Hydon's Ball (8.5 miles)
From: A circular walk from Hydon's Ball to Hascombe Hill and back. Start in the Hydon's Ball NT car park on Salt Lane, between Hascombe and Hydestile. Postcode for Satnavs GU8 4BB.
Length: 8 1/2 miles.
Average Walk Time: Around 4-5 hours.
Terrain: By and large, gently undulating. However, there are two steep climbs, one at the beginning and one near the end.
Suitable for dogs: Yes.
Look out for: Great views from the top of the two hills.
Set out from the car park on the reasonably obvious footpath on the left of the car park (South Side) and follow this for 250m. Ignore the crossroads track and continue, taking another obvious right turn track which 'Y's away on the right. There are concrete water hydrant markers on the corner where you turn, and a small manhole in the path that you will walk over. Almost immediately, this path starts to climb, becoming quite steep. If you are anything like me, you will be relieved to see the other folks around you puffing too. Although the total climb here is only around 40m in height, it's over a distance of 150m and it gets steeper the nearer you get to the summit.
All too quickly, though, the climb is over, and you can breathe. The view from the top is good (not great as there are many trees around). However, there is a giant seat dedicated to Octavia Hill (one of the founders of the National Trust). There are also a signboard and several hatches into the reservoir below. The name 'Ball' is thought to refer to the fact this used to be a signalling station on the old semaphore line from London to Portsmouth, and a 'ball' was dropped at specific times to allow people to synchronise clocks and chronometers.
Having caught your breath, it's far too early for coffee, so leave the hill slightly to the right of where you came up, heading West between the reservoir hatches. Head down until you reach an obvious cross-track and turn left here. There are several ways off the top of the hill, but as long as you are heading West of South, you will eventually get to the cross-track involving the left turn. Follow this for 250m until you leave the woods, and a very obvious path cuts diagonally across a medium-sized field. At the second field, aim for the quaint church of Hambledon.
Immediately on arriving at the church, pass an ancient lime kiln, then take a path which cuts back hard left on your track. Do not go straight ahead, and if you pass the church, you've gone 20m too far. The track is navigable (at the start) by vehicles, so be careful! Follow this new track for around one kilometre until you come out on a small (slightly better) road. This is Vann Hill. Turn right here, and almost immediately look for a track cutting up the side of the bank on your left. Take this and ignore the steeply descending road. Head almost immediately for the large field on your left and follow the side of it. Again, tracks are trying to take you off to the right, downhill, which you should ignore.
After 300m, the track takes you into a second field, which you again follow. At the corner of this, the track goes diagonally downhill, through a bit of woodland and crosses a small road (Markwick Lane). You're now on the Greensand Way, which you follow for a little over a kilometre until you arrive in Hascombe village. AT the village, pass the White Horse, and go up the right side of it on Nore Lane. This takes you quite gently along the side of Hascombe Hill to a major left turn, just as the path is getting steep. Follow the new path along Nore Hangar. This is where we had lunch, overlooking the Hascombe Valley. If you want, deviations are possible here to Hascombe Hill itself, which has an Iron Age ring fort on it. The standing druid stones at the base of the South East side of the hill are not as ancient as they seem, having been erected in 1990 by local druids! However, we were content to munch lunch on the side of Nore Hangar and miss out the heavily wooded hill and mock stone circle completely.
Having eaten, continue around the end of the Valley, taking an obvious left turn. This will soon bring you back to the village of Hascombe, slightly nearer the church. Turn right, and walk along the road into Upper House Farm. Take the track that goes straight ahead (very slightly right) as opposed to the definite left turn. This appears to go through a gate, but if the main track gate is closed, there's a pedestrian gate to the side. You're now back on the Greensand Way, which you follow for a little over a kilometre until you reach a definite T-junction where the Way turns right and you turn left. The new track is very pretty, passing the luxuriously converted barn at Langhurst Farm before arriving at the B2130 (Brighton Road).
This you cross and follow the track on the opposite side. Now you have the "sting in the tail". The main road sits very happily on the 90m contour line. Winkworth Farm is also very happy at the 140m contour. You have to get from one to the other in 200m of ground walking. Gird your loins, deep breath and go for it. At the top, pause and pant. It's all-but level from here (apart from the slight uphill bits).
At Winkworth Farm, the track turns left, and then after 100m, T-junctions where you turn right. Now follow the good track for 200m, until you hit the main road again at a corner. This is the corner of the Winkworth Arboretum, and the road offers you a choice of straight on or right. In fact, take neither of these. Our route cuts slightly back on the left, by the side of the pillar box and past the signs to High Barn and the Old Dairy.
Pass High Barn and continue. The navigation is easy from here, and you can almost smell the car park as you approach. There is one more λ junction, where you come in from the right, the main path goes ahead, but you have to cut sharp left back on yourself. It's almost a T-junction, so it's not that difficult to see. Finally, you approach the main road. The easiest way is to follow the path until you reach Salt Lane with the car park opposite, but there is a last-minute cut through into the car park. If you miss the cut, don't worry. The end is obvious!
Thanks to Jerome from the Farnham Ramblers for leading us around this splendiferous walk on a day that started cold, but warmed up when the sun came out. I hope you enjoy it too.