Great outdoors: The best Winter walks near you
After the over-indulgence of Christmas (pour me another Baileys, please!) it’s become part and parcel of British tradition to go for a lovely winter walk with the family. We’ve hunted down some fabulous spots around Hampshire and the Isle of Wight to take in some fresh air, stave off the cabin fever and enjoy some of the glorious countryside. Best foot forward.
Forest of Bere, Wickham – Medium effort
Located just off Hundred Acres Road, you probably won’t find Pooh Bear down in these woods but you will find a couple of options for a good old stroll. There are a couple of trails to choose from, one with a sharp incline to get your Fitbit stair count up and one that’s a bit more slowpoke friendly (that’ll be me then).
You have to pay for parking so make sure to bring some change, but the whole place has plenty of trees for climbing, water points en-route and even a lovely little airstream that sells gourmet hot chocolate in the carpark. Lovely.
Queen Elizabeth Country Park, Horndean – Medium effort
Beloved by dog walkers and those with small children, this 1,400-acre spot is a beautiful place to work off those mince pies. With a mixture of woodland and green space, you can climb to the top of Butser Hill for amazing views around Hampshire (and even the Isle of Wight, if it’s clear).
There’s a car park and facilities, all day parking costs £6. If you’re in the mood for a swift drink and spot of good pub grub after your walk, then head to the nearby Seven Stars, just outside of Petersfield, for a roaring fire and cozy vibe.
Tall Trees Trail, Blackwater – Leisurely effort
One for all you nature lovers. This New Forest walk will take you through the Rhinefield Ornamental Drive of redwoods and Douglas fir trees. There’s also a particularly HUGE tree called a Wellingtonia (strong name), and it can grow larger than any other tree on earth. Kudos.
Along the way, you may be lucky enough to get a glimpse of the famous New Forest ponies and even deer as well. The added bonus is the trail is quite flat and well maintained, so easier for those with mobility issues.
Steephill Cove, Ventnor – Medium effort
This is less of a walk and more of an escape to the past. Starting off at the rather lovely Spyglass Inn in Ventnor, follow the trail to find Steephill Cove. This little spot is usually very deserted with lobster pots and a couple of fishermen’s cottages dotted around but was once the centre of a lot of smuggling activity.
There’s a private car park nearby and although its a short walk (about 20 minutes), it does get rather steep so probably not best for those with small kids and limited mobility.
Jane Austen Circular Walk, Alton – Medium effort
If you fancy throwing yourself into a literary fantasy à la Sense & Sensibility, this bookish stroll will be right up your footpath.
Following the steps that Jane Austen took when she lived in Hampshire all those years ago, you can discover the inspiration behind some of her novels and spots that she mentions in correspondence. The walk is just under 3 hours and covers around 4.5 miles. Following all that exertion, then make sure to stop by the local watering hole, The Greyfriar, which has it’s own little claim to fame with the Austen family.
Inkpen, West Berkshire – Maximum effort
Sneak over the border to Berkshire (just for a little bit), for this rather long but amazing walk. This is 8 miles of the rather lengthy 44 miles Test Way trail, and snakes down from West Berkshire/North Hampshire all the way down to the coast near Southampton.
This particular stretch is the very top of the route and starts high up near Inkpen Beacon (you apparently can see Salisbury Cathedral on a clear day) and leads down into some adorable villages and hamlets along the way. This one is quite intense so bring your A-game and a sturdy pair of shoes.
If you manage to conquer all eight miles, then stop off at The George & Dragon in Hurstbourne Tarrant, to reward yourself for a job well done (and to replenish yourself before you head back to the car. Gulp!)
Fleet Pond Nature Reserve – Leisurely effort
Fleet Pond is Hampshire’s largest freshwater lake, covering a vast 141 acres. On the border with Farnborough and relatively under-the-radar beyond the immediate locale, the nature reserve takes in heathland, marshes, woodland and open water, with plenty of wildlife to boot.
From the (free) car park, or nearby Fleet railway station, strike out on a leisurely 1km stroll following the red markers, or longer 3km and 4km rambles following the yellow and blue routes. Kids of a certain age will love the engaging 2km story trail from Hampshire County Council’s Countryside team – the story of the princess, the pike and the pond.
Afterwards, warm up by the fire at the cosy, nautical-inspired Heron on the Lake, with good contemporary grown-up and kids’ menus and respectable wine list. Salut!