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A delightful country pub walk on the South Downs ambling along the stunning River Itchen

 

Taking you through some of the finest English countryside, this gorgeous 5½ mile Hampshire pub walk features some gentle inclines. Suitable for all the family, proper walking shoes are recommended.

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Step-by-step guide

On leaving the pub, take the footpath that leads to Compton Lock. From there, go through the right-hand gate into the water meadows and follow the path to another tributary of the River Itchen. The chalk grassland is home to a wide variety of plants that provide sustenance to numerous rare butterflies: look out for the strikingly-coloured Adonis Blue, golden brown Skippers and dapple-winged Duke of Burgundies.

Blessed with crystal clear waters, the River Itchen is a special treat for those interested in wildlife. As a Site of Special Scientific Interest, it supports a number of protected species, including water voles, otters, white-clawed crayfish and kingfishers.

 

“The River Itchen is a special treat for those interested in wildlife”

Once you cross the river, go up Berry Lane to Twyford Parish Church, parts of which date back to Norman times. It’s also worth noting the churchyard’s magnificent yew tree. Believed by some to be one thousand years old, it’s one of England’s oldest.

Continue onto Bourne Lane and, at the junction with Bourne Field, take the footpath directly in front of you. This leads across a field to Hazeley Road. Turn left and follow it to just before the water works, where a track branches off to the right. The track traverses farmland for about 800 or so yards before reaching Mare Lane. Turn left and walk along it to the T-junction. On the far side of the road is a footpath – follow it across the fields, through a small group of trees and over a narrow farm track. When you reach the finger of trees at the edge of Hockley Golf Course, bear to the left and follow the path that runs along its edge. After about 1000 yards, the path bears left, away from the fairway and across fields to New Barn Farm Lane. Turn right and follow the lane a short distance to Coxs Hill Road. Opposite, you’ll see the entrance to Church Lane – head along it and, at the end, you’ll find yourself at Twyford Parish Church once more. Turn right, back onto Berry Lane and retrace your steps over the bridge, across the water meadows and along the River Itchen into Shawford – where you can quench your thirst with a refreshing drink in The Bridge.

 

Walk

The nearby grassland is home to the increasingly rare Skylark. Listen out for its trilling song cascading down from on high.

Point of Interest

Just 4 miles further along the river is the city of Winchester – capital of England during the reign of Alfred the Great.

The Bridge Inn

The Bridge formed a backdrop to the demise of TV’s Victor Meldrew – mown down by a hit-and-run driver right outside the pub!

With a beamed ceiling and flagstone floor, The Bridge Inn is an idyllic retreat that – thanks to its riverside location – is adored by nature lovers and ramblers, alike. It’s located in the tranquil village of Shawford beside the beautiful River Itchen, one of the best chalk rivers for wildlife found in Europe.

In the warm summer months, guests can savour meals from the pub restaurant on the terrace while listening to the soothing sounds of the river running by. In winter, piping hot food can be enjoyed by the crackling warmth of the pub’s real fires. Whatever the season, relaxing Sunday lunches with all the trimmings, classic dishes with contemporary twists, superb wines and tasty cask ales are a permanent treat at The Bridge.

The lovely, sleepy village of Shawford is actually two villages in one – Compton and Shawford. For the past one hundred years, it has been said that, ‘Compton is the one with the church and Shawford is the one with the pub!’ That pub is, of course, The Bridge. We hope you enjoy your visit.

A glorious Hampshire country pub walk through peaceful countryside and canalside towpaths

 

This leisurely 3½ mile Hampshire pub walk follows the Basingstoke canal to the lakes and ponds of a local nature reserve. Apart from a short flight of steps leading down to the canal towpath, it’s mostly flat and suitable for all abilities.

 

Step-by-step guide

From the pub, turn left and walk over the bridge. Immediately on the other side, steps lead down to the canal. Once on the towpath, continue straight on. This stretch of the Basingstoke canal was built in 1794 to transport agricultural goods from Hampshire to London. Now a designated conservation area, it’s home to many swans and various species of duck. Moorhens and coots favour the more sheltered stretches, though you may only hear their chirrups from the reeds fringing the water’s far side.

 

“This stretch of the Basingstoke canal was built in 1794 to transport agricultural goods from Hampshire to London”

Continue along the towpath for about ¾ of a mile until the towpath forks. Take the right-hand branch up on to Vale Road. Turn right and follow the road to the mini roundabout and turn left on to Lakeside Road. A minute or two along it, you’ll see the white posts leading into Lakeside Nature Reserve in beautiful Blackwater Valley.

This 20 hectare site was once peppered with gravel workings. Now lakes, ponds and wet woodland, the habitat supports some rare species – including the hairy dragonfly and water violet. Roach, rudd, carp, tench, perch and pike thrive in the bodies of water.

At the end of the parking area is a small wooden bridge. Cross over and pass a wooden post with trails written on it. After entering the trees, you’ll come to a T-junction, where you should head right. The path then bears to the left, passing a sign for Blackwater Valley Path.

The way is now bordered on both sides by water. A short while after, the path turns to tarmac and you’ll see a left turn by a pond. Head down it and past a bench on your left. At the fork, turn left and follow the path back to the car park. From there, retrace your steps along Lakeside Road and Vale Road to rejoin the canal where you left it. Once back at The Swan, head inside and reward yourself with a refreshing drink.

 

Walk

From the 1960s, the canal lay derelict. After being restored, it was officially opened by His Royal Highness the Duke of Kent in 1991.

Point of Interest

To raise the canal up from the River Wey to the plateau in Hampshire, 29 locks had to be built.

The Swan

Extensively refurbished in 2006 in a contemporary style, the pub features two crackling fires during the winter months.

Located by the beautiful waterside setting of the Basingstoke Canal in Ash Vale, The Swan pub restaurant is the perfect place to come and relax after enjoying a canal side walk, bike ride or boat trip. Stop by and you will be welcomed by our friendly team and introduced to our ever-popular choice of pub restaurant meals and impressive selection of cask ales.

As with any property built well over a hundred years ago, The Swan boasts a colourful history. Originally known as Tupper’s Tavern, the entertainment it laid on for its patrons included cock fighting and boxing matches! Later, it became a military pub, complete with a rat-trap outside for confining unruly soldiers. By the early 1900s, it was a hotel hosting genteel performances by The Salvation Army band and Mr Rowlling’s String Orchestra. Many years and refurbishments later, it has evolved into a relaxing family-friendly venue.

In the warmer, sunnier months you can enjoy alfresco dining in the excellent garden on the embankment of the canal, a haven for ramblers who enjoy exploring its towpaths.

A magical woodland country pub walk through ancient Essex wild woods

 

Known as Boundary Walk, this leisurely 3 mile pub walk hugs the edge of Hockley Woods, the county’s largest swathe of ancient wild wood. Suitable for all the family, it involves some gentle inclines and a couple of small footbridges.

 

Step-by-step guide

In Hockley Woods car park next to the pub, head to the side of the play area – from there, a path leads down into a valley thronged with oak, sweet chestnut, birch, ash and rowan trees. Keep following the path as it leads along the perimeter of these enchanting woods.

After about 500 or so yards, you’ll reach a stream. Cross the small bridge and note the concentration of hornbeam trees. The age-old practice of coppicing – whereby trees in a particular area are felled and then allowed to regrow – provided the local economy with a never-ending supply of wood.

Still continuing today, coppicing creates a constantly shifting woodland landscape. In newly-exposed clearings flowers are first to flourish – including foxgloves, honeysuckle and cow wheat. In June and July, look out for the rare heath fritillary butterfly which favours cow wheat’s golden blooms. The domed nests of wood ants also often spring up in these cleared areas. Birds that like to nest in the light-filled spaces include willow warblers, chiff chaff and whitethroats. Aside from hornbeam, the trees that then gradually take over these cleared areas include sweet chestnut and trusty oak.

“Hockley Wood is also home to Western Europe’s largest population of the rare wild service tree…”

 

…recognise it by the sharply jagged edge that runs down each side of its wide leaves.

Dotted through the woods are several ponds. Over the summer months, dragonflies can be seen darting across the water in pursuit of their prey. Toads, frogs and newts all spawn in the still water.

After running for a short distance beside a horse trail, the path then bears left and starts to rise. Observe how the types of tree begin to change; chestnut and birch thrive on the slopes, whereas oak dominates the highest ground. Here, at the wood’s southern edge, you can take in fine views across to Rayleigh and Eastwood.

For a long period, the area was treated as a group of separate woods, each one under a different owner. Earth banks acted as boundaries and, at certain points, they are still visible as thin mounds snaking their way through the trees.

The path then arcs through the wood’s eastern section where the soil is more acidic. Brambles, bracken and bluebells prefer it here, as does birch. Walk this part of the woods in Autumn’s cooler months, and you may spot distinctive red and white fly agaric toadstools standing out against the brown carpet of birch leaves – an enchanting sight to enjoy before heading back to the warmth of the Bull Inn for a well-earned drink! A final bridge crosses over a stream before the path climbs back up to Hockley Woods car park.

 

Walk

Hockley Woods are over 130 hectares – and the entire area has been declared a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

Point of Interest

Many of Hockley Wood’s plants - such as wood spurge, cow wheat and wood anemone – are only able to grow here because the soil has lain undisturbed for so long.

The Bull Inn

Rumour has it, one of the pub’s mighty ceiling beams came from the scaffold used to hang the notorious highwayman, Dick Turpin.

With its distinctive weather boarded exterior and magnificent bull’s head above the door, the Bull Inn is a Grade II listed country pub that exudes a peaceful, rustic charm. Parts of the historic timber frame date back to the 16th Century – and since that time, it’s been welcoming visitors into its cosy interior.

There is also a pub restaurant with an imaginative menu that features regularly changing specials and sumptuous Sunday roasts with all the trimmings. On long balmy summer days, the lovely garden buzzes with people choosing to enjoy their food al fresco.

But perhaps the Bull Inn’s most endearing feature (and one why we’re so popular with ramblers!) is the fact we’re situated at the edge of Hockley Woods, last remains of an ancient forest that seeded 10,000 years ago when the last Ice Age came to an end.