17 January 2020

England's mellow southern heartlands have plenty to offer walkers - and a number of Wolsey Lodges to make the experience perfect.

Start, perhaps, with an unexpected choice: North Walls House in central Chichester. This is an elegant city-centre residence, a smoothly sophisticated base from which to experience several walks exploring various parts of the coast and countryside. For anyone planning an epic journey, this is a great place to join the South Downs Way. This important National Trail runs from Winchester to Eastbourne: whichever direction you choose it's great to feel the city slip away as you stride into open country.

You won't get far on the South Downs Way before you reach Lordington House. You're actually in the South Downs National Park here, so you're spoiled for choice when it comes to footpaths: one runs across the lawn and links to an endless network of bridleways and footpaths. It's an easy walk up to Kingley Vale Nature Reserve, where you'll find yew trees as old as the bible, Bronze Age barrows and plenty of deer. With views of the Solent and the Isle of Wight it's a very special place, and it also allows you to join the South Downs Way

Not all guests want to walk so far, so your hosts here often give guests lifts to West Stoke on the north side of Kingley Vale, giving you the chance of a two or three-hour walk back to Lordington House: the perfect prelude to an afternoon tea. Lordington House can also provide packed lunches by arrangement to give walkers' total independence.

Heading west towards the sophistication of Brighton - but stopping well before you get there - and Old Whyly is at the start of the Wealdway - indeed it runs down Old Whyly's drive. From there it heads off to either Gravesend or Eastbourne: just take your pick. Another major walking route is the South Downs Way, running a hundred miles from Winchester to Eastbourne, that passes close by Old Whyly. For shorter walks the lodge is very close to the Downs, opening up a network of footpaths that are, conveniently, often on chalk. Even in the wettest weather these remain largely free of mud.

Glebe Farm is a newly-built designer farmhouse near Shaftsbury, and is very much a walker's delight. The Jurassic Coast is within easy striking distance, but the farm itself is right at the start of the Wessex Ridgeway heading west, a spectacular hight route that was once an important commercial artery linking Norfolk with Lyme Regis. It's a dramatic trail that draws you to Neolithic hill forts, charming villages and clear chalk streams. For smaller walks Glebe Farm right at the heart of the Cranborne Chase Area of Natural beauty, so there are plenty of walks from your door.

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