Route for a New Forest walk near Minstead
- Credit: Fiona Barltrop
Head to Minstead for a walk in the New Forest, taking in an unusual church and some lovely gardens,
Situated a couple of miles to the north-northwest of Lyndhurst (the New Forest’s unofficial capital) and not far from the A31, the picturesque village of Minstead is well worth a visit. There’s an attractive green, complete with replica stocks, an unusual church, where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s grave is to be found, and last but not least, a welcoming pub, the Trusty Servant. The curious pub sign depicts a man with a pig’s snout, a padlocked jaw to indicate discretion, donkey’s ears and stag’s feet. The original 16th century picture is at Winchester College.
The church of All Saints, which is just up the lane from the green, has a most distinctive appearance both inside and out, different parts having been added at various times over the centuries. The oldest part (nave and chancel) dates from the 13th century, although the font is thought to be 12th century. The rest of the building in red brick is 18th century or later. Of note inside is the three tiered pulpit: the top level used for preaching, the middle for Bible readings and the lowest for the clerk to say ‘Amens’ after prayers. There are also two galleries and to the north of the sanctuary a small parlour-like private pew with its own fireplace, built for the inhabitants of Castle Malwood, a large house not far away. Outside, Doyle’s grave is to be found at the rear of the church near its southern edge by an oak tree. He was originally buried in the garden of his home in Crowborough, Sussex, but thereafter reinterred here. Near to Minstead is the Chelsea Gold Medal winning Furzey Gardens. Run as a social enterprise supporting people with learning difficulties, it is a lovely place to visit (entrance to gardens by donation, tea room free to enter). There are 10 acres of delightful woodland gardens to explore with something for every season. In spring, crocuses, daffodils and bluebells are followed by the Gardens’ renowned collection of rhododendrons and azaleas. (Starting in April, free monthly guided tours at 11am on the first Tuesday of each month will be on offer.) There is also a 16th century thatched cottage to look around, plus a tea room.
This walk explores the nearby Forest taking in both woodland and heath and passing Furzey Gardens near the end. North of the Gardens on the other side of the A31 is the Rufus Stone, a much-visited New Forest site, supposedly the location at which William II, known as William Rufus, was killed. If you want to extend the walk to visit the Stone, an out-and-back detour (crossing the A31 via an underpass) adds about two miles to the distance.
• Start/finish: Parking area off Congleton Close opposite village green and Trusty Servant Inn, Minstead (SU281110)
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• Map: OS Explorer OL22
• Distance: 7½ miles (12km) or 5¾ miles (9.25km) using shortcut.
• Terrain: Footpaths, country lanes and forest tracks (both numbered cycle tracks and others). Fairly gentle walking through woodland, heathland and fields.
• Time: 3½ hours or 2½ - 3 hours (shorter option). Allow extra time for visiting Furzey Gardens.
• Public transport: None to start
• Further information: Furzey Gardens, open daily 10am – 4:15pm (02380 812464)
1 (SU281110) With the pub on your right walk up the lane to the church. From the church entrance follow the footpath along the right hand side of the churchyard which leads down to a drive. Turn right to a road then left, ignoring a right turn and follow the lane, keeping ahead where another lane forks left. Keep ahead at the phone box, where another lane forks right.
2 (SU271102) At the crossroads maintain direction passing Acres Down Farm and thereafter keep ahead to a car park. Note the numbered wooden marker post. These are used for cycle trail routes in the New Forest, and can be very helpful keeping you on track. Marker posts are found at every track junction, the numbers marked on a special cycle trail map (available from the New Forest Heritage Centre in Lyndhurst).
Follow the cycle trail route – also shown on the OS Explorer map – ignoring turns to reach a four-way junction (marker post 99) at the top of a slope one mile (1.75km) from the crossroads at pt 2.
3 (SU258092) For a shortcut, turn right here and immediately fork left. Keep ahead at a crossing track and continue along the gravel track which leads to a gate, where you leave the woods and bear right rejoining the main route. Otherwise, continue on the cycle trail, keeping ahead at marker posts 101 and 102 to reach a car park where you’ll find the Canadian memorial over to the left.
4 (SU240093) Turn right along the edge of the woodland bearing round to the right. Keep right at the fork descending gently to go through some woodland and across a footbridge, then out into the open again. Keep to the main track close to the woodland edge ignoring any turns. Approaching the road bear round to the right and carry on until you reach a road.
5 (SU264107) Just along the road to the right the route continues along a bridleway that forks left. Maintain direction to reach a road and go left along a footpath, right at the next turn, across a footbridge and at the next junction fork right. The path leads to the car park at Furzey Gardens. Carry on down to the access road. (For the detour to Rufus Stone, turn left and head north-west towards the A31, going right through the underpass. Keep ahead, then bear north-east down to the stone and retrace steps.)
6 (SU273115) Turn right to the road junction and right again. Take the next footpath on the left to another road, turning right back to the start.
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