Taking advantage of the lull in our recent snowy weather, we did a winter walk around the Hampshire village of Selborne (between Alton and Petersfield on the B3006). Free NT parking (with new toilets) is available behind the Selborne Arms (SatNav GU34 3JH). This short walk is part of the 21-mile long Hangers Way.
The village is famous with naturalists around the world due to the pioneering work of the Reverend Gilbert White, Vicar of Selborne from 1751 to his death in 1793. White published one of the classic titles of English literature; The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne (1789), a book which, incredibly, has never been out of print! White was born in the village in 1720, returning after attending college in Oxford where he had been ordained.
Our walk led us up onto Selborne Hill and Common (owned by the National Trust) using the well-trodden ‘zigzag’ path actually cut into the hillside by Gilbert White and his brother John in 1753. The sides of the path are lined by expertly laid low hedgerows. The view from the top over Selborne and the surrounding countryside makes the fairly steep ascent (360ft) worthwhile.
We climbed in the snow but when we got into the beech-hanger woodlands, we were up to our ankles in thick, heavy clarty mud. We slipped and slithered – over the brown mulch from decaying autumn leaves – back down into the village, calling into Gilbert White’s House Tea Parlour for strong Assam tea and warm scones with clotted cream. Yes, I know it’s only January but summer teas do seem such a long way off!
We visited St Mary’s Church on the way back to the car. This rather beautiful stained glass window in memory of Rev. Gilbert White is worth noting … ‘For a faithful priest and a writer of genius’. His striking black memorial stone is set in the floor just in front of the altar.
This walk can be extended beyond the village along the Oakhanger stream but we’ll come back and do that another day. We’d seen enough mud for one day but the views from Selborne Hanger made our mud bath truly worthwhile.
I wonder if the Tea Parlour are still cleaning their floors?
A New Year – and, for us, a brand new walking route. A casual throwaway remark introduced us to walking the Hampshire Hangers. Nothing to do with aircraft, these ‘Hangers’ are a beautiful area of English countryside set in Hampshire in southern England.
The name ‘Hanger’ comes from the Old English word hangra, meaning a steeply wooded slope. The Hangers are described as ‘probably the richest woodlands on English chalk. Here the chalk that covers the central and northern parts of Hampshire abruptly ends in a scarp slope giving way to farmland’.
We followed part of the ‘The Hangers Way’, a 21-mile medium distance footpath from Alton station to Queen Elizabeth Country Park passing through Petersfield, Steep and Selbome. Hampshire County Council publishes an excellent little brochure ‘Walking in Hampshire’ which states;
‘The Hanger Way has been divided into eight sections, each providing a really good day out. Choose between quiet villages or bustling market towns, meadow picnics or cosy pubs, steep hills with exhilarating views or cool, peaceful woodland.
We set off from the lovely little village of Steep. We soon discovered why it was named Steep! The scramble up the side of the Hangar from Steep to the Poet’s Stone was truly vertiginous! The HCC brochure describes this section (from the other direction) thus;
‘Leave Hawkley and cross a stream to reach the medieval hamlet of Oakshott. Continue along the way and climb the steepest ascent of the whole path, from Oakshott up to the Shoulder of Mutton Hill. In a clearing on the hill is The Poet’s Stone, dedicated to the memory of local poet Edward Thomas who was killed at the Battle of Arras in 1917. Walk along to Ashford Hill, down into Lutcombe Bottom and along a boggy valley to arrive in Steep. The scenery is such that this area is known as ‘Little Switzerland’. Passing through the churchyard of All Saints Church, some tombs of Jane Austen’s family can be found’.
A superb walk in a beautiful area of southern England – well worth the effort, well worth a visit.