Training walk #3 - 20 miles on the Oxdrove Way

Training walk #3 - 20 miles on the Ox Drove Way

Continuing from my last post (read it here - Training Walk #2) on our training for the 53 mile / 24 hour "Crosses" walk in July 2015 we'd decided on and planned a 20 mile circular route in the mid Hampshire countryside, on parts of the Oxdrove Way and utilising 20 miles of the 24 mile off-road cycle route mapped out by Hampshire County Council (link to their PDF route here).

Walk Stats
Distance - 20.4 miles
Average speed - 2.74mph
Total time - 7hrs 24mins
Altitude gain - 1725ft
OS Map - Explorer (1:25k) 132 - Winchester, New Alresford and East Meon
  • GPX file from the route (recorded via Viewranger) can be downloaded by clicking here
  • PDF route card of the walk can be downloaded by clicking here
A cold start to the walk
We had baby sitters lined up in the form of Donna's parents who were staying for the week so planned to set off early, by 7am,  to make the most of the daylight and had allowed around 9 hours for the walk based on a rough average of 2.5mph walking speed plus a hour for stops/lunch.

Our start point for the walk was to be from the car park in Micheldever Woods, just off the road separating Micheldever and Itchen woods, rather than the "official" start point which is Abbotstone Down car park (off the B3046) as it was slightly easier to drive to - nothing more than that!

So at around 7:30am we arrived at the (empty) car park and took a few minutes to check kit, put on hats and gloves as the temperature was still hovering around zero and get Monty (our Springer Spaniel) out of the car and on his lead for the first section along the road.

Disused windmill and trig point on the Oxdrove Way - around 1.25miles in
In terms of kit we'd taken pretty much the same as last time (view training walk #2 post by clicking here) but with the addition of waterproof coats and trousers as well as more food for both us and Monty the 25ltr rucksacks were straining a little and my mind was already selecting the optimal size bag for the next walk and the main walk itself - I think a bag around the 40ltr mark is going to be ideal as we may need to take bivvy bags/tarp and more food/water. Crucially the bag needs to have a decent number of pockets/storage compartments and easy access to them - the rules out my climbing specific bags which are hard wearing and great for having a minimal profile on your back but are essentially a sack with one access point.

The first few hundred meters or so is on the small road that bisects Itchen and Micheldever woods and runs to Northington but you're quickly off this and on to the Oxdrove Way itself, the path climbing up through the fields from the road (around 95m) to the first high point at 130m marked by a trig point and disused windmill that are nestled in a very small cluster of trees.

From here you continue through the field systems, heading downhill and crossing a small road before reaching the watercress beds at the South of Abbotstone.  Just past the watercress beds you join the road and follow this for a few hundred meters as it climbs slightly before turning left next to some large farm buildings and barns to pick up the bridal-way again.

Then we hit the mud!  Now about 10 years years ago a friend and I rode the Oxdrove Way, following this exact route marked out by the Hampshire County Council (funnily enough when I took the OS Explorer map out of the box to take with us the route was still marked in pencil on the map from all those years ago - thank god for GPS on bikes as it map navigation on an unknown route is really hard and slow work), and hated it because of the mud - there was loads of it and it made a 24mile, mainly off-road, ride hell as the wet chalky mud clung to everything and made pedalling hard and stopping treacherous.
From then on we've used the term "oxdrove" as a by-word for any ride that's been particularly hard, muddy or unenjoyable.  I'd told Donna about this and was pleasantly surprised that for the first few miles the mud from my nightmares seemed to have disappeared, until now....

Mud - there's always mud on the Oxdrove Way
The mud on the Oxdrove way seems to be particularly sliperly and sticky - you don't notice it adhering to your boots until you walk on a non-muddy section and find yourself with no grip, this didn't seem to bother Monty who was happily running back and forth through all the mud with no hassle - oh to have 4 paws!

Monty resting? No, just waiting for us as usual
At around 4.5 miles you enter Old Alresford, a picturesque and seemily very affluent village a few mile away from the larger settlement of New Alresford, following the small, quiet, roads you pass through the village and the on past Upton Park Farm and House before picking up the Oxdrove Way again at 5.2miles.  Interestingly the "Oxdrove Way" is fairly well marked on OS Explorer (1:25k) maps but not always on Landrange (1:50k) maps - I'm not too sure of the reason for that but it's worth pointing out in case you are using the larger scaled maps and don't see it on there.

The next 3 miles or so is pretty steady going, albeit uphill, on a fairly decent double track for most of the way, crossing a small road nr Nettlebed Farm and then joining the road at Newmer Farm (184m) with a large beacon/mast visible to your left.  You then follow the road through the small village of Upper Wield and pick up the path again just past a small church that's more visible on the map than it is on the ground.

Monty has great fun on this section finding a ball, a pheasant and a pigeon that he dutifully carried, one by one, along with him!

The path passed Barton Copse and Wield Woods and in places was very muddy and tough going but once it opens up into the fields again the walking becomes much easier and we made good progress to our proposed lunch stop somewhere in Godsfield Copse which, at 11.2miles, was just over half way.

Our spot for lunch - not much but off the path and sheltered from the wind
Due mainly to the cold (the wind across the open fields was bitingly cold) we hadn't stopped more than once to drink or eat anything save for a few handfuls of Donna's homemade trail mix (including salted Cashews and 95% dark chocolate!) so lunch was much needed after over 11miles of walking.
We opted for a slightly sheltered spot just off the path, around 2-3meters inside the copse, behind some large beech (?) trees and settled down for a quick lunch for both us as Monty.

The Trangia
Now if you're read the post from the 2nd training walk (click here) then you'll know why I think the Trangia should be park of our 2015 "Crosses" walk kit - it's versatile, easy to use and lightweight.  But on this day without needed to do anything more than boil some water it wasn't the right stove to use - we should have packed the JetBoil.
The Trangia does need some time to warm-up and boiled the kettle in around 5-8 minutes - the JetBoil would have boiled 3-4 times in that time and by the time the water had boiled for tea we'd eaten our food and were starting to get cold.  So for the next walk (probably around 25miles) and for the main event we'll take both the Trangia and JetBoil to cover all bases.

After the lunch stop we climbed up the slop to the trig point at Bugmore Hill (160m) and then on the road for a short while before picking up the Three Castles Path around Spy Bush Plantation which leads to the Wayfarer's Walk path that heads due South along Spybush lane, past the reservoir, and then down to Abbotstone Down and the car park that is the official start/end point of the route.

Following the Wayfarer's Walk/Three Castles Path from the car park is again a muddy affair culminating in another short road section from Abbotstone Farm, through the village of Abbotstone before joining back up with the Oxdrove Way nr the Tumuli on top of Itchen Stoke Down (103m).

At just under 17miles, with the dismantled railway line/path in sight, you turn off the Three Castles Path and head up to the road near Spreadoak Cottages which you follow for a few hundred meters before reaching the large DEFRA Vetinary Centre and turning NW to follow the graded path past Lone Farm and the final section of the Oxdrove Way that heads across open fields towards the M3 and Itchen Woods.  It was here that Monty, showing no signs that the 17 miles (he must have done 20 by now) was having any effect, decided to chase a hare across a field for a few hundred meters before coming back to my call and realising that he was never going to catch it!  Next walk I'm going to attach my Garmin Forerunner 910 to his collar to see exactly how far he walks..

The section through Itchen woods is fairly easy going and decent enough underfoot - the two issues for me are the sound/sight of the M3 and the rubbish that litters the path as the track is used as a fire/access road to the services and has become littered with beer cans and god knows what over the years - a shame really as it puts a slight taint to an otherwise beautiful walk.

The track through Itchen Woods drops you back to the small road that leads back to the Micheldever Woods car park and, mercifully for our feet, the car.

The walk took just under 7.5 hours and we'd averaged 2.74mph which included all stops and the lunch break of around 25 minutes so not bad going.
My feet were aching slightly as was my right knee and I think I need to upgrade the insoles in my Meindl boots to the high volume, high support (Orange) Superfeet insoles.

The next (big) walk is planned for the 25th Jan 2015 and will hopefully be around 20-25 miles but before that we'll be trying to get in shorter (6-10mile) walks at least once a week alongside cycling and swimming during the week.

Walking route recorded on my GS5 with Viewranger;


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