The Basingstoke Canal is generally regarded as one of the most beautiful in the United Kingdom. In the January 1997 edition of Waterways World it was stated that the Basingstoke Canal provides 'the perfect antidote to modern living', the opportunity to 'relax among the lilies, the kingfishers and endless dragonflies' and to enjoy a 'level of peace and tranquillity which is becoming harder to find'.
This walk explores an all-too-short section of this fine waterway, that was built to connect the Hampshire market town of Basingstoke with the River Thames via the River Wey Navigation. Away from the canal, the walk passes through Dogmersfield Park, where our steps border a fine expanse of water known as Tundry Pond. The estate's manor house, now a hotel, is renowned for being Hampshire's finest meeting venue. As you step out across the estate, you will readily appreciate why such praise has been heaped upon this handsome landed estate.
Walk up to the canal, turn left and follow the towpath for 1.25 miles to a brick bridge. Leave the towpath, cross the canal by means of this bridge and walk ahead to a gate. Beyond the gate, follow an enclosed path to the right down to Tundry Pond. Follow the path alongside the southern edge of this lake for 350 yards to a handgate at the far end of the lake. Away to the left is a former manor house, now the Four Seasons Hotel, that dominates Dogmersfield Park in which this lake lies.
Beyond this handgate, follow a gravel road away from the lake for 100 yards to a junction of tracks. Take the gravel track on the immediate right, and follow its enclosed course towards Sprat's Hatch Farm. In 150 yards, veer slightly right off the gravel road to follow an enclosed footpath to a handgate and lane by the farmhouse. Turn left, and follow a private road, public bridleway, that soon bears right. In 250 yards, the track reaches a bridge over the canal. Cross the bridge, turn right and follow the towpath ahead for 1 mile to Barley Mow Bridge, passing under two other bridges along the way. The car park is on the left just past this bridge.
Basing House was once the country's largest private house, the palace of William Paulet, 1st Marquess of Winchester, who was Lord Treasurer of England under three Tudor monarchs. The Civil War brought disaster to Basing which fell to Oliver Cromwell in 1645. The ruins contain Norman earthworks, the remains of Tudor kitchens, cellars, towers, a 300-foot long tunnel, a spectacular barn, Civil War defences designed by Inigo Jones and a recently re-created 16/17th-century formal garden.
The Willis Museum in Basingstoke. Travel back in time, and experience some of the major changes that have created the Basingstoke that we know today. Contrast the present with the past, the rich with the poor.
The starting point is the canalside car park opposite the Barley Mow at Winchfield Hurst. Leave the A287 two miles east of Odiham and follow a road northwards to Dogmersfield. At a junction in the village, keep left towards Winchfield. In 3/4 mile, turn left into a cul-de-sac opposite the Barley Mow pub. Immediately on the left is a car park by the Basingstoke Canal. Winchfield railway station is a twenty minute walk away.