A trip out, with the rare experience of snow visiting North Hampshire…
Oakley doesn’t need snow to look pretty, but I took the oportunity to get out for a walk between the blizzard conditions we had Thursday and Friday this week, (March 1-2 2018). It was the first day of Spring, but winter wasn’t quite done with us yet…
The village centre is a conservation area. Popular with walkers and cyclists, one can find a pub and a coffee shop less than half a mile a way for refreshment. Could have done with a coffee today!
Further up Rectory Lane is the Church. There was a time when ‘Church Oakley’ and ‘East Oakley’ were in effect 2 villages, clustered around their farms.
Over the East Oakley side, there are some great walks and old woodlands to explore. There has been a lot of history on Battledown, from an ancient route called the Harrow Way, a Roman Road disecting it, and the possible site of a battle between Saxons and the Danes.
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…
Recently, I’ve been pre-occupied with starting the new job, that I’ve not had the opportunity to think about new subjects for the blog. My new commute takes me by a place I had heard of before, that had witnessed a dramatic change to its appearance. I just had to make some time to do this, with Christmas approaching fast.
Stratton Park, sits pretty much mid-way between Basingstoke & Winchester, off the A33. The M3 now cuts along its western edge, but there some have also been some dramatic changes to the house. Despite seeing photos, (and its impossible not to have an opinion on it when you see them), it was still an eye-opener to witness in it’s ‘current’ form…
As the above map shows, The Silchester – Winchester roman road runs on the Western edge and sadly much of this stretch is under under the M3 Motorway. The village of East Stratton at its southern boundary, like many villages close to an estate, has found its fortunes effected by the landowner’s decision on more than one occasion.
I finally arranged a time to go and explore. Saturday December 9th started off quite cold and by lunchtime the bright sun of the morning had turned watery. Still wrapped up well, the frost had mostly cleared except for a few pockets. Parking at the village hall and turning right to the small village of East Stratton, I passed the church on my left.
I was surprised by the quiteness considering we were so close to the Motorway, but the stretch nearby is just 2 lanes and maybe a factor, The village is shielded by woodland.
The first junction I came to, by the war memorial I turned left. The road was unamed, but it was a right of way. I thought I knew the purpose of my walk, but here I had my first surprise with the varied types of cottages of different era’s around me. Feeling seasonal with decorations displayed on doors, but it was a real architectural surprise. The cold dampness of the day added to their rustic charm. As thatch cottages, maybe it is only now we desire them for the quaintness, but in the past they may have not been seen as so desirable to the nearby gentry.
This is emphasised by the last house on left, which was quite large – and not thatched.
I assume connected to the estate in some way, and quite separate in style having a ‘grander’ presence than other properties. The road became more unmade and It was here I got my first glimpse of my destination – the ‘new’ Stratton Park.
But before we look at the house, The second surprise of the walk. Marked as a cross on the O.S. Landranger Map, the more detailed maps tells us this was actually the site of East Stratton’s first Church.
What I didn’t appreciate at the time of the walk, but from looking at some old maps since, was to find the village was bigger in the past. Though probably not as acurate as newer maps, we can see dwellings clearly marked on lanes (I have indicated in yellow). It seems also like the ‘centre’ of the village with a broad clearing, (almost acting as a village square?), and more importantly the site of the old church makes some sense. On later maps, a school was still shown to be in use, and now as one of the houses that has managed to survive. I would think this helps link the relationship between the Villages of ‘East’ and ‘West’ Stratton in a way which is not so obvious now. They were always seperated by the main Winchester to London Road, but today they seem distinctly apart as access has been changed.
We are fortuntate to have reference to the old Church in J.P. Neale’s engraving of the house. From this angle, it does look ‘close’ to the property, but that sounds like I’m justifying its removal! I don’t know what sort of man Francis Baring, the Earl of Northbrook was, but he didn’t want the church, or villagers too close to his estate…
The decision to remove The medieval church of ‘All Saints’ from the Stratton Park, (like at nearby Laverstoke), demonstrated an ‘absolute power’ landowners could wield in pretty much being able to do what they wanted on their land, and few could stop them. What ever would the villagers of East Stratton felt, having their place of worship for hundreds of years moved as well as their dwellings? The site of the old church was duly marked with this cross – seen as ‘sacred’ land. However the landlord, The 4th Baron Ashburton, went about it, The village was provided a new church, which was dedicated in 1888, and was the one I passed earlier as I started he walk. To the casual eye, this church looks like it has been there longer than 130 years…
My main reason for this walk has be to see the house. Surprise number 3. As I said, It’s impossible not to have a reaction to Stratton Park and yet I’m not as shocked by it as I thought I might be… True, the 60’s structure hasn’t aged well, if we are talking purely about the materials. It looks quite tired. At a distance it reminds me of some examples of post war architecture with the idea to juxtapose old with new architcture. (I’m thinking of examples I have seen at St. Lukes quad in Exeter, or The Guildhall in the City of London).
In The 60’s, The 7th (and current) Lord Baring set about pulling down the house and replacing it with modernist build by Stephen Gardiner and Christopher Knight between 1963 – 65. The only feature of the main house to survive was the Portico.
John Baring had a reputation of being ruthless dispensing with the old, such as remodelling the Family’s banking Headquarters in London, (and later at their ‘other’ Hampshire estate, The Grange, some 5 miles from Stratton park), where Baring also wanted to be ‘experimental’ in doing away with much of the original house, but was discouraged by the Government.
As we have seen ‘Basher Baring’ is a term which manages to hold some historic context to this site, as well as being a catchy dig by those horrifed by his approach. Yet he had his supporters at the time. ‘Country Life’ Magazine run an article in 1967, praising the bold statement. Some commenators such as Pesvner were intrigued, if not fully committal. Even in more recent times, the house has been critiqued in the national press , and I must say seeing the images of its interior looking out, creates quite a different response – maybe closer the architect’s original ambition.
At the time, I think I probably would have seen the architecutral merits in helping re-inventing the house. You could argue the house had always been in a state of modification. Yet now, 50 years on the house feels sad in it’s current form, losing some of its lustre. ‘New’ can be seen as cutting edge, but not always right in hindsight. Our attitides to country houses and their upkeep has changed in the last 50 years. We are probably more conservative toward conserving buildings than we were in the 1960’s.
Carrying on across the parkland, the footpath through the grounds diverts to the left. The ‘new build’ becomes obscured by the trees and to see around behind the portico shows how seperate this feature really is, standing proud. The brick gates to the house, I assume are original, and you can get quite a good glimpse of them. The path runs along the edge (and the motorway). This would have also been the course of the Roman Road.
The footpath contends with the noise of the motorway as you walk alongside it. Walking around the edge of the grounds, the house feels privately tucked away behind trees again. The footpath joins a drive and a bridge crosses over the Motorway before you meet the A33 road. Its marked as right of way, but you would feel ‘discouraged’ from starting from this end with the signage from the road stating its a private road.
So I come back through the park, feeling I have taken enough in, and want to glance at Stratton park once more. There is a right away which would make the walk more circular, back to the Village hall, but I have enjoyed the terrain, and I will save that part for another time!
The History bit…
There is a a lot of reference to Stratton park online an in books on Hampshire.
The park and ownership, can be traced back to a monastic grange in the possession of Hyde Abbey, in Winchester c.900 A.D. For more information on Hyde Abbey readhere.
With the disolution of the monastries, The land was seized in 1544 A.D. and the Manor of East Stratton came into the possession of an Edmund Clerke. It was soon to be purchased by the Earl of Southampton, Sir Thomas Wriothsley. There looks to be some conflict from sources I have seen, over exact dates but the development from a manor into a country house and estate saw many alterations. Over time, from the Earls of Southampton, the house passed to The Duke of Bedford’s through marriage, and In the late 18th Century, the house and gardens were extended by Lord Russel – Fifth Duke of Bedford, (1765 -1802). In a later incarnation, much of the house, seen in the prints and early photography was designed by George Dance. The gardens were developed by Gertrude Jekyll).
The Baring Family are known for their London Banking history. In 1798, the bank’s joint founder, Francis Baring purchased Stratton House. Hampshire has historically benefited by being close to London, but an easy retreat to get to and entertain. The house stayed in the family intil 1929 when on the death of the Lord Northbrook, when it was sold on to a Miss James, who converted it into a girls school. What may be less known is that the house was re-purchased by the Baring Family after WW2.
Then and Now…
The estate is well hidden from the motorway, but if you are driving by you can get a hint. From the M3, southbound a couple of miles after junction 7 & before the Winchester Services, there is a little glimpse of an lodge that was part of the estate. On the western edge of the park there are 3 lodge houses that were at one time connected to the estate.The old O.S.maps refer to it as ‘London Lodge’.
The Lodge along the A33 on the middle edge of the park is called, er Middle Lodge. Its not easy to stop along here as the dual carraigeway starts again, but its style is worth appreciating.
The Southernmost Lodge is ‘Winchester Lodge’, in the direction of… I’m sure there is more to be said on these another day, but not in this blog…
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.
The ‘Sitting with Jane‘ initiative has been one of this summers great success stories for Basingstoke & Deane, as it caught the publics imagination comemerating the 200th anniversary of the Death of our most famous resident.
A big well done to ‘Desination Basingstoke‘ for organising the project to place commissioned benches by different artists, around the North of Hampshire sites connected to Jane Austen. As a creative, I particularly ejoyed the broad range of artistic styles there were from the ornate to some fun eyecatching submissions. I think they all help the public interact with them. I believe our friend, below visited them all!
You may not have liked them all, but that didn’t matter as you would soon find one you did. Over the summer, people didn’t need much encouragement to investigate where the benches were placed, with the children equally excited, and once they started they wanted to find out where the others were – It seems a bit snide to begrudge Winchester and Chawton their own benches, as part of the scheme, (but Winchester often wants to grab the Jane glory – look at that new £10 note!), so for once it was great the majority of these benches where around the places she grew up in. This story is drawing to a close with a the chance for groups and individuals to bid at an auction of the benches – Its clear there is an appetite for keeping them.
We also have a permanment statue of Jane in the Basingstoke Town centre. It was a good story to let the World know. I also enjoyed this article by Rupert Willoughby.
My motive for the blog is to share info and highlight places you may not be aware of, and through photography and maps, show why I Iove this area of North Hampshire so much…
I don’t want to be lamenting about the loss of places and history all of the time, (although thats important!), so this will be more of a photo journey of a round walk from Malshanger I did last summer. (2016). The walk took me about 3 hours, but I didn’t hurry.
I’ll discuss Malshanger House in a future blog, but it’s first recorded mention was in 1086 around the time of Doomsday. Several prominent familes have been connected including William Warham, (1450 – 1532), who became an Archbishop of Canterbury. More recently the Colman family, (of Mustard fame), have owned the house…
My walk starts opposite some pretty cottages which I imagine were originally estate workers dwellings – all very well maintained, with flint decoration.
Passing the Oakley Bowling club and opposite the house entrance, I turned left and followed a signposted footpath across a field to Shear Down Farm. On the opposite side of this I came across a small grass landing strip. No planes here today – being no pilot, I can’t tell if the wind sock position is good, bad or indifferent…
The path carries on through what looks unusual dark flora … I soon smell that its a type of mint. I feel a bit bad walking through this crop, but thats the way the path is taking me, clearly! Turns out to be grown by Summerdown Farms. They make herbal teas, and add their ingredients to toiletries and chocolates… Read more here.
Through a gap in the hedge and the landscape opens up again. I find photography doesn’t always capture the rolling essence of this Hampshire landscape, which is undulating hills. Its subtle, but not flat either, which you’ll know if you walk or cycle it.
The path joins up with a bridleway before exiting at a cross roads.
I’m near Ibworth, but we’re not heading that way today. I love these country signs.
Staying on the road it goes down into a dip and I can’t see much, but its a very peaceful spot. The only house is set back from the road, but you must enjoy your privacy if you choose to live in a place like this.
As the road begins to rise and I take a footpath through a gate on the
left, and I’m in a mix of fen and woodland. Its a bit undefined and overgrown, and contines to rise.
At the edge of the wood, thankfully the path I should take becomes much more defined again!
This is more like it. I’m so pleased the path is maintained, but equally I feel in a spot not
too frequented, and today there is not a soul to be seen…
I decide this is a great spot to stop for lunch… and a bit of shade.
From what I know this landscape was part of the ancient ‘Freemantle Forest’, Where King John enjoyed hunting from his lodge near Kingsclere. The land is much altered by farming methods but a ‘forest’ in Norman times didn’t mean extensive woodlands either.
The paths goes back into ‘Warren Bottom Copse’, which immediately feels old – Signs of ‘coppicing’ have kept the trees small. The path joins the road again but to the right is a
‘Hay Wood’, wherethe sound of bird song adds to its old world charm. This wood has a
mix of Birch and Oak.
After turning right into Whitehill lane, and a gradual rise, I pick up part of the Wayfarers Walk , a 71 Mile trail through mainly Hampshire to the coast. I attempted this stretch once before but didnt get far as it was so muddy. Today is much better. I’m now heading towards Oakley direction. The path skirts the edge of Great Deane Wood which shows some ‘enclosures’ marked on the map – again, I think this relates to times of the forest and hunting.
This golden wheat field was lovely to walk through on a fine summers day… Leaving the Wayfares Walk, then along the road by Summer Down Farm and back into Malshanger Park. Another fine example of an estate building using flint. I assume this was a gatehouse or a Lodge.
There are normally sheep and other livestock to be seen grazing on the estate, but seeing this tree made me chuckle. Its been a good walk, with a couple of medium inclines, but a lot of even paths.
We have some amazing history, places and curiosities right on our doorstep…