In a few weeks time I am off to walk the South Downs Way, staying in bed and breakfast but carrying all my kit in a rucksack. We have been home from our last caravan trip for a week and in that time I have packed and re-packed my rucksack several times in preparation.
I am an experienced day walker, but the South Downs Way will be the first time I have had to carry my kit for a week. Working out what is essential and what can be discarded is proving challenging, but I am determined to get the weight down to around 8kg.
Hopping on and off the scales and walking around the house with my rucksack has given me some idea of how manageable my load is. But what I really need is a good walk with a few hills to properly test things out. A good option locally is to walk from Pitton to Pepperbox Hill, a walk I did earlier in the year at the start of my Walk 2,018 miles challenge. Lynnie is keen to come and our friend Mandy who is preparing for a trekking holiday in Costa Rica in November also wants to join us.
We start at the Silver Plough pub and walk along The Green taking the second footpath on the right to head uphill leaving Pitton. After going through a kissing gate at the top of the hill we continue through paddocks and two more gates to follow the footpath into Church Copse.
When the footpath joins a forestry track we turn right following the track into Farley. On reaching a road we turn left and then quickly take a footpath on the right leading over a stile between gardens. After crossing a couple more stiles we reach a road where we turn right and walk uphill to the Hook and Glove pub. Opposite the pub we take a footpath heading into Farley Copse and keep straight on through the woods to reach Brown’s Copse
After crossing a stile we walk through paddocks to reach a road, Long Drove, we turn left and then very quickly take a footpath on the right to cross a field of pasture and then after crossing a stile enter Bugmore Lane where we turn right and walk up to Grimstead Road. Here we turn left and walk down through the village taking the hump back bridge over the River Dun and then passing the attractive Holy Trinity church.
The road now turns sharply to the left but we continue straight on taking the drove opposite and soon cross the route of the old Salisbury to Southampton Canal. The canal opened in 1802 but had a short life closing in 1806. There were problems with the construction, a lack of funding to complete the project and some wilful damage resulting in early closure. At one time there were three locks at East Grimstead and two further down at West Dean.
Carrying on along the drove it is not long before we pass piles of rubbish that have been fly tipped. This has been an issue on the drove for years and I understand they are considering blocking vehicle access to prevent further offending. I find the dumping of waste in this manner abhorrent; it is a wilful act damaging the countryside.
At the junction with the road we turn right and cross the road to take the right fork on the track opposite. This is a steady climb up to Pepperbox Hill and is a good test with a fully laden rucksack on my back. On joining another track at the top of the hill we go right and follow the lane along to the Pepperbox, which is also known as Eyre’s Folly.
This brick folly built by Giles Eyre of nearby Brickworth House, may have served as a viewpoint for ladies following the hunt and is reputed to have been a haunt for highwaymen. During World War II it served as a lookout for the Home Guard. We decide that the bench at the viewpoint is a suitable stopping point for our lunch. From here there are cracking views of Salisbury and the Cathedral.
Resuming our walk we retrace our steps back along the ridge stopping briefly to look at the trig point in the field to the right. I have previously bagged this trig, but it is a new one for Lynnie.
Keeping on the track, ignoring the route that led us up, we continue along Dean Hill until we reach Ashmore Lane, and then turn left and very quickly cross the road to follow a footpath by a metal gate. We follow this path along the top of Dean Hill above the Royal Naval Armaments Depot Dean Hill.
In 1938 the Ministry of Defence requisitioned 500 acres of Dean Hill farmland to build a heavy weapons store for the Royal Navy based at Portsmouth. The depot was opened in 1941 and was linked to the naval base by the railway. The storage facilities are huge bunkers carved into the chalk below where we are walking. My paternal grandfather, known by many as “Chinky” due to his habit of chinking the coins in his pocket, was born in 1884, he was a seaman working mainly as a stoker. In 1941 he came to Dean Camp to work as a boiler stoker, working there until his retirement well into his seventies. The strategic importance of Dean Hill during World War II is still evident from the number of pill-boxes along the hill.
On reaching Dean Hill Barn we take the footpath on the left which heads down a track to Dean Hill Barn Farm as we proceed along the track we encounter a trig point the ninety-fourth I have bagged.
We stay on the track going through the farm buildings of Dean Hill Barn Farm to reach the route of the old railway line that ran from the main line into Dean Camp. Whilst working on the camp my grandfather lived in a railway carriage in a siding, this is now disused and just on our right. As we look around a Chinook helicopter flies over.
We join a road and turn left to walk along this country lane into East Dean, after passing the Old Brewers pub we turn right to head down Frenchmoor Lane. After retiring from Dean Camp in the early 1960’s my grandfather lived in a shepherds hut down this lane. The lane reaches the railway line “Stop, Look, Listen” it is a good job we do because a train is approaching. Frenchmoor Lane continues on the opposite side of the line and crosses the River Dun, then as we approach Park Farm we follow the lane as it sweeps to the left to continue besides the river. This is a beautiful spot.
As the road bends to the right we take a footpath on the left which crosses fields to reach a belt of trees where it turns briefly to the left and then to the right to follow a driveway into West Dean. On reaching a road we cross to continue on the footpath as it follows an unmade road, passing houses to reach the entrance to the Borbach Chantry.
Close to the gate is an information board. The chantry was built and endowed in 1333 by Robert de Borbach. It formed the south aisle of the old church of St Mary. The Chantry was dressed with flint whereas the church was chalk walls which led to its demolition in 1868 and the building of the new church further to the south.
The Churches Conservation Trust maintains the church and the interior is full of striking memorials.
Resuming our walk we follow the footpath signs that initially lead us besides a wooden fence and then after crossing a stile over fields to reach Bentley Wood. Way-markers indicate the route over fields of pasture to reach the forestry track close to Keepers Cottage. We turn left and after a few hundred yards right to follow a path along a track leading through Barnridge Copse.
On reaching the Livery Gate to Bentley Wood we turn left and walk down to the road and then right to pass the houses of the Livery. Taking a footpath on the left leading through the edge of the farmyard we pass through a wooden gate to follow a hedged path to a track where we turn right and then quickly left along the edge of the field.
We stay on this path as it crosses another footpath and then after going through a gap in the trees join the forestry track at Church Copse. There is a junction of six paths here; we take the route north to retrace our steps back to Pitton.
Our walk has covered almost seventeen miles and has been a good trial for carrying my new rucksack. I have worked out that before heading off on the South Downs Way I need to discard anything not essential!
To follow our walk you will need Ordnance Survey Outdoor Explorer Map 131 – Romsey, Andover & Test Valley.
© Two Dogs and an Awning (2018)