30th July. Rowlands Castle and Stansted Forest

Five polyramblers  met up at Waterloo station and boarded the 0945 Portsmouth train. The journey was overcast with patches of hazy sun. After Petersfield the sky became decidedly leaden and there was a cloudburst when we alighted at Rowlands Castle station – making haste to the sheltered part of the platform.  Having set off out of the station approach, the sky started to clear and the rain almost stopped. It was about 11:30 and getting sunny. We took a stroll around the lovely village green noting various Golden/Diamond  Jubilee memorials/planted Oaks, and the small church at one end which was locked. Just before noon we entered the Robin Hood PH on the green where we had our lunch. I excelled myself with a peanut butter cheesecake for pudding! After lunch we set off northward along a track with fine westward views for a mile,  then descended sharply eastward down to a beautiful row of cottages at Deanlane End. We then followed another track continuing eastward for 2 miles passing a renovated flint-timber cottage, bringing us over a lane and path on opposite side, turning southwards to Lodge Farm.  We briefly entered Stansted Forest emerging from the woodland with a distant view of Chichester Harbour. Continuing around the forest perimeter we soon reached Stansted Park having passed the front of Stansted House mansion – home of the Earl of Bessborough. We then descended onto the tea room – made out of a lovingly restored Victorian lean-to style conservatory.  We enjoyed tea outside in the sunshine and all decided it wasn’t worth hurrying the last mile and a half of the ramble by catching a later train. After tea we spent some time admiring the adjacent Walled Garden.  Then we proceeded westwards along a “Capability Brown” grassy vista with a constant view of the House behind us, whereupon a group of dogs (with their owners) met up,  enjoying a mad runaround!  This vista followed the southern boundary of the forest.  After this there was a short stretch of woodland, before the path brought us back into Rowlands Castle.  We proceeded through the railway arches up the station approach and got to the platform – timed perfectly for  the 1744 train.