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Bramshott - Following Flora's Footsteps

Wild heathland contrasts with a wooded beauty spot in Hampshire's eastern corner, an area much loved by Tennyson and the writer Flora Thompson.

Distance 4 miles (6.4km)

Minimum time 2hrs

Ascent/gradient 295ft (90m)

Level of difficulty Medium

Paths Woodland paths and heathland tracks, 3 stiles

Landscape Wooded valley with lakes. Lofty, heather-covered common with far-reaching views

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 133 Haslemere & Petersfield

Start/finish SU 855336

Dog friendliness Vast expanse of heathland where dogs can run free

Parking Unsurfaced car park on edge of Bramshott Common

Public toilets None on route

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1 From the car park, take the defined path beyond the low wooden barrier and gradually descend. At the bottom, the main bridleway (marked by a blue arrow on a post) directs you left along a sunken track. Ignore this if it's wet and muddy and climb the path ahead beneath beech trees, then at a fork, keep left down to the river and footbridge.

2 Cross the bridge and turn right along the footpath parallel with the river. Pass the wishing well and a house and keep to the path through the valley bottom to the left of three ponds, eventually reaching a lane by a ford.

3 Just before the lane, turn sharp left, pass a memorial stone, and steeply ascend through mixed woodland. As it levels out, cross a path, then a track and soon merge with a wide gravel track. Keep left, pass a bridleway on the left, then, where the track begins to curve left downhill, keep straight on along a path through trees.

4 Cross a path then, in a few paces, at a broad sandy track bordering open heathland, turn right. On reaching a fork, bear left across the common. The path soon widens and descends to a T-junction (a fingerpost is visible on the right at the next junction).

5 Turn left and follow this open heathland trail, edged by bracken and gorse, and eventually merge with a wider sandy trail. Keep left then, on reaching a bench and junction of ways on the common fringe, proceed straight on through mixed woodland.

6 At a crossing of paths by a line of telegraph poles, turn left with bridleway signs. Continue ahead at a junction of paths, following the bridleway (marked by a blue arrow) close to the woodland fringe. Stay with the line of telegraph poles, disregarding the bridleway right as both merge later. Beyond this point ignore the bridleway right and continue to a crossing of bridleways.

7 Turn right and keep straight on at the next crossing of routes, following the footpath marker alongside a garden to a stile on the woodland edge. Walk along the left-hand edge of pasture to a stile in the field corner.

8 Steeply descend into woodland and cross a gravel track to reach a stile. At the track beyond, turn right downhill to the river and footbridge encountered on the outward route. Retrace your steps back to the car park.

Much of the landscape either side of the busy A3 in this peaceful corner of Hampshire, close to the borders of Surrey and Sussex, is a mini wilderness of bracken and heather-covered commons and deep wooded valleys etched by tiny streams. Surprisingly, this unspoilt area was once the heart of a thriving iron industry, with streams like the Wey and Downwater being dammed to provide power for the great hammers in the 17th-century ironworks. Timber for the furnaces and iron ore were in plentiful supply locally.

The chain of dams and the lovely wooded ponds at Waggoner's Wells were created in 1615 by Henry Hooke, lord of the manor of Bramshott, to supply his iron foundry. Now a famous beauty spot owned by the National Trust, the three beautiful lakes, surrounded by splendid beech woods and home to a wealth of wildlife, are a delight to explore, especially during the autumn when the colours are magnificent. Like the poet Tennyson and the writer Flora Thompson, who loved to stroll beside the pools, you will be immediately charmed by this secluded haven. Tennyson, who rented Grayshott Farm (now Grayshott Hall) in 1867, wrote his famous short ode Flower in the Crannied Wall after pulling a flower from one of the crevices at the wishing well you will pass in the valley bottom.

Flora Thompson lived in both Liphook and Grayshott during her 30 years in Hampshire between 1897 and 1927. She often walked to Waggonner's Wells and Bramshott, returning to Grayshott via Ludshott Common. On these long, inspirational country rambles she would observe and assiduously make notes on the wildlife she encountered. Her detailed nature notes reflecting the changing year, and written in semi-fictional style, appeared in her book The Peverel Papers. Flora also describes her life in the area and many of its inhabitants with great affection in the collection of essays called Heatherley, which was not published until 1979.

Flora says she 'did not often linger by the lakes' on her Sunday walks, but 'climbed at once by a little sandy track to the heath beyond'. Walk this way today, especially on a Sunday in the summer months, and you will find this to be sound advice; the wonderful wooded vale really does attract the crowds. If you are seeking relative solitude, stride on up to the open heath and the deciduous woodland of Ludshott Common. Here, the sandy paths criss-cross a seemingly vast expanse of purple heather and yellow gorse, and the far-reaching wooded views make the strenuous climb well worth the effort. Flora would certainly have seen stonechats, linnets, redpolls and nightingales here, all of which still nest on the margins of the heath, and, like Tennyson, she would have been fascinated by the eerie drumming call of the nightjar, distinctly heard as dusk falls across this lonely heath on a summer evening.

While you're there

Explore Bramshott Common. Grass covered concrete is all that remains of the huge army camp that stood either side of the A3 during both World Wars. Bramshott Camp or Mudsplosh Camp and Tin Town, a collection of ramshackle huts and shops built of corrugated iron, housed Canadian soldiers and occupied much of the land here. Visit St Mary's churchyard in Bramshott which has a special burial ground containing graves of 350 Canadian soldiers who died during a flu epidemic in 1917.

What to look for

Look out for the memorial stone dedicated to Sir Robert Hunter, a founder of the National Trust in 1895, who lived in Haslemere. He initiated the local purchase of nearby Hindhead Common before transferring it to the Trust. Walk across the lowland heath of Ludshott Common in summer and you may be luck enough to see the dark purplish-brown plummage and the cocked tail of the rare Dartford warbler, and butterflies like the silver-studded blue, grayling and the green hairstreak.

Where to eat and drink

There are no refreshments available on the route but it makes for an ideal morning, afternoon or summer's evening walk, so why not enjoy a picnic beside one of the three delightful ponds at Waggoner's Wells.

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