This walk takes place at Fordingbridge in the New Forest. The River Avon runs through this small town that lies 13 miles south of Salisbury.
To the east is the New Forest National Park and to the west are the Western Downlands and Cranborne Chase. Fordingbridge is surrounded by attractive villages and hamlets including Bickton, Breamore, Godshill, Hyde, Rockbourne and Woodgreen.
The area was populated from early times with the remains of significant Roman occupation, which is still evident at Rockbourne Roman Villa. The 13th century church of St. Mary’s is well worth a visit. A road bridge crossing over the River Avon was established in the 14th century and the current bridge dates from the 19th century. Close to the bridge is a statue of the artist Augustus John who lived in the town and surrounding area until his death in 1961. He is buried in Stuckton Road cemetery.
From the main car park head into the High Street and turn right. Turn left down Provost Street to Fordingbridge Parish Church. Take the Avon Valley Path (AVP) through the churchyard, passing the sewage works. Cross two bridges then leave the AVP and cross the wooden bridge over the River Avon. Continue to cross watercourses to reach Bickton Mill. Turn right onto the signed footpath, then left, crossing stiles, a gravel track, then a field diagonally to the A338 road.Cross the A338 with care and take the path opposite. Cross the field to another road. Turn left and walk to the corner where there is a stile and fingerpost. Cross the stile and take the left path diagonally across the field to another stile and continue to the path to reach the stream and road. Turn left passing the Three Lions pub. Take the second footpath on the right. Continue on this path and cross a metal bridge. Make for the right hand corner and cross a stile to reach the road. Turn right and walk on the path alongside the road, crossing when the path does so.
Take the signed footpath on the left up a grass slope and through trees to Sandy Balls Estate. Follow the footpath between the chalets bearing left to the Woodside Inn and then keep straight ahead on the roadway (route is waymarked). tart to descend into a wooded area passing a phone mast on your left. The track will then bend left again and descend further, passing a stile on the right. Cross the stile ahead to reach the water meadows and turn right. Cross a further stile on your right to follow the path through woodland. Turn left at the junction continuing downhill to the gateway. Turn left and follow the path through the water meadows to a suspension bridge leading to Burgate Manor Farm.
Follow the track to the A338 and take care crossing the road. Turn right and pass the Tudor Rose pub then take the right track on your left (AVP). This track quickly divides. Take the right branch and continue, then take a left turn and follow the path to Pennys Lane, which leads you to Whitsbury Road. Continue along Whitsbury Road to the junction with Green Lane and then follow The Bartons back into the car park.
Public transport: Bus Wilts & Dorset X3. For bus times call 0871 200 2233 (calls cost 10p per minute plus network extras) or visit Traveline.