Saturday, 19 November 2016


Romsey Abbey

We did this circular walk starting from Romsey on our way to Poole. We started on the edge of the Market Square and our first sight of note was the Corn Exchange of 1864, "surprisingly classical" says Pevsner.

We headed east along The Hundred, passing this rather handsome Georgian house on the left.

At the point where The Hundred becomes Winchester Road, there was a wonderful Dutch style house on the right called English Court, dated 1846.

Further on, at the junction with Southampton Road, stands the wonderful art deco Plaza Theatre.

Here we turned left and followed the bank of the defunct Romsey Barge Canal which ran from Andover to Redbridge (Southampton). It dates from 1794 but was never commercially viable. The initial section was shallow and weed-choked but it became more picturesque further long.

After a mile or so we turned left and headed across a marshy area to merge on the A3057 where we turned right to soon cross the River Test, wide, shallow and fast-flowing.

We followed the bank for a short while and turned west passing the inviting Duke's Head ...

... pub to walk along the busy B3084 to the entrance to Roke Manor, now a company HQ. What we could see of the Manor was not very inspiring, but the trees in the car park were a pleasing autumnal shade.

Level with the Manor we headed west and then south to walk through Squabb Wood, now along the Test Way. The wood contained a mixture of trees, with the beeches being the most attractive.

We emerged into fields and continued along the same line to reach Sadler's Mill on the outskirts of Romsey. A blue plaque explained that the present building was rebuilt by Lord Palmerston in 1748. There is a salmon ladder over to the right.

Heading now towards the Abbey, we passed John Bartlett's Almshouses of 1807, a pleasant, curving terrace.

Now finally to the celebrated Abbey (see the picture at the head of this post). It was originally founded as a convent in 907 and re-founded in 974, and was then rebuilt between about 1120 and 1230 in the Norman style and was bought by the town at the Dissolution of the Monasteries, which ensured its continued existence, although the conventual buildings were all torn down.

The west end however dates only from 1908 and is by W D Caröe - Pevsner describes it as beautifully simple, a very fair assessment.

The Abbey is 256 ft long and inside there is an impression of great length and height, albeit with quite a variety of columns and arches.

We now headed back to the car park, taking in the so-called King John's House - which no doubt like those in Axbridge and near Odiham has no proven connection with the unpopular king.

Finally, I couldn't resist a photo of Pinchpenny House - which a blue says was so called because a tax collector once lived here. The narrow gothic windows are more interesting than the name.

Conditions: clear, then a bit grey, then rain suddenly at the very end.

Distance: 5.75 miles.

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

Map: Explorere 131 (Romsey, Andover and Test Valley).

Rating: four stars.

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