Sunday, 10 September 2017

Longparish to Stockbridge [Test Way 3]


We met up with Viv and Giles to resume the Test Way, very conscious that we haven't yet seen the Test itself! We headed south west along a quiet lane which extended this long narrow village. There were many very picturesque thatched cottages.

We crossed the A303 and headed into Harewood Forest. We quickly became aware of two things: an assortment of scattered buildings and some concrete paths. Something to do with the war we thought. And a bit of Googling by Giles revealed that Harewood Forest was in fact the site of a large RAF ammunition storage facility. 

An interesting website called 28dayslater gave more information. The RAF required a stretch of woodland not too close to a town, that was rail served and about 25 miles inland to store ammunition. New sidings and a branch network for military traffic were built at the Longparish station in 1942 and concrete roads were built in the forest to disperse ammunition to the storage huts. Bombs started arriving in the autumn of 1943 and the depot initially stored 40,000 tons which increased around D-Day.

At the end of the Forest we crossed open fields, pleasant enough, but not very photogenic and soon arrived in Wherwell. We diverted slightly to see if we could a bench for our picnic lunch at Wherwell church and as we did we had our first glimpse of the river beyond this interesting barn-like structure in a garden.

The church, of St Peter and Holy Cross, turned out to have a very suitable bench. It is a 19th century church (1854-8 by Woodyer) with an attractive stair-turret and a wooden bell-turret above.

Inside there are some architectural fragments from Wherwell Priory set into the walls. I rather liked this one.

We retraced our steps to follow the road out of the village. I just loved this van parked in a drive. We are currently trying to move house and have spent many months de-cluttering in preparation. The company seem to be offering to store your clutter, which doesn't seem to be quite the right approach. We have favoured getting rid of it via Oxfam, eBay and Freecycle.

After a short while, the walk got really interesting. We turned left off the road to meet this lovely wooden bridge heading across the Test towards Chilbolton Cow Common. 

The river runs in many strands here and it was fascinating to watch different branches flowing together.

We headed across the pleasant open common and met another strand of the river on the other side, with an isolated rambling cottage on the opposite bank.

We crossed and passed by the cottage to emerge onto the road in Chilbolton. We followed the road and then the former railway line for about 2.5 miles into Stockbridge. For much of the time there were views of the river, but it gradually dawned on me that as it is a famous trout stream where fishing rights can be expensive, we are probably not going to have the kind of close encounters you would have on say the Thames Path.

We reached the roundabout at the edge of Stockbridge and turned right, away from the Test Way, to find a tea shop. Stockbridge has a long wide High St, but behind it on both sides there are really only water meadows. It was now cool and grey so we didn't explore, but we did notice the Grosvenor Hotel, which is according to Pevsner the grandest of the several 18th century coaching inns. Stockbridge is on the Winchester to Salisbury Road, now the A30.

Conditions: sunny and warm, until late on.

Distance: 8 miles.

Map: Explorer 158 (Newbury & Hungerford).

Rating: four stars.

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