Walk: Stockbridge Down

Date: 22 September 2012

Weather: Warm, sunny, see for miles

Attendees: Wifey, fiends

Flora and Fauna: Neds and riders, lots of plants

Distance: 2.75 miles

Only three weeks since the last walk, but now both of the kids are working on Saturdays and Sundays we have a little more time to do things.

Stockbridge Down is about equidistant from Andover with Danebury Hill. It's the second time I've walked around it, but the first time Wifey has walked it. Strange, as the views are as good as, if not better than Danebury Hill and there are a lot fewer people even though it has two car parks. The site is in National Trust stewardship and is topped by Woolbury, one of the many Iron Age hillforts that dot the hill tops in this part of the world. There really are dozens around Andover. As it is a National Trust site it is well maintained and the footpaths are in very good condition.

Only point to note, if you have dogs, is that there is a riding school to the west of the site that do use the area so you do need to keep dogs under control at times. Really strange looking at tracks created by the horses here in Hampshire that look identical to those in the Sonoran desert at the White Stallion Ranch

On the Stockbridge to Winchester road, the B3049, there are two different car parks. The road is fast and busy so it's careful pulling in and out of the car park and also crossing the road as we do twice today. From Stockbridge we park up at the second, on the north side of the road. It is tucked away and has a height restriction on the entrance. Signs everywhere warning people that thieves operate so leave nothing in view.

As you first go through the gate you are confronted by a really different arch through the trees. Up here the air is quite clear. There is an archway through the initial bank of trees which are covered in lichen. Really quite attractive. You have to stoop a bit, but still lovely and my writing just can't do it justice.  

We follow the path straight up. All climb for the first part of the walk to the top of Woolbury. Stopping to look back down the path there are some very attractive views down to Winchester in the east and across to Porton Down in the west. Fields looking fantastic today as the air is very clear, very little haze at all.

Lots of flora about as we walk up a low dip between to arms coming down from Woolbury. There are some really large stands of Dark Mullein. Quite an impressive and alien-looking plant. Looks like it should be in a science fiction movie. There's also a lot wild basil, marjoram and a very strong smell of fennel in places. 

Unfortunately, only the south banks of the Woolbury are available to walk so once we're at the top we're at the top. Again views back along the upward track are fantastic. We bear away to the left along the ridge edge until we're heading southwest. Views to the north west and west are just as good as those to south with views over to Danebury Hill

There is a riding school on this side and they are riding today. They do keep their distance from us and we keep our distance from them but the black dog in full work mode. Have to keep hard left against the fence line.

More flora going down the hill and harebells abound. Tricky to find the gate at the bottom of the hill across the track from the riding school. Straight over the B3049 and down the small road towards Little Somborne. I've cycled up this road a few times and have never encountered a car. Don't know what was on today but there were a lot of cars coming up the hill towards us. After about half a mile we turn left onto a footpath through fields. Well hedged and so no views but all very attractive and gentle.

Come to a stile and chicken wire that the girls bounce off for a pheasant rearing area. There's a gate to the side that we opened, and closed, for the girls. Along the side of the wood  with views to the south west and back to the road. Quickly across and turn right through the gate back towards the car park. Lots more marjoram and basil and mullein and many other plants on show. Path again very well maintained. Back through the arch of trees and to the car park.

Lovely walk and one we should do more often.

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