Continuing the story of Alton Walking Festival, walking to other Walkers are Welcome towns.
The Whitchurch Walk May 31st
Most of May was cool and often wet, which was a pity, although it didn`t dampen the enthusiasm of most walk groups during the Walking Festival. The Alton to Whitchurch walk had become known by Walkers are Welcome colleagues in Whitchurch as the ‘Whitchurch Marathon’ and its 26-mile length provided a nice challenge to some, while perhaps seeming daunting to others. A recce of the walk on May 24th saw chilly and very wet conditions, but the weather changed by the May Bank Holiday and May 31st proved to be sunny, hot, and dry throughout; lovely country views in glorious sunshine but probably a little too warm for comfortable long-distance walking!
The walkers left Market Square at 9 am and left Alton via the Sports Centre, then Chawton Park Wood, before turning north up Jennie Green Lane and following nice leafy tracks to Bradley, where they paused a few minutes for drinks. After Bradley, the route was the same as the Overton walk, with the same lunch stop (although this time they were seeking shade!). After lunch, they headed through Dummer and then westward across fields and under the M3 and A303, along the lane to North Waltham and a chance for some to grab an ice cream at the Old Barn Stores. They plodded on in the strong afternoon sunshine, passing Steventon Church, deviating from the original Overton route after crossing the railway, then through Upper Ashe and some lovely countryside to reach Berrydown Farm (where they keep buffalo) and, soon after, the southern outskirts of Overton.
By 4 pm the group had reached the crossroads in the centre of Overton and indulged in a brief period of relaxation before setting off on the final 6 miles of the walk. This involved a climb up to the ridge north of Overton so as to follow the Harroway westward and then a walk down to Freefolk, where they were met by a welcoming group of Whitchurch walkers and led a final couple of miles through riverside fields and the edge of the town to their destination, Whitchurch`s lovely modern community centre and a welcome from the Mayor, followed by refreshments and a chance to unwind before taking the coach back to Alton.
So Alton have hopefully started a tradition of linking walks between Alton and our nearest Walkers are Welcome neighbour towns and they hope that other towns in Hampshire may, in the future, become part of this community activity. Everyone who took part in both walks greatly enjoyed them, even if they may have felt a little stiff and tired afterwards!
Photograph Whitchurch Walk group pausing at North Waltham Pond, about 15 miles in.