Walk : Hurstbourne Tarrant

Date : 5 May 2013

Weather : Cloudy, not particularly warm

Attendees : White dog

Flora and Fauna : Neds, sheeps, Blingbells

Distance :

It’s been an awfully long time since I did a walk. Many reasons but primary one is that the Vet has told us that our dogs are getting old and we need to cut back in distance. That has taken the wind out of my sails somewhat. What’s the point of walking if you don’t have a canine companion?

Ho hum. I have to get over it and so decided to take one of the girls on a short walk over and around Hurstbourne Tarrant and then remembered the AA Walks book. And here we are.

We moved to Andover  in 1998 after I left the RAF and got a real job in Newbury. Over the last 16 years the A343 has been my most frequent route to work, although I have worked around the globe. I’ve cycled, driven and ridden through Hurstbourne Tarrant literally thousands of times. However, I’ve only walked through it twice. Once with the daughter about 10-12 years ago and the last time on the Test Way a couple of years ago. I’ve always meant to walk over the hills to the south as some mornings riding to Newbury the view down into Hurstbourne and the Bourne Valley is simply stunning. The sunrises with the mist in the valley, glorious way to start the day especially in spring and early summer.

Hurstbourne Tarrant is a very pretty village, but the A343 through the middle is very busy. I really would not like a house on the 343. However, the B3043 to Stoke in the south east and Ibthorpe to the north west is very quiet and there are lots of very pretty thatched cottages. Very picturesque villages abound in the Bourne Valley.

The school in Hurstbourne Tarrant is particularly popular and it is behind the school, opposite St Peter’s church, that we find a car park hidden away that we use as the start of the walk.

Walk back to the road opposite the church and turn left for 50 yards down the footpath. Couple of chocolate box thatched cottages next to the stream. Cross the road and entire a horse paddock. As it’s the white dog that’s with me I don’t have to worry about a lead as she is not interested in the two yearlings in the paddock. Same can’t be said for them and they start to get a bit agitated. I have to calm them down as the white dog just wanders by unperturbed.

Enter a track rising along the back of the houses on he side of  the hill and then cross the 343. Quiet this morning, but then it is before 8 am on a bank holiday Sunday morning, so little or no traffic. Path continues between two houses directly across the 343. We come out into a series of paddocks. I do not remember the first set of paddocks being here last time I walked this route. I’m sure that it was an open meadow. Lots of horses in the paddocks and very boggy. I know that we have had a lot of rain over the last 12 months but the last few weeks have been reasonably dry so was rather surprised to find that the meadows had a lot of standing water. Very boggy, marshy and in one place muddy. Wasn’t expecting that.

Leave the meadows by Ibthorpe Manor, rather imposing building partially screened by a beech hedge. Turn left again down Horseshoe Lane and left at the B3048. and then turn right up Dolomans Lane at Boundary Cottage, I was expecting Dolomans Lane to be really steep and rocky, but it was nowhere near as bad as I feared. And it is remarkably well kempt. Nice, wide flat, well groomed track for the first quarter of a mile. Some cracking views back down the hill into the valley and to Hurstbourne.

The path forks and we go straight on over a couple of stiles and into a field full of ewes and lambs. At first they run away and then they start following us. I think that they think that the white dog is one of them and so safe to follow and as she is not interested in them they feel it safe to follow. Over another stile across the field and onto a very underused path. This path was heavily overgrown and we had to fight our way through the brambles and nettles.

After battling through the undergrowth we pop out on a road on Windmill hill and turn left to tag us back towards the A343 along the ridgeline above Hurstbourne. The OS map says there are windmills here but I’ve never spotted them. Good views to the south from Windmill Hill and back into Andover and the wood of Hurstbourne Common is just starting to bloom with bluebells. After following the road we cross a still quiet 343 and pick up a footpath along the northern edge of Dole’s Copse. Have to admit that I didn’t even know that the footpath here existed. How observant after 16 years?

Views not great as they are obscurred by hedgerows to the north. Had hoped to get some pictures of the valley here similar to the views you get from the A343 as you start the descent into Hurstbourne, but not to be. We enter Doles Copse and then take left off the main path down the hill. The path gets very steep and we meet the only other walker of the morning struggling manfully up the steepest part of the route with walking poles. We stopped and had a chat, he was walking to Andover so still a way to go. I still can’t see the point of walking poles. They consume energy in the carrying and swinging. OK so they may help with balance, but consider them an unnecessary burden.

All down hill back to the school sports field. I did chortle at the sign on the back gate of the sports field : No Fouling. Obviously aimed at dog walkers, but nicely put.

Across the field and back to the car. Walk done.

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