Hampshire Walk – January 2018

Head to the western edge of the New Forest for an easy wander over the neighbouring commons of Rockford and Ibsley.

The trig point near Whitefield Plantation affords a great view to the west
The trig point near Whitefield Plantation affords a great view to the west

The route heads through Rockford, soon passing The Alice Lisle pub before meandering north-east over Rockford Common and then north over neighbouring Ibsley Common to arrive at Whitefield Plantation; from here there are some great views. Soon the route heads south along part of the Avon Valley Path – a 34 mile long distance route between Christchurch and Salisbury – passing Moyles Court School before crossing Dockens Water to arrive back at the start.

Dockens Water ford and footbridge near Moyles Court
Dockens Water ford and footbridge near Moyles Court

The pub is named after Lady Alice Lisle – the last woman to be publicly beheaded in England – who lived at nearby Moyles Court; the large house, named after the Moels family who held the manor during the 13th century, is now home to Moyles Court School.

The Alice Lisle pub at Rockford was once the local school
The Alice Lisle pub at Rockford was once the local school

A few weeks after the Duke of Monmouth’s failed rebellion to overthrow James II, Alice was discovered giving shelter to Richard Nelthorpe and the nonconformist minister John Hickes, both supporters of Monmouth. Following her trial by the infamous Judge Jefferys,  she was executed on the 2 September 1685 in Winchester, close to the 16th-century Eclipse Inn; Alice is buried at St Mary and All Saints Church in Ellingham, a mile to the west of Moyles Court.

New Forest pony on Ibsley Common
New Forest pony on Ibsley Common

Just off the route, and well-worth a visit for seeing over-wintering birds, is the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust’s Blashford Lakes Nature Reserve, formed from a series of flooded gravel pits. Some of these former gravel workings are on the site of the WWII Ibsley Airfield which closed in 1947. Up on Iblsey Common, a short way north of Whitefield Plantation, are the ruins of what was once a WWII high frequency direction finding (HF/DF) station; often known by its nickname ‘Huff-Duff’; from here it’s a short walk back to Michael’s Field; published in Hampshire Life, January 2018.