Hampshire walk through Botley and alongside the River Hamble
- Credit: Steve Davison
Our walk this month, a figure-of-eight stroll which can easily be split into two shorter walks if required, is based at historic Botley and follows parts of the Strawberry Trail - a 15-mile route that weaves its way through an area that was once well-known for the sweet, red fruits.
The picturesque village of Botley was first mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Botelie, although the area can trace its history back to Roman times, as the Roman Road from Chichester (Noviomagus) to Bitterne (Clausentrum) ran near to the present day Manor Farm.
In the High Street, opposite the porticoed Market Hall, is a memorial stone to William Cobbett (1763-1833); writer, agriculturist and political reformer who lived in the village for a while. Cobbett is best known for his book Rural Rides that detailed journeys he made through England.
The High Street is also home to Elsie’s Tearoom, Delicieux Cafe, The Dolphin and The Bugle Inn. Along Mill Lane is the former Botley Mills; milling took place in the village for several hundred years, although the mill is now used as a craft and business centre.
After leaving Botley the walk heads along Church Lane and passes an old brick building on the left. This is the former Bark Store at Botley Quay, where oak bark was stored for use in the tanning of leather. The route then continues through parts of Manor Farm Country Park that edges the River Hamble; the park is also home to a working Victorian farmyard (entry charge; 01489 787055). During World War II, the park was the site of HMS Cricket, a Combined Operations base for landing craft crews.
After meandering through woodland the walk reaches the picturesque River Hamble. Before heading back via Manor Farm, take a rest at one of the seats and admire the tranquil riverside scenery. The yellow marker opposite the pontoon marks the wreck of the medieval clinker warship, Grace Dieu, built for Henry V in the early 1400’s. Unfortunately, the ship was destroyed by fire following a lightning strike and all that remains are parts of the timber hull preserved in the mud; these can still be seen during very low spring tides.
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• Distance: 5 miles (7.9km)
• Time: 2.5 hours without stops
• Terrain: Gentle ups and downs, tracks and paths which can be very muddy, no stiles, some gates, sections of road
• Start/Finish: Market Hall on the High Street (A334) in Botley (SU513130), 2.5 miles east from the M27 (junction 7); car park in Church Lane off the High Street
• Map: OS Explorer 119
• Refreshments: Choice of cafes and pubs along the route
1 (SU513130) – From the Market Hall head east along the High Street (A334) to the crossroads and turn right along Church Lane, soon passing the car park (right). At the junction (Four Acre) keep straight on along the lane passing the bark store. Later swing right and left to a track on the left (the lane ahead becomes Brook Lane which is the return route). Turn left along the track (signposted to Manor Farm, footpath and Strawberry Trail). Bear right along the main track past a pond (left) and then the buildings of Manor Farm (tearoom and toilets) to a lane (pay and display car park on left).
2 (SU508118) – Crossover, and just before the gate, turn right to follow the enclosed route parallel with the lane. After the slight left curve rejoin the lane and bear left, crossing a cattle grid. Keep ahead for 150m and turn right through the trees to a fence. Turn right and follow the fence round two sides of the field. At the top of the rise dogleg right through the bushes and continue along the track, passing Kings Copse Farm (left) and Hill Cottage (left) to a junction beside Cricketwood (left) under power-lines (footpath sign).
3 (SU496117) – Turn left along the enclosed path, keeping ahead at the junction gently down through the trees. Follow the surfaced track beside Queen Elizabeth Activity Centre and soon fork left along the Strawberry Trail, keep to the main path to a lane. Turn down to the left for 50m and then right down a track (Strawberry Trail) past a gate. Continue through trees, ignore a crossing path (bridge on right) and follow the path with the river on your right, past open trees with views and seats, to reach a pontoon (right). Keep ahead between fences, turn right down the steps and bear left alongside the river. At the cross-junction keep ahead following the right-hand fence. Go down the steps and cross a footbridge.
4 (SU501111) – Head slightly uphill and continue following the right-hand fence (views of the river through the trees) for 350m. Swing left away from the river heading through the wood, later bear right downhill and cross a footbridge. Keep ahead to enter a field and follow the left-hand hedge. Turn left through a gateway and follow the wide enclosed path northwards. Go through a kissing gate and follow the outward route past Manor Farm and the pond; turn left along Brook Lane.
5 (SU509121) – After the last house, turn right through a kissing gate (footpath sign) and follow the right-hand field edge past a barn to a marker post. Dogleg right through the kissing gate and follow the left-hand hedge to its end (marker post). Head diagonally right across the field, continue alongside the fence (left) and then along the enclosed path to a track. Turn right (houses on right) and just before the corner turn left through a kissing gate (footpath and Strawberry Trail). Head down through the trees, cross a footbridge and then up the surfaced path – Lovers Lane – to a road. Turn right, then left along Church Lane back to the start.