With its links to royalty and the nobility, a stroll around Holly Hill Woodland Park is a cut above your average walk.
At the dawn of the Victorian age William Cawte owned much of Holly Hill but the landscape that you’ll see on this walk was largely created for Quentin Hogg during the 1880s. An old Etonian who made his fortune in the tea and sugar trade, Hogg was a keen sportsman and social reformer. He was also the grandfather of another Quentin Hogg – the late Lord Hailsham, who served as Lord Chancellor in both the Heath and Thatcher governments.
It’s rumoured that Hogg employed Sir Joseph Paxton, architect of London’s Crystal Palace, to design his gardens. What’s more certain is that the grottoes and waterfalls at Holly Hill were constructed by James Pulham and Son, a prominent firm of landscape gardeners who also worked for the royal family at Sandringham and Buckingham Palace. Although the Pulhams used natural stone for their gardens wherever possible, their ‘rock builders’ also developed the technique of creating artificial Pulhamite rocks like the ones you’ll see at Holly Hill. These rocks were built up around a brick or rubble core and faced with a mixture of cement and Portland stone, so that the finished job was almost indistinguishable from the real thing. The company went out of business in about 1940 but not before leaving other examples of their work in major gardens throughout Britain.
After Quentin Hogg’s death in 1903 the estate was sold to George Winn, who built the mansion and laid out the sunken garden a few years later. You can see the sunken garden near the picnic area, just after crossing the old carriageway at the start of your walk and you’ll also get glimpses of the private mansion from here. Further on, as you walk around the lakes, you’ll see examples of the ornamental specimen trees planted since the late 19th century. One of the oldest is a Californian coastal redwood, a species that’s always popular with children who can punch its soft, thick bark without hurting themselves. Just make sure that they find the right tree.
Leave the car park by the gate and keep ahead along the woodland path, descending to a junction with the old carriageway. Turn left, pass the picnic area on your left and turn right at the next junction.
Follow the path to a marker post (green arrow) and fork left. Keep ahead past a gateway on your left, ignore the turning on your right and continue to a small clearing and bench seat.
Fork right across here onto a narrow path through trees and turn right at the T-junction. Follow the undulating path ahead, and cross a footbridge at the foot of a short slope. Pass a pair of water pipes that bridge the brook on your left, keep ahead along the boardwalk and continue through this quiet valley beside the brook to the Cawtes Copse information panel on your right, with ponds appearing on your left.
Keep ahead for 100yds (91m), then turn left at the lake, cross the green metal bridge and turn right. Walk past the old carved tree trunk and follow the path as it winds uphill past the Pulhamite grotto and then runs parallel with the edge of the lakes to a picnic area.
Turn right across the waterfall bridge, then left across the smaller green footbridge and continue beside the lakes on your left. A few paces after crossing a second bridge over a small stream turn right, cross another bridge and keep ahead up the woodland path. Follow it as it swings sharp right, keep right at a junction of paths, then turn immediately left up a flight of steps and up the path to the gateway into the car park.
Firm woodland paths
Landscaped wooded valley, lakes and waterfalls, with a flight of 21 steps
Keep under close control
AA Walker's Map 3 New Forest
Holly Hill Woodland Park car park, Barnes Lane
By car park entrance
Walking in safety
Read our tips to look after yourself and the environment when following this walk.
Also in the area
About the area
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.