Not Quite Abra – Cadabra… but still a great walk!

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A walk I undertook back in the summer, to search out a Bronze Age barrow near Overton.

Growing up on the Dorset/Wiltshire border, I guess I was a bit spoilt with the amount of barrows and henges everywhere… (Its the place to see numerous earthworks, plus the unique neolithic Dorset ‘Cursus’ crossing the landscape).  Barrows are evident in Hampshire, but to a lesser degree, (maybe as the soils of heathland, and towards the coast are sandy they are poorer and therefore eroded. I suspect farming methods too have helped erase them). I have discovered the White Barrow near where I live in Oakley which is well preserved, but I’d seen a barrow marked on the map near Overton called Abra, which looked worth a visit – just for the name. Who was Abra – An ancient local chieftain or respected leader?

abra barrow
© Ordnance Survey

The start of my walk, was 9 miles to the west of Basingstoke, in area called Southington, just out of Overton and near the River Test.  I parked up alongside the B3400, the Old London Rd. Walking up a lane of flint cottages, the track narrowed and up a slipppery chalky slope, came to a junction where I turned left onto what looked like an older, well trod lane. The North Downs chalk was showing through in places. I wondered if this route had carried locals for years, (as it eventualy went back into Overton)? It was quite similar to the Harrow Way.

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After a quarter of a mile along, I turned right on a footpath – the track was very similar, and lined with low trees and hedgerows. With the dappled light, I appreciated some protection from the afternoon sun!  When the trees ceased and I was out into the open space called ‘White Hill.’

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Overton was the other side of these trees

I was enjoying the weather, (and somehow conducting a job enquiry with a recruiter), and passed a few people but not many. To one friendly dog walker, I said about the Barrow, but she’d never heard of it. In a way, it encouraged me that I had shared with a long term resident something she had not know of. Which is one of this Blogs goals!

As I went south away from Overton, the path became quite overgrown and uneven, but it was a real haven for butterflies like this one beneath I photographed…

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After 15 minutes,  the gentle undulating slope brought me to a couple of cottages called Lower Whitehill. It was at this point I turned right, through a gate. I could just strain to hear the traffic on the A303, but I was enjoying what the landscape had to offer. The track I turned into looked narrower on my map, than it really  was, and it also suggested it was an unmade road. But as I kept walking, I thought how good a standard it was, for connecting the farms scattered around Lavertsoke. I was on the look out for this barrow now – thinking its position would be quite proud. I kept looking back to the map scanning the area to locate it.  Well… as you can see below – It was quite subtle. The erosion is probably down to farming. To be honest, I felt a little dissapointed when I got up close. (Maybe my Dorset examples had spoiled me).

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Where is the barrow?

I decided with my objective achieved, I might as well sit down there anyway, enjoy the sun and have my tea and cake. On the approach to the barrow, there had been a slight rise which when I was beside it, I began to appreciate its location. The other side of the barrow I realised It looked out in many directions, unobstructed. The effect, (and importance), of the barrow was revealing itself, as if it was saying, ‘I’ve been here longer than you, mate’ It would have been seen clearly around from several locations for centuries.

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This is the Abra Barrow… A shadow of its former self.

As I took in the surrounding countryside, I found it a beautiful spot to be in on a sunny afternoon -‘pastoral’ I think they call it… Hedgerows, Cattle and sheep and gentle rolling hills. I had that feeling when you visit somewhere new, even on holiday, but this was barely 5 miles from my home!

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As I continued my walk along the lane, the road was still of a good standard.  Confusingly, I thought the map implied that the track would end, and I would be back onto a path, but the road carried on. Maybe my  O.S. map needs replacing!
There was a farm and some more cottages and the landscape it seemed kept getting more pictureseque to me. Hearing somechildren playing I thought what a wonderful place to grow up in.  That feeling of space not always easy to find in The South of England. Another half mile alongthe lane, I turned right and rejoined the track I was was on earlier, with the chalk coming through – my walk almost done.

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So, The Abra Barrow initially dissapointed as a monument, but looking back, it was built up on high spot, and would have been seen from places.  I also got rewarded with a lovely tract of countryside 15 years I did know of.

The circular walk was about 4-5 miles and at a leisurely pace, It took around 2 hours.
A few gentle climbs and descents, and mixed terrain, especially on the first half.

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