It was a glorious bank holiday Sunday yesterday, so I thought I would get out into the countryside and explore the Test Way, a 44 mile long-distance walking route in rural Hampshire.
On their website Hampshire County Council explain that:
The way has been divided into 8 sections, each providing a really good day-out. Choose between water meadows or tidal marshes, riverbank picnics or cosy pubs, steep hills with exhilarating views or cool peaceful woodland.
For this hot bank holiday, I chose the “cool peaceful woodland” on a stretch of the Way between Longparish and Chilbolton, through the delightful Harewood Forest, which contains a great deal of interesting architecture, such as this Grade II listed animal feeding station.
Hampshire County Council go on to explain the Way “is well sign posted and waymarked”. There is certainly some truth in this statement. I was using my Ordnance Survey Explorer Map 131 to navigate, which also has the Test Way clearly marked.
A little beyond the village of Middleton, I came across the following sign across the route on my map.
At first glance you might think a sign like this is not particularly helpful, but I back-tracked a little, and found another sign a little earlier on the route.
I soon discovered why Hampshire County Council had considered it necessary to divert the route away from a public footpath which only walkers can access. A little further on I came across this.
That’s right, it’s a road, which means the Way is now not only accessible to walkers, but to cars and other large vehicles, a big improvement. And there are other benefits. This part of the route is now quite exciting to walk along, as I soon discovered when I nearly got mown down by this lorry.
I was now some distance off the route marked on my map. Thankfully, as Hampshire County Council said, the route is clearly waymarked, with many signposts displayed in prominent locations so that you can’t miss them. Like this one, for example.
There were also a number of other helpful signs, such as this.
And this one…
And another one here…
It’s clear that walkers can feel at home here. Another nice touch is the way all the footpaths through this delightful stretch of woodland have been thoughtfully surfaced in CONCRETE.
There is much of historical interest along the Test Way, too. Here, for instance, is a fine example of an Iron Age burial mound. Cynics might say this looks just like a slag heap, but bear in mind that in olden days “slag” was another word for a lady of ill-repute. For me, passing this long barrow evoked images of long-forgotten intrigue. Was some prehistoric doxy once murdered and dumped here by one of our ancestors?
This evocative image of early derring-do was further enhanced a little further along the path, when I came across this abandoned vehicle which had been driven into a ditch and dumped there. Could it have been left here by the murderer making a speedy getaway?
The Test Way is a path to be enjoyed at an easy pace in peace and tranquillity. Sadly not all of the people I passed yesterday had as much appreciation of the beauty which nature provides. Here’s a fellow traveller who was haring along at such a speed that I only had chance to photograph him once he had shot past me.
Luckily another man I passed a little further along, was much more inclined to share the trail with his fellow travellers.
The Test Way has many other delights which make walking it a true pleasure. I wish I could share with you the smells which were emanating from this industrial pig breeding centre I passed along the way.
If I have one criticism of the Test Way it’s that some of the activities which have been provided for tourists are in dubious taste.
If you’re a keen walker who likes to explore the great outdoors during your time off, then you should certainly add the Test Way to your bucket list. It’s clear a great deal of thought and effort has gone into creating and maintaining a route which is a true delight for ramblers to enjoy. Hampshire County Council can be justly proud of this fantastic advertisement for rural Hampshire. It certainly beats staying at home and pulling your fingernails out with a pair of pliers.
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