Training walk #4 - 24mile circular walk from Michelmersh

Training walk #4 - a 24mile loop from Michelmersh nr Romsey

With our last training walk (not counting the short Test Way trip - here) on the Oxdrove Way totalling just over 20 miles (view the post here) the plan for training walk #3 was to increase the distance by around 5 miles and, if possible, maintain of improve on the average speed.

Deciding on a route for this walk presented a few challenges as my parents were, again, looking after Isabelle which meant that my initial route 25 mile along the Itchen Way from Fair Oak to Hinton Ampner had to be put to one side as logistically it wouldn't work.

As mentioned in a previous post I now use View Ranger for my online route planning (backed up by a good old OS map spread out on the table!) and have moved from Trail Zilla for 2 main reasons;

  1. the map tiles downloaded to both phone (GS5 and Nexus 5) and tablet (Nexus 7) are full resolution OS maps of both 1:25k and 1:50k and give a great visual aid for quick, spot navigation - this also allows me to record the route as I'm walking and upload directly to Social Hiking (via buddy beacon) and to ViewRanger for addition to this blog
  2. the route planning abilities of ViewRanger are far superior to that of TrailZilla (it helps that I've purchased the majority of the 1:2k and 1:50k map tiles for the places I walk) mainly because the system will snap to path or bridal way automatically allowing longer walks to be planned much more easily

I finally settled on a 24 mile circular route starting (as we had with our 2nd training walk) from the Bear & Ragged Staff pub (Michelmersh, nr Romsey) using parts of the Monarch's Way and Clarendon Way.

The Bear & Ragged Staff pub (again!)
Walk stats
Distance - 23.71 miles
Time - 7hrs 58mins 41s
Avg Speed - 2.97mph
Height Gain - 1953ft
OS map used - OS Explorer 131 - Romsey, Andover and the Test Valley

A crisp and (reasonably) clear morning
After dropping Isabelle off at my parents (and a quick trip back again to pick up my socks that I'd forgotten, again!), Saturday morning saw us parked up outside the Bear & Ragged Staff pub and were on the small road up towards Michelmersh by 8:30am - the weather was set to be clear and fairly cool so perfect conditions for walking all day!

Once through the small village of Michelmersh we turned off the road at the church and on to the Monarch's way footpath that passes through the church yard and across the fields, passing Manor Farm and Hall Place before reaching the village of Braishfield at around 3.5 miles.

From Braishfield the route follows the road for a slightly tedious 3 miles; through Puknall, Lower and Upper Slackstead before finally getting back onto the path, just past the small church, at Farley Farm.

Farley Church
Looking across the fields to Farley Church
After passing through the farm and the small airfield we entered Parnholt Woods where we followed the main path downhill before joining the footpath in Luke copse and linking up with the Clarendon Way nr Charlwod Copse.

*****NOTE - the route we should have taken here runs parallel to this and passes the edge of Hanging Wood and through Luke Copse to join the Clarendon Way nr Charlwood Copse.  Our route required a slight detour, off path, to correct this***** 

So, with 9 miles under our belts and the huge house surrounded by Charlwood Copse behind us we decided to stop for a hot drink and some "Whole 30" compliant (see below) snacks, as this was the first of our two planned stops we set a time limit of 15 minutes.  We'd learn't the hard way from the last trip and brought the Jet Boil with us as this is far more efficient than the Trangia at boiling water for tea.
Quick stop for a brew!
"Whole 30" - what's that all about then?

Having dabbled with (and written a little about) Paleo/Primal eating we'd decided that, after 6-9 months (since Isabelle was born) of fairly poor eating and a little too much weight gain, we'd get back in to the Primal (Paleo is very rigid) way of eating and would start the year by doing a Whole 30.

Essentially this is 30 days of very, very strict Paleo - no diary, grains, gluten, alcohol(!), sugar or processed food - read the full rules here - the idea is that this makes you focus on the right, healthy, food choices by removing all the "cheats" that we're so used to using for energy and to stave off hunger.

It's really difficult to start but, providing you're willing to put the effort in, after a few days the craving for sugar and "quick and easy" foods disappears and I've felt more alert and had more energy than I have for ages - and the weight has dropped off despite minimal extra exercise.

It does however mean that trail snacks and "quick" foods need a bit more planning as you can't just nip to the shop and grab a Snickers bar for the trip!  Luckily for me Donna has a plethora of Paleo cooking books and is always coming up with new tasty but "allowed" snacks for us to take.  On this walk, owing to the anticipated 2000+ calorie burn, we took;

  • boiled eggs - idea as they come pre-wrapped!
  • paleo fudge (dried coconut, macadamia nuts, dates, pumpkin seeds, cranberries, vanilla - wizzed up and frozen)
  • homemade beef jerky
  • homemade beef stew (to be warmed up on the trangia)
  • coffee and choco tea bags
  • almonds and raisins in place of trail mix

Looking along the Clarendon Way from our lunch stop nr Hoplands House
After lunch we headed out across a fairly open stretch between Ashley and King's Somborne - which although not hugely high was fairly chilly in the breeze - before dropping down into the village of King's Somborne itself.

The gallops @ Hoplands equestrian centre
The route we took passed straight through King's Somborne and then, after climbing up out of the village on a small back road, we crossed the Test Way next to the cement works and from here continued on the Clarendon Way, over two foot bridges crossing the River Test, before reaching Houghton (pronounced "How-tun" much to Donna's annoyance as the similarly spelt Broughton is pronounced "Braw-tun" - gotta love English eh!) and Houghton Drayton and then out across the fields again roughly following the course of Wallop Brook before reaching the slightly larger village of Broughton.

Leaving Broughton (and thanks to Whole 30 and time limits having to resist the temptation to stop at my mate's excellent pub, The Tally Ho) we met the first and only real hill of the walk, climbing from 40m up to the trig point at 138m at the Nature Reserve of Broughton Down.
We'd originally planned this to be our lunch stop but as we'd only covered 15.6 miles and in quicker time than expected (it was 20 past 1 and we didn't really want to stop much before 2pm) we decided to carry on and look for a suitable place to stop possibly around the disused pits and small coppice just outside of West Tytherley.

Lunch at last!
With just over 17 miles under our boots, covered in just under 6 hours, we stopped jsut outside of West Tytherley in the coppice that we'd "aimed" for.

We'd allocated 30 minutes for our lunch stop and once a suitable spot was found in the small copse just off the path, sheltered from the wind by a large fallen beech tree, we set up the Jet Boil (for coffee) and Trangia (for heating the beef stew) and tried to make the most of 30 minutes of not walking!

Lunch - beef stew courtesy of the Trangia
Beef stew, hot and "whole 30" compliant
The hot food and drink was amazing and just what we needed to re-energise us, even if the 30 minutes passed like they'd been 5, so we packed up and headed off along the path agin to pick up a very broken and muddy track to the East of West Tytherley which runs down to the hamlet of Stony Batter and on to the slightly larger East Tytherley, passing Sopp's Farm before heading out, diagonally, across the fields before picking up the drove route marked on the 1:25k OS map as Park Pale(?).

***it's worth noting here that the diagonal route across the fields, covering nearly a mile, is not marked at all and there is no obvious route across the crops.  There are styles on all fences so the route is definitely there as marked on the map but you need to follow the map and make your way across the crops - something that feels a bit wrong to me but there are even signs warning you not to follow the field edges as its private land!****

With the light just starting to drop we arrived at the road crossing point opposite The Star pub (a great place to eat and drink especially in the summer) and followed the path through their car park and out across the fields of Lockerly Hall before entering Dummer copse at just over 21 miles.

Across the fields to Lockerly Hall

The final stretch - across the fields to Spearywell & Dummer copse
We've walked around Dummer copse and Spearywell woods many times so on reaching this point it felt like the end was in sight and with 2.5 miles (ish) to go it pretty much was!

The route from here continued through the woods, passing Cadbury Farm and crossing the road at Spearywell before crossing fields again for the final off-road stretch to Mottisfont where we then picked up the road, passing Mottisfont Abbey before arriving at the main road at Stonymarsh and following the off-road (but paved) cycle path that runs along the A3057 back to the Bear & Ragged Staff pub.

Although my knee was aching a bit and I had a twinge in my left hamstring (that would linger on whilst writing this blog 2 days later!) I was very happy with the walk; route, time, the stops and how we felt.
The next walk (ideally on the 14th Feb) is going to be of similar distance as we need to aim for trying to cover the same distance, in the same time, and feel better after doing it.  Only then can we look to increase the distance to upwards of 30 miles - so, on to the next walk!!

You can download the .gpx file and PDF info sheet (from ViewRanger) here;
Route details, recorded on ViewRanger via my GS5;


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