Thank you to Paul for leading this walk.
Paul's walk report
On a very blustery, but thankfully dry, Saturday morning around forty keen walkers met at Potley Hill School car park. We were there for the second of this year's monthly walks. This time it was to be a walk around Yateley to highlight some of the excellent countryside available to us in the Blackwater Valley.
We headed up Prior's Lane. I had originally intended the walk to follow the bridleways at the top of the hill beyond Cottage Farm but in the previous week these had become too muddy to use and unable to get permission to use the track from Leafy Oak farm, we followed the narrow lanes to climb the hill to pass the picturesque Heathlands Cemetery and on upwards onto the actual common.
We paused at the location of the 'Old Ely', a site of historical drinking establishments, but nothing remains now except vague tracks where coach and horses turned. We turned west to look at the heathland restoration work recently completed by the Yateley Rangers and volunteers and then descended down to Wyndham's Pond. Passing Hospital Pond we again considered the heathland restoration and the history of the names of the ponds and purpose of the searchlight supports recently uncovered there.
Climbing over two fallen trees seemed to present no real problems and we crossed Cricket Hill Lane to follow the stream through the Royal Oak valley. As a change for this year, I then guided the walk along the footpath between the junior and Yateley Manor schools before entering St Peter's churchyard through the lynch gate dating from the 17th century. This originally had a swing gate with a weight, now with interesting memorial plaques. All along this path and through the churchyard spring flowers were making a very welcome display. We viewed the church tower, now rebuilt after the fire caused by arson in 1979 and now lit by floodlights at night.
We were now in the central Yateley Conservation Area and brief mention was given to Flora Thompson, author of the trilogy of novels 'Lark Rise to Candleford' who lived and worked in the Yateley Post Office there.
After crossing the Reading Road, we passed through the residential area where the road names of Stable View and The Gallops give clues to the areas previous history, and then on a footpath between the Yateley Lakes giving views of how large these lakes are and then the highlight of the walk, the path alongside the Blackwater River and around the Swan Lakes complex. We took the path between the river and River Valley Lake before crossing the bridge to the peninsula onto the actual Swan Lake.
A few minutes later we were back at Potley Hill, having covered a distance of around six miles.
I hope everyone enjoyed it, it is one of my favourite walks that we do each year, also being very handy for me living very close to the route.
Thank you to everyone who put up with my attempted history stories. I apologise there was no tea stop, hopefully normal service will be resumed shortly, but I hope the views of ponds, lakes, rivers and streams made it worthwhile.
Thank you to everyone who came along - we hope to see you in April.