This is an enchanting walk of 3.9 miles (6.2kms) through beech woods and meadows, uphill and down dale. But there are 13 stiles.
Park roadside in muddy laybys in Old Litten Lane, two miles northwest of Petersfield, SU730273. If you have read the collected poems of Edward Thomas who lived here before the first world war, you will find passion in these paths.
Take right road fork past Old Litten with its giant cherry tree and cobnut hedge, southeast to Cockshott Lane, passing a three-stemmed birch at Old Litten Cottage. Turn left for 200 yards then left over stile into meadow on Hangers Way. Did you notice the woodruff flowers on wildlife verge?
On entering Oakshott Hanger, path turns right then winds left-handed downhill through tall beech trees through wild garlic-scented air.
Another stile, after which I saw a dead beech tapped by woodpeckers and then a large badgers’ sett. The path crosses two stiles with right kink, into a lovely downland meadow with cowslips, quaking grass and twayblades. Here a wonderful view of Oakshott vale.
Another stile into an improved meadow, following downhill a rue of elder and maple, ash and beech, dogwood and hazel. Cross the road in the hamlet and on into Hangers Way again, along a luscious meadowside with the stream gurgling by your side. I always see mistle thrushes here.
A stile and footbridge over what Thomas called the rill, into a valley with red campion and horsetails. Another wonky old stile had been almost crushed by a fallen ash branch when I walked that way.
Just before Cheesecombe Farm, turn right, south, to pass in front of a grey donkeys’ shelter and back to the rill, passing old field maples in the hedge. Another stile and footbridge over the water with bed stones as black as those in the Styx.
You now scramble southeast up through the meadow, following the hedge until at a wounded oak, you turn right into a wired path. This turns left at the top and you have a fine view left, north-east, into Woolmer Forest.
Soon you will meet a sunken trackway where turn right, south-west, into this tunnel with some ancient oaks. Here I saw a fox last week.
After 500 yards you will come to a road. Turn right and after 50 yards, left straight ahead into another bigger tunnel of trees. The track bends left and passes some beech trees clinging for their life to the little cliff with crooked hands.
The path winds upwards and here I found the rare orchid narrow-leaved helleborine growing under old beeches on bare ground.
At the top of the hill this track joins Old Litten so you turn right, passing the NNR sign shown below in Nature Trails.
Then turn right again back to the car, in my case an old shooting brake fortunately not made of best Sussex beech as some were. Built only 30 years after Edward Thomas was killed at Arras.
** See the June 21 issue of the Observer to view a map of this walk.