The name 'Hangers Way' refers to the famous steep sided wooded hills of East Hampshire known as 'The Hangers', an area of ecologically important rich chalk woodlands. The route passes through a lovely Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB 12 - East Hampshire) which is described as "ancient and intimate countryside of wooded hillsides, downland, farmland and deep sunken lanes". The route begins at Alton and follows the wooded hills through the pretty market town of Petersfield and finishes at Queen Elizabeth Country Park. Of particular interest along the route is the village of Selborne, home of Gilbert White the naturalist, who was author of the fascinating countryside book 'The Natural History of Selborne'. There is a nice view of the village glimpsed from between the beech trees of Selborne Hanger.
The rich deciduous woodland and steep sheltered slopes create a damp, shady environment in which less common species of plants, fungi and insects thrive, including the rare cheese snail. On sunny open slopes and woodland glades there are also rare insects and butterflies such as the grizzled skipper, Duke of Burgundy fritillary or white hairstreak. Sun loving wild flowers also thrive in the rich soil.
Alton, the start of the Hangers Way, has an ancient heritage lying on a route from London to Winchester used since Roman times. There has been a settlement here since at least the time of William the Conqueror. At the time of the English Civil War the church of St Lawrence in Alton was the scene of a massacre when parliamentarians took the town and killed perhaps sixty royalists including the locally famous Colonel Boyle.
Leaving Alton heading south the route passes alongside Monk Wood where there are ancient boundary earthworks and then follows farm tracks to East Worldham. In the church here you can see a 15th century effigy of the wife of poet Geoffrey Chaucer. From here there is beautiful woodland views ahead and in the near distance the conical King John’s Hill. There was probably and Iron Age settlement here and the name comes from a legend that King John had a hunting lodge here. The route climbs the flank of the hill and after Binswood climbs through mixed woodland to Wick Hill Hanger. There is then a steep descent through deciduous woodland before crossing Oakhanger Stream to the site of Selborne Priory. Founded in 1233 by the Bishop of Winchester and suppressed 200 years later the site where it stood is now a Scheduled Ancient Monument.
Selborne is a small but attractive village in a splendid location with the lovely backdrop of Selborne Hanger protecting it. In addition to the fame brought to Selborne by Gilbert White there is a museum devoted to the expeditionary achievements of the Oates family. Captain Lawrence Oates accompanied Scott to the South Pole. From Selborne the route climbs to a nature reserve where the chalkland is exceptionally rich in wild flowers and wildlife and then follows the contour to Noar Hill Hanger where it drops steeply to the hamlet of Empshott. From here it crosses green pasture to Hawkley Hanger and follows the contour through woodland before arriving at Hawkley village.
From Hawkley the route crosses Oakshott Stream and passes through the medieval hamlet of Oakshott after which there is a very steep climb up Wheatham Hill. The undulating course eventually arrives in the village of Steep, well named as the area hereabouts is known as ‘Little Switzerland’. In the churchyard of All Saints church are some tombs for members of Jane Austen’s family. Leaving Steep the route passes the famous Bedales public school after which it crosses the main A3 road to enter Petersfield.
From Petersfield the path crosses small fields and streams to Buriton with the imposing escarpment of the South Downs getting closer. From Buriton the route heads for Queen Elizabeth Country Park which sits at the foot of Butser Hill, the highest point of the South Downs. At War Down, to the right of the path, there are seven Bronze Age burial mounds. The Hangers Way reaches its conclusion at the Queen Elizabeth Country Park Visitor Centre. Here the route links with the South Downs Way.
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