Longparish to Westway!

Posted on June 10, 2016

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Many of you will be delighted that I am now suffering from referendum apathy fully two weeks before the event. It now all feels a bit like when the late David Coleman used to commentate on long distance track events on the BBC when a runner would mistakenly break from the pack prematurely…”Oh, he’s gone to soon…. HE’S GONE TO SOON!”

So to get away from it, I have managed to complete another vital leg of the Test Way, this section being between the villages of Longparish and Westdown, near the Mayfly pub, a venue I seem to be perpetually recommending to anyone who fancies open wallet surgery (see, I have done it again). One day I hope to forgive them for a glass of Chardonnay (£8.00) and mediocre chilli con carne (£12.00).

Anyway, I did it all a bit arse about face really, completing Wherwell to Westway yesterday and Longparish to Wherwell today. Both days have been sultry conditions for walking, thus allowing me to adorn my ‘Summer 2016 Collection’ featuring a plain white T-Shirt, jean shorts, socks and walking boots. Looking like a complete twat is not as hard as you may think.

As you exit Wherwell on to Chilbolton Common, you are greeted with quite stunning scenery and views of The River Test, however, when the sun shines, you are also amongst a lot of humans, some of whom might even want to talk to you, especially if they are fellow dog owners.

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Chilbolton is a highlight of the Test Way walk

I was accosted by a remarkably sprightly, dare I say, dashing man of 79, who, even more remarkably, had recently re-married after his wife left him 5 years ago, skinning him for a handsome sum as she did so. In fairness, he didn’t seem so bothered about it, beyond his need to tell me it was approaching a million quid.

I completed most of the common with him, with my general assertion being that he had made lots of money in his time and had spent a fair bit of it being something of a cad dressed in paisley neck scarves and dressing gowns, entertaining a host of ladies along the way.

I found myself feeling glad of his company but I did also feel some relief that he tired just as the path ran out and more importantly, just as he was getting on to the subject of the referendum.

It is from the common near the playing fields where the walk goes into the woods and becomes pretty much uninspiring, unless of course, you have a perversion for walking through stinging nettles adorning your ‘Bob Lethaby Summer 2016’ selection.

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Nettle Kingdom: The path from Chilbolton to Westway is overgrown and uninspiring

There is a section of this path where you could see The Test if you were a basketball player or you had a pair of stilts handy, but to mere mortals the view is blighted by a huge panel fence, so you could be walking anywhere. It is actually quite ugly if I am honest.

Still, undeterred, I was quite chuffed when my legs, throbbing from the lashings of stinging nettles, got me to Westway to complete another section.

Longparish to Wherwell

Starting at The Plough pub (which appears to be under refurbishment) I marched through Longparish on the road, which with my dog, is a bit like controlling Zebedee on a lead and offered me visions in my mind’s eye of throwing him into someone’s garden and running as fast as I could in the opposite direction.

You pick up the Test Way path again near the junior school, which with my outfit, made me realise that despite what I said in the previous paragraph, dogs are great. Without him, I would have carried a dubious look as I panted enthusiastically in the humid conditions, whilst children played just yards away.

“Here boy…come on Marley…good boy…gooooood boy”, I shouted in an exaggerated tone, ensuring the teachers knew for certain I was a walker and not a sex offender.

It is a classic English scene as you stroll through the meadows by the church but whenever you get near the river there are signs that say ‘PRIVATE’ and ‘KEEP OUT’ in an aggressive manner that could have been soothed quite easily by adding the words ‘PLEASE or ‘THANK YOU’. However, in my experience, most Hampshire landowners are allergic to friendship, even when they get paid handsome subsidies for doing fuck all except shooting pheasants.

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Just as my socialist principles started arising from my maddening brain and I fantasised about pitchforks at dawn, I came to a sty that had an empty coke can placed on it and immediately surmised that Serfs have a terrible habit of not helping themselves. I found myself hating landowners and the masses all in the space of a minute, quite justifiably as well, I think.

I was soon back on the road again, walking through the hamlet of Forton for a while, then through a field, over the A303, and into Harewood Forest. Apparently, Harewood Forest was used to hide vehicles in WWII and the concrete paths I found myself walking on were from that era. I felt that I should have been more impressed than I was, perhaps it was because I spent my childhood walking to school along a former US runway?

I found it all a bit creepy in the woods, there were bits and pieces of rusty machinery scattered around and several strange looking buildings. As it so often does, my imagination got the better of me and started making me think it was the sort of place a Civil Servant ‘who knew too much’ would be found a few days after kicking himself to death, putting on a pair of suspenders, and zipping himself up in a sports bag.

No, I didn’t like Harewood Forest and I was glad to come out onto some open farm tracks and back through the fields and into the pretty village of Wherwell which has a fine pub called the White Lion, run by nice people who actually want customers, a rarity in the 21st century.

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I have now completed the section of The Test way from Longparish to Mottisfont and whilst there is some stunning scenery, there is not a lot of the River Test to be seen on this section, especially given consideration that it is called Test Way.

This leaves me with sections between Inkpen and Hurstborne Tarrant and Mottisfont and Eling, where it joins the Solent. I have completed 18.5 miles of its 44 mile stretch and if it continues to fail to do what it says on the brochure, it will at times, be an arduous task.

However, in the words of Magnus Magnusson, I have started, so I will finish.


1 Reply to "Longparish to Westway!"

  • Paddy
    June 13, 2016 (10:48 am)

    Hi Bob,

    Did you find Dead Man’s Plack in Harewood?

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