A loop from Hurstbourne Tarrant

See the village loved by the classic author and influential political activist.


Hurstbourne Tarrant


3.25 miles (5.25kms)

381ft (116m)
1hr 30min

About the walk

The political campaigner William Cobbett wrote chapters of his classic Rural Rides in the early years of the 19th century while staying with his friend Joseph Blount at Rookery House on Hurstbourne Hill. In his book he referred to the village many times by its contemporary name of Uphusband.

Crime and punishment

The two friends had much in common and both served prison sentences for their radical views. In spite of this, they continued to champion the rights of ordinary working people.

Blount was known for serving pork and potatoes to poor travellers from a wayfarers’ table set up in front of his house and would lend his horse Tinker to help wagons up the long slopes of Hurstbourne Hill. Meanwhile, Cobbett began promoting his radical views in his newspaper, the Political Register. After an interlude in the US, Cobbett returned to England in the aftermath of the Peterloo Massacre of 1819. He spoke out against the use of armed force to break up the political demonstration and stood, unsuccessfully, for Parliament in the following year. He then embarked on the project for which he is perhaps best remembered today, riding though southeast England and the Midlands to see the hardships endured by the rural poor.

Cobbett serialised his experiences in his own Political Register, before publishing the two volumes of Rural Rides in 1830. He still aspired to aParliamentary seat as the most effective way of improving the lives of ordinary people. After further electoral defeats, he was finally returned as MP for Oldham after the landmark Reform Act of 1832. At Westminster, Cobbett was an advocate of the Poor Law, which was passed a year before he died in 1835.

A short diversion from the centre of the village will take you to Blount’s home at Rookery House. It’s not open to the public but at the start of your walk you can seek out his grave in St Peter’s churchyard. Then, as you descend from Doles Wood on the slopes of Hurstbourne Hill, you’ll see the view that William Cobbett believed was one of the finest in southern England.

Walk directions

From the car park, go back to the B3048 and walk left past the school for 100yds (91m). Cross over, turn right through the kissing gate beside Parsonage Farm, immediately after the large L-shaped thatched barn, and bear left up the slope through a grassy paddock. Bear left through the kissing gate near the top and follow the enclosed path to the A343 near the village shop.

Cross the road and follow the path beside Marine Cottage, going through a series of four gates as you cross the paddocks, passing John’s Copse on the fenced path towards a large thatched barn. Just before the barn, turn left through the gate and follow the track. Go through a gate beside Ibthorpe Manor Farm to meet Horseshoe Lane, turning left to the village road.

Cross and turn left. Pass the former Methodist chapel and turn right up the track immediately before Boundary Cottage. Climb steadily to the stile that marks a fork in the path near the top. Keep ahead over the second (left-hand) stile, into a field, and briefly follow the left-hand hedge before crossing the field towards the left of the house.

Climb over the stile and follow the somewhat overgrown path to a road, then turn left to reach a junction with the A343. Cross the main road and keep ahead along the edge of Doles Wood, ignoring the track on your right just after the woods close in on your left. Then, 100yds (91m) further on, turn left at the waymarker post and bear right along a woodland path that drops to the corner of a wire fence.

Follow the waymarked route steeply downhill beside the fence to reach a field. Turn right for 100yds (91m) along the woodland edge, then turn left and drop down towards the village. At the foot of the hill, go through the gate into the recreation ground and turn right to the car park.

Additional information

Field and woodland paths (some overgrown or muddy sections), 3 stiles

Farmed valley with woodland on the upper slopes

Lead required through paddocks near the start

OS Explorer 131 Romsey, Andover & Test Valley

Car park, up the lane opposite the church

None on route

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About the area

Discover Hampshire

Hampshire’s varied landscape of hills and heaths, downlands and forests, valleys and coast is without rival in southern England. Combine these varied landscapes and terrains with secluded and idyllic villages, complete with thatched and timber-framed cottages and Norman churches, elegant Georgian market towns, historic ports and cities, restored canals and ancient abbeys, forts and castles, and you have a county that is paradise for lovers of the great outdoors.

If you’re a walker, stride out across the high, rolling, chalk downland of the north Hampshire ‘highlands’ with far-reaching views, walk through steep, beech-clad ‘hangers’ close to the Sussex border. Or perhaps take a gentler stroll and meander along peaceful paths through unspoilt river valleys, etched by the sparkling trout streams of the Test, Itchen, Avon and Meon. Alternatively, wander across lonely salt marshes and beside fascinating coastal inlets or, perhaps, explore the beautiful medieval forest and heathland of the New Forest, the jewel in Hampshire’s crown.

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