Enjoy a North Hampshire Downs walk near Kingsclere
- Credit: Fiona Barltrop
A walk through the North Hampshire Downs from Kingsclere via Hannington offers fine views
The North Hampshire Downs form the south-eastern part of the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), which also encompasses the Berkshire Downs and Wiltshire’s Marlborough Downs. It is the third largest of the 46 AONBs, covering an area of some 670 square miles. Situated on the edge of the AONB at the foot of the North Hampshire Downs and not far from the Berkshire border is the large village of Kingsclere. Surrounded by a network of footpaths and bridleways, it makes an excellent base for a variety of walks. Much of the village is a designated conservation area with many listed buildings and an impressive church, St Mary’s, originally Norman, but rebuilt by the Victorians.
Just a couple of miles south of Kinsgclere, set high on the Downs, is the small picturesque village of Hannington, again ideal for walkers, with paths and bridleways radiating from it in all directions. On the edge of the village green is Grade 1 listed All Saints’ Church, with a nave and chancel of Saxon origin. Inside are two fine window engravings by Lawrence Whistler. The village pub, The Vine, was originally called the Wellington Arms, since it sits on land that once belonged to the estate of the Duke of Wellington. It makes a good refreshment stop on this walk which takes in some beautiful views over the rolling downland.
On the return leg from Hannington to Kingsclere you’ll join a short stretch of a long-distance path, the Wayfarer’s Walk, a 70 mile waymarked route that traverses the length of Hampshire from the south coast at Emsworth north-northwest to Inkpen Beacon, just over the border in Berkshire. Your route back to Kinsgclere turns off the Wayfarer’s Walk just before reaching the road at White Hill, a beautiful viewpoint and a worthwhile short extension to the walk. From here the trail continues to nearby Watership Down, the setting for Richard Adams’ well-known book of the same name about rabbits. If you have the time and inclination, you could easily extend the walk to Watership Down - a fine stretch of ridge-top walking - then retrace your steps.
• Start/finish: Anchor Yard car park, Anchor Road - off Swan Street opposite church (SU525586)
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• Map: OS Explorer 144
• Distance: 6½ miles (10.5km), plus optional short detour to viewpoint
• Terrain: Tracks and paths over rolling downland
• Time: 3 hours
• Public transport: Bus service (The Link) between Basingstoke and Newbury via Kingsclere, Mon – Sat
1 (SU525586) Turn right out of the car park down Anchor Road to Swan Street (where you might like to look round the church opposite). Turn right, then right again along George Street (the B3051). As the road curves left, fork right at the George & Horn along Basingstoke Road, then fork right again along The Dell. When the lane bends right keep ahead along the bridleway. After about half a mile another bridleway joins from the right. Just after this at a fork bear right through a gap in the hedge and continue across fields, the mast atop Cottington’s Hill ahead to the right. After a level stretch, the track bears left uphill passing a turning on the right. Keep ahead at the next junction following the bridleway southwards. After bending left then right you reach Meadham Lane. Turn briefly right then left along a grassy track (footpath) to a T-junction. To visit Hannington turn left to the church and green where you’ll see the pyramidal roof covering a well head, installed in 1897 to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. The Vine is along the road to the right.
2 (SU537555) Retrace your steps past the church to the T-junction and keep ahead along the footpath. At the next junction, go right along the field edge, bearing round to the left to reach a pair of metal gates and Meadham Lane again. The access road to Walkeridge Farm joins from the left, the route of the Wayfarer’s Walk which you now follow. Keep ahead along Meadham Lane then very soon turn right along a byway, initially an enclosed grassy track, which leads gently down towards the B3051 and the White Hill viewpoint (and parking area). The main route turns off right shortly before it, but it’s worth continuing to enjoy the views. You will also find information panels about the downland history, as well as flora and fauna.
3 (SU516563) Follow the field edge footpath north-east then east towards the Cottington’s Hill mast. Ignore the first turning left and take the next left heading north downhill beside the fence, then turn right along the edge of the woodland for just under half a mile.
4 (SU530570) Turn sharp left down through the wood, and once at the bottom go right leaving the wood and head north along a track/footpath beside the Gallops. Nearby Park House Stables (which belongs to the Balding family that includes the broadcaster Clare Balding) trains race horses. Go straight across at a junction and uphill via some steps to reach Kingsclere Recreation Ground. There’s an information panel nearby. Continue down the left hand edge of the field to a gate at the bottom. Turn left, then immediately right down a path which leads to Anchor Road. Keep ahead down to the car park on your right.
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