BOAT: Water Lane

Location: Water Lane, Alton
  • Overall Rating: 4
  • Location: Alton, Hampshire.
  • OS Explorer Map 133, 'Haslemere & Petersfield'.
  • Starting OS Grid Reference: SU740369
  • Starting GPS Co-ordinates: N51 12' 70" W000 94' 40"
  • Finishing OS Grid Reference:  SU729384
  • Finishing GPS Co-ordinates:  N51 14' 10" W000 96' 00"
  • To see: Watercress Line, Alton, tumulus.
  • ALWAYS follow the Greenlane Code!
NB: this is an extremely hard, technical lane, with a very high probability of damage to your vehicle. Only drive this lane if you are an experienced, confident driver.

Update 19/04/2016: According to a comment below, this byway has benefited from a comprehensive programme of works. We have not been able to verify this, so we presume the status quo prevails. If anyone has any further information, perhaps with some pictures, we would relish the chance to update this post!

Starting in the pleasant hamlet of West Worldham at the southern end of this relatively long greenlane, Water Lane begins life as an innocuous, comparatively well maintained byway on a hard surface of coarse gravel and leaf mould. The hollow way descends as progress is made northwards, with earthen banks and foliage lining the lane to each side. For those with an interest in the Neolithic a tumulus (with little to be seen above ground) can be seen on a footpath just to the west of the start of the lane, in Little Copse Wood.

Lots of this...
This state of affairs does not last, however. A few axle-twisters must be negotiated, none of which are extremely dramatic at this point, but none-the-less take a bit of work and planning to get through and your vehicle will assume some relatively interesting attitudes. After around five minutes of driving, all of a sudden greenlaners will encounter a mass of dumped rubble, and onwards from here are when the real challenges begin. This rubble serves as a firm platform for the farmer to get across this green lane with their machinery from one field to the next, which would otherwise be very hard to do, but it also means that we must negotiate it! We paused and shuffled some rubble around a little in order to improve our chances of getting over it unscathed, which was a (somewhat bumpy) success.

...and a lot of this!
However, the trail now truly lives up to its name. Even during a relatively dry spell the byway was awash with water. It literally seems as though the small brook that parallels the track to the east (called the Little Caker Stream, I believe), has realigned itself to flow directly down the byway and as such the surface is a washed out nightmare of axle-twisting side-slopes, not helped by the fact that mature trees regularly invade the lane and must be negotiated, literally down to the millimetre in some cases. This is not easy given that byway is so narrow and in such poor quality that it is practically impossible to change your path to avoid obstacles (as we found to our cost on a particularly indolent mature tree!). The only thing in its favour is that the surface is pretty firm throughout: deep mud is rare, surprisingly.

The byway ends, after a thorough workout of both driver and vehicle, just short of the market town of Alton. Drive over Little Caker Bridge and enter the driveway to Kiln House. Turn right and head up towards the B3004. Not that you'd want to continue driving after that nightmare, but you can't go any further despite appearances as the BOAT is reclassified as a bridleway. Go to the pub instead, in this case The French Horn in Alton.

Alton is a decent sized country town founded in Roman times. Where the Chichester-Silchester Roman road forded the River Wey a settlement named Vindomis was established in the second century AD. As such, the town has a very long history, featuring two battles (1001 and 1643), a Norman treaty, a plague, and countless other historical events which can be discovered in the excellent Curtis Museum (pictured below). The museum is worth visiting for the 'Alton buckle' (you'll have to visit to find out what it is!) alone, not to mention all the other fascinating artefacts from Alton's past. The northern end of the Watercress Line terminates here, which is an awesome steam railway running down to Alresford. A visit to the town can quite easily occupy your entire day!

The ramp. You can see where we packed out the ascent on the right.

View Water Lane in a larger map.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

April 2016.
Much maintenance has taken place on this lane and at the moment it is, in general, suitable to be driven by most 4x4s. We have driven it in a standard Ninety, standard Disco 2 and a Series 2 and sustained no damage. The southern half has been resurfaced with a fifm level sand type surface and the northern half is a bumpy rocky surface. Still an interesting lane to visit and, thankfully, more useable for standard vehicles.

James Brown said...

Thanks, anonymous poster! I have updated this post with your findings.

Jamie love said...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3USS7ZOU5VY I drove this lane in the summer. Unfortunatly I drove it the other way round to your guide, still contains some good views, but is no longer a car wrecker.

James Eaton-Brown said...

Thanks for the update Jamie! Good to know that a program of works has been completed on this byway; it was sorely needed!

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