Winchester to Bishop's Waltham
Discover some of Hampshire’s most beautiful scenery
Winchester to Bishop’s Waltham itinerary
Follow the route - Winchester to Bishop's Waltham
> Leave Winchester on the B3049 heading west for 9 miles (14.5km) to Stockbridge.
A curious ‘one-horse’ town unique in Hampshire, Stockbridge has a straight main street backed by water-meadows. Before the railways, Welsh cattlemen stopped here with their herds on the way to the great fairs at Farnham and Maidstone. On the north side of High Street, beyond the distinctive porch of the Grosvenor Hotel, is a charming Edwardian garage, a relic of the days of running boards and red flags. Stockbridge has several good antiques shops, and exceptional crafts and fishing shops.
Outside the town to the east, Stockbridge Down, above your road of entry, is a downland nature reserve and is home to many rare flowers and butterflies. Marsh Court, on the back road to King’s Somborne, was designed by Lutyens and is partly built of chalk blocks.
Places to stay in Stockbridge
> Leave Stockbridge by the A30, then turn right signed Danebury Hillfort and in 21⁄2 miles (4km) turn left on to the A343 for Middle Wallop.
Visiting Middle Wallop
The Wallops, Over, Middle and Nether, take their name from the brook which links these three pretty villages. Built as a wartime RAF base, where ‘Cat’s Eyes’ Cunningham led his night fighters into battle, the airfield is now the home of the Army Air Corps, and pilots train here in attack, reconnaissance and transport. Inside the modern Museum of Army Flying are many aircraft and ancient balloons, the world’s first helicopter, a Tiger Moth and airworthy Sopwiths from World War I, as well as cockpits to clamber into, videos and displays.
Places to stay near Middle Wallop
> From Middle Wallop take the road through Nether Wallop to join the A30 heading back towards Stockbridge. Just before Stockbridge turn right and follow the unclassified road through Houghton to Mottisfont, a total distance of 12 miles (19km).
Visiting Mottisfont Abbey
You will find no abbey here, but there is an elegant National Trust property in tree-lined grounds by the River Test; the original priory was converted after the Dissolution. Of special note is Rex Whistler’s blue drawing room, with its visual tricks. Gardeners will appreciate the fine old roses here, and it is worth seeking out the ‘font’, a tamed spring of clear water. If this gives you a thirst, have lunch or tea at the village post office, where you can sit outside under the spreading walnut tree.
This is the heartland of the trout fishing for which the Test is world-famous, and the area is jealously guarded, with barbed-wire fences protecting anglers’ huts and benches by private manicured paths.
Places to stay near Mottisfont
> Continue to the A3057 and drive for 3 miles (5km) to Romsey.
Years ago, travellers here were greeted at every turn by notices reading ‘You’re in the Strong Country’. Strong’s brewery is no more: the waft of hops last drifted here in 1981, and the malthouse you see ahead has other uses, but lots of good things survive in this lively little place.
Its greatest treasure is the 12th-century abbey, a fine unspoiled Norman church, which only escaped the ravages of the Dissolution when the townspeople bought it for £100. Buried within is Earl Mountbatten of Burma, who lived at Broadlands. This imposing 18th-century mansion gives on to Capability Brown lawns sweeping down to the Test. Another former owner, Lord Palmerston, still keeps an eye on Romsey from his perch in Market Square. Traffic is poorly managed here, so it is worth parking at Broadlands and walking into town. Children should enjoy the Rapids leisure pool, with its giant flume and swirling water; and if you visit in November, go to Saddler’s Mill, where Test Valley salmon perform gymnastic feats to reach their spawning grounds upstream.
Places to stay near Romsey
> Leave Romsey on the A3090 heading east. Shortly after Ampfield, turn right at the Potters Heron signed Chandlers Ford. Cross the B3043 and drive along Hocombe Road. At a T-junction turn left over the flyover towards Otterbourne. On entering the village turn right on to an unclassified road, cross the River Itchen and the B3335 (dogleg right and left) and proceed along Church Lane, turning at its end on to the B3354. Turn left on to the B2177, then left for Marwell.
Visiting Marwell Wildlife
Set in the 100-acre (40-hectare) park of a Tudor hall, this is one of the biggest zoos in Britain. The approach here is modern, and the animals enjoy considerable freedom. Marwell’s biggest claim to fame is the work done here for animal conservation – rescuing threatened species, breeding from them and returning them to the wild. You might bump into a scimitar-horned oryx or a Przewalski’s horse, both snatched from imminent extinction. Children will particularly enjoy patting pot-bellied pigs in their own farmyard! Also recommended are Marwell’s Wonderful Railway and the licensed Café Graze.
Places to stay near Marwell
> Return to the B2177 and continue to Bishop’s Waltham.
Visiting Bishop’s Waltham
As you approach, tall flint ruins on the right give a clue as to how the town got its name. For 400 years, Bishops of Winchester lived here in a splendid palace, built in 1135, and all but destroyed by Cromwell’s troops. Little remains except the walls of the great hall, but the site is open to the public. In the town centre, shops and houses span eight centuries of architecture, many hiding salvaged palace beams. Look out for the Bishop’s Mitre in the Square, last remnant of the Market Hall. The town’s history is charted in the small museum in Brook Street.
Four miles (6km) to the south of Bishop’s Waltham, on the A334, is the elegant Georgian town of Wickham, birthplace of William of Wykeham, founder of Winchester College and Chancellor of England. As you leave on Bridge Street, watch for the Chesapeake Mill, built in 1820 from the timbers of a captured American Man o’ War, the Chesapeake.
Peaceful Southwick, further on, is where Eisenhower made his 1944 headquarters at Southwick House. In the village he and Montgomery met world leaders and planned the world’s greatest seaborne invasion.