This month we head to the village of Houghton to the west of Winchester, for a fairly easy dog-friendly wander along paths and tracks through the lovely rolling Hampshire countryside on the west side of the Test Valley.
The village, strung out along the single main street, has a written history stretching back to Saxon times, however, this area has been inhabited by man for over 4000 years. After following the street for a while we arrive at the 18th century Boot Inn before heading up Church Lane to reach All Saints Church with its picturesque weatherboarded tower and broach spire.
The church, which dates from the 12th century, is worth a quick visit to admire the colourful stained glass windows.
The walk now heads west along tracks with views stretching beyond to the undulating outline of Broughton Down. At the track junction take a seat and admire the scenery before heading gently downhill to meet up with two long distance trails; the Monarch’s Way and the Clarendon Way.
The 615-mile long Monarch’s Way, which runs from Worcester via Bristol and Yeovil to Brighton, follows the likely escape route taken by King Charles II in 1651 after being defeated in the Battle of Worcester. Whilst the much shorter Clarendon Way is 24-mile route linking two of England’s most beautiful cathedrals; Salisbury and Winchester. The route gets its name from Clarendon Park on the eastern edge of Salisbury which was the site of Clarendon Palace, a royal hunting lodge dating back to Norman times.
The unusual stone Millennium sculpture on the left of the track, carved by Zoe de L’Isle Whittier, depicts a group of rooks and also shows the route of the Clarendon Way.
From here we head eastwards following the two long distance trails along Faithfulls Drove back to Houghton. On the way back through the village, be sure to follow the short detour to reach the footbridge over the River Test; a great place for a restful sit or a picnic, whilst watching the river and its wildlife. The 40 mile River Test, well known for its fly fishing, flows from its source near Ashe down to Southampton where it joins with the River Itchen to form Southampton Water.
After completing the walk, if you have some spare time, it’s worth visiting Houghton Lodge, less than half a mile away to the north along the main road, where the gardens and tea room are opening during the summer months. The house is said to be one of the finest and earliest examples of Cottage Ornée – a style of ‘picturesque’ Gothic architecture – dating from the late 18th century; published in Hampshire Life, November 2017.