Our Navigation Of The Line Of The Downs - Day 3
The final day of my walk from Hungry Hill to Stonehenge. Having camped just outside Andover at Picket Piece, here is the remainder of my route once again as detailed in “Ancient Trackways Of Wessex” by H.W. Timperley and Edith Brill.
“A new Andover housing estate situated at the beginning of a broad hedged lane which turns west from the hill just past the hospital is signposted Harrow Way, and this lane continues for nearly half a mile to reach Weyhill. Weyhill was once famous for its autumn sheep fair, which lasted several days, drawings shepherds, farmers and others interested in sheep from all over the South of England. Much cultivation of the surrounding area has obliterated the wide series of track-ways and droves used by the shepherds and their flocks which must have led to it from all directions. Only the hedged lane from Andover remains and this being urbanized at its east end. The other tracks have become modern roads.
The Harrow Way must now become one of these, and when the main road at Weyhill branches into two it takes the left-hand fork and follows it to Thruxton about a mile and a half on. It leaves the main road here and becomes a minor road going to Quarley, parting from this road just before coming to the village and taking the line of the metalled lane north of it that passes Lains Farm. Quarley Hill, an isolated chalk hill crowned with trees and an earthwork, stands up out of the plateau and is a landmark for miles around. Because of this boldness of outline, and many evidences of ancient habitation on and about it, Quarley Hill has become one of those landmarks one remembers and looks for, and has gathered about itself a special significance not easily described. It must have been a landmark also to those early travellers for whom the Harrow Way was one of the main roads to Salisbury Plain.
Rising to Cholderton Hiil the track…as a minor road and parish boundary from Lains Farm the Harrow Way leads south-west to the corner of the grounds of Cholderton Lodge, where it again takes up its westward line. This line in about three miles, brings it through Cholderton back to the A303 road left at Thruxton.
It enters Wiltshire…and as the A303 road continues to within a mile of Amesbury and then leaving the the main road makes a swing right as a track going under the railway to come up to the Avon at Ratfyn, a little upriver from Amesbury and the site of an ancient ford. The traces of a ford are not visible today but here the water is shallow and it has a good firm bottom. From Avon the Harrow Way would lead over the downs immediately north of Amesbury to Stonehenge.”
Our Navigation Of The Line Of The Downs - Day 2
21st May 2013
The route I shall be following today, once again as described in the 1965 book “Ancient Trackways Of Wessex” by H.W Timperley and Edith Brill:
“Across the Basingstoke - Preston Candover Road road to the A30 road from Basingstoke to Winchester, where tumuli stand just west of the crossing.
Now making for Oakley, its course past the tumuli is lost, although the quarter-mile of parish boundary from the main road to the site of the Roman road from Silchester gives the direction and cannot be far from the actual line. Three furlongs beyond the Roman road a lane and a footpath to East Oakley may also be on the line, continued perhaps by the road through the village as far as the church and then by a path from the church to where the Basingstoke road is crossed by the railway a little west of Oakley station. When this road is passing the station it represents the end of the other branch of the Harrow Way coming from Penley Copse.
The two branches now go on as one. From Oakley to beyond Andover the railway and the Harrow Way are never far from each other, though after being lost for a short distance by Oakley station and going along a byway for for about two miles it becomes a track, mostly hedged, and makes a North-westerly swing to rise past Kingsdown Wood and then turns south-west again for half a mile to cross the Kingsclere-Overton road before beginning to a fall that will bring it back to the railway line again. This stretch from the road is marked as Harrow Way on the 1 inch OS map. There is a Ridgeway Farm about a mile short of of the line of trees known as Caesar’s Belt on the Roman road coming south-west from Silchester. This is a mile and half north of The Harrow Way opposite Laverstoke, and we have wondered if there may not have once been a loop of the Harrow Way on the higher ground in this region, and if the line marked Harrow Way on the map was another reach of its summer way. There are many tumuli on these hills as well as a long barrow, and the country is open with large unhedged fields dotted with occasional small woods.
Now passing north of Whitchurch, the course of the Harrow Way wavers in uncertainty before crossing the parallels of the Newbury-Winchester main road (A34) and the railway line. After passing over the railway on a small bridge the track disappears, but a faint hollow trail across the next two fields past Cholesley Farm and Down Farm comes to a metalled lane which leads to Dirty Corner. Near Hurstbourne railway station the true line of rhe old road may be represented by a fold in the ground which is lost as it comes to the railway track, and was obviously obliterated when the railway track was made.
We next pick up the line of the Harrow Way as a metalled road bringing the Hurstbourne stream over the firm gravel at Chapmansford Farm, a name which imnplies there may have been an ancient ford here used by pedlars travelling the old road.
For the next four miles the road runs less than a furlong south of and parallel to the railway. As it comes within a mile of Andover and crosses the Roman road slanting down from the north-west to go through Harewood Forest, the Harrow Way becomes a lane between high ragged hedges. This is not a green lane underfoot, for it has a covering of cinders. It has been much used by gypsies as a camping place. “
My campsite for the night will be at Picket Piece, seemingly right where the gypsies used to camp.
Our Navigation Of The Line Of The Downs - Day 1
20th May 2013.
Today sees the release of our new album. To mark this I shall be setting out this morning on a three day walk along the supposed route of the Harrow Way to the ancient heartland of Stonehenge.
Between the end of the nineteenth century up until the 1960s numerous writers, archeologists and historians attempted to trace the original route of this supposedly ancient trackway, considered to have been one of the oldest roads in Europe.
Starting from my birthplace on Hungry Hill, in the village of Hale, just North of Farnham, I shall be following a route set out by H.W. Timperley and Edith Brill in their 1965 book “Ancient Trackways Of Wessex”. Here is how they describe the section I shall be walking on the first day.
“From Dover the Harrow Way goes over the North Downs into Surrey and through part of its way through Kent and Surrey is known as the Pilgrim’s Way…Now as it goes west from Farnham and enters the Hampshire and Wessex of this book it ceases to be a green track and is on the line of minor metalled roads for most of its way across the county. Just within its first Hampshire mile the Harrow Way passes on its right the coppice containing the earthwork called Barley Pound - the remains of a Norman castle probably constructed in the twelfth century - and in almost another mile and a half the earthwork in Penley Copse on the left of the road, the name Penley and the rectangular construction suggesting an ancient cattle compound. This brings the road to where, almost half a mile south-east of Well it probably forked into two branches that come together again at Oakley, twelve miles farther east.
The left hand branch is represented by the line of lanes running a little south of west to Sutton Common and then by the metalled road going south-west along the ridge and descending to the Golden Pot Inn on the Odiham-Alton road. Turning north-west the branch continues over Weston Common as a footpath and then as a byway to Nash’s Green, where it bends south-west as the minor road through Bagmore before turning north-west again to come to Ellisfield. From Ellisfield, still a metalled road, it winds and twists as well as undulates through Farleigh Wallop.
Professor C.F.C Hawkes, in an article in the Proceedings Of The Hampshire Field Club, 1925, suggests that the route through Ellisfield and Farleigh Wallop was the original line of The Harrow Way, and the Long Sutton - Polecat Cornet route was its summer way which, being more direct, superceded the parent and ridgeway and has now become known as The Harrow Way.”
I shall spend the night camping at Farleigh Wallop.
As well as following the Harrow Way I am also planning to search for the homes of some of the source singers from the area whose folk songs were collected by George Gardiner around 1906 and 1907 and which inspired Bob Copper to return to the area for the BBC in the 1950s.
from the Brighter Later series by Brian David Stevens.