We started at Combe Gibbet Car Park on Inkpen Hill. This car park is accessed by single track roads (I approached from the south via the tightest hairpin bend I’ve ever seen and a road so quiet I had to stop, get out and remove a branch from the road!). It feels like it’s on top of the world and the day we were there it was pretty breezy!
I was curious why it was called ‘Inkpen’. Apparently it might mean ‘hill-top enclosure’… that’s less exciting than I hoped for!
Combe Gibbet was erected in 1676 for the purpose of hanging George Broomham and Dorothy Newman and has only ever been used for them. George and Dorothy were hanged for murdering George’s wife Martha, and son Robert. George and Dorothy were having an affair and Martha and Robert had discovered them together on the downs. The murder was witnessed by a character called Mad Thomas, who managed to convey what he had seen to the authorities. The gibbet was placed in such a prominent location as a warning and a replica gibbet now marks the site.
On the edge of the car park, you will see a plain looking memorial stone. This is the Merville Battery Memorial in honour of the 9th Battalion Parachute Regiment who used the surrounding fields and woods to rehearse their plans for the successful assault on the German Coastal Artillery Battery at Mervillein France (in support of the Normandy landings on D-Day, June 6th, 1944).
Head East from the car park along the track, and you will soon be on Walbury Hill. At 297m this is the highest chalk hill in England and the highest natural point in South East. (It is 3m (10ft) higher than Leith Hill in Surrey!)
This area is one of three nationally important chalk wild grasslands in the North Wessex Downs. On the hill’s summit is the Iron Age hill fort of Walbury Camp, but nothing visible now remains.
There are good views all along the ridge.
We spotted some interesting buildings. We have since decided the pale coloured one was Stargroves. This estate was bought by Mick Jagger in 1970 and used by the Rolling Stones for recording for a short while. The exterior of the house was used in filming Doctor Who series in the 1970s. After a couple more owners, the property was bought by Rod Stewart in 1998, but he never moved in and sold it when splitting with his wife.
Further off we also spotted Highclere Castle, the setting for Downton Abbey.
We followed the Wayfairers Way along the ridge until we reached the road into Ashmansworth. Here we turned right and walked into the sleepy little village.
We kept right at the war memorial and shortly after leaving the village turned right into a field. This is where we stopped for a tea break:
We followed the footpath round past Curzon Street Farm to reach Faccombe. This was a lovely detour from the road with beautiful fields of cereals rippling in the wind.
The road through Faccombe passes a pretty church, then as you leave the village, a modern wind turbine. We followed the road up the Combe Hill, carrying straight on when the road bends over the field and down a steep path to Combe with another beautiful cereal field.
We then followed the road back up to our cars.
This circuit is about 10 miles.