Sunday, March 15, 2009

Test Way #6 - Monarchs, Mottisfont and old branch lines

Stage 2 of The Test Way threw up a couple of interesting talking points, as I've already said.

The old railway line we walked on, closed by Dr Beeching in the sixties, may not have had any tracks on it but it certainly boasted a station. Horsebridge station stuck out like a sore thumb ahead of us, being in good decorative order and boasting a signal box, platforms either side of the track and the main station building. According to Wikipedia this was used during WWII as a staging post to transport men and equipment from Salisbury Plain to Southampton for transfer to the front line in France. It is now a wedding venue and holiday accomodation.

It's a bit surreal to see the station ahead of you as you walk along the track, a little like being transported back in time because it's so well restored. If the footpath didn't deviate around the station to the left, rather than continuing on through the station, you really could imagine being back in the late 1800s approaching a bustling local station. Of course, Dr Beeching didn't feel that it was bustling at all when, in 1964 (1 year short of it's 100th anniversary), he closed the line down for passengers and, other than the occasional freight train, nobody experienced pulling into Horsebridge again.

Another point of interest on this stage of the walk was the walk around Mottisfont. At this point you pass Mottisfont Abbey, walking across flatlands around to the north of the village, a place where we like to go several times a year. Owned by the National Trust, it has peaceful lawns and an equally tranquil riverbank walk, a treasure-trove of a house and a maze-like rose garden. In the summer, you can watch plays and concerts in the grounds, a really fantastic (not to mention earie) experience.

As you pass the Abbey on your right, you get a different perspective to the one you get as a visitor to the property, but it's no less interesting and inviting. Really worth a visit for walkers on this route, particularly as it has a nice coffee shop! It's a great place to visit with the kids, and is probably the main reason why we have National Trust membership.

Finally, I want to mention other walks that intersect with The Test Way. We knew from our book that The Clarendon Way, which goes from Salisbury to Winchester, crossed our walk during the Romsey-Stockbridge section. However we started to see referenced to The Monarch's Way, a walk we'd not heard of before. Then attached to one of the waymarkers was a short incription saying that this was a 600+ mile route that retraces the steps of Charles II as he retreated from the battle of Worcester. As my dad lives near Worcester, this was interested because it suggested he could follow these waymarks all the way home!

Once we'd got home and recovered, I looked a bit further into The Monarch's Way. It transpires that the king travelled the route, which actually snakes north from Worcester, then south and along the south coast, over a period of six weeks and was hotly pursued by Parliamentary forces for most of the way.

At the point where it merges with The Test Way (for a couple of miles between Kimbridge and Horsebridge), Charles would have been heading east from Devon towards Brighton and eventually Shoreham. It's fair to say his route was anything but direct.

The walk also has a Wikipedia entry, which along with the Monarch's Trail Association site (linked above) tells you everything you need to know.

Stage 2 of The Test Way, despite the stodginess underfoot, has proven to be diverse and interesting in so many ways. Whatever else you could say about The Test Way, it's certainly been educational!

No comments: