Along the Wayfarers Way to Combe Gibbet
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The far northwest corner of Hampshire is dominated by a stretch of high chalk downland tumbling across the Berkshire border.
Our walk starts from a peaceful and ancient village of Ashmansworth, whose chuch is dedicated to Saint James the Great. It is the oldest surviving building in the village, with parts of the Grade I listed church dating from the 12th century, with a brick porch added in 1694 and the east wall rebuilt in 1745. The walls show the remains of medieval wall paintings thought to date from the 14th century and the turret houses three bells dating from 1588 to 1780.
The village is just south west of the top of a ridge line running south. With heights between 235 and 240 metres above sea-level, Ashmansworth is the highest village in Hampshire and a spot height of 242 metres is at the top of the ridge on the north east side of the village makes it one of the highest points in Hampshire.
It lies within the North Wessex Downs (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty). Our walk sets off along the wayfarers walk gently ascending to follow the chalk ridge. The ridge overlooks Highclere Castle and Newbury, with views over large areas of Berkshire and North Hampshire. This delightful route passes three hill tops, Pilot hill (286m) being the highest point in Hampshire, Walbury Hill the highest chalk hill in England at 297m, and then Inkpen hill, at 289m.
At the summit of Walbury Hill is Walbury Camp Iron Age hill fort, the start of the Test Way and the Wayfarers Walk. On the adjacent Gallows Down are Combe Gibbet and Inkpen Long Barrow.
Thus far the route has no steep inclines, however our return route crosses a valley to regain height at Combe Hill and so is more undulating.
What to bring
For your comfort and safety please be prepared for the anticipated weather and the terrain of the walk - keep in mind the following:
Boots: Hiking boots that are both waterproof and breathable, and provide good ankle support, are important as soon as you encounter any mud. Cross trainers may suffice in good weather and flat routes.
Socks: Proper walking socks keep your feet dry, and help prevent blisters.
Walking Trousers: (ideally water resistant) will be more comfortable than Jeans which are heavy and cold when wet. From April to October shorts are usually a better bet.
Waterproof Over-Trousers: essential in any significant rainfall. Breathable ones are best.
Layered clothing: allows you to quickly adapt to changes in the weather as well as body temperature. E.g. a base layer or a cotton T-Shirt; a mid layer like a micro fleece, or a rugby type thick shirt, and in cooler weather an outer layer consisting of a windproof jacket or a thick fleece.
Waterproof Jacket: essential when hiking in all but the calmest of weather. You get what you pay for with these. Breathable fabrics are advisable.
Hat: essential both in mid winter to preserve heat and in summer to prevent sunburn and heatstroke.
Gloves: essential in frosty weather.
Small Rucksack: One that is comfortable to wear is essential so that you can use your arms freely. Place valuables in water proof bags inside.
Sunglasses: April- Sept: comfortable sunglasses enhance your pleasure and keep insects out of the eye
Water: even in winter one can loose a litre or more of fluid by perspiration. If you fail to make this up you'll get dehydrated which can lead to headaches and other problems. A hydration bladder is easier to use than bottled water, but higher maintenance.
Food: a packed lunch will be required unless otherwise stated. In addition carry energy bars or similar to counter 'sugar lows'.
Medicines: If you have allergies, are diabetic, or have minor ailments don't forget these!
Food & drink
A packed lunch, plenty of water and energy bars are essential today. We won't pass anywhere selling stuff as this walk takes you way off the beaten track.