This spring, why not take a stroll around Worting Wood, part of Manydown? – It’s a surprisingly rewarding walk but on borrowed time for the coming development.
It’s been reported in the last couple of weeks that the popular ‘Manydown Family Fun’ park is not to re-open. A shame for many, (and us, with a little boy who loves it), but not a real surprise as we are resigned to the Manydown development.
Ok, so Its not going to be built overnight, but I would really urge locals to venture out one weekend to walk around Worting Wood on Manydown sooner than later… I’m always surprised how many people don’t really know of its existence, but I think you will be pleasantly surprised by the walk and the views it offers. When we lived in Winklebury, it was a great gateway into the countryside. I remember some great summer evening strolls, and we have gone back at weekends since.
Thankfully, according to the plans, The area from Wooton and Worting Wood are now going to be kept as a ‘country park’, which is the right thing, but I think it will act as more of a buffer for the village of Wootton St Lawrence. The views to the south will be housing estates.
I’m afraid my own photo’s of the wooded parts don’t do it justice, so I found these examples to show the variety. The seasons have their own qualities and some of the trees are very old.
Paths to explore…
There are several rights of way and bridleways to choose – the below map shows some of the options. From the Worting Village side, some of the paths can get quite muddy after rainful, so good shoes would be advisable. But the more north, the better the tracks.
I hope to make a film of the landscape at some point this year, which I’ll add here. If you’d like to know more about some of the History of Manydown, you can read my earlier blog here. We’re getting more detail to the development. Lets hope they are sympathetic. The fact is we are to loose some of this area’s richness, which always brings rewards for those who dare to venture…
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?
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.
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.’
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…
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).
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.
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!
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.
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.
In the latter 20th Century most of the farms around Basingstoke was sold off to make way for housing.
Their names live on in some of the districts, but what I didn’t expect to find was that many of the farm houses still survive…
Oakridge, South Ham, Buckskin, Brighton Hill, Hatch Warren, Merton, Chineham & Viables are all areas with names taken from the farms they were built on. We can extend this further to farms known as at Popley Field, Bury (Winklebury), Binfields and Lickpit, which is now know as Lychpit.
The case for Park Prewett Farm is slighly different, as the site was selected for the Hospital way before the post war development of Basingstoke, and besides the farm would still have a role tp play in recouperating the patients.
Hatch Warren Farm
The Farm buildings are still part of Portsmouth Estates, the historic land owner in the area. And whilst all traces of farming have gone and the surrounding land was sold to developers in the 1980’s, these buildings are still in use as offices. Several design studios have located there for its location.
Its worth mentioning that Hatch Warren Farm was where the pioneering farmer
Rex Paterson O.B.E. based himself and developed his practices in grassland diary farming that have widely influenced the industry post war. (I found this history quite fascinating it its own right, and how important it was to modern farming).
Richard W Hoyles book ‘The Farmer in England”‘ 1650 -1980 has more detail here
Merton Road gets its name from the farm that was here till the 1950’s. Merton Farm was named after a previous farm, which was closer to town and the ancestral home of Walter de Merton, later a Bishop and Chancellor of England, and founder of the Oxford College.
If you are interested in finding out more about one of Basingstoke’s famous sons see
Rupert Willoughby’s article on his website here…
Farms North of Basingstoke
There was a cluster of neighbouring farms to the north of Basingstoke, where the ‘Oakridge’ and ‘Popley’ estates are now, and a couple of the farm sites still survive.
With the creation of the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment at Aldermaston, Houses were needed for the new staff, and in 1952 the first estates in Basingstoke were built. This plan predated Basingstoke being designated as a ‘London Overspill’ town, but was the start of rapid change for the borough.
There was also a ‘North Ham Farm‘ South of Poplar Farm. Its footprint can still be seen in the corner of the Merton Junior/ Infants School.
Poplar Field Farm (Popley)
Notice the 1896 map above shows a farm called ‘Poplar Field Farm’ I can’t see a Popley anywhere around on this map, but by 1912 the farm was called ‘Popley’. As with Hatch Warren, there are now businesses based in and around the old farm buildings.
What I assume is the Farmhouse now looks a private residence. I could only glimpse the side of the property in the image below.
By the 1950’s Oakridge Farm had vanished from the maps, and the A339 Ring Road goes right through where it would have been anyway!
Chineham House and Farm
Easily the biggest selection of farm buildings were alongside Chineham House.
Although some suffered the same fate making way for housing, there is still a collection
of farm buildings to see, alongside the listed house. Its quite amazing how these have survived next to the estate, but I’m glad they have…
Chineham House is 17th Century, but most of the farm buildings are 18th Century structures – but still impressive.
Lickpit / Lychpit Farm
With its proximity to Old Basing, the old farm buildings of Lychpit exist around community use, and are therefore much restored in the context of the modern
housing estates. A ‘farm’ was part of a manor dating from the 10th Century,
but the buildings preserved here are 17th Century.
The farmhouse is now Lychpit House – a private residence, in the background
of the photo below.
South and West of Basingstoke
Another cluster of farms that were sold to make way for the growing town amongst others included Buckskin and South Ham farms.
The farm was created late 18th Century from South Ham Farm. Today the farmhouse survives, hemmed in by its neighbours, and whilst the property looks ‘safe’ it appears to be in a state of flux with its usage. I think out of all the farms visited this one looks the most ‘isolated’ with it surroundings.
I couldn’t find a photo of the farm, but I believe the above photo shows the hedged lane up to the farm, (to the right), looking towards Fiveways and Kempshott.
South Ham Farm
Now one of the largest estates in Basingstoke. South Ham was also the main farm in the area. Like Oakridge, there is no traces visable as the farm was demolished, but this and Buckskin are in living memory for some. At South Ham, land had been slowly sold off for housing projects for a while, so when in the 1950’s the demand for housing grew, that was it for the farm. Whilst located close to Worting Road there is nothing to see now.
Viables, with its history around it just being off the ancient Harrow Way and The Alton Light Railway, ceased being farmed in the 1960’s. It had been part of the Portsmouth Estateand it was known for its pedigree milking cattle. By the 1970’s the council and local campaigners saved the farm from demolition and now is a complex of arts & crafts units and businesses. Many of the old farm buildings are in use. The farmhouse built in 1939 was renovated.
Not so much an area, but an important road for businessses is named after the farm so gets an honourable mention…
So you can see there are some fine examples of old farm architecture still surviving around Basingstoke. When I started this project I thought I would be just be a case of highlighting the link between the names to the areas of Basingstoke. However, when looking there was a lot more surviving than I thought, and have since found there were and are even more farms out there! It shouldn’t therefore be a surprise that Basingstoke had a Cattle Market until the 1960’s and its industry supported agriculture. Basingstoke changed a lot in the 1950-60’s from a market town to an overspill town for London. Sadly some of the past has been erased, but with closer examination much of the farming past is still in touching distance and brings the countryside very close to the heart of the town.
We have some amazing history, places and curiosities right on our doorstep…