A Walk Full of History Including
Danebury Iron Age Hill Fort
- Date: 20 April 2022
- Walk Leader: Gordon Churchill
- Distance: 8.5 Miles
- Start: Stockbridge, main street, GR SU 354351
On a cool and misty Spring morning we left Petersfield behind, driving to Stockbridge in the heart of the Test Valley for a circular walk of about 8.5 miles. We had not driven far before the sun began to burn off the low cloud. As we strode along Stockbridge High Street, we felt the warmth of the sun and we lingered awhile gazing into the river Test as it crossed under the road, and yes, there it was, a large trout on full view! We walked on and were reminded this was once an ancient Drove Road from Wales, and drovers would rest before moving on further to sell their cattle and sheep. Reaching the road junction we joined the Test Way, passing three metal sculptures depicting a shepherd with his dog, a railway worker, and a horse and jockey – more about horse racing later.
The Test Way is 44 miles long, starting at Inkpen Beacon and finishing at Eling where the River Test flows into Southampton Water. Our section of the Way follows the course of the Andover to Romsey Railway, opened in 1865 by the London & South Western Railway and closed in 1964.
After a about a mile, we left the Test Way and joined a minor road called The Bunny which led us to the little village of Longstock.
On the way we paused as the road crossed the river Test to take in the view of this magnificent “chalk stream”. We stopped for our mid-morning break at the war memorial opposite the Peat Spade Inn. A reminder that in days gone by peat would be cut and dried for burning. Our photographer busied herself with taking numerous shots of the very attractive thatched cottages with their crooked beams.
Turning right at St Mary’s Church we joined an ancient Byway, climbing steadily, passing a field of ewes with their very young lambs. Very soon, the Byway brought us to the main road leading to Danebury Ring, and the Iron Age hill fort.
Once away from the busy road we could enjoy our climb on grass closely cropped by three horses to reach the summit of the hill and the entrance to the Iron Age Hillfort. It is a site of national importance and one of the most studied ancient sites in Europe. Built about 2,500 years ago, with huge ramparts it must have been an impressive sight commanding superb views of approaching enemies. We sat on the summit among the Spring flowers, including cowslips, to eat our picnic lunch and to take in the panoramic view
Now refreshed, we set off along a different Byway leading back to Stockbridge passing a number of wild cherry trees in full blossom. We also noted the sunshine, hot by now, had brought out a profusion of different butterflies. Then, looking across a cultivated field an ivy-covered building could be seen. This was the Grandstand, all that now remains of the old racecourse. Racing had taken place since 1775 and this new course was opened in 1839 on the slopes of Danebury Hill with the final race meeting on 7th July 1898. A regular person to be seen at meetings was the Prince of Wales, and on one occasion he watched as his horse came in last and fell down dead! During WW II the old gallops were used as a testing site for Spitfires. Just a little further and we branched off from the Byway, taking a field path leading us to the crossing point of the A30 Winchester to Salisbury Road. Then it was all down hill via another drove road leading us back to Stockbridge and our parked cars. A most interesting walk with plenty of history, much enjoyed by all.
Author: Gordon Churchill
Photos: Sandy Arpino