King's Somborne and Horsebridge

Enjoy the Test Valley and the fine downland scenery around King's Somborne, once the haunt of Norman kings.




5.9 miles (9.5kms)

482ft (147m)

About the walk

The tiny hamlet of Horsebridge is at the point where the original Roman road from Winchester to Old Sarum crossed the River Test. It is believed the Normans revived the old road to provide easy access from a hunting lodge, at Clarendon in Wiltshire, to a palace that probably existed at King’s Somborne, and the huge deer park nearby. The proximity of the former deer park is reflected in the name of the pub, John O’Gaunt Inn, named after the prince who acquired the hunting ground following his marriage in 1359.

Hollows and Bumps

King’s Somborne takes its name from where the ‘som’ (swine) drank at or crossed the ‘borne’ (stream), with the royal connection dating back at least to Saxon times. In the Domesday Book of 1086, the manor was held by the Crown. Tradition has it that John of Gaunt (1340–99) had his palace behind the church in King’s Somborne. Various hollows and humps in the field indicate the remains of a building, but excavations have only revealed evidence of an Anglo-Saxon settlement. There was a large manor house here in 1591 but ‘John of Gaunt’s Palace’ is a more recent name based on the manor of King’s Somborne being inherited by his wife in 1362. The deer park was created by William Briwere before 1200 and you can see parts of the 14th century enclosing banks and yew trees as you leave the Test Valley and begin ascending on the Clarendon Way, and banks up to 10ft (3m) can be seen alongside the Horsebridge road. In the village you will also see the school next to the church. It was founded in 1842 by Reverend Richard Dawes and built from knapped flints salvaged from the ruins of the manor house. Your route follows the disused Test Valley Railway, or the ‘Sprat and Winkle line’ as it was affectionately known. It was built in 1865, replacing the canal that ran between Redbridge and Andover, but closed during the Beeching era in 1964. The Test Way, a long-distance path, follows it for 10 miles (16.1km) from Lower Brook to Fullerton.

Walk directions

Leave the car park and turn left, opposite the John O’Gaunt Inn. Cross the River Test and turn right along the Test Way, dropping down on to the old railway line. After 0.75 miles (1.2km), pass beside a gate and turn right along the Clarendon Way.

Climb out of the valley, with the track becoming metalled at the top. Ignore turnings to the left and right, keeping straight ahead until, at the T-junction, you turn right with a waymarker down the left-hand edge of a field towards King’s Somborne.

As you reach the houses in the field corner, descend the steps then turn right along the lane, and right again at the A3057 to enter the village. Turn left along Church Road opposite The Crown Inn. Ignore the lanes on the left and right and gradually climb away from the village. Just past a house called Hillcrest, at the top of the hill, turn left at the fork, signed to Hoplands.

Follow this road past a memorial to footpath warden Mike Woodcock, and a vineyard on the right. Ignore the right of way to the right, and gently climb beside paddocks, following the road past Pepperwood Park. Keep ahead along a track and pass a memorial stone to four German airmen on your left.

Turn left along the Clarendon Way through a copse. Bear right and walk downhill on a narrow path beside paddocks and gallops, with splendid views across the Test Valley. Pass through a gap and follow the field edge ahead. Continue along the righthand edge of fields before descending to a lane in King’s Somborne.

Turn left and walk through the village, following the lane left to a T-junction. Turn right and then left along a narrow footpath beside the churchyard wall. Besides an information board, enter an area of rough grassland. This is where John of Gaunt’s palace is supposed to have been. Go ahead on a hard path to enter a playing field. Bear diagonally left across the field to the top left-hand corner. Go through a kissing gate to join a grassy path leading to a close of houses. Turn right then, before reaching the main road, turn left along a narrow fenced path between properties to the main road.

Cross straight over the A3057 and go through a kissing gate into pasture. Take the footpath slightly right across the field to its boundary and a kissing gate. Keep to the path that leads through gardens, via small gates, to a field.

Continue ahead towards a house and shortly cross the drive in front of it. Maintain your direction through further pasture to reach a stile and lane in Horsebridge. Turn right, then right again at the junction and turn left back into the Test Way car park.

Additional information

Former railway track, field paths, tracks and road, 1 stile

River valley, open farmland and downland

Off lead along the Test Way, otherwise keep under control

OS Explorer 131 Romsey, Andover & Test Valley

Test Way car park at Horsebridge, opposite John O' Gaunt Inn

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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