The Test Way – Kimbridge to Awbridge
Posted on July 5, 2016
Just in case anyone had thought I had given up, at lunchtime today I continued on my quest to walk the Test Way that starts at Inkpen and finishes in Eling in Southampton.
Today I had the pleasure (along with my trusty companion) of completing the stretch between Kimbridge and Awbridge on what had to be the least pleasurable walk so far, courtesy of stinging nettles, mosquitos and a lack of signposts.
I kicked off proceedings just up the road from the Kimbridge railway crossing and was instantly told by a signpost to put my dog on the lead but I ignored it as it only appeared to be woodland. I’m crazy like that; I have no boundaries as a hiking maverick.
On my right, through the trees appeared to be a nice looking lake but the view was obscured by the green leaves of high summer and double wire fencing. It wasn’t long after before I heard traffic and sure enough I came out on to a road.
Unfortunately, there was no indication of whether to turn left or right or how long I would be on the road (Don’t forget that I am hindered by a dog that wants to dive in and out of every bush God put on this planet and doesn’t know what a road is).
With no map and no phone signal, I chose to follow my nose which, as it turns out, was in remarkably good form because about half a mile along the road, I came to the next path that was actually signposted with the now familiar TW.
However my celebrations were short-lived because I was wearing shorts and the path was soon overgrown with stinging nettles that towered above my head. Somewhat stoically I marched through them, grimacing and cursing at every sting but it wasn’t until one lashed at my eyelid a full volley of abuse echoed through the Hampshire countryside.
I could imagine someone in a distant farmhouse saying “I hear someone is walking the Test way today love…worse language I’ve heard since that Jethro gig”.
I eventually came to a gate opening out on to a lush meadow, but again there was no sign post so I headed left along the edge of the field before coming to a kind of yard of disused tractors and other machinery that farmers gave up using when they realised how much in subsidies they could claim for doing fuck all.
It was the wrong way and increasingly disheartened, I swung a left and down a gravel lane where my dog entertained himself flushing out what seemed like hundreds of pheasants and partridges from the undergrowth. Then, just as I was about to give up, another TW sign popped up and I was back on track.
I passed what looked like a vineyard and into more woods and a brook. Somehow in their budget, Hampshire council had funded a boardwalk over the mud and a bridge over the brook and I suddenly found myself feeling guilty for cursing their lack of signs. After all, it was me who didn’t yet have an Ordnance Survey map, fearing it was the next step on the road to nylon slacks and lemon curd sandwiches.
Through some more woods and a mosquito attack, I came onto a little lane where there was a scattering of home-made looking houses that are a feature of the back end of Hampshire and are generally owned by a cherry faced bloke called ‘Roy the Lump’ who married his sister and breeds devil dogs.
I was nervous and once again, missing signage.
As I walked past one residence a man in Sunday Express clothing was getting in his car, so I called out to him.
“Afternoon…am I still on The Test Way”, I said, pathetically trying to add some authentic Hampshire into my voice. Ok, I admit it, I even said “arternoooon”, don’t ask me why.
“Follow the road, turn left across the field and you will come down into Awbridge…where have you walked from?”
“Rather than walking back the way you came, you can actually do it by road, but the chances are, you will get run over.”
This almost seemed a risk worth taking considering my legs and arms were swelling and my eyelid was throbbing; I must have looked like I had the bubonic plague.
So I walked back to Kimbridge in the pleasant July sunshine and because I had already trodden a path through the nettles, it was not nearly as bad as I feared; in fact it was bordering on pleasant, but guess what?
I didn’t even get a sniff of the River Test on what is turning into one of the most ironically named walks in Britain; I can’t wait until I have finished the bloody thing if I am honest.
I only do it for you readers, so you better be grateful.