This month’s walk starts out from Oakley to the west of Basingstoke. The village, which consists of East Oakley and Church Oakley – the latter being close to the church, was mentioned in the Domesday Book, though its history goes back much further than that as there are a number of ancient burial mounds, or tumuli, nearby.
From Church Oakley the walk heads northwards through fields before ducking under the railway – this forms the West of England Line which opened in the late 1850’s – to join the Wayfarer’s Walk which we follow for slightly under two and a half miles. This 70-mile long distance trail meanders through the Hampshire from high up in the North Hampshire Downs to the south coast, near Portsmouth.
We soon meet up with the railway again before heading through the little village of Deane with its picturesque thatched cottages.
Whilst passing through the village take the short detour to visit the Gothic-styled All Saints Church where Jane Austen’s father was rector before moving to nearby Steventon. From the path there is a fine view of Deane House (private) where Jane met her only true love, Tom LeFroy.
The walk continues along the Wayfarer’s Walk for a while longer before heading east through Oakley Park. On reaching the brow of the hill, rest a while on the seat and admire the views.
Tucked amongst the trees to the west is the late 18th century Oakley Hall (now a hotel) built by Wither Bramston; the Bramston’s were acquaintances of Jane Austen and she recalled her visits in the letters she wrote to her sister, Cassandra. From this vantage point we head down past St Leonard’s Church, which dates from the 12th century, back to the start; published in Hampshire Life, May 2018.