North Wessex Downs Walk
North Wessex Downs & Source of the Test
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It is recommended you take a map. The preferred scale is 1:25k.
Walk Route Description
An energetic walk on the North Wessex Downs AONB that will appeal to any hill walker living in the South of England who's frustrated at the lack of mountains to climb! Considerable height is gained in this walk due to the constant rolling nature of the downs. Although there are no significant individual climbs, the route is rarely flat. Some quaint villages with thatched cottages are visited as well as the source of the River Test. Route finding is pretty straightforward and the walk makes much use of a section of the Wayfarer's Walk which is well waymarked. Never dropping below 275 feet above sea level, this route reaches the heady altitude (for Hampshire) of 750 feet above sea level.
The walk commences at the car park for Watership Down at the summit of White Hill, south of Kingsclere on the B3051, grid reference SU516564. (Alternative start points can be used as desired where the route intersects the roads. There is parking at the roadside in Deane SU547501 and at Overton school SU510502. These start points are recommended if you prefer to be going downhill on the way back!)
Take care crossing the B3051 if you have parked on the roadside and follow the clearly marked Wayfarer's Walk heading almost due south initially and soon turning south east. Climb for some 800 metres and then the route descends to a minor road heading for Hannington. Turn briefly left on the lane and then right along the waymarked route past Walkeridge Farm. The route continues for over 1.5km in a straight line as a green lane until it turns sharply left past Warren Hill Cottages and enters the hamlet of North Oakley. Continue along the road through the village until reaching farm buildings on the right where a fingerpost directs you past the farm buildings and into the fields behind them. The path heads uphill and is easily made out as a gap ahead.
Reaching a more substantial path at a cross-roads, turn left to Freemantle Farm. Pass the elegant farmhouse and follow the waymarks as they direct you to the right up a farm track initially. The path takes 90 degree turns left and right in swift succession and then drops to some woods. The easiest course of action through the woods is to follow the frequent waymarks until past Great Deane Wood. 400 meters after the path leaves the edge of this wood there is a waymarked post signalling a split from the main path across a field that heads for the south eastern corner of Little Deane Wood (this was not visible on the ground at the time of writing, so a compass bearing of 198 degrees was used initially. When the corner of Little Deane Wood is sighted, head for that.
Ignore the crossing lane at the corner of Little Deane Wood and continue almost due south, taking care not to miss the waymark on the right at a break in the hedge where a kissing gate conveys you into a field on a south westerly bearing. Head to the left of the farm buildings to find the gate that accesses the lane at Deane Down Farm. After 200 metres turn left into a field and cross the railway at the bridge. Continue in a south westerly direction from the bridge, diagonally across fields. Ploughed at the time of writing, this was fairly heavy going, although the farmer had left the field extremities unploughed should you wish to walk two sides of the triangle instead. A break in the hedge reveals a Wayfarer's Walk waymark once more, taking you through to the country lane and Deane cottages - a typical row of period thatched cottages. Turn left at the junction and say goodbye to the Wayfarer's Walk for some miles now. Take the signed footpath on the right just south of the church. Continue through the field along a well worn path, through a narrow wood and on to the village of Ashe along a clearly visible path in the middle of the field.
Cross the lane and continue past Ashe church and follow the lane past some farm buildings. Take the fence line on the left and the peculiar doughnut shaped 'pond' with its central island beyond the fence is the source of the river Test. Ignore the crossing lane past the fence and continue into the field with waymarked footpath, fairly closely following the infant Test (which appears to have already grown in stature quite alarmingly). At a cross-roads of paths, cross the infant Test and turn right up a boggy footpath which soon crosses the Test again over some unsteady sleepers. Follow this boggy path to Polhampton. From here the route is a tarmac lane with a series of pools to the left formed by the burgeoning river Test. Upon reaching the lane leading to Overton Station, turn left for a few yards and then take the pleasant signed footpath on the right through some woods and arcing around a series of pools.
Reaching the B3051 at Overton, cross almost directly over to Overton's 'Little Meadow' with its ornamental garden and plaque. An obvious path heads uphill and due west emerging at Overton school. Turn right onto the lane here and continue for several miles along it as it degrades into Court Drove, crosses the railway, Harrow Way, goes past Willesley Warren Farm and eventually emerges onto a fast moving unclassified road. Turn right and walk along the side of this dangerous and dead straight road for some 700 metres. Just before the road turns sharp right, there is a bridlepath on the left heading into the woods. Pass a farm on the left (with free range turkeys when I walked past!) and into an enclosed path that continues to make its way across the isolated downs.
The path climbs steadily and curves to the right as it passes a 237m trig point and rejoins the Wayfarer's Walk as it makes its way along Watership Down with its spectacular views north. Passing the gallops to the right, the broad chalk path delivers you back to the start point.
Other walks nearby
Walk 1508 Hannington from Kingsclere - easy - 6.0 miles/9.8 km
Walk 2063 Watership Down and Ladle Hill from the Sydmonton Estate - easy - 4.5 miles/7.3 km
Walk 3594 Beacon Hill near Burghclere - easy - 1.5 miles/2.4 km
Walk 3595 Old Burghclere & Burghclere from Beacon Hill - easy/mod - 5.6 miles/9.1 km
Walk 2114 Hampshire and Berkshire Heights - moderate - 15.0 miles/24.4 km
Walk 2344 Newbury to Hungerford via Kennet & Avon Canal - easy/mod - 9.0 miles/14.6 km
Walk 1847 Silchester Common & Calleva Atrebatum - easy/mod - 6.2 miles/10.1 km
Walk 1901 Around Aldermaston - easy - 5.0 miles/8.1 km
Walk 1025 Farleigh Wallop and Ellisfield from Cliddesden - easy/mod - 6.5 miles/10.6 km
Walk 1947 Coombe Gibbet & Walbury Hill near Inkpen - easy/mod - 6.2 miles/10.1 km
Recommended Books & eBooks
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.
Walking Hampshire's Test Way
Guidebook to walking the 71km (44 mile) Test Way in Hampshire from high on the chalk downs of Inkpen Beacon to the Eling Tide Mill near Southampton Water. Following the beautiful, crystal clear River Test, it passes picturesque villages and fascinating historic sites. Also includes 15 day walks to explore this lovely part of pastoral England.
This pocket handbook to navigation will help you master the necessary map and compass skills for mountain walking. Chapters include map scales, symbols and contours, grid references, map reading, bearings, route planning and night and bad-weather navigation, as well as navigating with a GPS.