RICHARD WILLIAMSON Country Walk...Maysleith Woods, Rake

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You’ll enjoy this walk of 3.3 miles (5.5kms) through ancient woods, on the sandy hills of the weald, on the Hampshire border at Rake.

Park in long lay-by off the Rake-Liphook B2070 road at SU813281.

Cross the main road southeastward into Coldharbour Wood (Coldharbour – wayfarers’ resting place. Rake – thrace, throat: a passing place).

The birch, chestnut and scots pines show many attention from woodpeckers. Ground flora in places is dominated by bilberry bushes.

Turn right at ancient fingerpost southward into high forest with old beeches and bear right downhill in a deep gully with emerald growths of moss and spectacular beeches. Path bends sharp left at chestnut coppice woods, passing an oak stricken by lightning, where rusty gate leans on the trunk.

White house and white horse as you reach Canhouse Lane and turn left for 130 yards before turning left on blue arrow to Combeland Farm, where you pass a massive oak 250 years old. Also here a graveyard of old farm machinery, truly ‘dead stock’.

Path bends sharp right, downhill to a mire then left on decrepit fingerposts, passing a 1920s lorry axle and wheels. Enter oak and hazel coppice where there are many robins, marsh tits, wrens, woodpeckers and soon will be chiffchaffs.

Left following fingerpost bridleway along wire fence with first glimpse right of the pond. Then right on blue arrow into a broad grass valley following the farm track. Note extensive growths of soft rush growing in the spring banks.

Whole area managed as a pheasant shoot hence some oaks lopped of high branches, crops of pheasant cover, loose cartridge cases and 4x4 tracks.

Continue northeast along left edge of park-like valley. I heard buzzards, green woodpeckers and passed a photogenic Jersey cow.

Reaching old barn and cottage, sharp left uphill by a thick old holly hedge, then right and find a cascade of stone steps which will make you puff. Cross over the sunken footpath and continue to St Luke’s 1878 church to your left.

A lovely quiet place to sit and enjoy. There are some curious moss-mound graves and inside all is clean, tidy, with interesting regimental kneelers and wall plaques.

Pevsner didn’t like the Victorian fussy piety of this new building. I do like it, preferring Victorian Gothic as a description. Anyway, it obviously focuses a lot of social integrity.

Your path continues west with main road close by. Then you have to cross main road and enter the SSSI of Chapel Common where woodlarks used to breed. Hope they still do.

Your path is a pleasant stroll west along the edges through the pine trees and the heather bushes back to the Elizabethan Gothic Alvis which some think looks like a hearse. How dare they.

** See the March 29 issue of the Observer to view a map of this walk.