Alton and the Worldhams (6.4 miles)
From: A circular walk from Alton station to the Worldham villages.
Length: 6.4 miles.
Average Walk Time: About 3 hours.
Terrain: Apart from a giant pull up the steps at the start, it's gently undulating.
Suitable for dogs: Yes.
Look out for: Hampshire churches, hop kilns and oast houses.
Start at Alton station. If arriving by train, turn left from the station building. A small set of steps take you to Paper Mill Lane, where you turn left under the railway bridge. 100m after the bridge, take Waterside Court on the right-hand side. A picturesque stream trickles through the front gardens of these blocks of flats. At the T-junction, turn right and almost immediately left down an alley to King's Pond. The sign is all-but hidden in enthusiastic ivy.
At the end of the alley, walk through the cycle chicane and turn right. Follow round Kings Pond and walk to the far end, where you continue straight to Lower Turk Street. Cross the road and draw a huge breath. A massive set of steps takes you up the side of a mountain. A second flight follows, longer and steeper than the first and then there's an uphill footpath. Pause at the top to catch a breath, and you come to a residential road. Turn right on the road and 100m later, turn left at a T-junction. Another 100m brings you to another T where you turn left on to Windmill Hill. Follow this for 300m, until you reach the brow of the hill.
Immediately on the right at the top of the hill is a sharp right turn into a driveway, but look for a kissing gate on the left side of the driveway (still right of Windmill Hill). This takes you into an excellent field, where you stick to the right-hand side as it slopes down. Go through another gate and down a few steps to a new field, where you stick to the path by the edge of the field, ignoring the one that strikes over diagonally. At the far corner, turn left and head to the main road. Cross a stile and go down the steep steps, and you're there. You now have to cross the busy A31. You are now at one of today's two crossings on this route and is not the easiest. In lockdown, I had little problem, but there is a central reservation, which you should use. Take your time, and please cross safely.
On the far side, look slightly left for a footpath sign leading you up some steps through a kissing gate. Stay right and head towards Kiln House (passing right of it) until the T-junction on a tarmac drive. Turn right and in less than 100m, left again over a stream and a stile into a smallish field. Another stile takes you slightly right across another field. Pass the back of the lawn of the grand house (Trunchaunts). Stay next to the hedge (on your left) past two fields, until you reach the large woodland on your right. Just before you get to it, cross the small plank bridge on your left and over a stile. In the new field, keep going in the same direction but now with the hedge on your right.
Walk straight until you ALMOST get to the minor road walking under the power lines. In the corner of the field, take the awkward stile into the next field, not joining the road. You bounce diagonally across this field, bearing slightly left from your previous line. Soon another tarmacked drive comes along, which you join and turn left. In about half a kilometre you come to the tiny village of West Worldham. Admire the Manor House and the little church of St Nicholas. Take the time to look inside. Built in the year 1200, it has a fascinating history. Leave the church and continue to the crossroads, where you turn right towards Hartley Church and Oakhanger.
At the next road junction (which is on the right) take a stile and footpath on the left. This is actually at the junction, rather than being farther down the road as the ordnance survey map suggests. Walk down the side of the house, and at the end of their fence, veer slightly right towards the corner of the field. Go through the gate into the next field and continue in the same direction. At the next corner go through a second field, so you're back on the line that you started on. The path now crosses some large, open fields, crossing a small bridge under some power lines, before finally veering right following the hedge line. Finally, you reach a tarmac path by some farm buildings.
Turn right here and go 50m down the track. A footpath sign points you left up a narrow alley-style footpath. You now have three stiles taking you over slightly quaggy fields before you reach Caker Lane. Admire Manor Farm before you reach the lane. At the road, you have a choice. A beckoning pub (the Three Horseshoes) awaits you 100m to the left, or your route continues right. Either way, pubbed or not, you need to turn right. 150m farther on the left is a small road signed to the church, which you take. St Mary's church has a pretty exterior, and as interesting history as St Nicholas. It dates from the 13th century but sits on the site of an earlier Saxon building. Much of it was restored in the 1800s. Pause, if you wish, to explore, but it was locked when I visited, so I can't comment on the inside.
Continue past the church and take the path, past the cottages. At the end, turn right. In 50m, turn left across the fields following the footpath sign. The footpath now strikes out across a vast field, but there's a marked post in the middle. It continues to the copse on the far side of the field. At the thicket, enter the woodland and follow past a lovely oasthouse. The path eventually crosses a wooden bridge before reaching a small road, where you can duck under the barrier gate, or take the stile if you prefer. Continue on the path straight ahead, ignoring the road on your right. Again, the ordnance survey map is confusing (if not slightly wrong).
The road eventually becomes a footpath, which strikes ahead towards a small hill. On reaching the wooded hillside, turn left along the hanger (a path that contours a hill). You are, after all, on the Hanger's Way now, which you might have seen marked on the marked post in the middle of the field a paragraph earlier. Hug the hanger for about 100m, before striking off diagonally across a field. A footpath sign in the middle of this field points you onward – ignore the right hand 'finger' pointing uphill. Cross the rest of the field where a footpath sign welcomes you pointing along the way you came.
Keep to the left side of the next field until you reach the corner, where a narrow path takes you downhill, under the power line and across a stile to reach the annoying A31. Cross again, taking care as before, and this time the footpath on is slightly diagonally right through a gap in the Armco barriers. Once safely over, simply follow the footpath through the more industrial are to the main Wilsom Road back into Alton. Walk about half a kilometre and you will see the railway bridge ahead, indicating you're back where you started.
I hope you enjoyed this walk out into the wilds of Hampshire, not that this part of the county ever really gets wild!