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.
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.
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.
Wanting to explore the area to the north of Butser Hill, east of East Meon, south of Stroud, we parked in the small Hampshire village of Ramsdean. The area is more varied than is often found around the South Downs, with small streams, undulating countryside and ancient lanes between meadows and copses. The track from Ramsdean to Stroud (pr. strood) is a delight, with warn stone underfoot and steep banks up to beeches overhanging the path. Very hobbit-like. We turned north off the track towards Langrish, up through meadows with great views of Butser Hill behind us. Then down through Mustercoombe Copse almost as far as Stroud, meeting a herd of cows, both curious and literally shit scared of us. Then it was back onto the ancient track to the village with its cottages and farms.
This morning, in the cool spring air, we walked through Durford Wood and part of Rogate Common, just inside West Sussex from Hampshire. Here’s some of what we saw during an hour and a half’s walk over very sandy soil.
We brought you in to eat the beetles
But they were too high on the crop
And you hopped away
And mated making thousands
Who mated making thousands
And hopped away
And mated making thousands
And hopped away
Along the coast of Queensland
North and south
Greeny browny yellow and kind of panting
Bounded head-first though obstacles
Munched up the insects
And dog food
You popped when we run you down
You squirted poison when under attack
You half-killed Wallace the dog with your toxin
Then the dog came back
But wasn’t the same
It didn’t do doggy things any more they said
A little girl had you as a pet
Called you Dairy Queen
You didn’t poison her
You liked being played with
And your belly tickled
Melrose the Wonder Toad liked that too
Before he got too fat to hop
Most called you ugly
Some said beautiful
No right to be there
But it’s not your fault
Once they built a statue of you
And psychedelic postcards
And tourists came
A man made bags and hats out of your skin
Bags and hats with or without your head sticking out
Dogs licked your toxins
In just the right amount
Tripping on your ooze
Who knows what’s going on in those dogs’ minds?
I guess you might
We spiked you with spears
We froze you in bags
We melted you down into fertilizer
We tried fences and traps
And still you hopped on
Headed west on the highways
Once you numbered one hundred and two
Now one and a half billion
Hibernating in holes
Sometimes forming moving carpets
In your masses
Kimberley’s Toad Busters
Will bag you and gas you
But we can’t contain you
The country is yours, oh Cane Toad!
Tripping Dog Dobby:
The fourth stage of my South Downs Way hike, from the village of East Meon up to HMS Mercury, Butser Hill and the Queen Elizabeth Country Park, finishing in Buriton, Hampshire.