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Guildford Ramblings: Steep, Ashford Hangers and Shoulder of Mutton Hill

Published on: 29 Mar, 2015
Updated on: 29 Mar, 2015

IMG_2538.jpg (2)Word and pictures by Kay Hiatt

Peter, our walk leader, had decided to take us further afield than Surrey – so on a lovely, sunny day a group of 16 keen Guildford Ramblers assembled in Steep, a small village in Hampshire, near Petersfield.

IMG_2550.JPG (1)The walk was to take us through the Ashford Hangers, a national nature reserve with steeply wooded areas that cling to the slopes of the chalk and upper greensand scarps around Selborne. The name ‘Hanger’ comes from the Old English ‘hangra’ meaning a wooded slope.

IMG_2537.jpg (3)We set out with some vigour through the beech woods of a steep hanger and then down into a lovely landscape stretching into the distance as far as the eye could see, ‘guarded’ by a pensive and majestic horse.

(6)Then as we walked on, a beautiful view of woodland and steep hills, a section of which was named the Shoulder of Mutton hill. I spotted a white bird standing still by a stream, which reminded me of the little egrets’I had seen in India – and on checking this, found that these birds are found in this area.

As we approached the hill we passed an interesting marble monument, which consisted of three books perched on top of each other. On closer inspection, each book had a name printed on its spines: the poet: RS Thomas, the writer of Day of the Triffids, John Wyndham and Alec Guinness, the actor. They all lived in this area and loved its natural beauty. RS Thomas, London born, loved the hills of Hampshire and enjoyed their beauty before sadly being killed at Arras in 1917.

Now we were to ascend the hill, which was truly steep. We stopped to take breath, admiring the ‘natural guardian’ of this hill, looking as if he too had had some difficulty in pulling himself up! When we reached the top there was a plaque to commemorate the words of William Cobbett, who rode here in 1822, and then wrote: “Out we came, all in a moment, at the very edge of the hanger! And never, in all my life, was I so surprised and delighted. I pulled up my horse, and stopped and looked; it was like looking down from the top of a castle down into the sea; except that the valley was land not water.”

Later, as we descended the hill we saw a huge grey and white buzzard circling above. Then I heard my first chiff-chaff of this year, and spied some shiny celandines and large patches of wild garlic, some of which I picked to add to a green salad at home.

IMG_2554.jpg (9)Finally we walked past a waterfall at the bottom of the valley, then up to the small but charming pub called the Harrow, in Steep, where we all ate excellent tasty and large portions of food, before returning to our Surrey ‘homeland’.

Anyone in Guildford interested in joining the Guildford Ramblers should visit their website at

Kay Hiatt is the publicity officer for the Guildford Ramblers

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