Exploring a classic estate village, the Avon Valley and surrounding downland.
Distance 9 miles (14.5km)
Minimum time 4hrs
Ascent/gradient 315ft (105m)
Level of difficulty Medium
Paths Field paths, water-meadows, woodland trails, 9 stiles
Landscape River valley and woodland on New Forest fringe
Suggested map aqua3 OS Outdoor Leisure 22 New Forest, OS Explorer 130 Salisbury & Stonehenge
Start/finish SU 151187 (on Outdoor Leisure 22)
Dog friendliness Let them run free on Breamore Down
Parking Car park near Breamore House and Countryside Museum
Public toilets Opposite Countryside Museum
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1 Walk past the tea room and Countryside Museum and turn right beside the parkland wall. Cross the drive to Breamore House and walk to the church. Bear right then left through the churchyard to a gate. Head across pasture, cross a stile and bear half-left to a stile. Keep to the left-hand field edge to a gate and turn right through a copse to a stile.
2 Head straight across two fields, via stiles, and cross the busy A338. Cross a footbridge and stile beyond the lay-by. Walk across the field to some swing gates and another footbridge. Maintain direction and follow the path through South Charford Farm.
3 Turn right along a track, follow it left (arrow on gate post), then right and left across the valley. Bear off left across an old sluice and cross the meadow beside a stream (it can be wet and boggy here) to a stile. Cross a footbridge and keep alongside the stream to a stile. Follow the path to the right of a drainage channel, then on nearing the River Avon, turn left across a wooden bridge to a gate.
4 Cross the Avon and the lane, then climb the steep path to St Mary's Church. Keep to the path uphill, soon to run parallel with the drive to Hale House. Turn right at the lane, then left along a lane beside Garden Cottage.
5 At the end of the lane, fork right down the gravel drive and walk in front of Hemmick Court. Head downhill, then climb through woodland on a rhododendron-lined path. At a crossing of bridleways, turn right and proceed through Stricklands Plantation. Pass beneath a pylon and soon descend to a junction of tracks.
6 Turn left and follow a drive to a T-junction of tracks. Turn right and gradually descend to a drive. Turn left, cross a stile to the right of a gate and head across pasture to a stile. Keep to the right-hand field to a gate and bear left downhill through woodland to a footbridge. Ascend between houses to a gravel track. Turn right, then left at the junction to the lane in Woodgreen.
7 Turn right downhill, passing the shop, following the lane signed to Breamore. Cross the Avon Valley, passing Breamore Mill, to the A338. Turn right, pass the Bat and Ball and immediately cross the road to follow a lane left. Pass behind the school to join a track beside common land.
8 Bear off right on to the common, following the right-hand path towards a thatched cricket pavilion. Follow the path right, then just before cottages and a track, turn left along a path to a footbridge and gravel drive. Bear right to a lane, opposite Orchard Cottage. Turn left and take the footpath right across a field to a lane. Turn left, then left again at the T-junction back to the car park.
Breamore, pronounced 'Bremmer', is a truly ancient village. Stretching across the lush water-meadows and up the western chalk slopes of the Avon Valley, it is one of Hampshire's most impressive villages. Knots of 17th-century brick cottages and farmhouses, mostly thatched and timber-framed, are dotted around a large boggy common and close to Breamore's centre-piece, the fine Elizabethan manor house.
The main village attractions are the manor, the Saxon church and Countryside Museum. Breamore's early history is encountered on the longer walk. As you venture across the water-meadows near South Charford Farm, you are on the site of the Battle of Charford (or Cerdicsford). Here, in ad 519, a bloody battle was fought between the native Britons from Old Sarum, and the Saxons, led by Cerdica. The Saxons won the day, slaying 5,000 Britons, the victory, arguably, leading to the creation of the Saxon Kingdom of Wessex.
The Church of St Mary, close to Breamore House, is a rare Saxon survivor having been built about 980. Despite later alterations, including a Norman porch and a 14th-century chancel, it still preserves much of the Saxon fabric, notably the extensive use of flints and some Roman bricks in its construction, small double-splayed windows, an Anglo-Saxon inscription, and a magnificent Saxon stone rood above the nave doorway. There's so much of interest here, so pick up a copy of the guide book before you explore. The pre-Reformation church was closely linked with Breamore Priory (1130-1536). The site can be seen beside the Avon just north of Breamore Mill. Following the Dissolution of the priory, a manor was built in 1583 by Queen Elizabeth's Treasurer, William Doddington. In warm red brick in the classic Elizabethan 'E' shape, it was purchased in the 18th century by Sir Edward Hulse, King George II's physician, and has remained the Hulse family home ever since.
Towards the end of the walk, you'll cross Breamore Marsh. This extensive 'common' contains boggy areas and the village cricket ground. It is a surviving manorial green, still used for grazing, and cricket has been played here since the 1830s.
Do not miss the Countryside Museum as it provides a fascinating insight into the days when a village was self-sufficient. You can see re-creations of village buildings and workshops, including a farm worker's cottage and a dairy, and view a vast collection of agricultural machinery and tractors.