Striding out in South Hanningfield
PUBLISHED: 11:46 16 November 2015 | UPDATED: 11:46 16 November 2015
Enjoy an energising walk from the picturesque reservoir at South Hanningfield and through the charming village of Downham in the south of the county
1 From the Visitor Centre, turn right out onto Hawkswood Road then take the first left along Crowsheath Lane. Go all the way down to the end (the pavement runs out about halfway down). When you reach the road junction, turn left along School Road, passing houses on the left. As the road bends left, opposite High Meadow House, look out for a footpath on the right. This takes you past Downham House Cottage and you emerge onto a grass path along the edge of a large field with good countryside views ahead. As you pass a seat, if you cannot go straight ahead, bear left around the field edge descending down and then climbing back up again on a track and the road opposite St Margaret’s, the parish church of Downham.
2 You may wish to visit the church and the attractive grounds. Turn right and walk down the road but watch out for fast approaching cars as there is no verge for a while. Towards the bottom there is a footpath on the left (the second entrance to Downham Hall Farm). Take the stile on the right immediately after the house, cross the next stile and bear left for a third one. Then go directly across the grass field heading between two telegraph poles to a rickety stile in the hedge. Proceed diagonally across the next field, through a gap in the hedge and cut across the corner of the field to a way-marker post at the next hedge where you cross a little bridge and go into a wooded area, then emerge into the next field. Continue straight up, keeping the hedge to your left. In the corner, go through a kissing gate.
3 Turn left after the gate and immediately left again along a wide byway (number 92). Continue on for some distance going uphill for much of the way giving some good views to the left further along. When the byway finally bends left, just at the property called The Chimneys, there is a footpath on the right. The official line is actually after the pond and through the property, but mostly the public take the field edge path before the pond. Proceed to the end of the field where the footpath bends right and go over a footbridge. Climb up through trees and then follow the route which doglegs right then left and up between fences to the road in front of Willow Cottage.
4 Turn left and almost immediately, go through a gap in the hedge on the right. The path initially runs parallel with the road, but then follow around the field edge with various turns; right then left then right again and cross the ditch via a culvert. At the next way-marker post, turn left and follow the telegraph wires across a large crop field. When you reach the end, turn right and at the end of this, at the wood, turn right again and follow the field edge. Turn sharp left still following alongside the wood and continue straight on past a field, then a corrugated fence and then an iron fence to the road. Turn left along the road, but watch out for traffic. The Visitor Centre is further up on the right. w