Walking and spending time in nature has long been one of my own personal relaxations, as it is with so many people. Detaching from technology, spending time away from the stressors of indoor life and getting the blood moving is always a surefire way to lighten your own internal weight and to sift through any issues you may feel lingering in your mind.
Last year I spent a lot of time on screens, a large part of it was for work but there were many times that I caught myself scrolling and scrolling until the day had disappeared. And with all that doomscrolling came with it heightened comparison with others, lower self-esteem, higher levels of anxiety and my moods flipping around all over the place. So this year I wanted to find a resolution or goal that would give me a good blend of creative encouragment but also motivate me to spend time outdoors, as I’m still overcoming an injury from a cycling accident, I didn’t feel quite up for a running challenge so I thought a walking one would be a nice change of pace (pun intended).
My goal for 2022 is to go on 100 intentional walks, preferably different ones each time, with different people in my life and to document them. To see and hear and feel the world around me in a way that I often tune out from. It will motivate me to use my camera for fun and think in new creative ways and allow me to practice my skills without pressure.
So here we are with Walk #1
Date: January 1 2022
Location: Dogmersfield Park, Hampshire
On the first of January we woke and talked about going for a walk but weren’t sure where. After a quick google we settled on a walk nearby starting in a village called Odiham. Odiham village was first recorded in 1086 in the Domesday Book and the surrounding region is filled with layers of history ranging from King Henry VIIII to WWII.
We started in Odiham, and following a rather helpful map and directions from The Odiham Society we crossed the Basingstoke Canal and made our way toward Dogmersfield Park where the bulk of our walk took place. Dogmersfield Park is a large parkland that was first developed in the 13th century by the Bishops of Bath and Wells where a large palace was built.
The palace was taken over by King Henry VIII and passed through many hands before being rebuilt in the 1700’s. The manor house is now home to an impressive Four Seasons Hotel. During our walk we passed through two gatehouses and followed a dirt path next to a large home with tons of security (apparently home to a russian billionaire).
We passed up and over the hillside to the open pastures surrounding the hotel, farmhouses dotting the landscape in the distance. To my delight, we passed by a sleepy herd of Highland Cattle and of course I had to stop to take some photos of my favourite animal!
While we walked toward the hotel, the sounds of a bugle and dogs barking filled the air on the horizon and we looked up to see a drag hunt racing along a ridge. A hundred horses and riders galloping through the woodland. We continued on through the grounds of the large hotel, making our way toward the Basingstoke Canal. The drag hunt is a “mock hunt” where a lead dips a cloth in a synthetic scent and lays a trail for the dogs and horses to follow, there is no chasing of animals thankfully.
As we neared the canal, the lead runner of the hunt zipped past us on an ATV carrying the scent with them and warning us that in a few minutes, the hunt would be coming through. We reached the canal and crossed a 250 year old bridge to wait and watch.
After a short wait, we heard the horses and dogs approaching and watched as they made their way over the stone bridge, up and into the woodlands following the scent of the runner. It was quite a sight to see the riders dressed in their formal clothing on horseback, they were in good spirits and waved and wished us a happy new year as they rode past.
Once the hunt had passed we continued on the canal back toward Odiham. The Basingstoke Canal was built in the late 1700’s to connect Basingstoke with the River Thames. The canal is 50km long and was originally built to move agriculture from Hampshire toward London. During World War 1 the canal was used to train troops in boat handling and there are pillboxes dotted along the entire length of the canal that show this military connection.
While walking along the canal we found a sign that told us that during the Napoleonic wars, French prisoners of war were aloud to wander no further than 1 mile from the center of Odiham, and many would walk along the canal as part of their permitted distance. Near this sign we also found another interesting location.
Named on maps as King John’s Hunting Lodge, this pink bricked building is actually one built in the 1700’s replacing the original. The building is actually a folly, meaning the facade of the building is actually just a clever decoy, hiding a smaller and more traditional square shaped cottage behind it. It is said that this is the spot that King Henry VII brought his son Prince Arthur to meet Katherine of Aragon for the first time. Katherine of course, married Henry VIII after Arthur died, and this marriage was the one that caused the division of religion and royalty in England.
We carried on along the muddy canal towpath until we reached the wharf in Odiham, completing our 8.5km circle trek. A great first walk of 2022.
You can get a copy of the map here if you’d like to walk this route.