Combine glorious woodland and riverside walking, along the River Dun, with a visit to a 12th-century Augustinian priory.
Distance 3.5 miles (5.7km)
Minimum time 1hr 30min
Ascent/gradient 164ft (50m)
Level of difficulty Easy
Paths Easy woodland trails and field paths, 10 stiles
Landscape Water-meadows, farmland and National Trust woodland
Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 131 Romsey, Andover & Test Valley
Start/finish SU 315277
Dog friendliness Can be let off lead in Spearywell Wood
Parking National Trust car park at Spearywell Wood
Public toilets In Abbey gardens (only if visiting Abbey)
1 Pass beside the barrier opposite the Spearywell Wood car park entrance to join a woodland path. Ignore paths left and right and pass through a tall conifer plantation then, where the path narrows to a grassy junction, turn left (by a concrete marker stone). Bear right with the estate path at the next junction, then at the staggered junction (by a short cut sign to the Abbey), bear left, then immediately right through woodland. Descend through the woodland fringe to a junction and turn left into a cleared area. At a barrier and crossing of paths, turn right along an estate path. Cross a stile and continue downhill beside fencing, eventually passing beneath the railway to a footbridge over the River Dun.
2 Don't cross the river. Turn left through the kissing gate and follow the path across meadow and rough, marshy pasture (two plank bridges), to a double stile at the end by the oak trees. Bear right round the field edge to a stile. Continue through a copse, passing a spring, then an isolated thatched cottage to a stile by a gate. Proceed along the left-hand field edge to a stile and follow the grassy track to the railway. Cross the line (take great care - look and listen), then follow the track to a stile and the B3084. Turn right to visit the Mill Arms at Dunbridge. Cross over to join a field path which soon bears left to a lane. Turn right and enter Mottisfont.
3 At the T-junction, turn right for the entrance to Mottisfont Abbey. Retrace your steps along the road and bear right to a junction, opposite the Abbey gates. Turn left along Bengers Lane and take the path right, diagonally across the field towards a lone oak tree. Cross a plank bridge and proceed through the next field to a gate. Turn right along the road for 150yds (137m) for the car park.
This short walk explores the National Trust estate at Mottisfond. Set picturesquely beside the River Test and around the walls of a former 12th-century priory, Mottisfont is a charming village of thatched cottages and Georgian houses, complete with a splendid listed church and an old tithe barn. The village name is derived from 'moot's font' or 'spring of the meeting place', which rises in a deep pool in the abbey grounds.
Originally an Augustinian priory church, founded by William Briwere in 1201, Mottisfont Abbey never achieved the full status of an Abbey and struggled to survive until the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Between 1536 and 1540 it was acquired by William, Lord Sandys who converted the buildings into a mansion. It was during the 18th century that much of the medieval cloisters were destroyed and the romantic title 'Abbey' given to the building. Although mainly private, you can still see some medieval arches, the 13th-century monks' cellarium and a masterpiece of trompe-l'oeil work by Rex Whistler, one of the great British artists of the 20th century, in the Drawing Room. You will find the sweeping lawns and mature trees which run down to the River Test very peaceful and well worth spending a few quiet moments in.
Whether you start the walk from Mottisfont Abbey car park (mid-March to October only) or from Spearywell Wood, you will find strolling through the village a real delight, especially if you take afternoon tea on the lawn of the Post Office Tea Rooms, with its view along the main street. Beginning from the latter, the walk explores good estate paths through woodland, then gradually descends into the Dun Valley, offering you serene views west across rolling downland into Wiltshire
The swiftly flowing River Dun, a tributary of the Test, was also known as the Barge River. At one time there were plans to develop a canal to link Southampton and Salisbury, but the scheme was never completed.
If you're here in June, make sure you see the National Collection of Old Fashioned Roses, established in the walled kitchen garden of the Abbey in 1972. The colour and heady perfume of thousands of roses of a balmy June evening is a magical experience.
Enjoy a welcome break at the Post Office Tea Rooms in Mottisfont, which offers light lunches, excellent home-made cakes and alfresco seating. The Abbey has its own licensed restaurant. A short diversion just beyond halfway will lead you to the Mill Arms at Dunbridge for well presented food, decent ales and a pleasant summer garden.
You should not miss St Andrew's Church in Mottisfont. Dating from the 12th century and Grade 1 listed, it contains more 15th-century stained glass that any other Hampshire church, a fine Norman chancel and a rare clock mechanism (1614-17), the only other one in working order being in Salisbury Cathedral. While strolling the magnificent grounds surrounding Mottisfont Abbey, lookout for the old Ice House behind the stables. Few remain in the county in such good condition.