Hampshire walk: Burghclere and Sandham Memorial Chapel

The Sandham Memorial Chapel – houses a stunning series of large-scale murals by Sir Stanley Spencer

The Sandham Memorial Chapel – houses a stunning series of large-scale murals by Sir Stanley Spencer © Steve Davison - Credit: Steve Davison

Steve Davison leads the way on a walk in the north-west corner of Hampshire visiting the Sandham Memorial Chapel, home to a stunning series of murals

Before setting out on this month’s walk, call in at the 19th-century Church of the Ascension to see some colourful stained glass windows and the more recent, Millennium Window. The latter, designed by Sir Lawrence Whistler, is a simple, but visually striking etched-glass creation.

After passing the war memorial the walk follows tracks and lanes to reach the Sandham Memorial Chapel; there are picnic tables in the garden for anyone wanting to stay a while.

This modest, 1920s red-brick building houses an unexpected treasure, a stunning series of large-scale murals painted by the acclaimed English artist Sir Stanley Spencer, to honour the ‘forgotten dead’ of the First World War.

The climax of the series, which took six years to complete, is The Resurrection of the Soldiers, in which British soldiers lay the white wooden crosses that had marked their graves at the feet of Christ.

The series, which chronicles Spencer’s everyday experiences of the war, rather than any scenes of action, is considered to be one of his finest works, leading some to suggest that they are ‘Britain’s answer to the Sistine Chapel’.

While working on the murals he found time to undertake some paintings of the local area, including Beacon Hill near Highclere and Cottages at Burghclere. For anyone interested in learning more about the artist, there is a gallery dedicated to his work at Cookham in Berkshire, where he spent most of his life.

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After passing The Carpenter’s Arms the walk heads south through a mix of fields and woods before crossing a disused railway line. This was once the route of the 45-mile Didcot, Newbury & Southampton Railway (D,N&S) which was built in the 1880’s to connect Didcot with Southampton; sadly the line closed in 1960.

The final leg of the walk follows tracks northwards, passing Woodground Copse, before arriving back at the church.

The walk meanders through fields and woods © Steve Davison

The walk meanders through fields and woods © Steve Davison - Credit: Steve Davison


• Distance: 4.5 miles (7.3km)

• Time: 2.25 hours without stops

• Terrain: A few gentle ups and downs, tracks and paths which can be muddy, stiles and gates

• Start/Finish: Limited roadside parking along Church Lane in Burghclere near the War Memorial, about half a mile north-east of the Sandham Memorial Chapel; grid ref SU469610

• Map: OS Explorer 144 and 158

• Refreshments: The Carpenters Arms (01635 278251) at Burghclere

The walk

1) (SU469610) – Go along Church Lane with the Church of the Ascension on the left to the junction beside the War Memorial. Cross over Harts Lane slightly to the left and follow the narrow path just left of the driveway.

2) Go through a kissing gate, continue through the field following the fence on the left and go through another kissing gate. Turn left along the track (Ox Drove) and continue straight on along the surfaced lane with houses on the left.

3) At the junction go left along Pound Lane to a T-junction and turn right along Harts Lane crossing a bridge over the disused railway line to reach the Sandham Memorial Chapel on the right.

4) (SU463607) – Continue along the road passing The Carpenters Arms and at the last house on the left turn left down the lane for 200m. After passing a house on the right (but before the right-hand corner) turn right through the hedge at the footpath sign, following the enclosed path.

5) Cross the stile and keep ahead across the field to cross another stile. Turn left and cross a third stile and continue through the field. Cross a fourth stile to join a farm track.

6) Turn right and soon cross a stile, keep ahead at a crossing path mid-field and follow the ‘duckboard’ path with trees to the right. Continue through the trees of The Alders to a path junction on the far side.

7) (SU466600) – Turn right, soon crossing a plank footbridge and then through a small gate. Once in the field head south-westwards, aiming for the building and later pass between a barn on the right and a fenced pond on the left.

8) Cross the stile with farm buildings opposite and turn left along the hedge-lined track, ignoring two side paths, to reach a cross-track junction with the Brenda Parker Way (hedge-lined track). Turn left along the Brenda Parker Way, soon crossing the bridge over the disused railway and keep ahead to a lane.

9) (SU476592) – Go left for 25m to a junction and then right (signposted for Ecchinswell and Kingsclere) for 25m to another junction. Here turn left off the lane following a tree-lined bridleway for 600m.

10) Turn left along the track soon passing through a small gate beside some large wrought iron gates and cross the stream. Keep to the main track past a pond and some houses.

11) Go through the gate and keep following the track (bridleway) as it swings right and left past Woodground Copse, to eventually reach a cross-road beside a house.

12) Cross over Well Street and almost go straight on following Church Lane (signposted for the Sandham Memorial Chapel) back to the start.

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