From Ashurst railway station this short and easy walk explores a variety of landscapes that characterise the New Forest
The route first takes you past open Forest lawns where ponies graze and through Churchplace Inclosure, a timber plantation, before crossing the railway into Ashurst Wood. Then continue along a road that winds pleasantly through ancient pasture woodland and across a grassy lawn to the historic remains of a saltpetre house. Return via a roadside cycle track to Ashurst village.
First established in 1810, Churchplace Inclosure is a predominately oak and beech woodland that has been fenced off from grazing animals. It is a good example of sustainable woodland management which supports both timber production and wildlife conservation. The wide grassy rides provide access into the woodland to harvest trees and act as long narrow glades where wildflowers and insects such as butterflies can enjoy the sunlight.
Look for the earthwork remains of a 16th Century saltpetre house. In Tudor times the timber from Ashurst wood was burnt for the production of saltpetre, the raw material for gunpowder. Saltpetre was also used for tanning leather (animal hides). After heavy rain the shallow scrapings are flooded which helps reveal the outline of this feature.
- Start/finish: Ashurst New Forest railway station or bus stop; Grid SU334 101, Postcode SO40 7AA
- Ordnance Survey map: Explorer OL 22 New Forest
- Getting there: New Forest Tour blue route (seasonal open-top service). Bluestar route 6. Ashurst railway station
- Distance: 2.8 miles (4.5 km)
- Duration: 1-2 hours
- Local facilities: Ashurst village; public parking, shops, pub, cafes and post office.
- Accessibility: Easy walking on level ground with a few gentle gradients. Two road crossings and four gates. Woodland track and gateways can be muddy.
1. Start from railway station
From platform two follow signs for Ashurst village to join an enclosed footpath that runs north alongside the railway track for 200 metres; on your right is the Open Forest where ponies can wander and graze freely. Continue straight on, past a gate on your right, to the public car park and road junction directly ahead. Turn right and then immediately left past The Happy Cheese pub and car park to follow the road ahead for 160 metres to a wooden gate.
2. Right through a wooden gate
Go through the gate and continue straight ahead along a gravel track which follows alongside the grassy lawn, once the site of Ashurst cricket pitch, to the red brick cottage ahead. Turn right past the cottage and through a wooden gate into Churchplace Inclosure. Keep straight ahead following the gravel track through a mixed broadleaved woodland.
3. Track bends left
At the track T-junction and cycle post 387 continue straight ahead, following the track as it bends left. Look along the adjoining grassy rides and maybe glimpse a deer.
4. Right at the T-junction
Turn right at the next track T-junction and cycle post 373 (SU337094) to follow the gravel cycle track for 240 metres to the wooden gate directly ahead.
5. Back onto Open Forest
Turn left through the gate to leave the timber inclosure and back out onto the Open Forest. Follow the gravel track uphill to cross a railway bridge and then downhill to cycle post 371.
6. Onto Ashurst Lodge access road
Continue ahead along the gravel and woodland track through an open pasture woodland called Ashurst Wood. Sections of the track can be muddy. The track climbs gently uphill for 260 metres before passing a low wooden vehicle barrier to join the surfaced access road for Ashurst Lodge. Turn right and follow along this road as it winds peacefully through the woodland past many ancient oak trees.
7. Longwater Lawn
Continue straight ahead and when the woodland ends on your left there are views over Longwater Lawn. Look for a large water trough and directly opposite, by a short section of wooden posts along the road edge, look right to see the earth banks of a saltpetre house
8. Cross the A35
Continue straight ahead for 180 metres to a wooden gate beside a cattle grid to join the A35. (There is a bus stop in a layby to the left; Ashurst Lodge). Carefully cross over the A35. There is excellent visibility along this long straight section of road. Turn right onto the wide footpath and cycle route to follow alongside the road for 600 metres to the entrance to Ashurst campsite. On your left is Lodgehill and Busketts Inclosure.
9. Island crossing back to start
Cross back over the A35 via an island crossing, just beyond the entrance to the campsite, to the bus stop and shelter opposite. Alternatively follow the roadside pavement for 50 metres to the railway station, or keep straight on to Ashurst village and bus stop (Ashurst post office).
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