Christmas by the Canal (9.5 miles)
From: A festive circular walk from the Wharf car park at Odiham near the Waterwitch Pub. (Postcode RG29 1DH). We walked this festive route in February 2019 with the Farnham Ramblers. Don’t think from the photos that it suddenly snowed overnight and you slept through it!
Length: 9.5 miles.
Average Walk Time: Around 5 hours.
Terrain: Generally quite flat. The section along the canal is very flat!
Suitable for dogs: Yes.
Look out for: Good views of sights along the Basingstoke Canal, King John’s Castle, and an interesting view of the Greywell Tunnel from both ends. If walking this at the time of publication, look out for Santa.
Leave the car park, cross the canal by the bridge and turn left along the canal towpath. Take your time, and follow the towpath all the way to the tunnel entrance. There are some wonderful sights along the way, including boats, wildlife and good views across the fields.
The Basingstoke Canal was completed in 1794 and was conceived to stimulate agricultural growth in Hampshire. The canal originally ran 34 miles (now 31) from its junction at the River Wey to Basingstoke. It was never a commercial success, suffering from a lack of water as it had no major water source supplying it. The main water supplies are runoffs from fields and small chalk springs near the Greywell Tunnel and it frequently becomes impassable in the Summer. Ironically, the waterway was used to transport materials to help build the railway in the 1830s, which superseded the canal and led to its commercial demise. In 1910, this function of the canal ceased, and the waterway fell into disrepair. Slowly, parts of the channel silted up, and a collapse in the Greywell Tunnel lead to its closure. In the 1970s, a very active Canal Society started to renovate the waterway, resulting in its reopening from junction to tunnel in 1991. Despite some problems, the canal is a vibrant recreational waterway today.
So, enjoy this walk along the canal towpath, noting some of the sites along the way. King John’s Castle is interesting, but there are adequate sign boards at the ruin to explain what that’s all about, so I won't bore you here! After a leisurely 3km, you reach the Tunnel and you can carefully approach the entrance and peer into the darkness inside. I have it on good authority that Santa delivers presents to all the good bats inside!
Walk up to the road at the end of the canal, turn left and immediately look for a footpath on your right. If you get to the Fox and Goose you’ve gone too far. After 100m, ignore the turning off to the left and follow the path around a slight curve right and then ahead. From the gate, go diagonally right up the field towards the tree and past a 4-way fingerpost. There’s a bare tree trunk which is useful for a coffee stop, and then go through the gate into the woodland. Now follow the path, ignoring the crossing paths.
After 300m from entering the woods, look for the other end of the tunnel on your right. There is a good path down to it, and if you are so-minded, you can descend to it. However, you have to come back up to the main path when you’ve finished looking.
Continue for another 100m until you reach a minor road, which you follow for 50m. When the road turns right, you continue ahead/left on a footpath. After 100m more you cross another minor road, but the footpath picks up again on the other side. Follow this diagonally right across the field until you reach the corner and a small lane which kinks slightly right. After 50 m, this reaches another small road where you turn left.
Follow the road for 150m, around two kinks (right then left), and look for a lane/track on the right around Upper House Farm. There are some good views of Basingstoke in the distance here. Follow the posts which show you where to make a half-left turn through a field boundary and keep following field edges until you get to Andwell Drove (400m after leaving the last minor road). Now turn left, and keep going as the path becomes a better track and goes behind the back of Hungry Lodge. Talking of which, it should now be lunchtime and 300m past the Lodge is a junction of five paths, called Five Lanes End. When we walked it, there was a bitter wind racing across the fields, so we did not stop long. However, you should be luckier.
After lunch, you want the track which is slightly left of straight ahead from the track you came in on. Standing with your back to the track you came in, it’s at 10 o’clock ahead of you. 400m more and you reach a junction of four lanes, strangely called Four Lanes End. Cross straight over the Upton Grey Road and continue another 350m, until you reach Bidden Road. Look for a footpath on the left, immediately before the road and turn left. Go along edge of three fields and look out for sign right to clamber down to lane by Greywell Mill. Dogleg right and left to find path, mostly boarded, to Greywell Church.
Now the next section is not easy walking. Keep ahead through the field (often with cattle) for 100m, and then turn right at junction to go into some woodland and across a bridge (can be wet and muddy!) Walk ahead across another field to a road and go straight across to another footpath. Walk straight across to cut the corner of the road but at second road turn right and follow road around bend and past school. Note, the official route goes straight over to a footpath across another field. However, it has difficult styles at both sides, there are often cattle in field, and path beside school is sometimes blocked! Apart from that it’s a good route! My suggestion would be as I suggested, at the second road turn right and walk along the road, around the corner to the left. No stiles, no cows and no mud.
Pass Robert May’s School on your left, and after 50m more look for a turning on your right (Recreation Road). Immediately after taking this, look for a footpath on your left. Follow this across the main Alton Road, and keep going. 200m more and the footpath dumps you in the centre of Odiham by All Saints Parish Church. Turn left down to the High Street, which you cross and walk through the hotel car park to reach the footpath running along the back of the buildings where you turn right. Re-join the London Road near the canal to go over a bridge and down to the Wharf carpark.
And that’s it! Many thanks to Sue L. of the Farnham Ramblers for leading us on this fine walk, and special thanks for digging through your archives, Sue and finding the detailed route for me. The views in the snow were magnificent, and even if you don’t see Santa, you should have a great time.
To all of my readers, I wish you All the Greetings of the Season, and here’s to a good 2020 “Walking this Way!”