||19.0km (11.8 miles), 5 hours. For the whole outing, including trains, sights and meals, allow at least 9 hours.
||3 out of 10.
||Explorers 131 & 144 or Landranger 185. Whitchurch, map reference SU 464 489, is in Hampshire, 16km north of Winchester.
This is a longish walk that is neither steep nor particularly liable to mud. At lunchtime the walk comes to so many thatched cottages that a visitor to this country might suppose thatch to be the most popular roofing material for English country villages.
The route initially follows the line of a dismantled railway and passes the Church of All Hallows in Whitchurch to go along the River Test – ‘England’s most famous trout stream’, then on to the village of Tufton, with its interesting church. A new path returns you to the route of the dismantled railway as you by-pass Paper Mill Farm. Then on to Longparish where you stop for lunch at one of its two pubs (but note: the second pub has closed down again - October 2016, after a short re-opening).
The church at Longparish, with punishment stocks beside it, is your first stop after lunch. The walk then goes via a hamlet of more thatched cottages along the River Test before it follows a new detour over the A303 road to go up into Harewood Forest, past a vast piggery. A new route then takes you under the A303 before you rejoin the Book’s original route by Bere Hill Farm to continue on a straight footpath all the way into Andover, with its tearooms, pubs, church and museum.
Just before Longparish is a three storey brick-built working flourmill (Longparish Upper Mill) on the River Test. If you give the owner a call (and some pre-warning: tel. 01264 720344) they may open it up for a guided tour, which is not normally available to the general public. One walker has described it as ‘fascinating and well worth the detour’.
Just before Tufton you cross a field which in summer can be very overgrown with nettles – so the wearing of trousers, rather than shorts, is recommended on this walk.
The first part of the walk is perhaps the more interesting, so you could catch one of the hourly buses to Andover, at lunchtime (after 8km of walking) from the Plough Inn at Longparish: or phone for a taxi from the Cricketers pub in Longparish. The afternoon leg of the walk is hard on the feet as the paths through Harewood Forest are mostly concreted.
You can take a short cut from All Hallows Church Whitchurch to Tufton (although this misses out the enjoyable leg beside the River Test). You could also take the original road route from Tufton to Britwell Priors.
Whitchurch has a working silk mill, still powered by a waterwheel; visiting this involves a 1km detour from the main route. The Mill (tel. 01256 892065) at 28 Winchester Street, with a cafe and shop, is open 10.30 am to 5 pm daily - last admission 4 pm (closed Mondays, but open Bank Holidays). Admission (2020) £7.00.
All Hallows Church, Whitchurch, has Norman arches and pillars with Victorian embellishments and a gruesome 1602 story picture about those who disobeyed the commandments (for instance ‘one stoned for gathering stocks on the Sabbath Day’).
St Mary’s Church, Tufton, has a late Saxon chancel arch and an 800-year-old wall painting of St Christopher, depicted unrealistically so as not to infringe the commandment ‘Thou shalt not make any graven images’.
Stocks for the punishment of offenders were erected in every village during the reign of Edward III. Those in Longparish are among the few still remaining. The Church of St Nicholas, Longparish, was perhaps used as a stable by Cromwellian troops. It has a stained glass window in remembrance of Major Hawker VC, an air force pilot shot down in 1916.
Andover had its ancient heart of timber-framed buildings removed courtesy of a Greater London Council Town Development Scheme in the 1960s. The town has a museum (tel. 01264 366283) at 6 Church Close, just to the east of the church. It is open Tuesday to Saturday, 10 am to 5 pm, admission free. The church closes at 4 pm. It is made of Caen stone brought up the old canal from France; the stone was wrongly faced so the church is crumbling. George II used to stay at the Danebury Hotel in Andover on the way to his beloved Weymouth. Lord and Lady Nelson also stayed there.
||Take the train nearest to 9.30am from Waterloo Station to Whitchurch (Hants). Journey time about 1 hour. Trains back from Andover run twice an hour (hourly in the evening and on Sundays). Journey time about 1 hour 15 minutes. Buy a day return to Andover.
You usually have a choice of two pubs for your lunchtime stop in the village of Longparish, but not as of June 2017.
The first you come to is the Cricketers Inn (tel. 01264 720335) which has an extensive menu of main courses, lighter meals (such as ciabattas) and starters to share. Food is served (2017) from 12 noon to 3.00 pm on Mondays with a limited menu, from 12 noon to 8.30 pm Tuesdays to Saturdays, and from 12 noon to 3.30 pm on Sundays, in comfortable surroundings, which include a large beer garden. The owners like groups of walkers to phone ahead and book; they have been known to refuse to serve groups turning up on spec even when tables are available.
Some 20 minutes further into the walk in Longparish you come to the Plough Inn (tel. 01264 720358), which - sadly - closed again in October 2016 following a short re-opening in August 2016. As of June 2017 the pub looks very closed and in a sorry state, with pub sign removed (not a good indicator of future re-opening). Put up for sale in February 2017, there is no obvious sign of a buyer willing to take over this business - formerly a gastro pub award winner. A shame.
Almost opposite the Cricketers Inn you have a Londis Convenience Store where picnickers can purchase provisions for their lunch.
||There are several pubs in Andover, and most of the "usual supect" coffee shops, for your tea. Please note : from entering Andover on London Street it is a long haul to the railway station. Allow at least 40 mins for this last, and slightly tedious, leg of your walk.
Minor changes and general update June 2017.
[Pre 2011 editions] Use the online version. Several changes have been made to the walk route and directions since the last edition – some enforced due to footpath closures and diversions, others desirable to avoid dangerous crossings of the A303 road.