Explore the hills and combes close to the Wiltshire/Hampshire border.
Distance 8 miles (12.9km)
Minimum time 4hrs 15min
Ascent/gradient 1,099ft (335m)
Level of difficulty Hard
Paths Bridle paths, downland tracks, field paths, roads, 8 stiles
Landscape Farmland, woodland, downland pasture, village streets
Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 131 Romsey, Andover & Test Valley
Start/finish SU 308530
Dog friendliness Keep dogs under control at all times
Parking Lower Chute Club
Public toilets None on route
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1 Turn left out of the car park and then right at the T-junction. Fork left at the war memorial, then turn left again by the 'Chute Cadley' village sign. Keep left and take the bridle path, a track, through the edge of woodland. Continue between hedgerows and descend into Chute Standen.
2 Turn right at the T-junction then, where the lane swings left to Standen House, keep straight on up a grassy track of Breach Lane. At the T-junction, turn right and then left along the edge of woodland. Continue for ½ mile (800m) to Chute Causeway.
3 Cross straight over the causeway and steeply descend the track to a metalled lane in Hippenscombe Bottom. Turn left, then right through a gate and swing right, then left between farm buildings. Fork right along a grassy track, which soon swings left and steadily ascend to a crossing of ways.
4 Turn sharp right along the gravel track. At Fosbury Farm, bear right and walk beside woodland. Follow the track into the woods and soon pass through the ancient earthworks into Fosbury Ring on top of Knolls Down.
5 Fork left, exit the ring and walk down the left-hand field edge. Go through the gap in the corner and maintain direction around the edge of a large field. Descend to a cottage in the corner. Turn right along the lane and cross the stile almost immediately on your left. Keep to the right-hand field edge to a stile and lane and turn right into Vernham Dean.
6 Take the waymarked track beside a house called Underwood. Follow the left-hand field edge, then just before a gap in the corner, turn right down a hedged track. Follow the track just within woodland, then follow the waymarker steeply uphill across a field and through a small plantation to a stile. Turn left along the top of the escarpment to a gate in the corner and the road.
7 Turn right then, where the road swings sharp left by a junction, keep straight on over another stile. Initially head towards a barn, but then fork left across a depression and continue to another stile. Cross the next field to a stile and walk down a track between fields. Bear slightly left, then walk along the right-hand field edge to cross a stile by a cattle grid.
8 Keep to the right-hand edge of a long field and cross the stile on the right just before the corner. Continue beside woodland, eventually joining a drive which becomes a metalled lane. Turn right at the T-junction and soon retrace your steps back to the car park.
This walk explores the hilly and relatively deserted border country between Wiltshire and Hampshire, in what remains of Chute Forest. In medieval times vast tracts of woodland canopied an area stretching from Savernake Forest, in the north, to Salisbury, in the south, before swelling out again into the New Forest, providing a prime hunting ground for Norman and medieval kings.
The parishes of Chute and Chute Forest can be traced back to Norman times and it is believed that the ancient meaning of Chute is wood or forest. Habitation within the parishes at that time may well have been no more than a few cottages in a large clearing occupied by charcoal burners or peasants. Deforestation began in 1632 during the reign of Charles I (1600-49), who divided the area up among his favoured nobles. The result of this is still evident today, for there is no village in the generally accepted sense of the word, but a collection of five small hamlets - Upper and Lower Chute, Chute Standen, Chute Forest and Chute Cadley - which developed around what were once farms or country houses, such as Standen House and Chute Lodge.
The landscape is still well wooded with a mixture of copse, plantations, windbreaks or 'rows' and roadside plantings of beech linked by a sprinkling of hedgerow trees. The paths and byways you will follow on this walk explore in depth this quite remote area of Wiltshire, which rises to over 800ft (244m), affording splendid views south across Hampshire to the Isle of Wight.
The highest point of the walk is on the impressive Chute Causeway, which was originally part of the Roman highway from Winchester, in Hampshire, to Mildenhall, near Marlborough. It forms a great arc around some of the most attractive scenery in Wiltshire, for just north of the now paved road are deep combes and steep hills (such as Knolls Down). Some of these are so steep that the Roman road, which usually ignores natural obstacles, swerves to avoid the deep combe, known as Hippenscombe Bottom. At the eastern end of the Causeway is Conholt House, a large, early 19th-century building of grey brick. It was here during excavations in 1898, that a small terrace set with 12-16 inches (30-40cm) of flint, covered with layers of soil, clay and compacted chalk, was uncovered. Part of this terrrace appears to have been burned, which offers an explanation as to how the Romans built such straight roads - by lighting fires at both ends of the semi-circular section of the Causeway they could line up the columns of smoke to align their road.
Explore Knolls Down and the ramparts of Fosbury Camp, an oval bivallate hill fort from the Iron Age, (defended by two concentric banks and ditches), enclosing 26 acres (10.5ha), and savour the views west along Hippenscombe Bottom into the heart of Wiltshire.
Time your walk to coincide with opening time at the Hatchet Inn in Lower Chute, an idyllic, thatched 16th-century pub with low beams, a log fire in a huge inglenook and a varied menu listing hearty home-cooked food. Along the way, try the George in Vernham Dean for Greene King ales and traditional pub food.
Visit the ruins of Ludgershall Castle, built during the late 11th century and later a royal castle and hunting palace used by Henry III in the 13th century. It fell into decay around the 16th century but you can still see some of the original large Norman earthworks, as well as more recent flint walling.