BOAT: Ox Drove (Wayfarer's Walk Part 3)

Location: Wayfarer's Walk, Burghclere, Newbury, Hampshire RG20 9LT, UK
NB: The western half of this lane is subject to a TRO for any vehicles with more than three wheels (!). 4x4 drivers must begin on the A343 at Keepers Cottage.

NB: This lane is one of many sections of the Wayfarer's Walk that offer vehicular access. For the other sections, click through for Part 1 and Part 2.

Wow, what a green lane! But shhh, let's keep it a secret. If everyone found about about it, it would be busier than the M25 in rush hour. Trailbikers are even luckier, as unlike 4x4 drivers who have to start at the half-way point, they can drive the entire length of this vast byway.

We'll scoot over the western half of the lane, as it's subject to a TRO from it's starting point in Bunkhanger Copse eastwards to Keepers Cottage on the A343, so we can't drive it. But hey, who cares? Because the second half of this lane is what greenlaning is all about.

This long byway starts by striking out eastbound from the A343 on a potholed hard surface that act as a driveway for one of the most awesome, unique cottages we've ever seen, named Grotto Lodge. It looks like someone built a house onto a medieval castle tower, and it's unmistakeable. If you're driving eastbound, pass the cottage with it on your left and follow the track into Grotto Copse, which has seen signs of recent logging (see pic above). Here the hard surface ends and the greenlane changes to compacted, unrutted earth.

Cruising gently uphill, the lane passes out of the woodland and curves gently towards the south until it briefly enters woodland again on top of Sidown Hill. However, whilst driving along the top of Sidown Range and Upper Woodcott Down, the trees fall back and some incredible views are available across rolling downland in every direction save north. Indeed, this section of the lane is around 250m AMSL.

After a track leaves the lane to the east the byway continues on a vague path across the grassy flank of Upper Woodcott Down. Because the path is so vague, it can be pretty tricky to ascertain exactly which is the right track, but there are enough pointers to bumble along and be at least reasonably sure you're in the right place. However, this is less than no excuse for anyone to roam as they please over the fields. Stick to the track and all will be good, yet stray and you'll rightly receive both barrels from current Earl of Carnarvon as well as interest from the police!

The greenlane continues downhill along the contours of Lower Woodcott Down and enters the woodland that lines this flank of Thorn Down. This woodland is the only real negative on the entire lane in that on this leg the hazel and hawthorn bushes that line the lane narrow the byway at a few places, and since the lane also becomes quite rutted here it is impossible to avoid scratching the paintwork until the hedgerow is cut back a bit. The lane ends at the foot of seven gigantic barrows (see pic above and link below), in a layby on the A34. An incredible lane but please don't drive it: we want it all to ourselves!

This is an ancient landscape, and there is much for those interested in the Neolithic era and the Bronze Age here. The hillforts of Beacon Hill and Ladle Hill (the latter unfinished) lie to the north of the eastern end of the lane. A tumulus can be seen south of the lane up on Rabbit Warren and further examples up near the hillforts, not to mention the gigantic burial mounds at Seven Barrows which are extremely impressive. More recent history can be found (and her indoors kept happy) by visiting Highclere, a stately home and the setting of Downton Abbey, which is to the north of the lane and who's grounds it crosses. The course of the dismantled Didcot, Newbury and Southampton Railway roughly follows that of the A34, and finally the memorial for Geoffrey deHavilland, who's ashes were scattered over the Seven Barrows, can be found at the eastern end of the lane. Phew!


View Ox Drove (Wayfarer's Walk Part 3) in a larger map

5 comments:

Graeme said...

I took a drive along Ox Drove in my new disco after reading about it on your blog. Good information like this is very hard to find, so thanks very much!

Keep up the good work,

Graeme.

James Brown said...

Awesome! I'm pleased you found it of use, Graeme. It's been a bit moist for us to venture off the tarmac this winter, but we shall pick it up again in the spring, so check back!

Lee Kneller said...

Ive got a 53 plate black Vogue...
Its all very nice, but it is a Range Rover and so should be used as one.
I would like to try this Ox Drove tomorrow.
Would anybody like to help me out as to where exactly it is, or even better, be up for puppy walking me through it ???

Lee Kneller said...

I have a 53 plate vogue.
It is all very nice but it is a Range Rover and should threfore be used a one.
I would like to try this Ox Drove.
Would anybody be able to tell me exactly where it is, or even better,like to puppy walk us through it ??

James Brown said...

Hi there Lee! We feel compelled to warn to about the foliage at the far (A34) end of this byway: unless it's been cleared recently there is a very high probability of scratching your 53-plate paintwork! We think you'd be far better off heading over to the A3 and attempting one of the byways in the Devil's Punchbowl at Hindhead in order to introduce yourself to green-laning without risk to your vehicle. More info here:http://www.moderndayexplorers.net/2013/02/boat-old-portsmouth-road.html?m=0

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