Some of the fringe benefits of owning and walking a dog include getting to discover some beautiful areas of Hampshire. Some of these are on our doorstep in Chandler’s Ford. One of those is The Monarch’s Way, which is a short drive away, and takes you into some glorious countryside.
This post shares some of my thoughts on the walking and wildlife found in and around The Monarch’s Way. The irony is that the name of the walk reflects a turbulent part of our country’s history yet it is one of the most peaceful places I know.
The Monarch’s Way is close to us at Ampfield, going through Knapp on its way via Hursley to Twyford and Shawford. My husband and I regularly walk Mabel here and enjoy a woodland walk, plus a walk along a wide grassed track, with Hursley Cricket Club on the left and farming fields on the right. The views are wonderful.
A pilgrim route?
I always thought the Monarch’s Way was a pilgrim route, making its way eventually up to Canterbury, but discovered I was wrong. The Way in fact runs for 615 miles from Worcester to Brighton and follows the flight of the future King Charles II after his defeat by Oliver Cromwell at the Battle of Worcester.
Charles fled to France where he remained in exile until after Cromwell’s death and the restoration of the monarchy.
Charles famously hid in an oak tree at Boscobel Wood, part of Boscobel House on his way out of the country. When he returned in 1660, he was accompanied by, amongst others, the famous diarist, Samuel Pepys.
The Way is divided into 3 major sections (for ease of guide book and map production I suspect) and our section, the South Coast, makes up the final part.
Wildlife in and around the Monarch’s Way
Amongst the wildlife I have been lucky enough to see here are three varieties of deer. Of course, what I sometimes wonder is what I haven’t seen given The Monarch’s Way with its woodland, grass and farmland must be home to hundreds of different species.
The other varieties of deer seen are the Roe Deer and the Muntjac. Incidentally in the last few months I have seen a Muntjac, sadly lying dead along Hiltingbury Road, and assume it must have emerged from Hocombe Mead and, possibly, Cranbury Park. Has anyone else seen them?
On one walk along The Monarch’s Way I saw red kites circling near the cricket field. I had known that red kites were prospering along the M40 corridor but was unaware some had come further south.
Buzzards are a common sight here too (though only this week above Hiltingbury Recreation Ground I saw one buzzard being mobbed by a single rook. Whether that rook was brave or foolish I can’t say but the buzzard did fly off but not before I managed to get a good look at it).
I would like to know what has happened to the kestrels. I always used to see lots, especially around the motorways, but are they in trouble due to the bigger birds of prey moving in and forcing them out or are kestrel numbers in trouble anyway? I haven’t seen any in and around The Monarch’s Way and given I have come across dead mice, shrews etc, it’s not as if there’s a shortage of food.
There are other walks near the Monarch’s Way which we use regularly. Most of these are on bridleways though these have the advantage of being wide and covered with gravel (and so are much easier to use during the wetter weather).
Having said that, there are potholes and good walking shoes/boots are advisable. It is amazing just what you can find just off the beaten path though…
One of the bridleway walks near The Monarch’s Way takes you towards Lower Slackstead. Below is one of the views across the farmland.
Horses are kept along here and this is one of my favourite shots of them.
Family connection with Braishfield
It is possible to walk from the bridleways all the way down to Jermyns Lane and also on to Braishfield where we go to church.
There is a strong family connection here. Family members have been baptized at Braishfield URC and my late in-laws were stalwart supporters of the church. My late father-in-law was secretary for many years and often preached there. My mother-in-law supported him brilliantly and occasionally preached there as well. Sadly they never got to meet Mabel, whom they would have adored.
Having a dog does force you to get out and about but this is no bad thing. Around The Monarch’s Way I have found fellow dog walkers, and even joggers, to be friendly and before anyone moans at me for that comment, I should add so many of the joggers I see around Chandler’s Ford don’t greet you cheerfully. I don’t think this is just me! Maybe there is something about being out on a walk in splendid countryside that brings out people’s more cheerful aspects.
The Monarch’s Way is rough and steep in places but I love going through the woods on to the grass track towards Hursley. As well as seeing wildlife around, we often see the cricketers at Hursley and when they are not out (some pun intended!), there are the model airplane flyers. Some of the model planes are impressive in size and detail from what I can see from my viewpoint. Though the biggest danger to the planes are the trees. It is not unknown for a plane to get stuck in them!
Pheasants, squirrels, cattle
The Monarch’s Way’s terrain also means I get to see a lot of pheasants and I have had my belief confirmed that these are the most stupid birds on the planet given they really don’t fly unless they have to (and that’s when they suddenly realise a predator, Mabel, is walking towards them!).
The end of this section of the Way is by the back of Hursley School and I turn around and follow the track back.
One of the great joys for Mabel on this walk is the inevitability of coming across squirrels. I have yet to meet a dog that doesn’t long to chase them. Mabel is not the exception!
Cattle are often seen in the fields to the left of the grassed track. They take no notice of either my better half or me but tend to give Mabel a curious look though she just looks at them and then walks on.
On the right of the grassed track there are the wheat fields. These are currently stripped back but it has been interesting over the spring and summer months to see how the wheat grows. When it was fully out and golden, it made a marvellous sight stretching all the way back towards the bottom of Hursley Road (i.e. around the Ladwell end). That is a lot of wheat!
So then here very near to us we have a lovely walk with historical connotations. At Winchester the Cathedral has its own history of Cromwell’s “visit”. Basically when on trips out with my son, if we come across churches with evidence of vandalism, either Henry VIII or Oliver Cromwell are responsible for it.
But The Monarch’s Way and the bridlepaths around it are wonderful peaceful places in which to walk. And there we are lucky.
Charles II’s journey was anything but peaceful at the time and he could not have known what the outcome of his flight would have been. Yet looking around as I follow some of his footsteps, all I get to do is enjoy the countryside. And it is bliss.
Note: Don’t miss Allison’s next post on Friday 13th November 2015.
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