Combe Gibbet to Overton
|Date:||30th Mar 2008|
|Distance:||16 Country Miles|
|Comments:||What a lovely race!
The race registration was at the Race Finish in the recreation centre in the attractive north Hampshire village of Overton. From here all the competitors were transferred to the start by a police-escorted convoy of coaches along some rather tortuous country lanes.
After the recent stormy weather, even only the previous day, it was a great surprise to be standing at the start line on top of the Wessex Downs, in the shadow of the gallows of Combe Gibbet, in near still conditions and warm spring sunshine, looking down on the fantastic scenery visible for many miles around.
The race route was a fantastic tour of the rolling chalk downs of north Hampshire and was a real lesson in the local and natural history. The start was on the top of Combe Down, the site of an Iron Age fort and was under the foreboding gaze of the unusual Combe Gibbet. Unusual in the fact that it has twin gallows, last used in the seventeenth century to punish the two perpetrators of a grisly double murder.
From here we ran along the Wayfarer's Walk to Walbury Hill - where the remains of another Iron Age Fort can still be seen. This is the highest point in south-east England (297m), from where it was possible to see five counties (Oxon, Berks, Wiltshire, Dorset and obviously Hampshire). The first five miles of the course were particularly sticky and slippery after the heavy rain the previous day. From the five mile point onwards the going was, for the most part, a lot firmer and made for easier running. The next large hill on the course was Pilot Hill; at 286m the second highest point in south-east England, and so named after the early exploits of Alcock and Brown. We ran past the small stone monument that commemorates the site of their first powered flight in this country.
The well-marshalled and waymarked race route then took us through wide open country with far-reaching views; the setting for Richard Adams' "Watership Down". No signs of Thumper, but I did spot a hare and some deer. A good run-in down to the village of Overton and the finish (in the sunshine) on the recreation ground under the peculiarly-shaped wooden spire of the 11th century flint church. The warm post-race showers were most welcome as was the tea and home-made cakes served by the smiling ladies of Overton Harriers. The bread pudding is particularly recommended and I have asked for an extra tray to be made for next year! Well done to Overton Harriers, a small club of no more than sixty members, on hosting a super event - greatly helped by the excellent spring weather.
Congratulations to Mark Richards on a phenomenal performance to lead the field home in first place.