I don't know about you but I crave a nice circular walk when I'm out and about - I usually get bored retracing my steps.
Last weekend we spent much of the day in the Test Valley - starting at West Down and walking to the beautiful Chilbolton Common. unfortunately, although a circular route is available, we didn't have the time due to impending barbecue. Nevertheless, it's a beautiful walk and actually, going back the same way gives you a new appreciation of the route, noticing different things from that different angle. The Common is a SSSI and a great swimming hole for the surrounding villages - lots of people out that day as it was hot! The wildflowers were blooming - yellow swathes of ladies bedstraw in particular, and the fluffy, creamy clouds of meadowsweet in the wetter spots. The clear chalk river water had a healthy growth of water crowfoot too - I hope the locals appreciate how lucky they are!
After lunch we had a longer walk along the Test Way (which we had also travelled a short way along earlier in the day) - this is a 49 mile route tracing the course of this prized chalk river - the birthplace of fly fishing. People travel from all over the world to fish along its banks. The footpath, though, is actually the route of a dismantled railway, and largely shaded with trees and scrub - handy for the day we were walking along it! It does pass through some lovely bits of countryside, notably, alongside Stockbridge Common Marsh - another SSSI for its wetland plants and insects. These wetland areas usually have peat deposits under the vegetation, and it was noticeably bouncy walking along the marsh that day.
Thankfully, yesterday featured a short but circular route at Martin Down. We are now in the 'purple' season - masses of knapweed and small scabious spread throughout the site, with tonnes of yellow hammers, skylarks and even corn buntings - all declining species, and all finding a haven at the NNR.
I think by the end of the day on the Test I'd learnt to love the there-and-back walk - noticing new things along the same route, making me even more grateful we live in this country and have these beautiful places nearby.