4th March Hampshire has some special memories, even if it's over 30 years since I lived around here. I'm sure I didn't really appreciate this part of Hampshire back then. Having said all that, last time I was at Bucklers Hard I'm sure it didn't cost to get in.
The River is full and the footpaths muddy. No surprise given the amount of rain over the last few days. At one point we take take a bridge across the river to avoid the ubiquitous dog walkers, missing the route back further on. Now were on the 'wrong side' of the river. It seems to bother me more than Sue...it's not the walk I'd planned! Still, we push on and end up in Sticklepath and South Zeal. From here the route steadily climbs to Ramsley Hill and some stunning views back towards Okehampton and, in the opposite direction, to the Moor.
With a 14mile walk from Parracombe planned it was always going to be a long day but starting at 11am was an additional handicap. We parked in the lay-by on the A39. On reflection not something I'd recommend. For the first 10mins of our walk we followed the road. This meant leaping into the hedge whenever a car or van (or coach-load of pensioners) appeared around the corner. It's not cool!
We're staying here and the Trail is a short walk from the cottage and within 10mins we're in Okehampton. From here we follow the Okement River as far as Charlotte's Bridge (a tragic story) before turning north east for Stockley Hamlet, leaving the Trail behind. We zig-zag through the lanes as far as Brightly where we stumble upon Priory Cottage and both agree that we wouldn't mind living there.
A 11.6 mile walk in which I channel my inner Bear Grylls. It wasn't the intention but, once you're 8 miles in and the path disappears in the bog, then you're kind of committed. It's still early as we climb away from the car park by the Meldon Reservoir. It's mostly deserted apart from a few eager dog walkers and a couple equipped with full waterproofs and walking poles...perhaps, with hindsight, we should have taken the hint! The recent rain has left the ground muddy and we're not long into the walk before the rain returns. Still, as we splash along the disused railway lines over Coombe and Southerly Down, there's plenty to talk about and it doesn't dampen our spirits.
A walk through an ancient landscape on less permanent footpaths! The 8-30am sunshine is perfect and there are panoramic views north from the fort. This is an ancient landscape and from The Ridgeway we catch glimpses of Silbury Hill and Avebury in the distance.
We head out to the Forest. This is the weather we've been waiting for; bright blue skies and a warm breeze. We park just outside Lyndhurst, close to the The Oak Inn and walk south towards Brockenhurst. The paths are busy, well for the first part of our walk. Things thin out on the return as we take a more 'off piste' route.