FREE Hampshire Walk: Kingsclere & Watership Down (4 miles)
With views of Watership Down and the dramatic scarp that it lies on, this walk on the edge of the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is uplifting in any winter weather.
The walk below appears exactly as it does in our book, Hampshire & The New Forest Year Round Walks, complete with map, pictures and step-by-step directions. You can even click here to download it and take it with you.
The walk starts in the pretty village of Kingsclere and circuits the southern edge of the village in gently rolling farmland with beautiful views of this scarp made famous by local author Richard Adams. This is also racehorse country and the walk passes gallops for the Park House Stables, owned by Clare Balding’s family. Returning to the village, there are three warm pubs to choose from, and no fewer than 68 listed buildings.
- Terrain: Gently undulating; mainly on well surfaced footpaths, but muddy in patches.
- Starting point: The Fieldgate Centre (GR SU521587).
- How to get there/parking: Kingsclere lies just off the A339 between Basingstoke and Newbury. The free car park at the Fieldgate Centre is signposted from the Newbury road within the village. Sat nav: RG20 5SQ.
- Refreshments: Several pubs & a café in the village including The Crown, and Bel & The Dragon, plus a bar in the Fieldgate Centre.
1 From the Fieldgate Centre, walk out of the car park back down towards Foxs Lane, cross the road onto the pavement and turn left. At the junction with Newbury Road, turn left and, just past The Old House, turn left again down Frogs Hole. Keeping to the left, follow a footpath up the side of a ditch, with a high fence to the right-hand side. Continue straight on along the side of the large field, right at the end (the official footpath goes diagonally across the field) and left into a second field, passing the barns of Porch Farm on the right-hand side. Just past the barns, turn right, then left, skirting the edge of a third field. Pass through a gap in the hedge and down a couple of steps onto a sunken path and turn left. Continue straight on to Ecchinswell Road.
2 Turn right along this rural road and continue for 200m. Turn left at a footpath sign along a farm track and continue to a large barn. Turn left at the barn, keeping the field boundary to your left-hand side, and now with views across to the scarp on your right-hand side and Watership Down (see box below). Continue straight on, passing through a gap in the hedge to a second field and continue down through a small gate onto Foxs Lane.
3 Turn right then immediately left onto Bear Hill, passing houses to the right and left and, at the bottom of the hill at a triangle of land and a fork in the road, take the right-hand fork, and cross over the road to a wide bridleway opposite, Hollowshot Lane. Continue straight on as it goes from a wide track to a wooded footpath, enjoying views across to the Park House Stables, racehorse gallops and the downland scarp. Park House Stables is owned by Andrew Balding. He and his sister, TV presenter Clare, grew up here. If you are lucky you might see a future race winner being exercised on the gallops.
4 After just under a mile in total, climbing steadily, the path reaches a distinct fork and meeting of paths. Turn sharp left, uphill, along Rectory Lane, a wide track with high hedges on both sides and occasional glimpses back to the scarp. Continue straight on as the path reaches the crest of the rise and goes back down the other side before becoming a tarmac road, The Dell. Continue straight on to the junction with Basingstoke Road and turn left.
5 Passing the George and Horn pub on the right and fire station on the left, join George Street and continue straight on down this road to the church and village centre. After suitable refreshments, continue straight on past the church on the left and the Crown pub on the right. At Brewery Cottage, leave the main road and take the left-hand road (entrance closed to cars), Popes Hill. At the top of the road, turn left and right into Field Gate Drive.
WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR - WATERSHIP DOWN
Watership Down is a hill or down on a much longer chalk scarp feature. It was made famous in Richard Adam’s 1972 book about a fictional group of rabbits including Hazel, Fiver and Bigwig as they flee their warren in search of a new home and, after many adventures, settle at Watership Down. Adams described the area as: “High, lonely hills, where the wind and the sound carry and the ground’s as dry as straw in a barn”.
- Alex Batho