Friday, 15 January 2016

Horsebridge and King's Somborne

Horsebridge Mill

This very pleasant walk starts at the hamlet of Horsebridge. You pass the handsome early 19th century mill and turn right along the Test Way alongside the shallow, fast flowing river Test. The path here follows the route of a dismantled railway. After about three-quarters of a mile you turn right onto the Clarendon Way to soon reach a road high above Kings Somborne. The village sits at the bottom of a valley.

You follow a field-edge path down to the village where you turn right to reach the church of St Peter and St Paul. The church is 13th century, but as is so often the case, much of what you now see is the result of a Victorian restoration. Inside there are some old brasses and a monument to a 14th century vicar.

We headed up church lane and were slightly surprised to find a vineyard on the right: Garlick Lane Vineyard, part of Somborne Valley Vineyards.

At the top of the hill the route bears left and passes a rather poignant monument to four German airmen shot down in 1940. Out walk book explains that the pilot, Bob Doe, who shot them down as his fifth kill (giving him the status of a "ace') went to the scene of the crash and was sicked by the scene of his triumph. He carried on fighting but never again went sightseeing. As an addendum to this tale, the small metal plate at the bottom of the monument gives the names of the Germans, discovered at some later date. From Wikipedia I learned that Doe shot down another 11 German planes and lived to be 89.

Soon after this the route turns left and follows the edge of a gallop, part of the equestrian centre.

This gives way to a field-edge path which descends gradually into King's Somborne. We returned to centre for lunch at the very pleasant Crown Inn, full of locals who were doing the same.

Now it past the church again then immediately right past the school, with a large grassy area on the left which is said to have been the site of John of Gaunt's Palace. This may have the same status as the numerous sites of "King John's Hunting Lodge" - i.e. a myth.

After crossing a playing field and a road, a narrow path running behind and sometimes through gardens led back to Horsebridge. This was a disappointing end to the walk.

On returning to Horsebridge we went to see the restored Southern Railway station, now a private house. The one angle with a reasonable view was looking straight into the sun, but I quite enjoyed this view through the hedge of an old coach.

Conditions: bright and sunny, cool.

Map: Explorer 131 (Romsey, Andover & Test Valley).

Distance: 6 miles.

From: 50 walks in Hampshire and Isle of Wight (AA).

Rating: three and a half stars.

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