The Hawkley and Happersnapper Hanger Banger
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The view of the South Downs and the Weald from Ashford Hangers is said to be one of the best in the country. Winning such a prize should be a challenge and it is, due to a short but very steep ascent up Shoulder of Mutton Hill. That said, we'll take it slowly and the other ascents on the walk will be minor in comparison. The hangers (Ashford, Happersnapper and Hawkley), their beech trees coming into vivid verdant leaf, are murky and mysterious, but the villages (Steep, Priors Dean and Hawkley) are cosy and comfortable, which is good because we'll be having lunch on Hawkley village green. Oh, and according to Urban Dictionary, 'banger' is slang for something awesome, but you guessed that.
Ashford Hangers - Shoulder of Mutton Hill: 'In the distance we can see the long ridge of the South Downs floating comfortably across the horizon...But above the village of Steep the hills seem to lose all discipline. The greensand ridges of the Hampshire Downs argue with each other. Escarpments bunch and jostle. Beech woods cling to the slopes in dramatic clumps known as hangers...The area is known from its contours as Little Switzerland, though Little Tuscany might be more appropriate' (Simon Jenkins: England's Hundred Best Views). Evoked and mythologised by local poet Edward Thomas (who died at Arras in 1917), we'll see his monument - a sarsen stone - at the viewpoint.
Bedales School: Founded in 1893, one of the most expensive private schools in the country, charging more than Eton, but known for its relaxed, liberal, progressive ethos, its fashionable parents and its famous alumni such as Lily Allen, Daniel Day-Lewis and Alan Jay Lerner. Grounds with playing fields, meadows, pasture and woodland. Grade I-listed library and hall in Arts and Crafts style, 1911; main buildings, 1907.
Steep: Scattered village of late 19th/early 20th century Arts and Crafts houses (such as Little Langleys and Ashford Chace (sic), both 1912). All Saints Church is 12th-14th century but received an Arts and Crafts makeover in 1875. The hamlet of Steep Marsh contains a number of oast houses and hop kilns.
Priors Dean: A hamlet tucked into a wooded valley. The church (no dedication) is a tiny, early-Norman (1120-1130) delight. Manor Farmhouse (1656) is attractive.
Hawkley: Small village with timber-framed, brick and clunch buildings around a green. The Church of St Peter and St Paul is a major work by the eminent Victorian architect Samuel Sanders Teulon. Built in 1864-5 in an Italian-Romanesque or Byzantine style. The tall tower has a Rhenish helm top like Sompting Church. There is exuberant carving of foliage inside and Minton tiles in the chancel.
Following the Hangers Way north out of Petersfield, we'll cross over the A3 and emerge at Steep, next to Bedales School. Continuing on the Hangers Way, we'll pass Little Langleys and Ashford Chace houses then begin our ascent of Shoulder of Mutton Hill through Ashford Hangers. Then, at the top, we'll follow the Old Litten lane byway to Trooper Bottom, Hill Farm and Happersnapper Hanger which is where we'll steeply descend the plateau. Following lanes heading north to Oakshott Farm, we'll reach Priors Dean and at Manor Farm, turn north east to reach and descend Hawkley Hanger. Having crossed fields we'll be at Hawkley for lunch. After lunch we'll follow the Hangers Way and lanes heading south to Steep Marsh where we'll pick up the Shipwrights Way and cross over the Ashford Stream and A3 to go back into Petersfield.
(Photo credits: Fields near Wheatham Hill: Oast House Archive; Ashford Chace: Colin Smith; Edward Thomas Stone: Keith Rose; Farmland from Wheatham Hill: Martyn Pattison; Shoulder of Mutton Hill: easthantsxc; Path up Warren Lane: Keith Rose; Middle Oakshott Farm: Colin Smith; Priors Dean Manor House: N Chadwick; Reston Kiln, Hawkley: Oast House Archive; The Hawkley Inn: Colin Smith; Hawkley Church Tower: N Chadwick; Cottages at Ashford Stream: Martyn Pattison. All images are deemed 'Free to use and share' under the Creative Commons License.)
What to bring
Walking boots will be essential to provide traction, support and warmth. Wear thick socks or multiple socks and consider layering if the weather is cold (base layer, layer, fleece, coat). Wear wet-weather gear if rain is forecast including waterproof trousers or gaiters.
Food & drink
Please bring a packed lunch and plenty to drink, which we'll have on benches on the villagre gree at Hawkley at 13:30.
(We were booked in to have a pub lunch (the last of the season on my walks) at The Hawkley Inn in Hawkley, but they wanted to charge me a £150 deposit, so we'll have a packed lunch and just a pint in the pub.)
There are pubs and places to eat in Petersfield for the end of the walk.