Hampshire walk around Rockford and Ibsley
- Credit: Steve Davison
Follow Steve Davison as he heads to the western edge of the New Forest for an easy wander over the neighbouring commons of Rockford and Ibsley
This month 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.
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.
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.
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’.
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• Distance: 4.25 miles (6.9km)
• Time: 2.25 hours without stops
• Start: Rockford Common car park (SU164082); 1 mile east along Ellingham Drove off the A338
• Terrain: Some ups and downs, tracks and paths, some gates no stiles (dog friendly), short sections of road
• Map: OS Explorer OL22
• Refreshments: The Alice Lisle (01425 474700) at Rockford
• To find out more about Steve, including his books, visit: www.steve-davison.co.uk
1 (SU164082) – From the car park turn right back to the junction and fork left along the road towards Rockford and Poulner with Dockens Water on the right. At the next junction turn right for a few metres and then left through a gate. The path splits; take the left fork (Avon Valley Path) keeping parallel to the road (the right-hand fork leads to the Blashford Lakes Nature Reserve). Leave through a gate and keep ahead along the road to reach a crossroads; on the way, over to the right, is The Alice Lisle pub. Turn left along the lane for 500m and at the sharp right-hand bend, shortly after passing Rockford Farm, fork left onto a track. Almost immediately take the left-hand path through a gate.
2 (SU164076) – Keep ahead through trees, staying close to the left-hand edge and passing a National Trust sign, then continue along the slight valley as it curves left up Bigsburn Hill. With a fence ahead, turn right and follow the gravel drive away from Chatley Wood House to a T-junction. Turn right for 25m then left along the track to another junction and turn left again following the track slightly downhill. Ignore a track off to the left and go up a slope where the track splits, take the left fork past the low vehicle barrier. Follow the level track for 450m and shortly after a track joins from the left, turn left up a narrow path and then down through Rogdens Bottom.
3 (SU173089) – Cross the minor road and continue straight on, following the track down through the trees; soon crossing Dockens Water. Keep ahead uphill for 650m to the second cross junction. Turn right for 350m, keeping straight on at the junction to reach a trig point just to the left of Whitefield Plantation. From the trig point head west along a path, descending slightly to cross a large, flat, grassy area dotted with gorse. At the far side go down a slope to pass a low vehicle barrier and join a track. Turn left, soon pass to the right of the house (Forest Holm). Ignore the path on the right and keep straight on between the garden wall and fence for 50m to a junction.
4 (SU165097) – Fork left to follow the Avon Valley Path, passing to the left of some houses; the walk now follows this long-distance route back to the start. Soon head downhill, cross the track and continue across a small footbridge. Follow the path up some wooden duckboard sections, missing out a very muddy patch, and continue along the path with a fence to the right for 600m. At Newlands Plantation keep ahead through the kissing gate, and follow the enclosed path with fields to the right and a pine wood on the left for 200m, ignoring a fenced track to the right on the way. At the signed path junction turn right through a gate and down the enclosed path. Go through a gate and turn left along the road to pass Moyles Court School. Keep ahead at the junction to reach Dockens Water, cross via the footbridge on the left, and at the road junction turn left to arrive back to the car park.
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