Bishop's Waltham to Winchester
Traverse Hampshire’s historic towns and charming countryside
Follow the route - Bishop's Waltham to Winchester
> From Bishop’s Waltham continue to Southwick take the Porchester road to Portsdown Hill.
Visiting Portsdown Hill
The view from Portsdown’s chalk heights is one of the finest in Britain. Ahead is Portsmouth and its spreading harbour, home of the Royal Navy, and beyond is the Isle of Wight. In between lies Spithead, where naval fleet reviews take place and, further west, the Solent, now a yachtsman’s paradise. Portchester’s 3rd-century Roman castle, Nelson’s flagship, Victoria’s beloved Osborne House and the homes of Charles Dickens and Lord Tennyson are all within sight of Portsdown.
For a fascinating look at history, trek down the tunnels in one of ‘Palmerston’s follies’. These were giant forts built by the Prime Minister in the 1850s to guard the Solent against the French. Fort Nelson is open to the public.
> From Portsdown Hill take the A3 heading northwards, and at Waterlooville turn on to the B2150 through Denmead to Hambledon.
The cause of Hambledon’s worldwide fame lies 2 miles (3km) from its pretty Georgian centre on the Clanfield road. In front of the Bat and Ball pub, a granite monument stands near a thatched hut and beautifully mown sward of grass. For sporting people the world over, this is a shrine, for it was here on Broadhalfpenny Down that Hambledon got its title ‘the cradle of cricket’. It was in Sussex that shepherds first played the game, but here rules were established and skills honed. Richard Nyren, the landlord of the Bat and Ball in 1760, was the manager of the village team which, back in 1777, played All England and won – and his victuals were equally good. Players, we are told, ‘struck dismay into a round of beef’ and his punch was ‘such that would have made a cat speak’!
Places to stay in Hambledon
> Leave Hambledon on an unclassified road, passing through Clanfield, then follow Petersfield signs to join the A3. In a mile (1.6km) turn off for Queen Elizabeth Country Park.
Visiting Queen Elizabeth Country Park
Set in a deep valley, with steep downland on either side, this is the ideal place to leave the car and stretch your legs. On one side, dense woodland stretches upward; on the other, smooth grassland, speckled with sheep, climbs impressively to the viewpoint on Butser Hill.
Butser Ancient Farm is a reconstruction of real Iron Age farm remains. Here, visitors can walk freely round the huts and pens, finding out for themselves in a unique and graphic way what life was like in the prehistoric age. The Park Centre, with café and shop, sells gifts, wildlife guides, maps and equipment, as well as locally made produce and organic meats, including lamb from the Downs. Annual events include the Queen Elizabeth Country Park Show in July.
Places to stay near Queen Elizabeth Country Park
> Rejoin the A3 towards Petersfield, turning left via unclassified roads to East Meon and West Meon. Turn right on to the A32, then left at traffic lights on to the A272 signposted Bramdean. In 4 miles (6km) go right (B3046) through Cheriton to New Alresford.
Visiting New Alresford
Alresford (pronounced Orlsford) is a town rich in history. Built in the 13th century by the Bishops of Winchester as a wool centre, it annually played host to 200,000 sheep, from medieval times to as recently as 1972. The best way to sample its charm is to descend picturesque Broad Street, turning left into Ladywell Lane to the ancient mill on the River Alre, where woollen cloth was fulled – that is, cleaned and thickened – returning to the town centre via The Dean.
Alresford’s main attraction is its elegance, and everywhere there are small clues to the town’s chequered history. For instance, the steep pitch of the tiled roofs hint at previous thatching. The town was ravaged by a series of fires between the early 15th century and 1689, which spread quickly along the thatch, but the practice continued despite an edict from Winchester banning it.
Places to stay near New Alresford
> Leave Alresford on the B3047, turning left to continue on past Itchen Stoke and Itchen Abbas. In 2 1/2 miles (4km) cross the A33 at Kings Worthy and return to Winchester.
Physically, Winchester is relatively small. Spiritually, emotionally and historically it is large indeed. It was founded shortly before the Romans arrived in Britain, at an important crossing point on the River Itchen. A glance at a map shows how Roman roads radiate from the city like spokes of a wheel, and certainly Roman Winchester – Venta Belgarum – was as important as the road pattern suggests.