A few days ago I was chatting to a neighbour and they mentioned walking on Stockbridge Down with its wonderful views. I confessed to not having visited the location despite it only being about twelve miles from home. I have driven past many times and seen the busy car park and that has put me off, I prefer to walk in quiet locations.
After looking at the map I plotted a route starting in Stockbridge that visits the downs. Lynnie and I are off today to see if the views are as wide ranging as promised. The starting point for our walk is the parking lay-by on the edge of the town besides the A30.
We head south back towards the town and cross the road at the roundabout besides the White Hart public house and then take Trafalgar Way besides the pub. As the road turns to the right we continue straight on the route of the Test Way.
For a number of years I have considered walking the forty-four mile route of the Test Way from Ink Pen Hill, south of Newbury, to Southampton Water at Ealing. At the end of 2019 I started making plans with my long distance walking buddies to set a couple of days aside to do the walk in 2020, however the Covid-19 pandemic has meant our plans are on hold.
This section of the walk follows what was the route of the Andover to Redbridge railway line. Opened in 1865 the line was apparently known as the Sprat and Winkle Line, the origins of which are unclear. Like many other railways built in the mid 1800’s it followed the route of a canal. The Andover and Redbridge canal was completed in 1794 and operated for 63 years before the canal company decided the future was in railways. They changed the company name to the Andover and Redbridge Railway company and set about filling in the canal and laying tracks.
During World War I and II the railway was used to transport troops from their training camps on Salisbury Plain to the docks at Southampton and being a rural line also transported agricultural goods. It was one of the lines that fell victim of the “Beeching Cuts” and ceased to operate in 1963.
We stay with the Test Way for just over two miles to reach a junction of footpaths where the Clarendon Way crosses the Test Way, here we turn left and walk steadily uphill on a track following the route of the Clarendon Way. After passing How Park Farm the track soon becomes a tarmac driveway. Since I last walked here the farmer has considerately moved the fence line so there is a wide verge for the many walkers who follow this route to walk safely off the road.
As we approach the junction with Down Drove Hill we take a footpath on the right, which goes through a kissing gate and descends steadily to the edge of King’s Somborne.
After going through another kissing gate the path goes down steps to join Cow Down Hill where we turn right and walk into the village. Our route is to follow the Clarendon Way, however first we take a slight diversion to wander into the centre of the village to look at St Peter and St Paul’s church with its interesting tower and short steeple.
Leaving the church we cross to take a look at the village information board on the wall of the Crown Inn. I don’t think I have been in this pub for over forty year, perhaps when things return to normal we will come out here for a bite to eat. It gets good reviews.
From the pub we walk briefly on the pavement besides the A3057 and then turn right into Old Vicarage Lane and cross a stream close to the Corner Stores.
We are now on Winchester Road and follow this east through the village until we reach a junction with New Lane, here we turn left over the footbridge besides a ford.
The lane ascends steadily and then just as we near the A3057 we take a Permissive Footpath on the right that goes along the edge of the field with the hedge to our left and avoids having to walk besides this busy road. It is always welcome to find a farmer that has been considerate. These days when edges of fields are so often left as wildlife margins it makes little difference to crop yields and means that walkers can safely join paths and avoid traffic.
After 150 yards on the Permissive Path we go through the hedge line to join a footpath where we turn right, walking away from the A3057, to head through a spinney.
The footpath soon opens out to walk along the edge of arable land.
After a couple of fields we enter the edge of North Park Wood and follow the path through the trees. This is an attractive stretch of woodland with the Hazel looking ready to coppice.
The path then runs along the edge of North Park Farm to reach a minor road where we turn left and then after fifty yards we take a footpath on the right to walk along the edge of a field with woods to our right.
Following the path into the next field the woodland is now on our left and then we go through a copse to reach the B3049 which we cross with care to go through a gate onto Stockbridge Down. This is open access land owned by the National Trust and covering 172 acres. Our route is to follow a footpath in a north easterly direction though the shrubland with the path soon descending steadily towards a gate.
A few yards before reaching the gate we turn left and follow a broad grassy path heading steadily uphill towards Woolbury hill fort. The path goes around the ramparts of the iron age hill fort with some stunning views over the surrounding countryside.
From the hill fort we follow a path heading south westerly across an open area heading back to the corner of the access land.
After going through a gate we cross the B3049 and walk along a minor road, Somborne Park Road, for 600 yards to reach a footpath on the right
This is a clear well-made path along a wide track so easy to follow. Just after passing a large red barn the track goes into woodland.
Emerging from the wooded area we pass a barn in the midst of conversion and then follow a track as it continues to go downhill to pass Home Farm and then the entrance to Steepleton House. A few yards further on we reach the A3057 and turn right on the wide verge. There is then a short section of just over 100 yards without a verge to reach a lay-by on the left. Here we take a path that leads down through trees to reach a minor road where we turn left. After 100 yards we turn right into a small car park and go through this to cross the Test Way and then through a gate onto Common Marsh.
This is an open access area popular with dog walkers. We stay along the northern boundary and soon take a footpath on the right to cross the Marshcourt River.
Our route now follows the footpath into Stockbridge with the final section going besides a stream.
Stockbridge is said to be one of the smallest towns in the Country. In the past the High Street was littered with pubs, now it is full of cafes and high end art and craft shops. Normally at this time of year the place would be buzzing with Christmas shoppers, but due to the lockdown things are relatively quiet today.
Our route is east along the High Street to the roundabout where we go left besides the A30 to return to our starting point. Our walk has covered 11 miles and the views were as outstanding as my neighbour had promised. I am sure we will be returning to Stockbridge Down again soon.
To follow my walk you will need Ordnance Survey Explorer – 131 – Romsey, Andover & Test Valley
24th November 2020
© Two Dogs and an Awning (2020)
All information on this site is provided free of charge and in good faith and no liability is accepted in respect of damage, loss or injury which might result from it. To the best of my knowledge the routes are entirely on public rights of way or within areas that are open for public access.
Walking can be hazardous and is done entirely at your own risk. It is your responsibility to check your route and navigate using a map and compass.