A two-day adventure into the lesser known parts of Northern Hampshire and crossing into Wiltshire.
Hampshire is a county located in the south of England known for beautiful and diverse landscapes and picturesque quaint villages. With both the New Forest National Park and South Downs National Park there is some stunning scenery, however many parts of the county are little known about and have magnificent countryside and chalk landscapes waiting to be discovered. I planned a two-day walk heading from the station of Whitchurch north then passed St Mary Bourne before continuing into the Hampshire Highlands and crossing the border into Wiltshire to stop in Upper Chute and exploring this area and finally heading south ending the two-day expedition at the station in Gratley. The area has beautiful valleys and chalk downs, diverse woodland and quaint traditional villages easily explaining why it is part of the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
The route started out in Whitchurch, a beautiful, small, pleasant town in the Test Valley. Arrayed with numerous traditional cottages and thatches it is a great small town. The River Test runs through lined with beautiful trees and The Mill is an interesting visit. The town is a short walk from the station. Upon leaving Whitchurch Station the route I wanted to follow took me right and down the discrete footpath on the right heading under the railway through a tunnel. Upon emerging the path turn and follow the left edge of the disused railway and left across the field where there is a footbridge crossing the A34. Then continuing on the path goes right then crosses a minor road known as the Harroway.
Crossing this and the countryside opens up with beauty all around and the sound of the A34 disappears despite its closeness. The route undulates passing a range of yellow reap seed fields and the green from growing cornfields broken up by patches of woodland and the odd isolated tree. The track is easy to follow and combines walking at the edge of the beautiful fields, and enclosed tree lined tracks. There are interesting views over the close landscape. Making sure at the signed fork that a right turn is made it is easy to follow and a great walk. At the next road stagger right then left to continue on the path to Egbury. This is a small hamlet with some incredible buildings and homes and flower filled gardens. Turning left follows a small lane to two small, traditional Hampshire styled homes. At this point the route swings right then left in a gap through a hedge and cross through the middle of the field. Following the track then crossing diagonal in the next field and through a line of trees. Emerging from this the path descends however the view is magnificent through the reap fields and onward down the chalk valley towards St Mary Bourne and the hills behind. This is one of the best parts of this route due to superb views of the landscape on this right of way. Crossing the first lane direct continues the amazing descent. Upon hitting the next lane there is a left turn followed by right to take a tree lined track emerging on the edge of St Mary Bourne.
Scenery on route to Egbury
Property in Egbury
Path towards St Mary Bourne
Path Towards St Mary Bourne
In St Mary Bourne the first lane that emerges, going left on the land follows a clear and green stream called the Bourne Rivulet which is beautiful and full of plant life and crystal clear. Following next to the fresh flowing stream are traditional thatched cottages surrounded by green countryside. The village is very traditional and quaint with a traditional atmosphere and church. There are plenty of footpaths taking through and around the village. The path around the back shows nice fields. Leaving the village by the cricket pitch the route follows upward through woodland and onto higher parts of the landscape. The path I followed went in a straight line until the next road following part of the Roman Road known as the Portway. Continuing the same direction on the road the next path on the right I followed crossing beautiful fields and distant rolling views. At the next road I went left and then to Upper Wyke where I followed the path diagonally across fields. Upon crossing a series of stiles the path emerges with good views north. Turn left and join the Test Way and follow to the next road. Then continuing on the Test Way down a road staggering rightwards. The footpath passes the back of an impressive home before following the hedge line into a forest with decent views on the Bourne Valley. The forest is very dense with a variety of trees both deciduous and coniferous. Turning and heading steep downhill the path emerges from the forest to descend following the edges of fields to Hurstbourne Tarrant.
Hurstbourne Tarrant is again a small quaint village with the river running through parts of the village adding to its attractiveness. The church is small in height with an attractive prism shaped tower and stone built in structure. There are many traditional properties and thatched cottages giving a picturesque village. There is a good pub. Next the route turns right onto the main road then takes the first footpath on the left, though this is difficult to find. This leads following the lush course of the river again clear with bright green and vivid landscape on its banks. This follows for just under a mile to come out at Ibthorpe, another settlement with almost all buildings being cottages either brick or stone and a high number are thatched. Ibthorpe Manor is the first building on the trail and is a grand and beautiful brick building. The Test Way continues by turning right then taking a right of way. This track gains in height to provide glorious views over the valley and chalk down land with isolated trees and is beautiful. The track becomes enclosed with an array of overhanging trees and follows a dense tree tunnel. Continuing ahead at all junctions I followed this track with odd glimpses through the hedges and vegetation besides the track onto the landscape. This track continues in a U shape to the village of Upton turning left at the end of the track to go to the village centre. Another small, quaint, picturesque village with thatches and traditional cottages. The route staggers and carries on up the road in the direction towards Wildhern.
Church in Hurstbourne Tarrant
Tree lined track after Ibthorpe
Shortly after leaving the village there is a track turning off to the right. This passes a beautiful tree tunnel heading steeply uphill for a short while. Looking back the view opens up with magnificent views initially over the lush green fields and tree covered patches, whilst onward looking into the distance the bright vivid chalk rolling hills marking the northern extremity of the Hampshire Highlands. Meeting one of the local farmers who was passionate about the beauty of the surrounding area showed me stunning locations and explained to me a lot about the area. This area is truly outstanding. The track carries onward twisting and turning in enclosed woodland before emerging onto a small lane passing beautiful cottages. Next turning right then the next bridle path on the left follows a tree covered path forking right to head towards the lower end of The Chutes.
View North overlooking Hampshire Highlands
The Chutes are a number of small villages in Wiltshire and all in the same parish, linked by lanes all quaint with cottages and thatches and a pleasant and remarkable atmosphere when walking through a beautiful and almost untouched area. Staying on the road my route passed Chute Cadley with impressive cottages all around before carrying on past Lower Chute another remarkable village with its impressive thatched pub and peaceful atmosphere. Heading left then taking a small path on the right crosses a field to lead to take a lane to Upper Chute. The views south are good being able to see far into the distance. In other parts, the area was peaceful and great to watch the sun go down over the rolling hills. The church is beautiful and traditional stone built and the village has a good atmosphere with a good pub on which the night I went there was a band on. I stayed in the vicinity of this amazing village to end what had been a great day exploring rural Hampshire and its lesser known parts.
View South from Upper Chute
The second day started off with fog though not particularly dense but very atmospheric. I started early and headed to the church at Upper Chute before carrying on up the road and taking the first bridle path on the right. This is a track heading eastward with high hedges but undulating to give views of the dew lined green landscape and occasional buildings around Chute. Crossing the next road, the track followed into an amazing wide tree tunnel with a variety of trees and enclosed woodland lining the track with smaller wild garlic being present along the edges. Though fairly enclosed it is a beautiful track. The track swings left and this continues to cross another road before descending steeply through a track and in vegetation. The path is very green and dense and about halfway down the track passes amazing woodland. When passing there was a sea of wild garlic turning the floor of the forest white and extending well into the distance, a stunning and magnificent sight. The track continues down going left then right through the farm of Hippenscombe before heading steeply upward.
Early morning in Chute
Upon heading up the landscape opens up, though parts only visible for me due to fog. The route follows up Haydon Hill, a great wild traditional chalk down standing high on the surrounding landscape. Upon the hill there is the ancient hill fort of Fosbury. The area is beautiful and gives good views down the valley towards Vernham Dean, still spectacular despite fog. My route at the top turned left so as to head on a bridleway which follows the top of the hill. The area consists of green fields broken down by occasional woodland. The track follows the chalk land with good views through the haze of this part of Wiltshire, until reaching the next road. Here I turned left and followed this road for about a mile and a half until the second byway on the right.
Following a tree tunnel and heading right onto the next track put me on the edge of New Zealand Farm. Next tuning left and following the field leads to a path not often explored and limited in its way marking. Turning right and the route follows across a field with views over criss crossing landscapes and forest. Passing the Chantry, a small cottage the right of way continues with outstanding distant views emerging from the fog over a hazy chalk landscape and pleasant rolling hills whilst walking along the edge of green crop fields by the occasional traditional wooden hut. Where the right of way meets a junction, though there is no way marking, the right of way goes right then into the field on the left, continuing diagonally following the earthworks of an ancient field system easily identifiable on the ground. Following for a short while the path enters the forest and carefully following the path using a compass and map allows one to cross the forest. Despite its lack of way marking, it is beautiful with tracks and an array of wildlife and different species in this dense, green and interesting woodland. The forest is an impressive place to walk and is very peaceful. After careful navigation this emerges onto a clear track that follows magnificent fields in peacefully in small rolling hilled valley with the occasional woodland until coming onto the next major road. The last stage in Wiltshire leads down the lane leftward passing traditional buildings both beautiful and grand. First is Biddesen Farm an impressive complex of a traditional farmstead and secondly passing Bisddesen House Grand in its entrance, size and exterior and in an impressive style. Continuing along the road to the next junction leaves this impressive small part of Wiltshire behind and crosses into Hampshire.
Woodland South of Chantry
Immediately taking the road on the right and the track leads over Lambourne’s Hill and the site of an ancient roman villa visible in a few places if looked carefully through the trees. The route follows through the varied fields all looking beautiful before continuing straight on onto a lane then passing a large farmstead with its quaint and traditional built thatched cottages on the edge of Redenham Park before continuing to the main A342. Crossing then turning left and taking the next bridleway and this crosses a small railway line. Immediately after the landscape is beautiful with great views southward over farmland and into the chalk of Salisbury Plain to the West. The fields crossed are beautiful and paths undulate to take in this small part of undiscovered Hampshire. The fields are lush dotted with occasional trees. The route follows a bridleway to the next road before crossing and turning right and heading across the fields diagonally onto a track with beautiful yellow reap seed fields adjourning the landscape. The track continues through this unexpected beauty before heading to the Village of Kimpton. Turning left then the next footpath on the right passes a more modern part of the village before emerging into the older section with beautiful traditional buildings and an outstanding church. Here turning right leads to a very traditional pub not serving food, but with a great and friendly local atmosphere and great ales.
Reap Fields on path to Kimpton
The last stage of the route continued down the lane past the second footpath to follow across vivid fields with decent views. Upon turning left just before the horse gallops the track follows crossing a road with rolling downs to the right hand side. This then leads to the next part of the route being on roads due to few other alternatives. The route follows past Thruxton Motor Racing Circuit and Aerodrome before staggering to take the bridge under the A303. The lane continues past the village of Quarley a quaint and beautiful village with an interesting stone church and thatching’s. Continuing south, the route is straight until the road bends sharply to the right where it is necessary to leave the lane and cross a lush field with great views in all directions into the beautiful village of Gratley. It is a nice village with an impressive church and beautiful buildings. From here it was a mile along the road to Grately Station where my route ended.
Field looking north of Grately
North Hampshire and the Short Section in Wiltshire is a beautifully outstanding area of the Wessex Downs. Beautiful rolling hills and chalk valleys are present in this amazing landscape filled with beauty everywhere varying between dry and lush fields with a variety of crops grown or pastureland varied with colour and natural beauty. Quaint villages are throughout in this undiscovered area and give a traditional and pleasant atmosphere with good pubs and friendly locals. Some of the cottages, churches and buildings on the route are interesting in beauty and architecture. I had a great two days exploring this brilliant landscape not necessarily visited and overlooked by many.
There are many places that are great to explore in this area and the Wessex Downs, Wiltshire and Hampshire all offer outstanding countryside and a great place to plan new and exciting adventures. Many of the counties have areas not visited much and it is very easy to stumble on beautiful, quaint and peaceful English landscapes. In the future I hope to explore the beauty of these counties in a greater depth.