Hampshire walk - Ecchinswell and Watership Down

PUBLISHED: 08:41 22 January 2020 | UPDATED: 08:41 22 January 2020

Downland view not far from White Hill

Downland view not far from White Hill

Fiona Barltrop

A walk from Ecchinswell over Watership Down

Stubble field near KingsclereStubble field near Kingsclere

Situated near the foot of the North Hampshire Downs not far from the Berkshire border is the village of Ecchinswell (pronounced Etchinswell), designated a Conservation Area in 1990 in recognition of its special architectural and historic significance.

The village's name is believed to be derived from the Old Saxon word Eikena, which itself derives from the Old Norse word Eik, the Icelandic word for tree. At the time of the Domesday Book it was called Eccleswelle and the land was used for "supplies for the monks of Winchester". Surrounded by a network of footpaths and bridleways, Ecchinswell makes a good base for a variety of walks, especially with a welcoming pub, the Royal Oak, to look forward to on the return.

Less than two miles south of the village is Watership Down, the setting for Richard Adams' well-known book of the same name. In the novel a group of rabbits leave their doomed warren to go in search of a new home which they eventually find at Watership Down. Nuthanger Farm, located between the village and down, also features in the book.

This circuit heads eastwards to Kingsclere, then climbs diagonally onto the Downs and along the top of Watership Down, thereafter descending to Sydmonton, heading north past impressive Sydmonton Court - home to Lord (Andrew) Lloyd Webber - and thence back to Ecchinswell. A slightly longer option, taking in more of the fine ridge-top stretch, is recommended for those with the time and energy.

View from White Hill (near pt 3)View from White Hill (near pt 3)

THE WALK

1. (SU500597) Exit the car park by the vehicle entrance, cross the road and follow the track opposite to the left of the war memorial, in a few paces bearing left along a path through the trees. Ignore a path turning on the right and continue to a junction by a water pumping station. Bear right over the bridge now following the waymarked Brenda Parker Way, a 78-mile long distance path through North Hampshire, from Aldershot to Andover, commemorating a Ramblers member and volunteer. The waymark discs have both the name of the way and a chaffinch symbol on them. Continue on the Brenda Parker Way to an access road, going left and soon forking left at a waymark post to follow a path parallel to the road.

2. (SU514593) Take the next left leaving the Brenda Parker Way and follow the footpath along the field edge, turning right, then left past Porch Farm, continuing along the field edge. Cross the next field diagonally to the far right hand corner. Go through the gap and follow the enclosed path, then track to reach the Newbury Road at Kingsclere. Cross the road and turn right, following it round to the left to the impressive church, St Mary's (originally Norman, but rebuilt by the Victorians), turning right at the junction with Swan Street (B3051). For the longer route (marked in blue on the map) turn left up Anchor Road opposite the church passing the car park. Continue up the path to a T-junction, go left, then immediately right just after the gate to head up the right hand side of the recreation ground. Descend some steps, go straight across at the junction and head south along a track/footpath beside the Gallops towards the foot of the Downs. Take the footpath that heads diagonally left up through the trees, turn right at the T-junction along the side of Cottington's Hill (topped with a mast), then left up to another T-junction and right. The path leads to the Wayfarer's Walk, where you turn right to the road. Cross and continue along the ridge-top track to join the main route at waypoint 5.

3. (SU525586) Turn right along the footpath at the end of the churchyard (church on right), cross footbridges and continue to a lane (note the Brenda Parker Way waymark disc, the walk briefly rejoins the route). Turn left along the road, keeping ahead at the junction. Continue alongside the road with care for about 400m passing a gated track on the left.

4. (SU518582) Turn left at a small layby and fingerpost and follow the wide grassy path, turning left at the yellow footpath waymark after about 500m. Continue towards the foot of the Downs, turning right at the T-junction. Continue along the track, soon with trees on the left. Watch for a waymark post and turn left here into the trees, soon emerging into the open and continuing diagonally right up the grassy hillside. Go through a gate and carry on up to another. The path levels out, then crosses the gallops, beyond which you go through a gate in the fence to join the ridge-top track (also the route of the Wayfarer's Walk, another waymarked long distance path, which traverses the length of Hampshire).

5. (SU500569) Turn right passing a small fenced enclosure where a beech tree has been planted, a plaque attached to the fence in recognition of Richard Adams, 'a lover of Watership Down and its inhabitants'. Continue on the Wayfarer's Walk descending to a lane. Cross and carry on for about 200m.

6. (SU489565) Turn right at a pylon down a footpath, left along the lane and soon fork right along a drive and right again before a barn along a path heading north. Continue along the estate road passing Sydmonton Court on the right. Carry on northwards until you reach a turning on the right. This leads via Watership Farm to a lane, where you turn left to Ecchinswell. Walk through the village past the pub to return to the car park.

COMPASS POINTS

Start/finish: Village hall car park, Ecchinswell, or considerate roadside parking

Map: OS Explorer 144

Distance: 7⅔ miles (12km) or 9 miles (14km)

Terrain: Field and downland footpaths and tracks; stretches along country lanes

Time: Three to four hours; or four to four and a half hours for the longer option

Refreshments: The Royal Oak, Ecchinswell 01635 297355 - closed on Mondays; The Crown 01635 299500, Bel & The Dragon 01635 299342 and The George

& Horn 01635 299130 are all found

in Kingsclere

Public transport: Bus service (The Link) between Basingstoke and Newbury via Kingsclere, Mon - Sat, stagecoachbus.com

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