Hampshire walk along the Mill Trail to Whitchurch
PUBLISHED: 11:50 20 October 2014 | UPDATED: 11:50 20 October 2014
© Steve Davison
Follow Steve Davison to Whitchurch in the north-west corner of Hampshire for a meander along the Mill Trail
This month’s walk through the town of Whitchurch, lying along the River Test, takes you past some of its several water-powered mills, many of which are now private houses. From the car park, the walk takes in a loop passing the former Fulling Mill and then follows the River Test, famed for its fly-fishing and varied wildlife, before visiting All Hallows Church. Call in at the church to see a rare 9th-century Saxon carved stone.
On reaching the town centre the walk passes the White Hart, a former coaching inn that overlooks the town hall. Next to the hall is the house where one of the town’s most famous residents was born, Alfred Thompson Denning, later Lord Denning, Master of the Rolls (1899-1999) and described as the ‘most influential judge of the 20th century’. Later in his life he moved back to Whitchurch, after buying The Lawns opposite the church. Another famous resident is Richard Adams, author of Watership Down.
The walk then heads for Bere Mill, a former paper mill founded by Henri Portal in 1712; anyone wanting a shorter walk can start heading back from here. The longer walk continues to the little village of Freefolk, passing Manor Cottages, a picturesque, and impressively long, terrace of thatch-roofed cottages built in 1939.
Next stop is the Church of St Nicholas, which dates back to the 13th century and is cared for by the Churches Conservation Trust. Step inside to see a royal coat of arms of King William III dated 1701; a 15th-century carved wood screen and a fine Jacobean monument to Sir Richard Powlett, dated 1614.
The route back to Whitchurch meanders through fields with views across the valley. On the way, a short detour leads to the former Town Mill that was milling corn until 1940.
Once back at the car park, call in at the Silk Mill (01256 892065; www.whitchurchsilkmill.org.uk) for a cup of tea and a look around. It’s the only working mill along the upper stretches of the River Test, although these days electricity has replaced water power.
The mill, built in the early 1800’s, began producing silk in 1830 and is the oldest silk mill in Britain still in its original building
• Distance: 51/2 miles (8.7km) or 4 miles (6.3km)
• Time: 21/2 or 13/4 hours without stops
• Terrain: Gentle ups and downs, tracks and paths which can be muddy with stiles (dog friendly) and gates, sections of road
• Start/Finish: Car park on Winchester Road in Whitchurch; grid ref SU463478
• Map: OS Explorer 144
• Refreshments: Choice of cafes and pubs in Whitchurch
1 (SU463478) – Leave the car park and turn right along Winchester Road for 300m. Fork right along The Weir to the end with the Fulling Mill ahead. Turn right along the enclosed path, cross a footbridge and follow the path northwards beside the River Test (right). At the wall, follow the path left to the B3400 with All Hallows Church opposite. Cross over and turn right along Church Street, later passing the Kings Arms pub to a roundabout. Take the second left exit and immediately fork right beside The White Hart. Follow London Street for 500m and fork right down The Green, keeping left, to the end.
2 (SU470481) – Follow the enclosed path, firstly with the fence on the right then dogleg left and continue with the fence on the left. Go through a kissing gate and bear left through the field to leave through another gate. Turn right along the lane to cross the River Test at Bere Mill (for the shorter walk bear right towards the mill and take the track just to the left of it following a wall. Cross a stile and follow the track through the field to a gate on the right, rejoining the walk at Point 4). For the main walk keep ahead through two gates, then continue through two large fields separated by a gate. Later keep ahead with trees on the left and just before the cottage, turn left to a gate. Keep ahead through the paddock, cross the sluice gate and then a footbridge. Continue through the trees to the B3400 at Freefolk (250m to the left is the Watership Down Inn).
3 (SU485487) – Turn right with Manor Cottages over to the left and then go right along the lane towards the Church of St Nicholas, re-crossing the River Test. At the junction (ahead through the small gate is the church) turn right up the track for 250m to a split. Fork right into the field and follow the upper edge beside the trees. Continue through the next field dropping down to a gate (shortcut joins here).
4 (SU479478) – Continue through the long field. Ignore a stile on the left after the trees and continue through a gate to follow the fence on the right. Head through the scrub and leave through a kissing gate. Keep ahead through two fields following the right-hand edge. Once in the meadow, keep ahead following the path nearest to the right-hand edge to a path junction; just to the right is the Town Mill. We keep straight on at this point, following a surfaced path as it swings round a playing field on the left. Continue along McFauld Way and then turn right along a surfaced path with a play area on the left. Continue along the enclosed path and cross Winchester Road back to the car park; just to the right is the picturesque Silk Mill, stop in to have a look around and enjoy a slice of cake.