A five mile, circular walk which takes in a small corner of the New Forest and which includes: a museum in a red phone box, an old railway station, an 18th century mill, a tiny church with a memorial to one of the most virtuous woman ever, ancient water meadows, bluebell woods and a rare example of a complete Anglo-Saxon church with a Saxon rood.
The walk is mostly though countryside with a small stretch on rural roads and takes about 90 minutes - more if you are going to stop off to explore the stops on the way.
Map from Woodgreen Shop which you will pass on your walk and is a great place to pick up food and drink to keep you going
The google map above has full directions, but directions are also given throughout in what3words co-ordinates.
Breamore and Woodgreen are two small villages right on the northern edge of the New Forest. Both are very rural with extensive countryside around them. Breamore is split by the A338, which is the main road between Bournemouth and Salisbury, which is well served by a good bus route. For a small village, Breamore has a lot of heritage to visit, including an Elizabethan manor house, a Countryside Museum, a medieval mizmaze and an old railway station.
Being a circular walk, you can choose your starting point, but I have selected Breamore as it is on the X3 bus route between Salisbury and Bournemouth, making it very easy to reach by public transport. If you are driving, there is free parking in Breamore School on weekends and school holidays only, or find roadside parking in the village without getting in anyone's way.
If you are catching a bus, get off at the Police Cottage stop in Breamore and head north until you reach the turn off for Woodgreen. If you have parked in Breamore, head south down the A338 until you reach the turn off for Woodgreen. (w3w: national.coach.plankton)
Breamore Halt from the bridge and its platform
Almost as soon as you leave the A338, the road takes you on a bridge over an old railway line which has been out of use since 1964. The Breamore station, known as the Breamore Halt, remains, and from the bridge you can look down over this restored tiny station, the crumbling platform and the grassy tracks which replace the old steel railway.
A two mile stretch of the railway line has recently been opened up by Hampshire County Council to walkers - you can get full directions and read about the walk and more about Breamore Halt here. It is worth a quick diversion to go and have a look at this rather lovely place.
Continue on the road across the bridge - this is the only stretch of road of the walk, and just keep following it until you reach another bridge at w3w: mainframe.arming.vaccines. As you cross the bridge you will see Breamore Mill on your left.
Breamore Mill is a Grade II listed building and was built in the early 1800s as a watermill, remaining in use until the 1970s. Sadly it is a private home so cannot be visited, but it is very impressive to look at and see the speed at which the water rushes through the river channels.
Keep following the road until you reach the small village of Woodgreen. Follow the road as it bends round to the left, and you will soon seen a traditional red phone box on your right.
Inside here is a tiny little 'museum', filled with information about the origins of the village. Woodgreen is unusual for a New Forest village, being a relative newcomer to the area with no records of it before the 17th century.
It was originally an 'illegal' encampment of impoverished outsiders, and smuggling and poaching were rife. The phone box contains old photos of early Woodgreeners and is an interesting glimpse of life in this New Forest village.
The road continues round past the Horse & Groom pub, which is a traditional pub serving traditional British food, and which gets good reviews on Trip Advisor. A tiny church, the St. Boniface Church, is next. This was erected in 1914 as a Church Reading Room, and only became a church in 1949. Sadly it was closed when I walked past, but it is a tiny little church and probably worth a look inside if it is open.
Photograph © Nick Rutter Photography
The next building you pass is the Woodgreen Village Hall, opened in 1931 for use by social clubs and for entertainment for the villagers. Inside the hall are some murals depicting life in the village such as harvest time (the village was renowned for its soft fruit), children in Sunday School, a horticultural village show and many more scenes. Painted by two graduates of the Royal College of Art, they are lovely depictions of rural life. If you are unable to get inside to have a look at these, you can still see the latest artistic addition to the building - a mosaic over the front door which was created for the Millennium by local mosaic artist Trevor Caley.
The walk continues on past Woodgreen Community Shop - a real hub of the village. It is run by and for the community and has some excellent local produce on offer with 60 local suppliers. Local shops like this should really be encouraged, so do stop in to buy something on your way round if you can.
You come to a fork in the road at w3w: picked.studs.lucky. Take the left fork and continue on until you reach a bridge on your left - this is Cow Bridge. Before you cross it however, do a quick diversion to the right where you will see a track climbing steeply upwards to the Church of St. Mary. This is a unique church and is usually open for visitors.
Originally built in the 14th century, the building underwent some incredible additions in the 18th century, giving the exterior a very baroque look.
Inside you will find some Victorian and modern stained glass windows, a memorial to an incredibly virtuous woman, a large ornate sculpture of an architect as a Roman senator and the remains of wall paintings which were painted after the Reformation under Henry VIII but covered over during the Cromwell years, which were only recently uncovered.
Read more about the church and the memorials inside (Coming soon)
Cross over Cow Bridge and here you will enter the 17th century water meadows. Turn left and follow the path over two bridges, turning right at w3w: subtitle.detect.bumping. This will keep you on the path which is elevated and means you won't get wet feet as you traverse the meadows.
The very beautiful 17th century water meadows
Financed by local landowner Sir Joseph Ashe and developed by his steward John Snow in the 1660s, the meadows were created to water early grass for the sheep flocks and later reliable crops of hay. It was extensive works and you can still see the ridges and channels they produced.
At w3w: flaking.highlighted.thanks veer left and cross the bridge. Follow the track round next to the River Avon.
This whole area is filled with wildlife and you should see plenty of birds including swans and herons.
At w3w: truth.tributes.boring turn left and follow the path through South Charford Farm, following the track round to the left and between farm buildings. Keep going straight on through the fields until you reach the A338 main road. You will see a narrow spot to cross the road - it is signposted - and keep going straight on through the fields ahead until you reach the woods. Bear left.
The path to the bluebell woods at Breamore
Depending on the time of year, the woods can be overgrown. If you visit in Spring, you will find the wood floor is covered in bluebells, which is a beautiful sight.
At w3w: hound.dreamers.increases, go through the gate and cross the field, where you can see the Elizabethan Breamore House on your right. Head for the gate at w3w: width.retiring.fuzz. This brings you to the Grade I listed St. Mary's Church.
St. Mary's is quite an exceptional church, and it may be open so try the door. A fine example of an early Saxon church and one of the most important in southern England, the church was founded about 1000 years ago, and although it has a few medieval additions, they are fairly minor.
Inside you can see Saxon windows, a leper window and an inscription dating from Ethelred the Unready.
If the church is locked, you can still see its most incredible piece of heritage - a Saxon rood in the main porch. The carving is nearly life sized and shows Jesus on the cross as well as the suicide of Judas - a very rare subject matter for the time.
Leave the church and at the crossroads, take the left path. (w3w: establish.charge.clasping). Walk down the track with the countryside museum on your right, turn left at the end of the road and continue a short way down the road until you see a gap in the hedge on your right (w3w: showed.tips.published).