North Wessex Downs Walk
Hampshire and Berkshire Heights
Walk Route Description
This ridge walk over the North Wessex Downs takes in the highest points in Hampshire and Berkshire and some outstanding views along the way. It returns through some attractive, rural villages nestling on the chalk downs. The outward leg makes much use of the Wayfarer's Walk, whilst the return leg uses some of the Test Way.
For the purposes of this write-up, the start point was the village of Ashmansworth, where parking is available at the side of the road, grid reference SU416575. Alternative start points can be found along the route, particularly the two car parks at either end of Walbury Hill.
From Ashmansworth walk in the direction of Highclere and Newbury along the lane and after some 400 metres, find the Wayfarer's Walk and turn left along this enclosed path. (This is the ridge walk that will now be followed for some 6 or 7 miles). When the path reaches a country lane, turn right and walk along the lane for some 300 metres until the road begins to descend. Take the continuing Wayfarer's Walk to the left, signed Charldown.
Continue past fields to the right and an impressive house to the left. After the path turns left and then right, ascend gently along the ridge past Pilot Hill on the left. The trig point on this hill marks the (frequently misquoted) highest point in Hampshire, being just a hundred metres from the Berkshire border! Visit the trig point (286m) if you wish, but there is nothing remarkable about it and it will take you off course for a while!
Continue along the Wayfarer's Walk as it goes through some trees, turns slightly right and then down a little and back up again, eventually reaching a metalled country lane. Turn left onto the lane and immediately right at the T-junction, walking along the road. At the car park for Walbury Hill where the lane turns right, continue up along the Wayafrer's Walk straight ahead towards Walbury Hill. At the gate, cross into the field and 'bag' Berkshire's highest point and also the highest chalk hill in Britain at 297m. Retrace to the Wayfarer's Walk.
Continue down the path to a lane and then up towards the gibbet on Inkpen Hill, now sign-posted as the Test Way. The double gibbet is not the original, but was originally erected in 1676 to hang George Brooham and his mistress, Dorothy Newman for the murder of Brooham's wife and son. It stands upon an ancient long barrow. Continue along the main ridge, ignoring the Test Way marker as it turns off left after a dip and some trees and gradually descend westwards. Cross into Wiltshire and continue until farm buildings and houses loom on the left ahead. At a gap in the hedge on the left, SU338617, turn off the ridge and head for the buildings, picking up a lane past some houses and Town Farm.
At the T-junction, turn left towards Buttermere Grange Farm. Past the Farm turn left again down an exceedingly muddy path, past a delightfully hidden church into Buttermere Bottom. Follow this path past farmland back to the Berkshire border where the Test Way now comes back down from the hills on the left to meet us. At this complex crossing of paths, continue along the valley, now the Test Way. Follow the broad path south-east then turning east, then south until it reaches an attractive woodland camp. Turn right and uphill just before it, then, leaving the drive climb steeply up a narrow path through trees, eventually emerging at Linkenholt Manor.
Turn left along the lane past the manor, walk through the village and then turn right at the T-junction heading down the hill. Before the big barn, turn left along the footpath heading due east. Follow the same easterly line as the path descends and, when the tree line turns right, pass over two stiles with dog sluices through the trees and into a field. Exit the field at bottom right onto the lane.
Turn right from the field into Netherton, past an impressive thatched farm building and then left at the junction towards Faccombe along the lane. Take the left branch into Faccombe, past the church turn right to the manor and follow the walls of the manor house left along a lane. Alternatively, stop at the Jack Russell Inn before resuming!
Some 300 metres from the last junction, locate a footpath on the left by metal gates heading north towards a wood. Upon reaching the wood, turn right and descend sharply through the wood to a large field below. Follow around and right past flint farm buildings now heading roughly east and then cross the track (Curzon Street Farm) and head straight on and then uphill towards more woodland. Enter the wood and follow round to the right, emerge, head slightly uphill towards Privet Copse, follow the path round and then turn sharply right and downhill (heading south now). Head straight through the wood below and emerge from the wood. Head straight up the hill opposite and follow the path to a kink in the road ahead.
Emerge onto the road ahead and turn left along the lane back to Ashmansworth. Note the interesting topiary man in the village.
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Walking in the North Wessex Downs
30 walking routes exploring the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). The routes are between 7km to 20km through this peaceful rolling chalk landscape covering parts of four counties: Berkshire, Hampshire, Wiltshire and Oxfordshire, with descriptions to reach the highest points in each one.