2:6 Liphook to Alton

The weather has been dismal since last weekend but today is bright if a little cool first thing.

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No tube problems on the way to Waterloo today and no people dressed as jungle animals - so I get to Liphook station with remarkable efficiency.

Out of the station and into the centre of Liphook, such as it is. Dither a bit before taking the road out toward Woolmer Forest.

There is a right of way marked on the map but the only access I can see to it is a locked gate.

However, there is a footpath on the road so that will do me.

At Griggs Green there is a footpath leading into woods with a sign saying "Out of Bounds" I passed a school
up the road so wonder if it is to do with that.

The track is clear enough but, as is usual in woods there is one path marked on the map and several on the

However a line of pylons shows me where I am and I find the footbridge over the A3 without any problems

But soon I do have some.  Woolmer Forest is marked on the map as a danger area with "managed access."
I was not too worried about this because, going by last weeks adventures these areas seem to be open at weekends normally.

But when I reach the MOD land a big red flag is flying.  It is faded, so it is possible it has been there for a long time. But I am sure that a red flag is not a good sign.

A little further and there is a more proper entrance to the MOD land and a big notice saying exactly that.
Why would the red flag be out on a Saturday?  The murder of a soldier in Woolwich during the week, perhaps?  Whatever the reason I don't really want to piss off any jumpy squaddies - or get shot at accidentally, come to that, so it looks as if I am going t have divert round Woolmer Forest.

My footpath takes me to Conford, a rather odd hamlet buried in the woods.

  Here I have a choice, make for the road or take a footpath back to Woolmer Forest hoping that either it is
not all off limits or that the disused railway track marked on the map is outside the limit (it seems to be the boundary).  As I have no guarantee that the railway track is walkable (and lots of experience from the Stornoway walk of impassible tracks)

 I decide to go for the road,  emerging from Conford Moor at Passfield.  This is a major B road but I am
soon on the smaller road to Whitehill.

There is a track marked on access land in the woods to the south of me but I cannot see an entrance to it so
carry on down the road. There is also a track in the access land to the north of me but that is not marked on the map so I carry on on the road.

Unfortunately the road is fast and fairly busy and I have to keep stepping out out it to let cars whiz by. This was not in the plan at all.

But at least the road takes me straight and fast in the direction I want to go in.

And eventually I get to Whitehill. Here the wooded country to the south is MOD land but there are no red flags and a woman emerges walking her dog.

So I take the chance to get off the road, even though it is only for a short spell, and find tracks running parallel

I have to rejoin the road when it meets the A325 but
this is fine because now it is no longer a fast trunk
road but simply a residential one.

More quickly than I expect from the map I run into a golf course.  A couple of boys who look about 15 are playing on the nearest green. They say good morning.

The byway I am on is a track, fringed from the golf course for a while but I divert from it, taking a footpath
which emerges right into the golf course.

I get the blank looks so usual from golfers when rights of way go across their courses.

And am glad when the path becomes a sylvan track again.

This emerges on a minor road by a nursery.  I find the footpath sign but it is in poor condition and the
entrance to the field by it is so overgrown I take the gap to its side. There is no sign of a path so I follow the edge of the field which overlooks the nursery car park until ending in a barbed wire fence.

Hmmm..  I retrace part way and find a way into the car park and follow that back down.

At the end is an open field with a sign saying "Private, no dogs."  Well, that is
odd. If it says no dogs that implies that you can walk but if it is a right of way surely they cannot ban dogs?  I take it anyway and find my way barred by a muscovy duck which I had spotted earlier from the field. It waddles determinedly towards me but I sidestep it and come to the edge of a pond. This is marked and enables me to work out where the right of way should be.

I take it up the side of another field. No sign of a path and the grass is deep and wet enough with dew for me
to worry about it soaking through my boots.

I make my way up to the side of a small reservoir. Again this allows me to precise about my navigation and this time there is actually a fairly new kissing gate which takes me out to a bewildering junction of fences and fields.

While I am trying to work out what is what I spot a deer along the hedgerow  roe I think though it is a long
way away.

Pressing on I soon come to a farm track and I can see the farm so again I know where I am. However I don't know where the footpath I want is.

 There is a field with cows and no obvious entrance to it. Faced with climbing a tied up gate or diverting down the track I choose the latter (there is another footpath marked leading off from it).

This takes me to an area of recently bulldozed soil but I find a triangular pond.  After some deliberation I set off into one of the fields and, after a while I see
signs of a path.  A stile takes me into the next field and I spot another deer off in the distance.

The next stile has collapsed completely. I am getting the feeling that they do not much like walkers here.

A feeling that is confirmed when I find the next field, leading to a small road, cut off by strands of barbed
wire.  This is easy enough to scramble under but this is now pissing me off.

However, I make the road and, looking back, get a view of several RAF golfballs.

I walk down it for a spell, passing some very young calves.

At the bottom of the road is Priory Farm which the map helpfully informs me is on the site of Selbourne Priory. And here I find a byway.

At first this is no more than a muddy smear along the side of an open field, but then I reach some woods.
Now it becomes a decent old track, fringed by some fine and well established beeches.

It runs above a stream below and (according to the map as I cannot really see them through the foliage) a run
of ponds. This is really lovely walking now.  I wonder how old the byway is and if Gilbert White or Jane Austen ever walked the same route. It seems very likely White did at least.

I could walk on this track all day, dappled shade, beautiful trees, the stream below. Eventually it opens out to
my left and I spot a couple of people sitting on the far side of a field below some more woods.

Just before I come into Selbourne I pass a beech tree with exposed roots making fissures in the chalk.

I have been to Selbourne once before and it is much as I remembered it. I am ready for a break and http://www.gilbertwhiteshouse.org.uk/
definately hungry and I look at a pub and restaurant trying to remember where I ate last time I was here. But then I pass the Gilbert White museum and see a sign that says the tea room is free.

It has to be worth a try. I go into the museum and ask and the woman at the desk tells me she will have to phone, which she does, to ensure that they have space for me.

They do so I get to walk through the museum, to my right I can see the big, sun drenched garden. The tea room is very elegant with Georgian portraits on the wall and I indulge in a pot of Assam and the soup of the

Refreshed I set off down the road again, taking a small street that leads off to the left and winds downhill.
Selbourne has a remarkable number of perfect looking thatched cottages and I pass several.

The last time I was here I climbed the zig zags at the back of the house that lead up through Selbourne Hanger but this time I skirt it, taking the road round until it dog legs one more time, and an old track continues on towards Northwood Hill.  Soon this track gives up and it is just a path.

And soon the path becomes a scar in the crop which I think is barley. It looks as if weedkiller has been
sprayed to kill the crop. Grateful though I am after the broken stiles and barbed wire of before it seems a fairly brutal way of demarcating the right of way.

I get to the top of the hill and views open up impressively. I wonder if I can see Chawton or Alton but, looking at the map they are screened by the woods at the top of the hill.

Just before I enter these I pass a distinctly unwelcoming "keep out, private" notice.  Never maind.  I plunge on into the woods and this, though the track is muddy, is very pleasant. The last of the bluebells are in bloom and they scent the air delightfully.

As I come out of the woods at the other side the countryside blazes yellow with oil seed rape. I saw a few of
these fields from the other side but now it seems to be the dominant crop. But as the country is well wooded with old hedgerows it is not a constant yellow but a patchwork of golden flowers among deep green.

I am what feels like an old track, hedged in on both sides, when the way is barred by fallen trees. One tree looks like it has blown down and has caught and broken a bough from another, making a considerable barrier. It is not impenetrable but I study it for a while to make sure that the suspended branches are not going anywhere

I did a chainsaw course once and it was impressed upon me that hung
up trees like this are the most dangerous.  However, it is clear that the first tree is down on the ground with nowhere further to fall and the broken branches are secure for now at least.

Having ensured that is is safe I make to go through and immediately get a hard poke in the shoulder from a broken off branch that I did not see.

Through at last I carry on, meeting a couple walking up the way who have diverted through a field. It is no mystery why, the track is so muddy it is little more than a long linear puddle. I follow their example.

The track down to Farringdon leads through a field of oil seed rape
and even more is visible now off into the distance.

Farringdon turns out to have more beautiful thatched houses.  I pass a pub and it rings bells. I am sure I http://www.farringdon.biz/VillageHall/index.htm 
came this way before too and stopped for a drink there. Then I get to an amazing building and am certain. This is "Massey's Folly" a huge Victorian pile built by an eccentric vicar

I carry on to the church and am amused to note that this is Northanger Benefice. I wonder if Austen got the
name from here but it turns out to be very recent so probably the other way around.

Passing a barn raised above the ground also brings memories. When I walked this way with friends some years ago we went to Chawton house but on the map no way is shown for part of it apart from a busy A road.

And I have had enough A road walking for one day so I take another byway due east.  This crosses the A32 and then,  after a path through some woods leads off from a very minor road it meets what looks on the map like an old railway.

Such it proves to be, at least it has bridges that it is hard to see being anything but railway bridges, half
engulfed in vegetation.

This is great for the time of day, railway gradient, shade, but it is well grown enough to be very pleasant.

I pass a railway bridge and, shortly afterwards,  the obvious old railway route vanishes leaving just a footpath.  Here I sit and eat my last roll and finish my water. I can tell that I am opposite St Nicholas Church. I can barely see bits of the tower through the trees but, for some reason, the church bells are ringing.

A man emerges from the railway track.  "Are you lost?" He asks. "No." I say.  "Didn't think you were." He replies and carries on walking.

Hmmm... well I suppose that he was trying to be helpful.

Rested I get up and follow him down through a little copse and to the road. On the other side some very frisky pigs jump around in response to my passing.

The path I am n leads to the end of Chawton village, the bit that straggles down to Chawton house and the church, so I make a right turn and walk down there.

There are some beautiful heavy horses in a field as I pass.

When I get to the house and church it becomes clear why the bells are ringing.  There is a wedding party.

A beautiful Volkswagen camper van, with ribbons waits in the drive way.

I had intended to go and visit the grave of Cassandra (Jane's sister) and her mother. But I have been twice  before and the churchyard is full of wedding guests, so I decide to leave them to their celebrations.

Chawton house is a short walk up the road, back past the horses. It is busy. There is a bunch of middle aged bikers with Harley Davidsons outside Cassandra's cup (the cafe).

  I had thought about getting tea there but a sign asks you to remove muddy boots and I cannot be bothered, so I sit on a bench and finish my water with a muffin and watch the Austen activity.

However, my feet are a bit sore so I end up taking
off my boots in any case!

Rested I walk by Jane Austen's house once more and on through the village, passing a model cat stuck on one of the thatched roofs.

I pass a sign announcing Alphonsus House. Last time out we passed a Woodcock Cottage and this time Alphonsus, which is my brother in law's name, has a house. The family property empire seems to be growing.

Chawton is quite picturesque without being spectacular but the road ends in a most insalubrious underpass beneath the A31.  Since I was last here a sign has been added designating this as part of the "Jane Austen Trail."  A concrete walkway under a dual carriageway is so utterly un Austen-like that this amuses me.

The walk into Alton is a bit of a trudge.  Alton is not a big town but it straggles out a long way in this direction.  But eventually I make it to the centre and find that there is a bus going back to Guildford in half an hour, which gives me just time to search the charity shops (unsuccessfully)  for reading material and get a cappuccino.

And I am glad I take it rather than pay the extra to go back by train from Alton as it is a double decker and from the upstairs I get glimpses of the amazing view from the Hogs Back ( a ridge between Farnham and Guildford) all the way back to London.



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