A Hampshire country walk proves testing | BBC Radio Solent's Alun Newman

This weekend I decided to embark on walking a large(ish) chunk of the Test Way.

A light frost covers berries on the banks of the river Test near Stockbridge. Picture: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire
A light frost covers berries on the banks of the river Test near Stockbridge. Picture: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

It’s a path that weaves through Hampshire including the Test Valley.

The route is so long, that if I started walking at the age of nine, I wouldn’t finish until I was 87.

Then again, I am a slow walker.

It’s the route of an old railway line that finishes, so legend has it, in Berkshire, but that could be local folklore.

As it peels away from road noise, it is really quite beautiful.

It’s also a well looked after route. Just in case you were in any doubt just how old I’m getting, I notice these things now.

Next, I’ll be identifying birds and fauna – I’m becoming my parents, and there seems to be very little I can do to stop it.

If it was not for the imposition of the world’s most hated new companion (Billy Covid No-mates) then hundreds of charities benefit from this route being a summer fundraising extravaganza, ‘Walk the Test’.

I've always fancied wandering along a chunk of it and I thought I wouldn't put it off any longer. It’s also very ‘BBC’ to go for a walk and tell people about it – think Radio 4 or Claire Balding.

There are lots of shows on TV about walking and one of the key components is that you have to assume no one has ever walked before.

Thank the lord that I’m now walking this route. Maybe others will follow…

Normally, I can let a walk be ruined by becoming obsessed with unruly dogs and an over-focusing on litter. Not this time, I was very philosophical about it.

In fact, I decided to see which of my legs the poorly behaved dogs I encountered on my walk preferred.

I’m happy to say five small(ish) dogs jumped up at me. Four chose the left leg, one chose the right. I wondered whether my left leg was giving off a weird pheromone of some sort.

One of the ‘jumpy’ dogs was called Margaret, which I deduced from the owner shouting ‘Margaret get down!’

I assume she was talking to the dog and wasn’t just simply nuts.

‘Margaret’ took no notice of the shouting or the long conversation afterwards about manners and behaviour. ‘Margaret’ was unrepentant, which I gathered from the wagging happy tail.

I didn’t have the heart to tell the owner that dogs can’t talk and by definition cannot understand that amount of complex interaction.

I left the Barbara Woodhouse wannabe in my wake and pressed on.

Finally, I arrived at a very nice looking village and decided that after two hours of walking I needed a


I masked up like an American bank robber and went in.

Bearing in mind, I was in the middle of nowhereville it was steep for a black coffee – £2.70!

I went for a chocolate brownie and nearly had to sell my pancreas.

A man from the local Santander asked if I wanted to pay over 12 or 18 months but I declined.

I was originally going to buy a toasted panini but instead, I decided to buy a holiday home in Spain.

It seemed more sensible.

When did coffee become as valuable as saffron or gold?

I think it’s priced with the unwritten premise: ‘These people have absolutely no other option. We could charge you double so stop moaning and cough up, although don’t actually cough or we’ll all hit the deck and hand over the cash.’


There are very few robust figures for the number of people with brumotactillophobia.

To you and me that’s the fear of food touching on the plate.

It’s a form of OCD. If you’re someone who hates the beans touching the rest of the breakfast. Or maybe the gravy getting near the Yorkshire pudding, then you may be a mild sufferer.

I live with someone with the condition. On a good day, they’ll deconstruct a lasagne and reduce it back to its, mince, pasta and sauce components. It’s fascinating to watch.

Many people have food rules and when with people they trust, feel released to fully be themselves.

Another friend, when being served dinner, asks his partner to construct the plate to avoid unnecessary contamination. He’ll ask for the chips to provide a dam to prevent the peas from crossing the line.

If you think about it, we all have entry-level symptoms. I am not a fan of soggy toast underneath baked beans. I don’t like water from poached eggs getting on my plate and if my takeaway curry is cold, I burst into tears and have to have an early night.

There are hundreds more examples on the internet. Some people hate ‘toast sweat’, the condensation when it’s put flat on a plate. Some folk will eat one food group at a time. Whatever your neurosis; food, heights, spiders, great white sharks, people always cope better when surrounded by others who accept them. I always tell my children: ‘I accept you as you are,’ and do all my judging in my head.

That’s a condition known as ‘Being a Parent’.

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