) - Turn left along the lane through the village to a junction beside The Queens Head pub. Fork right and then right at the next junction beside Pilcot Bridge, and follow the road eastwards for 100m. Just before the Crookham village sign turn right along the track towards Brookham Farm, keeping left at the split. At the end of the track go over a stile and head south-east through the field, passing under the power-lines. Cross a stile and continue through the next field (WWII pillbox on the right) aiming for Brook House. Cross the stile and turn right along Crondall Road 550m passing The Exchequer pub to reach Crookham Wharf car park, just before Chequers Bridge.
4 (SU791517) - Turn right into the car park to reach the canal and bear right along the towpath for 1.5 miles to reach Double Bridge.
5 (SU777520) - Continue under the bridge for 300m to Blacksmith’s Bridge. Leave the canal here and turn left over the bridge. Go through a gate and turn right to Tundry Pond. Turn left following the pond (right) and at the end bear left through a gate. Follow the track towards the Four Seasons and turn right at the junction along the tarmac track for 300m. At the gates, bear slightly right along the fenced path, go through a kissing gate and turn left along the track as it swings right past Sprat’s Hatch Farm. Keep ahead to cross the canal via Sandy Hill Bridge and immediately turn right down to the canal. Follow the towpath for 1.25 miles back to the start passing under Baseley’s Bridge, then Stacey’s Bridge and just after the Barley Mow Bridge turn left into the car park.