Into the South Downs National Park after heading south from the market town of New Alresford (my new home town). The Wayfarers Walk then passes through Tichborne, across the small at this stage River Itchen, Cheriton, Hinton Ampner, Kilmeston and then up onto Kilmeston Down for a spot of sheep herding, and Mill Barrow Down.
Hampshire in the spring. A walk I took in April continuing the long distance path through the low downs of central Hampshire, nine miles or so from the Candover Valley to Alresford. The walk crosses the same stream many times, and passes by the villages of Totford, Northington and Abbotstone. The stream enters the very short river Arle which we see at the end of the walk with its ducks, swans (building a nest), geese and trout. Apologies for the wind noise.
The fifth stage of my Wayfarers Walk route, from the village of Dummer near Basingstoke, to Brown Candover in the heart of Hampshire. The walk goes over Becket’s Down, giving fine views over southern Hampshire.
The fourth stage of my Wayfarers Walk hike. This walk is a loop, with the first half on the long distance path to Dummer, then back to Deane via North Waltham, Steventon, and Ashe. The source of the River Test is at Ashe. The walk crosses the mainline railway, the M3 and the A30.
When we visited Sweden in July we lived on a small island in the archipelago near Trosa. A swan couple with four babies also lived there, having won the territory from another family with two.
Music: About Time (Theme) by Nick Laird-Clowes
Leaving the high downs and headed south east, deeper into Hampshire, passing by North Oakley in this sparsely populated area.
Here’s a video I made during the second stage of walking the 70 mile route across Hampshire. A high downs section with great views passing south of the Highclere Estate, home of Downton Abbey; Beacon Hill; Great Litchfield Down, Ladle Hill, leaving the long distance path at Watership Down, of book and film fame, for Sydmonton and Old Burghclere.
The first five miles of the 70-mile Wayfarer’s Walk long distance path. This hike is high on the North Wessex Downs, starting near Walbury Hill, the highest point in Southern England at nearly 300m. The path leads south east from Berkshire into Hampshire, past West Woodhay Down, Eastwick and Highclere, where I turned back. Half way back I left the Wayfarer’s Walk for Combe and around from the south to Combe Gibbet and Inkpen Hill. Features a view of Highclere Castle, location for Downton Abbey and fine views north. Filmed last Saturday.
A circular walk along the River Itchen and the Itchen Navigation, from St Cross south to Hockley Viaduct, now open for walkers and cyclists, back north to Winchester city centre, cathedral and college before returning through the water meadows. Calves, newborn lambs and views of St Catherine’s hill.
The final stage of the King’s Way, along the Itchen Valley to Winchester, via Avington, Martyr Worthy, Kings Worthy, and Abbots Barton. The Itchen Valley always makes for a beautiful walk. Today’s was enhanced by meeting a couple of pigs. Many churches along the way, and I rested in some of them. I entered the Winchester from the north, via Hyde Gate and Parchment Street, the residential area seamlessly meeting the city centre. It’s always interesting arriving at a town or city on foot. The King’s Way ends at the Cathedral, after 45 miles in total.
Up 05:50-0600. Wash.
Work by 09:00
This worked really nicely for me today. The main change in the above is switching yoga from morning to evening. After my neck injury last week, I realised that it is safer to stretch later in the day. And I enjoyed the walk before work, energising me for the morning after lying down for one song. Total time to myself, without any spiritual discipline, just me and the world waking up, with the rhythm of walking.
Learning to back off and observe more cleanly. Notice the steering and controlling and naturally step away, yet still entirely aware of what’s happening. As learning takes place, a different quality washes over the brain, one of space, freedom and often blissful energy. But not fantasy – this is very real, as real as all the gritty struggles and torments one is used to.
Unsteady foundations, like the floor of Bath Abbey built on thousands of graves. In sitting still, there can’t help but be an exposure of this wobbliness, and in the awareness of it, it dissipates. On going back to the breath each time, an intermediate stage was discovered. One of rejection or criticism. ‘I don’t want to think about that,’ therefore: back to the breath. This isn’t right practice. Yet right practice exposes this wrong practice. Then, once things are smoother and steadier, move to the body. This took ages to move very far. As soon as attention moved to sensations around the head, more unstableness was apparent. Then a thought loop, then back to the sensation, instability gone, until on a new area. By moving slowly, eventually I got to the injury recovered neck. So tight! Before the time was over, I’d skimmed down the arms but by this time I was wondering about the US Open and Federer’s form. Could sleep and sleep after but going for a walk.
Only on the way back I started to notice them. Slugs. Every one or two meters a couple more, most of them were the little white ones. The road was damp after the night’s rain so probably they would be able to get across without dehydrating. I rescued one or two of them with small sticks and put them in the grass. And yet there were too many of them to save them all. It was very warm in the direct sunshine, at 8 a.m., a quiet Sunday morning except for the main road, cars firing along, Red Bull cans along the verges. I picked a couple of them up that had been left in the lane. The walk today, down past the old farm shop, past the cottage with the Aston Martin along Riversdown Road (a lane), then across the A272 towards Woodlands. In the half hour out I almost got as far as the old school. A kind of steamy air, and slightly misty along the straight road at Brockwood Bottom, the sun rays coming through the trees and the mist. Glad to be out, and be able to be out, before work. Stepping on acorns and hazelnuts, crunching satisfactorily underfoot, kicking fallen sticks off of the road, dead wood fallen during quite a stormy night, the wind up. This morning, much stiller and the summer drawing to an end.
Worked on organising Spanish translated books all day. The architect of the Krishnamurti Centre, Keith Critchlow, gave a tour of the building to guests and visitors. I joined the group for a while. He said that Krishnamurti said that if he were a visitor, he would sit in the quiet library and listen to the sounds of the fountain in the courtyard. Thanks to donations, the fountain will soon be restored after years of not working.
Evening yoga, the first since the injury. Was able to do a short headstand without a problem, and otherwise going steady and gently. Pauses between poses, rushes of energy making me yawn and sometimes scrunch my face up. At one point my arm shook like in meditation.
A clear, aware, grounded day, once the foundations had been set early on.
Today we walked for an hour, maybe an hour and a half in the area of Gilbert Street, just north of the South Downs National Park. Gilbert Street sounds like a street. It isn’t, just part of the loosely connected settlements in the Ropley/Monkwood/North Street area, southwest of Alton.
From Ropely we crossed a vast hayfield to towards Lyewood House:
A good walk with many changes of countryside within quite a small area.
Dreams: Crippled. A snivelling wreck in a damp corner, spine arched, alone, neglected, no one near. But I’ve seen him, me, caught a glimpse at least. First contact. Then… Van not starting. Others I’m with go on, leaving me, again, alone and also taking the girl I like, who just felt caring pity towards me. No one wants caring pity. On my own, trying, trying, trying to make the van start. Even pretending it does to those who ask when passing by.
Meditating after a deep dream allows the meditation to go deeper, as long as you are not too spooked and are willing to explore it in a relaxed, attentive way. The dreaming has already uncovered a lot for you.
An injured day. Neck much worse on waking and I’m unable to sit upright for meditation and breakfast and therefore work. So I spent the day propped up on pillows, finishing the yoga book, answering some work emails, watching a few things and browsing about. Saw some pictures of Marilyn Monroe doing yoga. I hadn’t realised.
Probably thinking of my neck, but it’s not good to turn to smile at the camera with one’s neck in these positions.
After some athletics this evening – Bolt does it again at the World Championships – wacthed Kirsty the property lady’s show about making furniture from free stuff. I remember something similar in the early Channel 4 days, when I first saw car seats being used in the home. The table from scaffold planks was ruggedly appealing.
Here’s hoping the neck is freed up and painless tomorrow…
Woke at seven after going to sleep just after eleven.
Deep dreams these nights. Scenarios that last and last. I can’t leave them, even if I want to, and last nights was a continual getting ready to leave a hotel-like place, or maybe a hall of residence. But I was too drunk. Or disorganised. Long time periods would pass and I’d done nothing at all to prepare.
Sitting this morning was uneventful. Some unsettledness was close by, so I moved towards it, yet most of the time all was lost in little thought stories. However, a sense of deepening stillness behind the thinking bubbles. Sat in half lotus some of the time but soon got pins and needles so back to both feet on the ground, one leg slightly in front of the other, so that neither leg weighs on the other.
A simple yoga sequence today after the long review of poses yesterday. Shoulder stand, plough, forward bend. Repeat. Sit quietly. And that’s it. Some nervy sensations back of the neck. The flaw in today’s routine – straight into the shoulder stand with no warm ups. I should know that this isn’t a good idea, especially with my prone to be stiff neck, so suffering all day from very stiff trapezius both sides.
Then an open day with absolutely no plans. Put together the walk video from yesterday:
A nap before lunch. A shortish walk with C in the afternoon, laughing together at many things. Otherwise, listening to music, and looking at suggestions from this Reddit post: What’s the one song you’d recommend for someone to listen to to get into your music genre? Most interesting for me was the chill wave, underground jazz hip hop and the chillstep. Watched some elephants on the telly. Incredible creatures! To bed early to continue reading the 60s yoga book.
The penultimate stage of my King’s Way hike, from where I left off on the Downs, not too far from Cheesefoot Head, down into the Itchen Valley via Tichborne. The church there has 11th Century origins, and at Ovington church there’s a Norman archway. Otherwise, rolling downland, open skies, arable land ready for harvest, curious calves, a gorgeous pub location, lamas, woods, then the bass and slight chaos of the Boomtown Fair at Mattersley Bowl, closing some of the South Downs Way for a week.
Woke at seven, after sleeping at eleven.
A good, satisfying meditation. Soon came the feelings of bliss, and a sense of light. Before long, there was that nagging feeling of looking in the wrong place or of neglecting something, so then I looked in that direction instead of the usual fritting about in thought, and there it was, the raw emotion of fear. So now that got bathed in the light of the mind emptied. What is the point of an empty mind and bliss when there is something left out? No, meditation has to include it all. It’s a total thing, or as total as it can be at any sitting, given that there are blind spots and deeper neglects waiting to be felt, addressed, acknowledged, listened to, unfolded, bathed. And then they are no longer what they were, what I thought they were, once met fully. So, to follow the nagging . It’s there waiting to be followed and soon, on the following of the gritty areas, even more ecstasy arises as the conflict dissolves. There’s the feeling, then the unfolding, bathing, and then passing beyond to newness and change.
Once I felt no more fear, I moved down into the body, as that has to be included too. I got as far as the stiff neck before the hour was up. What’s the good of a clear mind and heart if the body is still riddled? Again, include it all. No short cuts or fooling oneself.
I’m left with a curious longing in my heart. I’m following its lead as I begin today’s yoga.
Stopping in between postures is so important. This is when the energy of the posture can go to work on the system. I stop still for a minute and let everything settle down again , and for whatever has arisen to go where it wants to go. A strange pulsing at the base of the spine, rhythmical and pleasurable. Eyes fluttering. A little daydream. Pause. Then on to the next pose, steady and attentive.
I’m more and more interested in doing what is real and not what other people are concerning themselves a with. Not that what they are doing isn’t real, but my concern with their actions or opinions is immaterial and fading. Not to be self obsessed but our own selves are the important thing, how we are spending our on time an what’s going on within us. It’s easy to spend a lot of time concerned about others. No one needs your concern, even if they crave your attention.
At 11, out for a walk on the South Downs, continuing along the Allan King’s Way, the second to last stage. I parked up on Gander Down, where I got to last time, and hiked over the rolling countryside and down to Tichborne. From there it was a short hop over the A31 and further downhill to Ovington. Old cottages on the lane down to the river and the Bush Inn, in high contrast to lorry drivers shitting in the woods just above. A quick lunch in the shady garden then along the valley a bit on Lovington Lane, and left the King’s Way to head back to the Downs. The normally peaceful countryside now with bass on the breeze. The Boomtown Fair at Mattersley Bowl. After some shade on winding paths through woods, and back over the A31, my route took me into the car park. I had no idea it would. So there I was, hiking into the festival grounds. I explained to the security why I had no wrist band and where I wanted to go. It was like walking alongside some sort of prison. A trench had been dug outside of a high, green fence. A woman sat on guard high on a corner watch tower. Ska music early afternoon. The party one day in. Later, along the South Downs Way again, I met a few walking to the site. They had a ladder for the fence. Join us, they said. I forgot to tell them about the guard tower so I don’t expect they got in. Their van was parked near my car, scribbled graffiti and twitter accounts all over it.
A sleep back at home, then good to lounge about after the walking. Snippets of TV. Tyre walls on Grand Designs. An elephant mourning the loss of its friend. The brother in Little Miss Sunshine not speaking ‘because of Nietzsche’. Uploaded this from our Swedish holiday last month:
Came back from a night in London with a foot detoxification bath thing. I’ve no idea what it’s about but I stuck my feet in for half an hour. The water stunk! It felt nice around my toes, like bicarb of soda. Even if nothing else happened, my feet felt really clean and light afterwards.
Woke naturally just after 6.
I’ve been sitting consistently each morning, just haven’t been writing about it. It’s not easy to do, this waking up, feeling however you’re feeling, and instead of getting busy doing the day, just… ceasing. On the cushion. You and your stuff and your relation to it. The relation is the key. Or maybe the ‘you’. And the return of ‘yesterday’. There’s yesterday to remind you of things that perhaps you don’t want to be reminded of. Residues. Fifteen thousand yesterdays, maybe. There it is. And yesterday isn’t only in the mind, but riddled throughout the body. The past, held. And here you are, with the day ahead, the past inside, the breath happening right now yet affected by ‘later’ and ‘earlier’, the breath a link between mind and body. There’s still some shaking taking place, particularly the right arm, the over-busy right arm. And the neck. And sometimes the shaking overtakes everything until the whole upper body is a wobble. This is when the slight nausea comes and when all control ceases.
I’ve been redoing the Hittleman 28 day course to reboot my yoga practice. Straight after sitting, I’m focused and calmer, able to dive into the various stretches, pleasant to move after the stillness. It’s a very good, progressive course, varied in its asanas, without the obsession with standing poses of Iyengar, and absolutely no trace of yoga flow or vinyasasa styles. This is 1960s yoga. It ties in well with the book I’m reading: Yoga, Youth and Reincarnation, again from the 60s, before yoga became a big thing. The same results are mentioned and experienced from so many unrelated sources of so many eras. Unrelated practitioners and teachers, but common health-giving properties. I’m feeling fit and well and strong on it.
Much later on the local news: “Tomorrow, we’ll be looking at how yoga is helping former servicemen.”
When walking to the school, skirting around the podgy pigeons so they don’t have to fly away. Two meters is the limit. No sudden moves. Two young ones, looking slim like doves.
A young bunny having a good scratch behind the ears. My last day of looking after the chickens. Yesterday a hen died. Old age. Only three left now after the original 20. The cocky cock tried to sneak up on me from under the coop. But I had my stick and I saw his tactic. I held the stick out in front of me and he’s so charged that he’ll jump at it, trying to attack with his sharp spurs. When that failed, he started making some strange clucky sounds and then he took it out a bit on the mother duck. She shouted at him and then he went off looking for the other cockerel, the punky one, to pick on at the other end of the orchard. Any time a chicken feeds, the ducklings scurry over to pick up any pellets spilled from the chickens pecking at the feeder. It’s the mother’s second brood this year.
On a break, feeding the fish in the courtyard pond. The orange fish’s colour is fading on the head and underside. It happened while I was away a week and the weather got very hot. I read that changes in water quality can do it, or just old age. They feed more tamely now but still do the sudden darting away to avoid being eaten, I guess, swirling the food flakes behind them. No sign of the newts. How do newts get in a pond surrounded on all sides by a building?
Read online: “For every one human killed by a shark, there are approximately 25 million sharks killed by humans.”
An hour’s walk late afternoon, over to Bramdean and back – along the ridge then dropping down to The Fox, armed with my bramble beating spear of a walking stick. Sunny, low 20s.
Steve Tyler on Top Gear. Hard to take my eyes of his face. What is it with this rock & roll long hair, shaman, things-in-hair look? Much of a cliche. Clarkson generally looking old and ill especially when pulling his daft faces. Last feature, James & Jeremy ‘reviewing’ caravan cars, those jacked up versions of regular cars. May called one “The Nisan Kumquat”. They joke that they are all the same. Clarkson: “James is in the wrong car.” He was. James: “Cock!” The Mazda perfectly happy to crash into a VW but not a hedge or legs, apparently a selective crash detector. Caravan racing: The Stig towing a suddenly one-wheeled caravan, sparks flying. Then some off road caravanning. May: “I’ve run over your left wall and your portable lavatory.” Then: “I was laughing so much I crashed into myself.”
The fifth stage of my King’s Way hike, from Featherbed Lane near Owslebury, through Bushy Copse and up onto the South Downs at Old Down. An already warm early morning turning to hot by the time I reached Cheesefoot Head. With some shade dotted about, the walk continued around Temple Valley, merging with the South Downs Way. I left the King’s way at Rodfield Lane on Gander Down, to head back south, via some woodlands and Longwood House, with its deep rhododendron plantations. 28 degrees by the time I finished and still only around midday.
Hen Wood lies between West Meon and East Meon, south of Westbury Park, at the northern end of the Meon Valley. It’s one of the larger woods in the area where I live, but is only about two square km. (This shows how broken up the woodlands are in Central Hampshire.) Still, where there isn’t woodland the area is very sparsly populated. I did see one stunning newbuild home at East End, and met one of the owners nearby. I couldn’t tell whether I had right to walk in the woods. I suppose not, but there were none of the usual PRIVATE NO RIGHT OF WAY signs placed near to the footpaths.
I started at Westbury House, a care home, former school and private home. Just behind the house, the footpath leads south, and very soon I was in atmospheric woods, with many well established trees.
Old farm machinery near Horsedown Farm:
After the old farmhouse, the tracks become wider, at the east of the woods.
Each tree has its own character:
Near Halnaker Lane, some views across the Meon Valley to the north to Riplington and Drayton:
And at the south side of the wood, some views to the South Downs, specifically Salt Hill and Teglease Down:
Walking quickly past a clay pigeon shooting area, I headed north east, downhill toward Coombe Lane:
Views from the lane:
Reentering the woods at Chappetts Copse Nature Reserve, I peaked into Westbury Park, and watched the crop waves in the wind:
At its northern end, the lane crosses the Meon. I really like this early 20th Century type of white road barrier:
Then into a field of calves with their mothers. Even the cows were curious and they all followed me across the field:
I stopped at a delightful spot at the river, under a large tree. Timeless:
Then I was back in the grounds of the house, looking for the remains of the church. I saw this ruin but it doesn’t look church-like:
Snooped about the grounds a bit, sort of pretending to be a visitor. Well I was, but not to a guest. The house was rebuilt after a fire in the early 1900s:
Last view into the park:
Watching Springwatch and uploading photos to my Around the Way album on facebook, shots of the local area this spring/summer, around Brockwood Park where I live and work. It’s a public album that can be viewed here.
Springwatch. I like Springwatch. It’s so low key and real. Animals doing their (often odd) animal things. Lots of egg-stealing today and a grass snake gobbling a young bird. The others hopped out of the nest to escape. And kites back from the brink.
Earlier, to Southampton to pick up hire vehicles for some end of term school activities. U-Drive. I don’t mind driving their large 17-seaters: they’re already so beat up that the pressure’s off.
Walk then snooze after a silent lunch. We don’t do that very often and today was a welcome surprise, to be able to sit in the sun, eating fine wholefoods, with people but with no chit-chat. Some students couldn’t handle it, giggling from time to time. It reminded me of the 10-day Vipassana course where of course all the meals were silent apart from the first and last days. Allows for proper chewing. Going on the course again in the autumn.
Here’s a scene from the after lunch walk, looking north towards Woodlands, the unexpected greys of the beeches backed by the rape crop brightness.
Woke at 4 then slept again, resting deeply until towards 8, a four hour spell disappearing in a flash.