A January Jaunt with Jane and John (Hampshire) (38802)
The natural history of northeast Hampshire is of such note that a section of the South Downs National Park has had to stretch north, squeezed between settlements, to safeguard its specialness. And so, at the darkest, dreariest time of year, we will depart to discover its delights: the trough-like trackways overhung with trees; the sweeping splays of the Downs; the deep-set, distinguished dwellings; the productive wood-pasture; the upwelling winter-bournes; the moneyed market town in its midst. Between climbing King John's Hill at East Worldham and joining Jane Austen's house at Chawton we'll lunch in luxury at a lovely pub.
The usual notes on the landscape and settlements:
Alton: A prosperous market town with a High Street lined, barring some insensitive modern intrusions, with handsome Georgian buildings with Venetian windows and Adamish porches. St Lawrence's Church is a perpendicular gothic town church built around a Norman tower of 1100. The church is now 15th-century externally apart from the Victorian broach spire.
The Worldhams: Sturdy, solid homes and two 13th-century churches: St Mary with richly-moulded arches at East Worldham, and St Nicholas which has an all-in-one nave and chancel at West Worldham. Nearby Wyck is a pretty hamlet.
King John's Hill: Near East Worldham, an iron-age hill fort with shallow defences which was subsequently the site of a hunting lodge for King John. The lake at the bottom is pretty and the views sublime.
Chawton: A tidy village adjoining Alton, famed as the home of Jane Austen from 1809 to 1817. Now a museum, Chawton Cottage is a modest (but Grade I-listed) 17th century house where she wrote her later novels Mansfield Park, Emma and Persuasion. It is possible that her earlier novels Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice and Northanger Abbey were revised from earlier drafts here. St Nicholas's Church is quite elegant for 1871 and Chawton House is Grade II*-listed late 16th-century.
Please see the route here.
Before lunch we'll set out from Alton Railway Station to an industrial part of the town called Wilsom. A legitimate dash across the A31 (The Hangers Way crosses it) will allow us to head to open countryside where we'll use footpaths to ascend Neatham Down to enter the National Park and get to the hamlet of Wyck. Bridleways and footpaths will take us up and almost over King John's Hill (with further views) before descending into East Worldham for lunch at the pub at 13:00 and a look at the church.
After lunch we'll use footpaths out to West Worldham and then leave the National Park and descend the Downs via a footpath which will take us near to the A31, but not quite: a detour following footpaths will take us to Chawton to see Jane Austen's home. The remainder of the walk will be mostly urban, but pleasant as we use the well-lit salubrious streets of Alton to extend the walk to just after dark. Before long we'll be at the town centre with its pubs and railway station.
What to bring
For your comfort and safety please be prepared for the anticipated weather and the terrain of the walk - keep in mind the following:
Boots: Hiking boots that are both waterproof and breathable, and provide good ankle support, are important as soon as you encounter any mud. Cross trainers may suffice in good weather and flat routes.
Socks: Proper walking socks keep your feet dry, and help prevent blisters.
Walking Trousers: (ideally water resistant) will be more comfortable than Jeans which are heavy and cold when wet. From April to October shorts are usually a better bet.
Waterproof Over-Trousers: essential in any significant rainfall. Breathable ones are best.
Layered clothing: allows you to quickly adapt to changes in the weather as well as body temperature. E.g. a base layer or a cotton T-Shirt; a mid layer like a micro fleece, or a rugby type thick shirt, and in cooler weather an outer layer consisting of a windproof jacket or a thick fleece.
Waterproof Jacket: essential when hiking in all but the calmest of weather. You get what you pay for with these. Breathable fabrics are advisable.
Hat: essential both in mid winter to preserve heat and in summer to prevent sunburn and heatstroke.
Gloves: essential in frosty weather.
Small Rucksack: One that is comfortable to wear is essential so that you can use your arms freely. Place valuables in water proof bags inside.
Sunglassses: April- Sept: comfortable sunglasses enhance your pleasure and keep insects out of the eye
Water: even in winter one can loose a litre or more of fluid by perspiration. If you fail to make this up you'll get dehydrated which can lead to headaches and other problems. A hydration bladder is easier to use than bottled water, but higher maintenance.
Food: a packed lunch will be required unless otherwise stated. In addition carry energy bars or similar to counter 'sugar lows'.
Medicines: If you have allergies, are diabetic, or have minor ailments don't forget these!
Food & Drink
We're booked in to have lunch at one o'clock at The Three Horseshoes at East Worldham. Please have a look at the menu so that when I email you two weeks before the walk, you can tell me what you'd like to eat. If you'd prefer to bring a packed lunch, that's cool too.
Otherwise, just bring something to drink.
For the end of the walk there are pubs aplenty in Alton.
Meeting & Times
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