Flora Thompson Trail (Part B)

Waggoners Wells © John Owen Smith
Highland Cattle © Shazz
Ludshott Common © Ben Gamble

The trail follows in the footsteps of Flora Thompson. The walk starts at Grayshott, visiting Waggoners Wells, Bramshott and Griggs Green. The return route via Liphook, Bramshott, Ludshott Common and Superior Camp completes the figure of 8. If 10 miles in one go is too much then the figure of 8 allows the walk to be broken into two stages.

Return to Grayshott, distance approximately 5 miles/8km

There is a lack of convenient public transport between Liphook and Grayshott. For those wishing to make the return journey to Grayshott by foot, here is an alternative which forms a 'figure of eight' with the route out, crossing it at Bramshott.

16. From the Deers Hut, turn right along Longmoor Road for the mile-long walk towards the centre of Liphook.

John Thompson and Diana would have cycled to work by this route after they moved to Griggs Green. Along this road also there were one or two small private schools, and Peter Thompson may well have attended one of them. On page 12 of the 1925 Guide to Liphook, for example, Miss A. B. Skevington advertises her 'Day School for Girls and Preparatory School for Boys' in a house called Woodheath.

17. At the Square take the second road left (London Road) which, before the village was by-passed, bore all the road traffic between Portsmouth and London. On the right-hand side of the road note the HSBC Bank, which was the post office when Flora was here. There is a plaque on the house to its left, where she lived with her family from 1916 to 1926.

Further along the road on the right is the old school building now used as a public library. If it is open, you may care to go inside and inspect the sculpture of Flora by Philip Jackson, commissioned in 1981 and moved to the library in 1995.

Follow the left-hand side of London Road out of the village and over the river, following the old road to the left where it divides from the new (18).

Note to the left of the road bridge an old aqueduct over the river, part of a large network of irrigation sluices and channels which stretched for miles along the valley. These were designed to obtain a second annual harvest of animal fodder by flooding the riverside meadows at intervals, and are now part of a conservation project.

18. About a hundred yards after crossing the river, take the footpath to the left.

This path, known locally as 'The Hanger', leads into the back of Bramshott churchyard, and was used in Flora's day by Liphook schoolboys attending Bramshott school, the Liphook school being only for girls. In her Guide to Liphook, Flora said: 'The raised footpath overhangs, like a terrace, the valley of the infant Wey, a small streamlet at this point, but already known locally as The River. The path is, and has been from time immemorial, the approach from this side of the parish to the Parish Church.' Its peace has been somewhat shattered in recent years by the construction of the large bypass bridge overhead.

On entering the churchyard, you will see to your left the rows of graves of 317 Canadian soldiers who died in the military hospital on Bramshott Common during the First World War, many from the influenza epidemic in late 1918 rather than from enemy action. Their 95 Catholic colleagues are laid to rest at St Joseph's church in Grayshott, which you will pass later.

On the other side of the churchyard wall, to your right, note the rear of Bramshott Manor which is said to be one of the oldest continually inhabited houses in Hampshire, dating as it does from the year 1220. Flora said: 'Very few houses of its antiquity have escaped so well the hands of the restorer.'

Continue through the churchyard and turn right towards Bramshott church itself ('only five years younger than the Magna Carta') which is well worth a visit.

19. Leave the churchyard by the lych gate, cross over the road and proceed straight ahead to the left of the green triangle. Soon you retrace your steps of the outward journey up Rectory Lane for a few yards. The road bears right passing Limes Close. Shortly, take the next road to the left.

20. Follow this road, which dips down to cross the stream coming from Waggoners Wells, then rises to run past Spring Pond Cottage (a favourite of Flora's) and the entrance to Ludshott Manor itself. Where the surfaced road bears left, go straight ahead along an unmade track for another half mile or so. Here, at North Lodge, you arrive at the entrance to Ludshott Common, an area of wood and heathland which extends for many hundreds of acres and is now owned by The National Trust.

From this point several routes may be struck at will across the common towards Grayshott. The one detailed below skirts its edge.

21. Go through the wooden posts, and turn right following the bridleway around the edge of the common. It can be boggy in places but this improves when the first of two houses is reached and the track becomes a roughly-surfaced access road. Continue along this, ignoring turns to the right which lead down to the valley of Waggoners Wells.

In Flora's time, the view to your left would have been open, with purple heather and yellow gorse stretching almost as far as the eye could see. Lack of animal grazing since then has allowed the trees to grow here, but if you walk towards the middle of the common you will find areas which the National Trust has brought back to the original state. And there, as dusk falls on a summer evening, you can still hear the drumming of the Nightjar which so fascinated Tennyson when he lived near here.

22. About half a mile past the houses, you suddenly find yourself on concrete.

This is a remnant of Superior Camp, another of the 'Great Lakes' camps built by the Canadians to house their soldiers during the Second World War. The huts were used as temporary accommodation by local civilians for some years afterwards, but now only a few footings remain, along with the occasional garden plant looking incongruous in a heathland setting.

Turn left and follow the concrete road to its junction with the B3002 Bordon to Hindhead road.

Grayshott House on your right was once briefly the home of the broadcaster Richard Dimbleby.

23. From here it is a direct walk for about a mile along the pavement and back to Grayshott. In Flora's day this road was described as being 'a sandy track with encroaching gorse'!

St Joseph's, with the 95 Catholic Canadian graves from the First World War, is on your right about fifty yards along the road next to the driveway to the old Cenacle convent, now a gated housing development.

Further along on the right, note the entrance to Pinewood where the I'Anson family lived for many years. The village school and laundry (the latter now a pottery, cafe and gift shop) which are along School Lane to the left were both institutions started by them.

24. St Luke's church, with its impressive spire, is on your left as you arrive back at the village centre. The foundation stone was laid in the summer of 1898 by Miss Catherine I'Anson, shortly before Flora arrived in the village, the spire was not completed until 1910.

At the eastern end of the churchyard, towards the cross-roads, is the grave of Harold Oliver Chapman and his wife Sarah Annie, born 29 Sep 1878, died 29 Jun 1969. Perhaps you may care to pause here for a while to remember with affection the 'pretty, blue-eyed, sweet-natured girl of eighteen' who, Flora says, made her life tolerable during her time in Grayshott.

And if you feel weary now after your ten mile walk, then reflect as you relax in the Fox and Pelican that Flora would have thought nothing of walking nineteen or twenty miles in one of her daily wanderings!

This walk was first published in 'On the Trail of Flora Thompson'.

To read the outbound trail please click here.