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Whitchurch and River Test Mills

There are currently 10 comments and 1 photos online for this walk.

Whitchurch and River Test Mills
Author: Claire, Published: 23 Jun 2013 Walk Rating:star1 Whitchurch and River Test Mills Walking Guidestar1 Whitchurch and River Test Mills Walking Guidestar1 Whitchurch and River Test Mills Walking Guidestar1 Whitchurch and River Test Mills Walking Guidestar0 Whitchurch and River Test Mills Walking Guide
Hampshire, Andover
Walk Type: River or lakeside
Whitchurch and River Test Mills
Length: 6 miles,  Difficulty: boot Whitchurch and River Test Mills Walking Guide boot Whitchurch and River Test Mills Walking Guide
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A 5.5 mile circular walk from Whitchurch, a pretty Hampshire town on the River Test. The walk gives you chance to see many of the former water mills that were at the heart of local industry producing everything from cloth to corn and paper along with the pretty village of Freefolk, home to one of the longest thatched buildings in Britain.

The route follows a mixture of field and woodland paths which can get quite muddy at certain times of the year. There are just a few gentle climbs and descents with no stiles on route (just lots of kissing gates and footbridges). Some of the fields may be holding a few sheep, cattle or horses so take care with dogs. There are public toilets in the car park at the start of the walk. Approximate time 2 to 3 hours.

Whitchurch can be found between Basingstoke and Andover, north of the A303 in Hampshire. The walk starts from the Bell Street free car park. Approximate post code RG28 7DD.

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Walk Sections

Start to Town Mill
Start to Town Mill

Start point: 51.2297 lat, -1.3411 long
End point: 51.2299 lat, -1.3331 long

Leave the car park via the slope alongside the toilets. Turn right along Bell Street until you reach the mini-roundabout. Take the second road on the right and pass the Methodist Church on the left. Follow the road as it crosses over the River Test and take a moment here to look to the right where you’ll see the old Silk Mill.

The Silk Mill is the oldest working silk mill in Britain and still weaves silk in its original building. The watermill was first constructed here on Frog Island in 1815. It is thought the original mill was a Fulling Mill (part of a cloth finishing process). In 1817 the mill was bought by a silk manufacturer from Spitalfields. Through the ages silk cloth has been produced here for all sorts of purposes including academic gowns, Burberry clothing and electrical wire insulation during the wars.

A few yards further along, when you reach the Silk Mill visitor entrance, cross to the left-hand side of the road and continue as the road crosses a second branch of the river. Just a few paces later, turn left down the narrow alleyway between walls. As you reach a junction in the path, keep ahead through the metal kissing gate and continue to reach the road.

Turn left along McFauld Way. As the road bends right, keep ahead on the tarmac footpath and follow this as it twists and turns around the outside of a school playing field. Continue until you reach a junction of paths, including a footbridge to the left. Turn left here to cross the footbridge directly in front of Town Mill.

Town Mill to Bere Mill
Town Mill to Bere Mill

Start point: 51.2299 lat, -1.3331 long
End point: 51.2308 lat, -1.3163 long

This stretch of the River Test was home to many industrial watermills, although most of them are now converted to private residences. The Town Mill was the source of power for milling corn. Take some time on the bridge to truly appreciate the beauty of the river. The River Test is 40 miles long from its source in Ashe (near Basingstoke) down to its mouth in the Southampton estuary. In this region, the river is a classic chalk stream and is renowned throughout the world for being an excellent spot for trout fishing. The valuable fly fishing rights are highly prized by the local landowners meaning that access to the banks of the river is very restricted.

Having crossed the bridge, cross the gravel drive at 2 o’clock to take the footpath passing immediately to the right of the houses. Cross two more footbridges and through the fence to your right you’ll see an overgrown area which was once beds for growing watercress.

At the T-junction, turn right and then right again and follow the residential road. At the end you’ll pass Moki Lodge (a green timber lodge) on the right – simply keep straight ahead on the footpath between hedgerows. Pass through the gate and keep ahead on the fenced path with a pasture to the right.

Follow the path as it dog-legs to become an enclosed path with a pasture now to the left. At the end of this stretch, pass through a kissing gate and cross the next field diagonally left. Emerge through a kissing gate to a quiet lane. Turn right along the lane and a little distance along you’ll cross an ornate brick bridge with Bere Mill visible to the right.

Bere Mill to Sluice
Bere Mill to Sluice

Start point: 51.2308 lat, -1.3163 long
End point: 51.235 lat, -1.3049 long

Bere Mill was built in 1712 by Henri de Portal and was used to create paper. Within 12 years the high quality paper was being supplied to the Bank of England for use as bank notes. De Portal established a second mill nearby (Laverstoke Mill) to keep up with growing demands. The same firm, now based in nearby Overton, still supplies the Bank of England today.

Having crossed the bridge, take the left-hand of the two gates ahead. Soon after pass through another gate into a pasture – keep ahead through the centre of this long field. Go through the kissing gate at the far side and keep ahead in the same direction through the next field. At the bottom of the slope to the left you will see glimpses of the river through the trees.

The path continues ahead passing a line of old oak trees on the left (ignoring the stile off to the right). As you approach the property ahead, swing left downhill, following the fence line on the right to reach the kissing gate in the bottom boundary. Go through this gate and keep ahead through the paddock with the fence on the right. Pass through the kissing gate to reach the narrow footbridge across the sluice.

Sluice to St Nicholas Church
Sluice to St Nicholas Church

Start point: 51.235 lat, -1.3049 long
End point: 51.2344 lat, -1.3034 long

Cross the sluice bridge with care and follow the path to cross first a large wooden footbridge and then a smaller bridge further along. Turn right along the grass track and a few yards later you’ll reach the T-junction with the road.

Cross over and turn right along the road and on the left you’ll pass a long line of thatched terrace cottages – Manor Cottages. These 18 workers cottages create one of the longest thatched buildings in England. The spire of St Mary’s Church is visible above the roofline of the cottages.

Keep ahead passing the lodge house and main gateway for Laverstoke Park on the left. Laverstoke Park was the family home of Henri de Portal. He built the village of Freefolk to house his mill and estate workers.

Follow the road over the river and as you draw level with the Old Rectory (on the right) cross over and take the kissing gate into open parkland. Keep close to the right hand fence (alongside the Old Rectory garden) and follow this as it swings hard right. Pass out through the gate ahead and you will see St Nicholas Church across on the right.

St Nicholas Church to Meadow
St Nicholas Church to Meadow

Start point: 51.2344 lat, -1.3034 long
End point: 51.2289 lat, -1.3288 long

St Nicholas Church, founded in 1265, has a white painted bell cote and is the village church for Freefolk. The village name is thought to derive from the fact that the village was outside the feudal system, meaning the villagers were free from the control of a local Lord.

With the church on the right, turn left on the track heading uphill. Follow the track as it bends left, then right, then left, passing between a pair of kissing gates. At the end of the tunnel of trees, the main track bends left – fork right here onto the footpath across the field running close to the tree line on the left.

After some distance the path enters the corner of the copse, pass through the kissing gate ahead and follow the top line of the next field (still with trees on the left). Go through the next kissing gate and keep ahead on the left-hand path through this narrower field. At the far corner, ignore the stile on the left, instead keep ahead through the gate onto the path with a fence now on the right.

The path enters a small patch of woodland and emerges through a kissing gate into a crop field. Keep ahead along the right hand edge of the field with the River Test now visible through the fence and trees to the right. Keep ahead through the gap in the trees to enter a large meadow.

Meadow to End
Meadow to End

Start point: 51.2289 lat, -1.3288 long
End point: 51.2301 lat, -1.3405 long

Follow one of the mown paths through the meadow, keeping fairly close to the river on the right. As you enter a small section of trees ahead, you will soon reach the Town Mill junction that you crossed earlier. From this point you will be retracing your steps back to the start point.

Keep left and follow the tarmac path as it winds around the edge of the school playing field. Keep ahead onto the residential road and turn right onto the tarmac footpath immediately before the playing field. Pass through the kissing gate and keep ahead to the road. Turn right and follow the road back to the mini roundabout. Take the second road on the left, Bell Street, and follow this back to the car park on the left.

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Text and images for this walk are Copyright © 2013 by the author clairesharpuk and may not be reproduced without permission.


10 comments for "Whitchurch and River Test Mills"

Lovely walk.

At the (near) halfway point of Freefolk, we popped into the Watership down inn for a refreshing beverage.

By injuryian on 03 Aug 2014

We really enjoyed this walk, my two boys particularly liked all the bridges over the test and the trout. The only tricky bit was crossing the main road in laverstoke but we all held hands and legged it over

By pob75 on 20 Feb 2015

This walk was quite disappointing. The markers were very intermittent so a fair amount of guess work was needed. Parts of the walks were very picturesque but some parts were through not so nice housing estates. With an updated map & reliable markets this could be quite nice.

By googie on 02 May 2015

walked this route today, quite enjoyable walk apart from at point 3 the bridge is missing, had to cross at a sluice gate into a private field leaving the track totally, found my way back onto the designated route and continued to the end

By alanking on 09 May 2015

We thoroughly enjoyed the first half, but found the rest disappointing. Although close to the Test it is totally obscured by trees. If we walk it again we'll retrace our route from Freefolk to Whitchurch.

By davidthenoma on 25 Aug 2015

Lovely walk, gorgeous in parts. Did find the written route hard to follow so used the map instead which was really easy.

By spagettilyne on 30 Oct 2016

Lovely walk, excellent easy to follow directions.

By jpdarlow on 13 Nov 2016

Great walk, but the directions on the stretch after St Nicholas's church were rather confusing. The deviation from the track is BEFORE the 2nd left turn, and the 'tunnel of trees' is hard to discern in winter, & appears to go on down the slope. Also, after heavy rain, parts are almost impassable (especially when churned up by cattle), so it would be worth mentioning that the signposted shortcut that takes you back past Bere Mill & then on metalled roads might be worth using. Otherwise a really good walk, with lots of pubs to choose from.

By GeoffBurnes on 05 Mar 2017

Walked this with two dogs and we all thoroughly enjoyed it. Yes, some walking on residential roads but as it starts in the village I don't really see how that could have been avoided! Directions easy to follow, though don't rely on the "Mill Trail" way markers as they are very intermittent. The field after Bere Mill had a "Beware of the bull" sign but the Belted Galloways in there didn't even give us a second glance. Ditto the horses in the following paddock. St. Nicholas Church in Freefolk is stunning and well worth a visit. Happy to report that the bridge at point 3 is now present. Thank you to Claire for this walk.

By Huggermugger on 18 Apr 2017

We walked this today with two teenagers and two
Dogs. It was very boggy and muddy in places. I found the written details from the tunnel of trees through the corpse of trees slightly tricky to ascertain where to walk, but thankfully good GPS signal here so could look at map.

By philpottn on 19 Nov 2017

The information in this guide has been provided in good faith and is intended only as a guide, not a statement of fact. You are advised to check the accuracy of the information provided and should not use this guide for navigational directions nor should you rely on the accuracy of the weather forecast. You are advised to take appropriate clothing, footwear, equipment and navigational materials with you according to the current and possible weather and nature of the terrain. Always follow the country code and follow any additional warnings or instructions that may be available. Some walks may be very strenuous and you are advised to seek medical advice if you have any doubts as to your capability to complete the walk.

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Uploaded: 18 Oct 2014
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