Wootton Bridge – Avon Water and Holmsley Station round
The New Forest and its National Park is a wonderful and beautiful place situated in Hampshire down in Southern England. The New Forest National Park was created in March 2005 after six years of consultations. A national park authority was established in April 2005 and gained full statutory powers in April 2006. The park covers 140,000 acres and includes many existing Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and lies mainly in south-west Hampshire from east of the Avon Valley to Southampton Water and from the Solent coast to the edge of the Wiltshire Chalk Downs. The Forest is a living and working place with so many thatched cottages, hidden gems and secrets making it a haven for walkers, cyclists, horse riders and tourists. To enable you to enjoy the forest to its full potential is to leave the car and get out there and explore. There are many circular routes, which can be found in the tourist information places, with picnic areas and toilet facilities. There are also guided walks where experts will tell you about the forest, its history and wildlife etc. There is also the New Forest Tour which is an open top bus taking you on many routes round the forest and villages and you can hop on and off where ever you like. This is fun for everyone and ideal for people who cannot walk far or are disabled. The New Forest Museum and Visitors Centre in Lyndhurst is the best place for any information and advice. The main attraction of the New Forest is the wild ponies that roam free but are actually owned by New Forest Commoners. There are approximately 3,000 ponies and have lived here for about 2000 years. The foals are born in the spring and summer and they are a delight to see. In the summer and autumn each year Pony drifts are held so that the commoners can sell their stock and the job of tail clipping and veterinary checks can be done at the same time.
Wootton is a hamlet in the south of the New Forest north of New Milton. The hamlet is known for its pub, the Rising Sun and there is a popular local beauty spot at nearby Wootton Bridge where the road crosses the Avon Water. The Rising Sun has been on its present site for over two hundred years but was rebuilt at the beginning of the 20th century.
Avon Water is a small river that flows through the New Forest and is not to be confused with the River Avon which also flows through the New Forest. Avon Water is the smallest of three main rivers that drain the New Forest southwards into the Solent, the other two being the Beaulieu River and the Lymington River. Avon Water rises near Holmsley in the south western part of the forest, flows south east wards in an almost straight course for 9 miles into the Solent at Keyhaven.
The Station House at Holmsley, now The Old Station Tea Rooms serving a selection of freshly prepared foods and refreshments from 10am to 9.30pm seven days a week, opened in June 1847 and was promoted by Charles Castleman, a local solicitor who saw the potential of the expanding rail network. The railway line from Brockenhurst to Ringwood and on to Wimborne was a winding route which took in local market towns hence became known as Castleman’s Corkscrew. It became very popular in the 1900’s with commuters and families and was also an important freight depot for the transport of local wood for construction of Welsh coal mines. In the late 1800’s Prince Edward, the eldest son of Queen Victoria, often disembarked at Holmsley with his mistress, Lillie Langtry, en-route to their residence in Bournmouth. In 1899 Robert Louis Stephenson, who was a local resident, cast Holmsley Station as Browndean the fictional station in his novel “The Wrong Box”. During World War II the station helped in the troop and freight development to the aerodrome at Holmsley South. In May 1944, with preparations for the D-Day landings Eisenhower and senior government officials were often seen. After the war the station became much quieter and the main users were those who wished to explore the forest on foot. The line closed in 1963 due to the Beeching cuts. The line has now become a popular walking route, The Castleman Trailway, taking in some of the forests most amazing scenery. The route follows the line between Southampton and Dorchester for 16 miles. Parts of the railway are also a cycle path but the middle section from East Wimborne to the River Allen Bridge just south of Wimborne is a footpath only.
We walk out of the car park turn right and cross over the road bridge to the other side of Avon Water then turn immediate right and follow the path close to the river crossing several small streams/ditches for about a mile until we see a tunnel on the right. We ignore this and keep ahead between the river and fence. When we see the fence corner on our left and come out into the open we bear right following close to the river to the corner of the field. We cross over the bridge over the river and head forward. At the road opposite a car park we turn left then cross straight over the A35 taking the road opposite signed Burley. The Holmsley Old Station Tea Rooms is on the right. After a cream tea which was really nice we retrace our steps back over the A35 and the little river bridge then bear left across the open land to the fence corner. We go through the gate and head uphill on the distinct track. At the t-junction we turn right uphill then right again at the next t-junction. At the third t-junction we turn left then immediate right. We keep heading forward through a gate and then right into a car park. At the road we cross straight over and head forwards to the left of the clump of trees then continue forward following the trees on our left. After about half a mile we pass through two gate posts on the left and turn immediate right along a narrow path. When we reach a wide sunken track we turn left and keep alongside the earthbank to the left of fallen trees. When we cross a stream and the path disappears we turn right onto the open heath and head forward following the little stream. We turn left onto a path cross over a tiny bridge with two blue signs and a yellow one with an H on it. We follow the path through the trees. On reaching a gravel path we turn left and head straight forward across the heath to the left of a telegraph pole to the road. We cross straight over the road onto Wootton Farm Road. We head forward and turn right at the t-junction. At the next t-junction we turn left. At the end of the road we cross a ditch onto a track and turn right then almost immediately go through the gate on the left. When we come to a track we keep heading forward following the track. At the crossroads we cross straight over and head forward with a stream on our left. We bear right at the next junction and continue forward ignoring a track going off to the left. At the next t-junction we turn left then go through a gate and turn left back to Wootton Bridge car park.
This is an easy walk on forest footpaths/tracks and some tarmac road. Some of the paths may be quite boggy and muddy in wet weather especially during the winter. There are some gates and a narrow bridge.
Elevation: approx lowest point 27m (89ft) approx highest point 65m (212ft) approx ascent 56m (184ft)
Distance and Start Point
Approx 5.75 miles allow 2 to 3 hours using OS Explorer Map OL22, New Forest. This walk is done anti-clockwise.
Start point: Wootton Bridge free car park.
Wootton is north of New Milton in the New Forest, Hampshire.
Directions and Parking
Turn off the A35 at Holmsley, sign posted Brockenhurst. After about 1½ miles turn right and Wootton Bridge car park is on the right.
Parking: Wootton Bridge free car park and there is also some free parking on the other side of the river.
Toilets and Refreshments
There is no public toilets en-route. For refreshments there is the Old Station Tea Rooms at Holmsley which has toilet facilities. Close by at the crossroads on the Bashley Road is The Rising Sun pub which serves tea, coffee and cream teas from 10am and food from noon to 9.30pm. The next nearest facilities are at New Milton, Lyndhurst and Sway.