Tag Archives: hampshire

South Downs Way: Exton to Winchester

29 Jun

South Downs Way sign

Today I completed the final section of the South Downs Way, from Exton to Winchester (both in Hampshire). It was a bit of a spur of the moment decision last night, and it meant another early start and a marathon bus journey to get home.

The weather started rather grey and overcast, with a forecast of rain, but I was still in my shorts and short-sleeve shirt (and an umbrella in my rucksack). I did wonder whether I had got it wrong, but once I started walking it became clear that although the sun was not visible it was still a going to be a warm day.

I spent a little longer than I had planned in Exton, mainly at the church (pictured below), St. Peter and St. Paul, which was open and is a delightful church. There were several baptisms, marriages and burials of my ancestors that took place at that church and it was good to see it in detail at last.

Exton Church

I hurried off from Exton, trying to make up for the time I had spent in the church, heading in a north-westerly direction up Beacon Hill. The first half a mile or so was a gentle rolling landscape and I could almost see my ancestors working on these fields 150 years ago. Then things got steep and the thoughts of my ancestors turned to thoughts of mountain goats.

Stile on a slope

The view from the top was worth the climb, even in the gloom and haze there were quite spectacular views to the south and west. Also there was a trig point there as well, which made it really worthwhile. From Beacon Hill the South Downs Way continues in the same roughly north-westerly direction, and to be honest the path became a little dull again.

The views were very limited, often blocked by hedgerows either side of the track. The only thing that kept me going was trying to catch up with and stay ahead of a couple of groups of walkers, who had also got off the bus at Exton. My dalliance at the church had allowed them to get ahead of me, but it was a great motivator to try and catch up with them.

Fingerpost on Gander Down

The path started to open up a bit more after the halfway point and also it started to rain, fortunately it was nothing more than a few spots, although the skies threatened more. Within an hour or so the clouds started to break up, there was more blue sky than cloud.

The views at Cheesefoot Head were quite spectacular, and before long the city of Winchester came into view, then promptly disappeared as I rounded the side of the hill, but at least I could now see where I was heading, albeit still more than a couple of miles away.

Chilcomb church

As I descended towards Winchester I checked my watch and decided I could fit in a visit to Chilcomb church. I couldn’t remember exactly which one it was, but one of my MITCHELL relatives was baptised here, and I felt that I ought to get a photo otherwise I would probably never get around to visiting it again. It is such a delightful little church, I was really glad I took time out to visit, there are stunning views of Winchester from the churchyard.

The final couple of miles from Chilcomb to Winchester were not particularly interesting, the entry in the city is across a footbridge over the motorway, and then about a mile along pavements into the heart of the city. The final stretch is along the side of the River Itchen, which was quite nice, but it seems all traces of the South Downs Way had disappeared from the city.

Despite my brief efforts, I couldn’t find any sign marking the end of the South Downs Way, the statue of King Alfred has apparently been adopted as the end (or start) of the route, but having walked the 12 miles from Exton (and over 100 miles from Eastbourne over the last couple of months) I had hoped to find some official indication that I had reached the end.

King Alfred at Winchester

I must confess the path did bring me into a different part of the city, one which I hadn’t seen before because it is at the opposite end of the city from the Hampshire Record Office, and it was a much nicer part of the city, and somewhere I would like to come back to and explore further.

Then came the question of getting home. There were two options, bus or train. I had been hoping I would get to Winchester in time to get the bus, because I have been wanting to get the bus home from Winchester for over six months now, so I made my way to the bus station.

The bus journey home is an epic journey, and one that cuts through my Hampshire ancestral homeland. From Winchester the bus goes to Alton (home of the WRIGHT family) and then on to Guildford, Surrey. The journey takes about an hour and forty minutes, and as well as Alton it passes through Alresford, Hampshire which is home to my MITCHELL roots.

Racing through the Hampshire countryside on the top deck of the double-decker bus was a perfect way to end the day, especially as when we neared Ropley we passed alongside the Mid Hants Railway and were treated to the sight of one of their preserved steam trains heading for Alton.

From Guildford, Surrey it was another hour by bus to Horsham, Sussex where I was finally able to get on a bus that would take me home. For some people four hours on buses would be torture, but for me it was just a perfect way to end another little adventure in my life.

Personal Genealogy Update: Week 26

27 Jun

Time for another confession, I really struggled last week to actually do any genealogy. I blame two things for this:

  1. The warm summer evenings, perfect for walking or sitting in the garden doing nothing.
  2. I can’t decide what to do next.

I need to stop beating myself up for not doing any family history, but I really feel that I should be doing some research, but haven’t been able to pinpoint what I want to do.

I did a bit of work around the MITCHELLs and Exton, Hampshire but I just couldn’t get enthused about it, which disappoints me. I fear all that time organising files and folders has spoilt my appetite for research.

I do have plan though for kick-starting my research, and that is in part because of the Capital Ring walk on Saturday. I have given myself a challenge, to find out why my grandfather was at school in the London Borough of Greenwich between 1917 and 1924, and when did he come back to Sussex after he finished school.

I will explain more about this challenge later, but for now I think I have settled on three projects to concentrate on, which is more than enough for the time being, and allows me some flexibility to take on other bits and pieces as they turn up.

The three projects are:

  1. Finish off my research into the GEERINGs of Hailsham, Sussex.
  2. Investigate and write about the life of William Joseph Henry BATEMAN of Victoria, Australia.
  3. Find out why my grandfather Charles Percy GASSON was in Greenwich, London.

South Downs Way: Queen Elizabeth Country Park to Exton

23 Jun

South Downs Way sign

It was another ridiculously early start today, out of the house by 6.15am to catch the first of several buses today. I had been looking forward to today’s walk, but nervous about getting home after I had finished.

As is becoming normal for these walks, it began at the side of a busy road (the A3) and almost straight away an uphill climb (Butser Hill – pictured below). For my exertion I was rewarded with some fantastic views to the south, across to the Solent and the Isle of Wight.

At the foot of Butser Hill

For the next four or five miles the path followed an arc around the village of East Meon, Hampshire (another place with ancestral connections). First it was to the west, then the north and finally to the east, but always about a mile or two away.

East Meon from Butser Hill

One of the more unusual sights was HMS Mercury, a disused Royal Navy shore establishment. The high fences topped with razor wire remain but the buildings look to have been abandoned to the elements. Some of the buildings to the south of the base form part of a sustainability centre, which includes the South Downs Natural Burial Site.

HMS Mercury

The final climb of the day was up Old Winchester Hill, a nature reserve dominated by an iron age hill fort (and home to a trig. point). It was whilst I was standing on these ancient defensive earthworks that I was treated to a display of modern defensive hardware.

A pair of jet fighters made five or six passes of the hill before heading north with a roar. I don’t know if the hills and valleys are a regular training ground, but it may explain the signs prohibiting kite and model aircraft flying.

Descending Old Winchester Hill

From Old Winchester Hill the path descends to Exton, Hampshire, the end of my day’s walk and the start of a marathon five hour bus and train journey home. The approach to Exton is along a path by the side of a dried up stream bed, which was a bit of an obstacle course. The normally wide paths of the South Downs Way were replaced with a narrow twisting path, with tree roots and overhanging branches, it certainly made an interesting change.

Exton is a lovely little village, I didn’t have much time to explore, but I got a few pictures of the church, and had a quick look around as I made my way to the bus stop. I will be back there again soon to complete the final section, then I will take the opportunity to spend a bit longer looking around.

The River Meon near Exton

Personal Genealogy Update: Week 25

20 Jun

My organising is done, for the time being at least. There will be plenty more organising to do in the future, and that is the challenge, to keep this state of affairs in the future. I still have to go through and create a template for all my file and folder names, but that shouldn’t take long.

Last week the GASSON and GEERING surname folders were sorted out, and I started doing some preparation for GEERING research. I feel a little in limbo now, I have my entire family history at my fingertips, my research could head in any direction I want, but I am not sure where to go next.

The GEERINGs are a definite, but before I get back to Hailsham and the druggists, I have a couple of service records to sort out, downloaded during the recent findmypast.co.uk free for all. After sorting these out I need to get to the East Sussex Record Office and check some records before I decide if there is anything else I can do.

I need to do a quick bit of research about the MITCHELLs of Exton, Hampshire, I need to make sure I have all the place names and dates ready for when I visit Exton as part of my South Downs Way walk.

This week I need to decide what to do next, do I throw all my resources and concentration into one big project or do I just fill in gaps in my research covering as many different branches as possible. Perhaps I should concentrate on one particular area, or time period. I don’t really know, so this week I will see which way my research takes me.

South Downs Way: Cocking to Queen Elizabeth Country Park

19 Jun

South Downs Way sign

I just can’t get enough of the South Downs at the moment, and although the weather was a little disappointing, it turned out to be one of the most memorable days for a long time, mostly for the right reasons.

It is getting more complicated to get to the start and get back from the end of these walks, but getting to the start provided the first surprise of the day, our train was held up because of a steam train! I knew there was a steam tour passing through Sussex today, but didn’t think I would actually see it. Not that I could actually see much, but it was unquestionably a steam train, a rare sight on the mainline this day and age.

After the train came a bus ride to Cocking Hill Car Park, and almost straight away a walk up Cocking Down. Halfway up the hill is a rather large chalk boulder (pictured below). Like a giant marble, it is begging to be pushed down the hill, but I guess it is probably fixed in some way (or too heavy to be moved). According to my guide book it a work by sculptor Andy Goldsworthy and is part of the Chalk Stone Trail.

Chalk boulder

Up on the top of the Downs the views are quite spectacular, unfortunately because of the combination of poor light and haze my photos don’t do them justice. To the south Portsmouth with it’s Spinnaker Tower was clearly visible, with the Solent and Isle of Wight beyond that.

Closer to the path the next point of interest was a cemetery, but not the sort of cemetery I am used to, there were no headstones at this cemetery. The Devil’s Jumps (part of which is pictured below) are described on the information board as being "the best example of a Bronze Age (2000BC – 800BC) barrow cemetery on the South Downs". The Downs are dotted with smaller barrows and tumuli but these certainly take some beating.

Devil's Jumps

Not far from the Devil’s Jumps is a much newer memorial, a nice flint built memorial to Hauptmann Joseph Oestermann, a German pilot. It seems rather unusual that a German pilot should be remembered in such a way, and the story is certainly worthy of further research, such as who actually put it there?

Flint memorial

The path continued in a north-westerly direction, before turning westwards near Mount Sinai and climbing up Pen Hill, there once again the were some spectacular views, this time mainly to the north-east. Dropping down from Pen Hill, you are confronted by the bulk of Beacon Hill. The South Downs Way actually goes around the side of Beacon Hill, but I took a quick detour up to the top to visit the trig point and admire the views.

Looking east from Beacon Hill

As you can see from the pictures, there was plenty of cloud about. There were larger gaps in the cloud which allowed the sun to briefly spotlight certain favoured parts of the landscape. For most of the walk though it was still pretty warm, despite the lack of sunshine.

The biggest surprise of the day came after retracing my steps down Beacon Hill and walking around it to the other side. I was just beginning the climb up from Bramshott Bottom to Harting Downs when I heard the sound of a plane, or was it a helicopter? It certainly didn’t sound right, not a normal light aircraft, something bigger perhaps? Suddenly a big black shape appeared above the trees, no wonder it didn’t sound right, it took me a few seconds to realise it was a Lancaster bomber, passing a couple of hundred feet above my head!

I quickly pulled my camera out, but only managed to catch it disappearing to the east. There is only one Lancaster bomber flying in this country, with the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, but what was it doing over the South Downs?

After the physical and emotional high points the rest of the walk became rather disappointing, heading west from Harting Down the path entered a thin strip of woodland and the temperature seemed to drop dramatically, and I was glad to get out into the brief spells of sunshine again.

The path westward from Harting was quite a challenge, not so much physically, but mentally. I had been going for nearly four hours without a break, I was starting to get hungry, my legs were beginning to ache, but worst of all the South Downs Way was becoming boring.

There were no real views to speak of, the path was pretty flat and mostly farm tracks and roads. Worst of all it seemed to go on for miles, although in truth it was only a couple of miles. Then came the county boundary, leaving West Sussex and entering Hampshire, this should have been an occasion worth celebrating, but there was no sign marking the border and it wasn’t easy to tell I had crossed it. The only noticeable indicator was a slight change in the style of signposts.

It was a real struggle to keep going, I needed to find somewhere to sit down and have a bite to eat, ideally somewhere in the sun, preferably with a view and a bench, and definitely soon. But there wasn’t anywhere, finally as I came to a bend in the road, I seized the opportunity. There was a length of wood acting as a step up to a footpath, that would have to do for a seat.

Not your usual picnic spot

It wasn’t much of a picnic spot, but I set off after only ten or fifteen minutes rest with spring in my step. I had looked at the map, there were only about four miles to go, the end was almost in sight. Suddenly I heard bells, they were loud and clear, I thought for a moment it was a mobile phone ringtone, but no it was definitely church bells, presumably carried up on the wind from Buriton Church.

It didn’t take long to finish of the last four miles. The last two were through the Queen Elizabeth Country Park, with nice wide paths and lots of signposts. In the end it took me about five hours to walk the fourteen miles and was glad to finally sit down in the bus shelter, by the side of another busy road as usual.

Getting home wasn’t easy: bus to Petersfield, train to Havant, train to Horsham and finally a bus home. Although I didn’t have to wait long at each change of transport, it still took me about two and a half hours to get home, but at least I was sitting down all the way.

So now I am in Hampshire, with only two sections to go until Winchester, the signpost at the country park said 23 miles to Winchester. The next section is going to be interesting, it should finish in Exton, Hampshire the home of some of my MITCHELL ancestors. I am really looking forward to having a look around the village and at the church where some of them were baptised and buried. The problem is that I still haven’t worked out how I am going to get home from there.

Personal Genealogy Update: Week 24

13 Jun

Although most of last week was spent sorting out files and folders, I did manage to do quite a bit of new research as well. This is just what I needed, starting the transition from organising to researching.

Hopefully next week will see the bulk of my organising done. Of course it will never be completely done, as new material will be turning up all the time in need of processing and filing, but at least I have everything in place and a system that should make it easier in future to know where to filing things, and where to find them when I need them.

Most of the research was about the branch of BATEMAN family that grew up in Australia. The pursuit of the descendants of my 2x great-uncle William Joseph Henry BATEMAN is something I will be taking on in the forthcoming weeks. As part of this I want to try and write some posts about what I already know about the family.

In terms of organising, the GASSON surname folder is virtually sorted and that only leaves the GEERING folder to go. It is my intention to get both of those folders completed this week, and by the following week I want to have gone through all the surname folders and make sure everything is as it should be and I will produce a template that will enable me at a glance to see where new information fits into the system.

The amount of new BATEMAN research meant I didn’t get chance to start going through my database and start defining some goals, I would like to try and start that this week, although I don’t expect to complete it. I do however need to decide which projects I am going to be working on next.

One of those projects might involve the WRIGHT/SHORNDEN family of Alton, Hampshire. Having visited Alton last weekend I would like to find out more about their time in Alton. One long term goal is to find out how they came to be in Hampshire in the first place, when they were previously in Kent.

North Downs Way: Seale to Farnham (and a bus to Alton)

12 Jun

Today we finished off last week’s walk, and it was equally disappointing, but the day wasn’t a complete waste because as it was only a short walk it gave us time to visit the nearby town of Alton, Hampshire.

This section was short, only four miles (hardly worth the effort) and pretty flat, very short on points of interest and largely devoid of any interesting views.

River outside Farnham

We did pass through some quite nice woodland (Runfold Wood), and some of the path was alongside the River Wey, which was quite nice, but after two weeks largely devoid of hills it is high time we got back to Kent and some proper hills.

Farnham is quite a nice town, or at least what I have seen of it, and it marks the start or end of the North Downs Way. The actual start/end is marked by a fingerpost at the side of a rather busy road junction bristling with traffic lights, hardly a fitting point to start or end the North Downs Way.

Start or End of North Downs Way

The only saving grace for today was the chance to catch the bus from Farnham, Surrey to Alton, Hampshire. Alton was the home of my 3x great-grandparents Henry and Sarah WRIGHT. Although time was limited, we found time to visit St Lawrence Church (below) and Market Square where the WRIGHT family lived.

St Lawrence's Church, Alton, Hampshire

The visit was really just a scouting trip, getting my bearings, having a quick poke around and buying a decent map of the town. Alton has some lovely buildings, some interesting history, a small local history museum, a steam railway and an unusual war memorial (below). I am clearly going to have to go back to Alton and explore further.

War Memorial - Alton, Hampshire

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