Queen Elizabeth Country Park to Langstone Harbour
Tuesday, May 1, 2012
The Staunton Way is so named because part of the trail passes through the Staunton Country Park, which is in turn named after Sir George Staunton, an early 19th-century member of parliament for Portsmouth. Among other things, the path provides a link between the South Downs Way National Trail and the Solent Way, and is thus part of the 5,000 kilometre E9 European Coastal Path.
The easiest way to get to the start of the walk on public transport is to get Stagecoach bus 37 from the nearby town of Petersfield, which is on one of the main railway lines from London to the south coast. I had a wait of about half an hour for the bus, so I spent the time wandering around the town square. The church of St Peter stands on one side of the square (picture 1), while a statue of William III occupies the middle of the square (picture 2).
There was light rain as I wandered around the square, but the forecast I'd seen the previous evening predicted that the weather would brighten up later in the day.
The bus took only seven minutes to deposit me at the stop beside the busy A3, from which it was only a few minutes walk along the service road to the visitor centre of Queen Elizabeth Country Park, which I had visited a few weeks earlier while walking on the South Downs Way.
A fingerpost by the visitor centre marks the start of the Staunton Way, which follows a footpath south by a picnic area (picture 3) to reach a sealed road next to a parking area. Here the Staunton Way parts company with the South Downs Way, continuing south on a track that rises into the pine forest (picture 4).
The track soon curves towards the east and levels out. After about a kilometre the pine forest abruptly ends, to be replaced by a different kind of forest (picture 5). A few hundred metres further, the route turns sharply to the right at a junction of tracks, and begins to descend through the trees of Newbarn Hangar. (A "hangar" is a wood on the side of a hill.)
Eventually, after two more right turns, the track reaches a stile on the edge of the forest (picture 6), where a fingerpost points south across the fields of Chalton Park. The path across the fields descends steadily, passing under some high-voltage power lines before joining another vehicle track beside a hedge (picture 7).
This track leads downhill past some farm buildings and into the middle of the village of Chalton, where the thatched Red Lion pub stands adjacent to the small village green (picture 8).
Opposite the pub, the path heads up beside the green and into the churchyard of St Michael and All Angels (picture 9). The Staunton Way passes just to the left of the church and then through a wooden gate and another section of the churchyard.
Through another gate the path starts to climb again, soon crossing a farm track to enter a field where the path splits into three. The Staunton Way takes the rightmost of these alternatives, climbing steadily southwards across the fields of Chalton Down, from which there were good views over the patchwork fields of the farms to the west (picture 10).
Reaching the summit of Chalton Down, the path passes by the mound of a tumulus (picture 11), and begins the long descent down the other side of the hill, known as Idsworth Down. On the way down the hill the path skirts around the edge of a small wood known as Oxleys Copse, where the path was particularly muddy and I had to slow down to pick my way carefully through the quagmire.
Continuing southwards beyond the copse, the path along the edge of a large field has good views over the village of Finchdean (picture 12). The railway line between Havant and Guildford runs close to the village, and I saw a couple of trains rattle by, but the village does not have a station of its own.
Reaching the bottom of the field, the path turns left along the next field edge, separated from a minor road by a hedge. In the corner of the field a gap in the hedge takes the route along the road and through the village of Finchdean (picture 13), turning right at a T-junction by The George pub (picture 14).
A short distance along the next road, the route bears right at another juncton to climb a lane called White Hill. Near the top of the hill the lane bends to the right but the Staunton Way continues straight ahead into the trees along a rough track marked on the OS Explorer map as Wellsworth Lane. Here I took a picture of a waymarker disc that was fixed to a fencepost next to the path (picture 15).
The track soon leaves the trees and heads across open fields that were filled with the flowers in picture 16. Unfortunately, I'm not sure what kind of crop this is.
Soon the path begins to descend gently towards farm buildings on the edge of the town of Rowlands Castle (picture 17). After passing close by the farm buildings, the route turns right along a quiet residential street to reach a slightly busier road, where the route turns left. This road also happens to be called Wellsworth Lane.
A short distnace along this road, a fingerpost on the right points along a very narrow alleyway between hedges and then between fences. The alleyway eventually joins a driveway and follows it out to a road, turning left and following the road up to the carpark of the Rowlands Castle Golf Club.
The Staunton Way continues ahead across the golf course, but first I turned left and wandered up into the town centre, where the large wedge-shaped village green (picture 18) is lined with some interesting buildings, including the Fountain (picture 19) and Robin Hood (picture 20) public houses.
The Staunton Way crosses a couple of fairways of the golf course before another narrow alleyway leads out to a right turn along a residential street. A couple of minutes along this street is a fingerpost pointing left along a short alley that runs between wooden fences to the busier B2149 road, where the route turns right.
Here the Ordnance Survey and the map published by the Hampshire County Council disagree as to the route. The former shows the route following the footpath on the left side of the road up to the next major intersection, while the latter shows the route crossing the road part of the way along and leaving the road to take a longer loop around the edge of the woods of Havant Thicket. I opted for the longer route, but after the recent wet weather this was quite muddy and had several large and quite deep pools of water covering the entire width of the path, so it was lucky I had my waterproof hiking boots on.
Where the two routes converge, the Staunton Way heads southwest alongside a field, soon entering the peaceful woods of the Staunton Country Park (picture 21). The route continues straight ahead until it reaches a lake (picture 22). (Signposts for the Staunton Trail should be ignored, as this is not the same as the Staunton Way.)
The Ordnance Survey map and the OpenStreetMap data on my GPS both show the official route of the Staunton Way going halfway around the lake then heading south across a field to reach a road. This appears to be incorrect, as the way into the field was to hop over a broken barbed wire fence and there was no way out of the other side of the field. Giving up on that route, I backtracked to the lake and followed a path from the eastern corner of the lake, out to the main gates of the park, and then west along the road to rejoin the route marked on the map.
A metal kissing gate by the left side of the road takes the route along the edge of Great Copse (picture 23) on the edge of the town of Havant. Emerging onto a street, the route turns right and heads through more trees. For the next two kilometres, the Staunton Way follows quiet wooded paths beside the Hermitage Stream, periodically crossing surburban streets where fancy signs name each section of the path; Hedgehog Clumps, Hermit's Lea (picture 24), and Hawthorn Walk.
Eventually the route crosses a footbridge over the coastal railway line then follows a residential street to a junction by the Prince of Wales pub (picture 25). The Way turns right here then soon turns left into Meyrick Road. At the end of the road the route bears left beside a brick fence and along a short enclosed path to a stile where the Wayfarer's Walk joins from the right.
Both paths cross the stile and head diagonally across a couple of fields where horses were grazing (picture 26). A stile in the corner of the second field leads out to a road, which the route crosses to a small carpark. An overgrown path then runs for a short distance beside the A27 and then up some steps to Brockhampton Road, which is carried south over the A27 on a bridge (picture 27).
Once over the bridge, the Staunton Way turns right into Harts Farm Way and meets the Solent Way, which comes up from the shores of Langstone Harbour beside a small stream (picture 28). Here I left the Staunton Way and headed back up Brockhampton Road for about ten minutes to catch the train at Bedhampton Station.
As far as Rowlands Castle this had been a very enjoyable walk through the countryside, though the latter part of the walk had felt like hard work, with a little confusion over the correct route through the Staunton Country Park and the fairly dull stretch through urban Havant. At the end of the walk my GPS showed that I had walked just over 20 kilometres, closer to 19km after subtracting the apparent dead end in Staunton Country Park.