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New Forest Walks; Walks from Brockenhurst

Walk 2
Brockenhurst parish church, Brockenhurst Park, Roydon Woods Nature Reserve, Setley Plain, Castleman's Corkscrew, Hincheslea Bog and South Weirs

Passed along the way
The Parish Church of St. Nicholas, Brockenhurst Park and House, Roydon Woods Nature Reserve, Setley Plain, Castleman’s Corkscrew and South Weirs.

Ancient, unenclosed woodland near Cater’s Cottage and Hincheslea Bog, New Forest heathland on Setley Plain and around Blackhamsley Hill; and Alder woodland.

The route
Distance: 9.5 kilometres (6 miles) - add a further 3 kilometres (1¾ miles) if starting the walk in Brockenhurst village centre.

Start: Brockenhurst parish church of St. Nicholas, where limited parking is available - SU305018.
Terrain: Mainly on level ground, but with a small number of gentle gradients. Mostly firm underfoot, but in winter and after rain, some sections can be wet and muddy. Strong, waterproof boots are therefore recommended.
Railway station: Brockenhurst - 0.75 kilometres (½ mile).
Camping in the Forest camp sites: Hollands Wood, 1.5 kilometres (1 mile).
Alternative starts: Brockenhurst village centre - car parking is available opposite the post office in Brookley Road – SU298024; by the side of a minor road where it joins the A337 close to Setley Farm - SU302003; and using limited roadside parking by the railway bridge at the start of the cycle track leading to Cater’s Cottage - SU293004.

Walk route

Directions

From Brockenhurst village

Brockenhurst - South Weirs
Brockenhurst - South Weirs

1. Go south from Brockenhurst village, along the A337 Lyndhurst-Lymington road, an 18th century turnpike road. Cross the railway line at the level crossing and immediately turn left into Mill Lane. After around 200 metres, as the road goes sharply left, turn right along a gravel track leading between Mulberry Cottage and the Georgian, Reynolds Cottage.

Continue up a gentle incline along what eventually becomes a green lane, an aged hollow-way lined with oak, coppiced hazel, ash, elder, holly and hawthorn, leading towards Brockenhurst’s historic parish church. Reach the church and an entrance to Brockenhurst Park on the left.

From the church

2. Follow Church Lane (the tarmaced public road that leads directly away from the church) and at the top of a further modest incline, a glance to the left along a tree-lined avenue reveals Brockenhurst House, a 1960s construction of relatively modern design that replaced an earlier, 18th century building. After a short distance, opposite a drive leading to Beech Tree Cottage, turn left along a bramble-lined bridleway running beside the grounds of Brockenhurst Park.

3. Pass through a gate into Roydon Woods and follow the path downhill, eventually leaving behind the parkland on the left and entering fully into the wood.

Reach a small stream at the bottom of the hill, and cross at the bridge. Notice here an enormous wood-bank of massive proportions revealed in section on the right of the path, its exact purpose now shrouded in the mists of time.

Roydon Woods is a nature reserve managed by the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust. The walk passes through beautiful ancient woodlands and later, small areas of conifers. This haven for wildlife is well-known for its wonderfully varied birdlife, and strong populations of wild flowers, fungi and lichens. Fallow deer, sika deer and roe deer are also present.

Pass on the right another path leading deep into the woods, cross another narrow stream and go uphill, through a gate with attached, a plaque stating that ‘the reinstatement of historic management practices to this complex of heath and pasture woodland is dedicated to the memory of Colin Tubbs’, a highly regarded local ecologist, ‘without whose tireless efforts many such areas would have been lost forever’.

At the top of the hill, the woodland on the left gives way to a field. Notice on the right just beyond the summit, a large, quite deep, overgrown pit half-hidden within the wood. Traces of gravel around the edge betray the original purpose, and the 1898 Ordnance Survey map confirms it as an old gravel pit.

4. Almost immediately, turn right at a junction of tracks, and follow the bridleway at first gently uphill, eventually through coniferous woodland and then beside paddocks and broad-leaved trees.

Pass a group of buildings on the right; a number of well-spaced properties on the left; and Setley Farm on the right. Join a tarmac road, and go left at a ‘Y’ junction - the Filly Inn is on the right here.

Reach the busy A337, cross over, and go through a gate beside a cattle grid on the minor road opposite.

5. Turn left onto Setley Plain (somewhere between 90 degrees and straight ahead) to follow a wide, grassy track skirting a large clump of gorse. To the left, an earthen bank runs parallel to the track, whilst on clear days along here, in the distance to the left, low on the horizon, the undulating chalk hills of the Isle of Wight can be seen; and a little further to the right, Sway Tower protrudes above the horizon.

On the left along here, notice on a spur of land above the valley bottom, a low gorse and heather-clad earthen bank. It might not look much from the path, but closer inspection will reveal two impressive disc barrows with overlapping perimeters. Many people will find a walk around these 3,500 years old, shapes in the landscape quite a humbling experience.

Just beyond the top of a modest incline, turn right at a cross-road of tracks overlooking Three Beech Bottom and the Brockenhurst-Lymington railway line.

6. Continue along the main track as it winds across the heath. Cross a shallow dip with, in quick succession, multiple, quite large, earthen banks and accompanying ditches.

Follow the track as it swings to the right; and, shortly after, as the track again goes right, take a left-hand fork through the gorse, leading downhill towards a house part-concealed in the trees beyond - notice on the slope, another old, substantial earthen bank and ditch.

Pass beside a roadside house and garden - Latchmoor Corner - and turn left (opposite Sway Road) along the B3055, a quite busy, minor road.

7. Immediately cross the road and go left again (beside the road). Continue for around 150 metres before going under a railway bridge carrying the Brockenhurst-Lymington line, and after a further relatively short distance, turn right along a well-compacted gravel cycle track leading beneath a second railway bridge, this carrying the main line to Christchurch and beyond.

Note: there is limited alternative, roadside parking space here.

Pass a small stock pound on the right, with beyond, a straggle of trees that has engulfed the railway embankment that once carried Castleman’s Corkscrew, the old Brockenhurst-Hamworthy line. (To the left is open heathland).

Continue along the gravel track for around 700 metres.

Castlemans Corkscrew is named after the promoter of the line, Charles Castleman. It opened in 1847. Here lichen-encrusted crossing gate-posts still stand on the left of the walk track, close to Gatehouse Cottage, a small single storey white building opposite the larger Caters Cottage.

8. Cross the route of the disused railway line, pass Gatehouse Cottage on the left - it is adjacent to the old line - and Caters (Cottage) on the right. After a short distance, pass beside a Forestry Commission vehicle barrier and continue straight ahead along a quite wide track beside the grounds of Caters (Cottage), on the right. As you continue along the track, on the left is ancient, unenclosed woodland. Follow the track as it eventually bears left, away from the private land, and on over the heath.

9. Eventually turn right, through the gorse, at a cross-road of tracks - where a grassy / sandy track crosses the more prominent main track. (Straight ahead, in the mid-distance, can be seen the distinctive tall, pale, quaking grasses of Hincheslea Bog).

Follow the grassy / sandy track as it eventually goes to the left, close beside the bog; with on the right, a clump of trees on a small hillock. Again follow the track left, now through an area of alder carr flanking a narrow stream.

Cross the stream at a railed bridge, go over the edge of Hincheslea Bog, and after a short distance, on entering an area of well-spaced gorse, take a relatively inconspicuous right fork leading towards a white-washed cottage - The Weirs Cottage - which initially is barely visible through the trees.

Almost immediately, reach a narrow stream, walk along it to the left and, after a short distance, cross at a single-plank bridge - or step over - and continue on towards the cottage.

10. Pass beside a low, Forestry Commission vehicle barrier and follow the gravel track beside the cottage. (Visible across the grassland on the left are the houses of South Weirs). Pass (all on the right) Worthys Farmhouse, which is named after the Worthy family who were 18th century residents; the entrance to Barnfield; Laurel Cottage and The Upper Ford, and immediately after the latter, continue straight ahead. Do not follow the main gravel track which here bends to the left.

Henry Comyn in his 1817 'Directory of Life in the Parishes of Boldre and Brockenhurst' placed North Weirs and South Weirs together as 'The Wires', which later were to be known as Brockenhurst Weirs. Worthys Farm at that time was owned by Mr. Morant, of Brockenhurst House, and occupied by Thomas and Rebecca Butler, their two children, and William Munden, a servant.

After a short distance, pass Pear Tree Cottage on the right, and go through two kissing gates in quick succession to follow a field edge public footpath. Leave the field through another kissing gate, followed immediately by a conventional gate - please be aware, though, that walker Nigel Jameson in August 2019 reports that this gate's opening mechanism appears to be jammed, so getting through could be a little awkward.

And then skirt a group of farm buildings on the left with, to the right, a strip of woodland bordering a stream.

Go straight on beside the stream; cross two stiles; go through where once there was a gate; cross a farm track; and go on for a short distance alongside the stream before crossing a stile and turning right along Burley Road.

To return to Brockenhurst and the central car park

11. Continue along the road for 0.5 kilometres (1/3 mile), turn right at the ford - The Watersplash - into Brookley Road, and the central, village car park is on the left a short distance away.

To return to the railway station and the parish church

12. Pass a turn on the left for North Weirs; turn right off Burley Road, opposite Armstrong Lane; and follow the narrow gravel track over the stream at a bridge, then half-left towards the village primary school.

Pass beside the school and 19th century Brookley Farmhouse, and reach Sway Road.

Cross the road, turn left, and almost immediately right along a public footpath between the house gardens. (The path is fringed with tall, overgrown hedges containing considerable amounts of coppiced hazel. It is shown on the 1870 Ordnance Survey map, which pre-dated the houses).

Go over a stile, cross the bottom of East Bank Road, and continue straight ahead through a kissing gate to cross a railway footbridge overlooking Brockenhurst station. Continue straight ahead again, through another kissing gate, and eventually beside, on the right, an overgrown, long-since disused pit - it shows as an Old Clay Pit on the 1898 Ordnance Survey map.

Cross a stile and turn left for a short distance along the busy A337 - great care is needed here, as there is no footpath. Access to the railway station is straight ahead on the left.

13. To return to the church, cross the A337, take the next right turn, down Church Lane, and the church is 400 metres away.

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** New Forest ponies **
New Forest ponies in the road
Ponies, cattle, pigs, sheep and donkeys are a popular part of the New Forest scene, but during the first six months of 2018, 36 animals were killed or injured on Forest roads, compared with 26 in the same period in 2017, a shocking rise of 38%. And in the full year, 63 animals were killed on the roads compared to 56 in 2017.
** Always take care when driving **
Content produced by Andrew Walmsley
Content produced by Andrew Walmsley