Saturday, September 19, 2009

Test Way #15: The grand finale

So, what about the finish? As we walked up Sheepless Hill we longed for the end - it was very, very steep and hardly surprising that the sheep has gone elsewhere. More to the point, it seemed to go on and on - surely we would be at cloud level in this cloudless sky soon? But the reward was soon to come.

As we rose up onto the ridge and circled around towards Inkpen Hill and Coombe Gillet, our prize was delivered. The views from beneath the gallows on the ridge were simply amazing. I've seen good views in the past and this was up there with the best of them. The ridge drops on both sides so steeply that hang-gliders have sensibly claimed exclusivity on all but the summit. But the view is available to all, and there was miles and miles of it. Hampshire, Berkshire and Wiltshire are visible in different directions and, although one notable absentee (particularly on such a hazy day) was The Test itself, this is a brilliantly fitting end to a very satisfying walk.

We met my dad's other half who was our pick-up/drop-off driver for the day, and drove down into Inkped to The White Swan pub, where we had a nice lunch (just - we got there as they were preparing to stop serving for the afternoon!) before driving back up the hill and down the other side towards St Mary Bourne, where we started the day. Picking our car up and driving home, we pretty much followed the route we'd walked over the last year with great satisfaction.

When we started last October we were considerably underwelmed - yes, Eling Wharf is nice but from there you have to walk through Totton which is very built up; yes, the nature reserve is pleasing but is overshadowed by the docks; yes, the countryside around Lee is open and airy, but it is divided by the M27; and, yes, the fields and the river around the Broadlands estate is picturesque, but is let down by much of the rest of the first Leg.

From there, through, the walk has improved and improved with every step, from Romsey towards Awbridge, Mottisfont and beyond. The only disappointing bit I can remember from the M27 northwards is the heavy-footed disused railway on the way into Stockbridge.

And the end definately justifies the rest - simply stunning.

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