Amongst the Watercress at Alresford
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In Britain we associate new towns with the mid-twentieth century; this one dates from the early-thirteenth. New Alresford is a made little town, laid out in 1200 when the 'Novum Forum' was awarded its market charter. The Novum Forum became Broad Street and this is where this walk, which cleverly combines bubbling chalk streams with sweeping chalk downs, will start.
The overall impression of New Alresford is Georgian, the medieval fabric having been destroyed in fires in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The town grew in importance in the eighteenth century when the turnpike road to Winchester arrived in 1753 and the medieval industries of tanning and cloth weaving were replaced by watercress growing, especially with the arrival of the railway in 1865. Indeed the Mid-Hants (preserved) Railway Line is called 'The Watercress Line'.
And on this walk (see the route here), watercress will be much in evidence along the beds fed by the pretty River Alre, a tributary of the River Itchen, that quietly cuts through some prime Hampshire downland landscape, particularly at Abbotstone Down near Itchen Stoke. Abbotstone village was abandoned in 1589 but the earthworks remain as well as the current farmhouse which incorporates a Tudor mansion. As well as handsome farmhouses, mills will be noticeable, such as Fuller's Mill on the Alre.
Dogs are welcome to join us on this event but we do ask the following:
Please ensure you adhere to the Countryside Code at all times - see (Keeping Dogs Under Effective Control)
If your dog is uncontrolled and strays in open land frightening other animals or livestock, the leader is supported by the OutdoorLads board of trustees to ask you to leave the event as this is not acceptable behaviour.
All images are licensed for re-use under Creative Commons. The credits are: Golden Light on Abbotstone Down by (unknown); The Fulling Mill, New Alresford by John Smitten; Broad Street, New Alresford by Richard Slessor; New Alresford West St by John Cullen; New Alresford by Dave Jacobs; Watercress Beds, Alresford, Hampshire by Peter Trimming; Water Course at Alresford, Hampshire by Peter Trimming; Path through woodland at Abbotstone Down by David Martin; Farmland, Itchen Stoke by Andrew Smith; Farmland, track and woodland, Brown Candover by Andrew Smith; Cottages at the junction, Abbotstone by Robin Webster)
My thanks to Gavin for writing this one up for me.
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 in summer to prevent sunburn and heatstroke.
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.
Sunglassses: 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
Please bring a packed lunch and drinks. These could be purchased in Alresford at the start of the walk but not once the walk has started.