Thank you to walk leader Paul and his helpers for a lovely walk along the canal to Odiham Castle.
Paul's walk report
With weather predictions of rain and thunder for Saturday morning I was very pleased to be joined by over thirty people for a walk around Odiham. In the event we only had a short shower to contend with and most of the walk was held in bright sunshine.
We initially headed eastwards along the canal to Broad Oak bridge. Here we turned north to enter Odiham Wood and Common. While previously planning the walk I had encountered a cloud of butterflies along the grassy rides here but none showed up initially, but by the time we crossed Bagwell Lane they started to appear. We saw Gatekeepers, Meadow Browns and Speckled Wood and then a Holly Blue and Marbled White.
We crossed the Odiham Road and then walked along the quiet Potbridge Road before encountering the first of a dozen stiles on our route. These stiles marked our way from Potbridge Farm to Lodge Farm. The shower had passed and we started by climbing a short rise through the fields to gain an excellent panoramic view point towards Poland Mill and the nearby farms. We passed through crop fields and then tightly grazed fields of sheep. In the crop fields, possibly barley but we weren't too sure, a host of small birds, again possibly Martins, were constantly diving into and soaring out of the crop and made quite a spectacle.
We passed under the A287 and had our first sight of the Whitewater River with its clear waters. Here, like the butterflies, the expected displays of trout in the river took some time before we were able to spot them, but they did appear.
Passing over the fords in Mill Lane we crossed a field to briefly rejoin the canal before entering King John’s Castle. We had covered four miles exactly to get here. This castle, now shown on maps as Odiham Castle, was built between 1207 and 1212 and cost £1100. King John rode from here to Runnymede to sign Magna Carta in 1215. It was here that 13 men withstood a 15 day French siege in 1216 without losing a man. Edward I stayed here and David II of Scotland (son of Robert the Bruce) was imprisoned here in 1346-57. The ruins have been restored recently and there are benches outside the keep and several information boards inside and outside. Boat trips of tourists often arrive here but we had the area mostly to ourselves as Angus and Marilyn had set up their excellent yellow wheelbarrow coffee and cake dispensing stall right in the keep. A couple of red kites soared lazily over us.
After these most welcome refreshments we headed westwards to view the Whitewater river passing under the canal. Here we were nearer its source at Bidden Waters near Greywell Mill and it was flowing briskly between great tussocks of sedges. We continued to the tunnel at Greywell, this is 1230 yards long and is now a bat sanctuary with several species being found here. We turned onto paths that skirt the edge of several large fields before taking the welcome shade of the trees in West Lane back to the swing bridge on the canal; again crossing the fords at Mill Lane. Here we met a couple of friendly miniature horses who abandoned their hay to see if we could provide anything else. Unfortunately the swing bridge was not in use, we had just missed it being raised for a boat that Angus and Marilyn had encountered on their way back from the castle, but the bridge still proved interesting to those with a more technical interest.
We then turned back along the, slightly overgrown, towpath to return to Colt Hill car park. We had walked for about 7.5 miles returning at 13:30. Thank you to everyone who came along and thank you for your patience and good humour with all those stiles. I hope the walk will be remembered not for them but for the River, Canal and Castle and great views across the fields.
We hope to see you in August.