This is a beautiful and diverse walk starting at Greywell, in Hampshire. Follow the 18th century Basingstoke Canal, visit an 800-year-old castle and enjoy woodlands and meadows. You’ll be treated to wildflowers and discover a spring fed river, butterflies, swans and nature reserves. Yay.
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Distance: 7.5 miles
Parking: Free street parking in Greywell village.
Refreshments: Fox & Goose pub. This is a very welcoming pub with a large garden behind the building, a perfect way to end your walk on sunny, summer days….
Greywell. Discover this delightful walk in Hampshire.
Our walk begins in the quiet but pretty village of Greywell in Hampshire. A narrow footpath takes us from the road, over the Greywell Tunnel and across the Basingstoke Canal.
From here it’s easy to just follow the towpath, but don’t.
Just after crossing the bridge, a narrow path on the right heads steeply down to the water – go and take a look.
Here you will find the entrance to the 1,124 m long Greywell Tunnel, which is an important site for hibernating and swarming bats. In 1985, it was designated a SSSI for bats. A bat friendly grill prevents the public from entering and just beyond the grill is a small boat, which is used for hibernation surveys.
But this is also the best place to admire the beautiful Basingstoke Canal. The water is so clear here that you can see right down to the bottom. Spring water rises from underground feeding this section of the canal and it is full of wildlife. Aquatic plants carpet the canal floor while dragonflies and butterflies flit all around. Take a look at the picture below to see how clear the water is.
The Basingstoke Canal
The Basingstoke canal was completed in 1794 and was constructed so that boats could travel from the docks in East London to Basingstoke, but it was never a commercial success. It joins the River Thames at Weybridge, via the Way Navigation.
Following a long period of neglect, the Basingstoke Canal has been restored and most of it is now navigable by boat. Parts of the canal are also within nature conservation areas.
Ok, back to our walk, head back up to the towpath and follow along the Basingstoke Canal. Trees, wildflowers, butterflies and swans with cygnets make this section of the canal really special.
Half a mile from the Greywell tunnel, the spring-fed River Whitewater framed by arching weeping willows, joins the canal, flowing beneath your feet. We will be re-joining the R. Whitewater later in this walk. But in the meantime….
A break in the trees on your left reveals Odiham Castle, also known as King John’s Castle. This 800-year-old, ancient site is free to wonder around. The castle took seven years to build and was completed in 1214. It originally had two stories, a square moat and was built on twenty hectares of land. What can be seen today are the octagonal keep and a small part of the moat, which is now a pond. This castle has so much history. For example, in 1215 King John set out from Odiham Castle to sign the Magna Carta. The following year, after a two week siege, Odiham Castle was captured by the French during the First Barons’ War in 1216.
Odiham Castle, also known as King John’s Castle.
By the 15th century Odiham Castle was no longer a royal residence and became a hunting lodge. Poorly maintained, it was considered to be a ruin by the early 1600’s.
Odiham Castle really is worth a visit and the information boards will help you discover more about this intriguing ruin.
Leaving Odiham Castle our walk takes us away from the canal and into Butter Wood, which covers 330 acres. It is a site of special scientific interest (SSSI) forming part of the Up Nately local nature reserve. The woodlands comprise mostly of broadleaf deciduous trees, particularly oaks , some of which are ancient. Over 25 species of butterflies are known to inhabit Butter Wood, living amongst its scattered glades and small ponds and peppered with a diverse range of wildflowers and plants.
On a hot day, the woodland paths offer a welcome relief from the sun’s heat with dappled sunlight dancing prettily on the woodland floor.
The path takes us along a route parallel to the M3. You cannot see the motorway but the sound of traffic is noticable. The path then heads south, towards Up Nataly.
Here we leave the forest paths for a while and cross open fields of crops. A thick carpet of wild white flowers, red poppies and buttercups form a boundary beside the gravelly footpath.
Looking at OS maps, this part of the walk appears very open and exposed, but much of it is tree lined providing welcome shade from the mid-day sun.
During this walk, I was using the OS maps app on my phone as I had taken out a subscription a couple of years ago. This gives me unlimited access to both the Landranger and Explorer maps for the whole of the UK on any device. Great for route planning, navigating and tracking your current trip to share later with others. Maps can be downloaded to view off-line and printed out up to A3.
There is a free version of the OS Maps app too, which gives you access to a simplified but still useful map.
But there are plenty of other maps out there that can be used off-line, many of which are free. Here is a good review of the best of the rest www.cyclingabout.com
The River Whitewater
We reach Five Lanes End and continue along a shaded path to Greywell Mill, where we re-join the River Whitewater as it rises from underground springs. It’s headwaters flow over chalk enriching the clean, unpolluted water, which deposits traces of calcium carbonate into the fens either side of the river. The enriched fens and meadows support numerous species of rare flowers and wildlife including fish such as trout, perch, dace, chub and roach.
From here, it’s a short walk back to Greywell and, if it wasn’t for the continuing lockdown due to the Coronavirus pandemic, a refreshing drink in the garden of the Fox and Goose pub in Greywell.
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About the Author
Annette Price. I am a wild places and adventure sports photographer, which means that I am passionate about getting outdoors, camping, caving, getting wet and muddy and photographing the landscapes and people that I find. Water is a big attraction for me and I love being in, on and under it and am a serial kayak paddler. I hope you enjoy the articles, kit reviews and photography on this website and that they help you to get outdoors exploring new places and activities.