Hampshire walk around Owslebury
PUBLISHED: 15:24 18 December 2015 | UPDATED: 11:31 05 October 2017
© Steve Davison
Keep an eye out for some unusual animals on a walk around Owslebury on the western edge of the South Downs National Park, near to Marwell Zoo
The village of Owslebury, tucked in the western reaches of the South Downs National Park, just a few miles to the south of Winchester, has a history stretching back over a thousand years to 964 when King Edgar granted lands hereabouts to the Bishop of Winchester. However, its history probably goes back much further as the former Roman Road from Winchester (Venta Belgarum) to Porchester (Portus Magnus) on the south coast, passes through the village.
Before setting out along the Pilgrims Trail, take a look round St Andrew’s Church which has stood looking out over the rolling countryside, for over 700 years. The 155-mile medieval Pilgrims Trail runs from the shrine of St Swithun at Winchester Cathedral to Portsmouth, and then on to Mont Saint-Michel, France. A quick look at the map reveals that the section of the trail which the walk follows is also following the course of the Roman Road, and this also forms part of the Monarch’s Way. This 615-mile walking route is based on the escape route taken by Charles II after his defeat by Oliver Cromwell in the final battle of the Civil War at Worcester in 1651.
We soon leave the Pilgrims Trail behind and head west passing Sladford’s Copse before meandering through fields - take a look to the right to catch sight of the 18th century Marwell House, once the home of Dorothea, Viscountess Kelburn. After passing Marwell Farmhouse, the route heads alongside Marwell Zoo – keep a look out and you might see some of the exotic animals. Marwell, founded by John Knowles in 1972, was one of the earliest zoos in Europe to place emphasis on animal conservation, and is now home to around 200 species ranging from snow leopards to giraffes and meerkats to penguins (www.marwell.org.uk).
The final leg meanders through Cowleaze Copse and Horsham Copse before following Water Lane towards Owslebury, passing the ideally located Ship Inn, to arrive back at the church.
• Distance: 4.75 miles (7.6km)
• Time: 2.5 hours without stops
• Terrain: Some ups and downs, tracks and paths which can be muddy, stiles (dog-friendly), some gates, sections of country road
• Start/Finish: St Andrew’s Church in Owslebury (SU514234), 4 miles south from M3 junction 10; limited on-street parking in village
• Map: OS Explorer 132
• Refreshment: The Ship Inn (01962 777756) at Owslebury
1 (SU514234) - From the Main Road in Owslebury, head south towards St Andrew’s Church, with cottages on the left, and go through the left-hand gate into the churchyard. Follow the path, keeping to the left of the church and leave through a wall-gap in the far-left corner. Go down some steps and turn right along the tarmac track (Pitcot Lane) - the walk is now following the Pilgrim’s Trail. Keep ahead down the hedge-lined track, enter a field and bear left alongside the boundary, passing a dip and then rising up, following the track as it swings right. Continue alongside the fence, later heading downhill. Near the bottom, where the track swings right, go straight on over a stile in the hedge.
2 (SU520225) - Cross over Lower Baybridge Lane and follow the signposted track uphill, heading towards Phillips Farmhouse. Just before the gate, dogleg right into the field and continue along the left-hand edge down to a gate. Follow the enclosed path to a path junction and keep ahead through the gate in the high fence. Follow the Pilgrim’s Trail through Austin’s Copse, leave through another high gate and bear left to a track (Red Lane). Turn right for 350m to a junction.
3 (SU520214) - Turn right (the Pilgrims Trail goes left) and follow a footpath through the trees. Enter a field and continue along the left-hand edge, with Sladford’s Copse on the left. Soon dogleg left into the next field and continue, but now with the field edge on the right. Cross a stile and follow the right-hand boundary through three fields separated by stiles - to the right you can see Marwell House. At the field corner cross a stile and turn right along the enclosed path which soon swings right. Continue along the hedge-lined gravel drive as it swings left to a lane beside Marwell Farmhouse (left) and the entrance to Marwell House (right).
4 (SU511217) - Bear right along the lane, keep left (straight on) at the junction with Lower Baybridge Lane and 20m after the junction turn left onto a bridleway. Keep left (straight on) with the high fence of Marwell Zoo on the right. Follow the bridleway as it turns left uphill and then turns right, still following the high boundary fence. Keep ahead across the access track and then past a house to a road at a bend.
5 (SU503214) - Bear right for a few metres and then turn right up a signposted bridleway through Cowleaze Copse. Cross over the entrance road to the zoo (entrance on right), keep ahead along the bridleway, cross another track (car park on the left) and continue through the trees to a junction. Keep ahead along the bridleway, slightly uphill (Horsham Copse on the right) and ignore a crossing path. Keep left at the next junction for 50m to another junction and turn right, following Water Lane gently uphill to The Ship Inn (left). Keep left at the junction and follow the Main Road through the village back to St Andrew’s Church.