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I have been riding in the area for over five years now and have come to appreciate some of the most scenic and peaceful countryside anywhere. The Editor has suggested that I start with some riding routes to encourage you all to get out there and enjoy the variety of terrain we have. A problem exists which I had not considered before. We are fortunate enough to have our horses on a farm between Blackdown and Bexley Hill giving us safe access to both hills by private routes. We also pay our dues annually to TROT (Toll Riders- off road trails) thus enabling us to go on tracks that are not public rights of way. All this means that our routes link safely to bridleway systems. However both TROT and Lower House Farm are available by paying a licence fee so do not despair. Pay today and open up your riding routes.
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I will try not to go on about wearing reflective gear on rider and horses on dull days or to suggest that some riders do not bother to thank drivers for their courteous driving or to smile at other rights of way users when out enjoying themselves.
The first route must surely be to the Temple of the Four Winds. Blackdown is the highest hill in the south of England. It is said that you can see the sea on a clear day, something I am still looking for. Lord Tennyson gained inspiration from his walks on the top of this wonderful hill. Some of the earliest people to inhabit England lived, farmed and hunted in this area and now with the clearance work of the National Trust new vistas are being opened up and the heath land is regenerating.
Thanks to the NT there are many routes once on the hill but I will start from Crotchets on Fernden Lane . As you pass the arab stud look out for pretty foals and magnificent stallions, let your horse enjoy the clear spring water that flows into the stone trough at the edge of the track. Two bridlepaths (BP) join by the trough, keep to the left hand one which passes behind the houses. This track offers the possibility of a lovely long canter around the hill to the crossroads with the Sussex border path (SBP). Carry straight over and go gently down hill to the lane. BEWARE the surface is slippery and it is safest to keep to the right hand edge of the lane down to the next BP, by the little pond. So turn right just before the house and wend your way up the valley - this is almost a mile long and again offers canters and trots aplenty. At the top of the rise go straight over the SBP and along the wide BP heading south. This takes you passed a view point with a chance to see the South Downs and Butser Hill running towards Winchester. You may also spot three white balls (RAF Whitehill). Continue on, gradually circling the summit of the hill, until you face east and then an extraordinary vista upwards of 40 miles will greet you. You are just above the Temple of the Four winds – this is a worthwhile stopping place - and your horse can snatch at the heather and bilberries while you try to spot the hanger at Dunsford where Top Gear is made. Look for where the North Downs and the South Downs disappear into the horizon, the lump in the middle being Ashdown Forest.
The beech trees that cling to the side of the scarp face of this remarkable area are changing to autumn colours so another good reason to visit. Continue circling to the left.Then turn left on the next BP, right at the next T junction and then left again at the following T junction. You will notice a large pond opposite where dogs like to play. As you continue left you will arrive back at the crossroads with the SBP. This time take the narrow BP opposite through some woodland and then heathland, a gradual drop down between gorse bushes gives another spectacular view including the lakes at the bottom of the hill where the water table emerges. This steep track (we call it the Exmoor loop) emerges on the bridlepath you originally chose by Crotchets and takes you back along the lane to Fernden Lane .
I recommend a good large size map the Orange Explorer OS 133 Haslemere and Petersfield (Midhurst and Selborne) which will give you lots of options to get onto Blackdown. Joking aside map reading lessons are available if you would like to come to Lower House.
South Downs Livery DIY & Full Grass Livery at Rogate
Ditchling Common Stud. Riding Holidays and Breaks, Burgess Hill
Berrywood Stables. Riding School & Livery
at Heyshott, Nr Midhurst.
Woolbeding Riding School, Pound Farm, Nr Midhurst, GU29 0DH Tel:01730 813303
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