Chilbolton Cow Common – The Test Way – West Down - Circular

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This walk starts on Chilbolton Cow Common, a few miles south of the A303 that hurries traffic west towards Andover and Salisbury Plain to the South West. A resident of Chilbolton Village told us that, although he has travelled the world, he has found nothing more beautiful than the Test Valley. The common itself is a 45-acre Site of Special Scientific Interest designated by Natural England and managed and owned by Chilbolton Parish Council. It boasts 212 plant species, rare birds and rare insects. The common is crossed by a long-distance footpath, the Test Way. This walk starts along the Test Way.

Later, the walk crosses under one branch, and later joins and uses the old trackbed of another, of that part of the London and South Western Railway known as the 'Sprat & Winkle' Line, which ran from Andover to Southampton, with a branch from Fullerton to near Whitchurch. Coming across old railway lines and stations is quite a common occurrence, but discovering and imagining a lost junction, the situation at Fullerton, is much rarer. The line, completed in 1865, was a victim of Beeching, whereby passenger services were withdrawn in September 1964 and freight facilities in 1967.

West of Fullerton lies the Leckford Estate, bought by John Spedan Lewis in 1928 and now owned by the John Lewis Partnership. It covers 4,000 acres and includes a farm, plant nursery and water garden. The farm produces crops, milk, meat, fruit and vegetables for sale in their supermarkets (Waitrose). Longstock Park Water Garden, rated one of the finest gardens of its type in Europe, is open to the public from April to September, on the first and third Sunday afternoon of the month. The Leckford Estate has leisure facilities for Partners, such as golf courses and fly-fishing. It is one of four locations around the UK exclusively for Partners with one year's service and their families and friends.

The last leg of the walk takes in the slopes of West Down. This is a chalk downland of nature conservation, historical and industrial archaeological importance. West Down had a relatively peaceful agricultural past until 1939, when the Air Ministry took over a huge tract of land and built an enormous airfield in preparation for war. Thousands of servicemen and women would have moved daily through West Down during the war, alighting at Fullerton Junction railway station and walking up the hill to their billets and aircraft. One of the main residential roads in Chilbolton, running north-south up on to the down, is Station Road, which now serves as a permanent reminder. Part of the Allied invasion force of glider-borne paratroopers took off on D-Day from Chilbolton Airfield.

England - South England - Hampshire - Countryside

Features

Birds, Butterflies, Flowers, Food Shop, Good for Kids, Great Views, Industrial Archaeology, Play Area, Pub, Public Transport, River, Wildlife, Woodland
19/08/2013 - Nigel Williamson

A delightful walk on a summers day.

08/08/2011 - Steven Pratt

Great day out, the parking is changing at the start of the walk and the nearby parking on entering the village will probably be a better bet on busy days. Lots of water, gentle climbs and great views, stopped off for lunch at the Mayfly, well worth the tiny detour.

12/08/2010 - Pete Steele

Delightful walk with beautiful scenery. The crystal clear river was a delight for my dogs. Well worth a visit.

25/11/2007 - Jim Stevens

Thanks for compiling this walk we really enjoyed it. The notes that accompanied this walk where very educating we liked the detail about the Beeching rail cuts.

05/08/2007 - Helena Pugsley

Another lovely walk with some beautiful views. Parts of this walk were slightly overgrown - not so good if you're wearing shorts like we were! The common was busy, but as soon as we left it we only passed a few other walkers along the way. Disappointingly the pub in Chilbolton was closed at 5.30 at the end of our walk so we couldn't have a drink. Another highly recommended walk though which takes about 2 hours.

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