Contrasting scenery and historic interest combine to make this a fascinating circuit. We begin the walk in the Avon valley following a footpath through the lush water meadows west of the river, crossing bridges over willow-bordered streams and rustling reed beds.
In spring these wetlands provide breeding areas for lapwings, redshanks and snipe and later in the year they are home to a wealth of other birds including reed buntings, reed warblers and blackcaps. Among the wild flowers fringing the streams and dotting the meadows are kingcups, yellow flag irises, purple loosestrife and the drooping bells of purple and white comfrey.
Then, a complete contrast, as we take a woodland path skirting the ramparts of Frankenbury Iron Age hill fort to a magnificent viewpoint before rejoining our outbound route to return to our starting point, the Tudor Rose Inn near Fordingbridge.
1. Turn right from the front of the inn for about 50 yards then cross the road opposite the Hourglass Restaurant and follow the fingerpost indicating the Avon Valley Path. The concrete track leads between fields then through a farmyard. Turn left, following the footpath sign, to continue along the Avon Valley Path and cross the suspension bridge over the Avon. The river supports over twenty species of fish so you may see herons and kingfishers. The path runs through the water meadows for almost 3/4 mile and becomes a track.
2. As you approach the barns of Folds Farm the track rises slightly. Look carefully for a gate on the right with a post beside it marked with a yellow arrow footpath sign. Turn right through the gate and follow the track ahead for about 300 yards with trees on your right and a fenced meadow on your left.
3. Before the track rises and begins to curve left look carefully for a narrow path marked with a yellow arrow footpath sign descending through woodland on your right. Leave the track (you will see a 'Private' sign on a tree beside the track) and turn right through the woods. The path is bordered by fine oak and beech trees. On your left the woods rise steeply. These inaccessible hillsides provide a safe refuge for many animals including deer and badgers. Cross a stile into a meadow and bear left to re-enter woodland, following the path which climbs and curves right to run beside the outer ramparts of Frankenbury Iron Age hill fort. It is possible that the leader of the Romano-British, Natan-Leod, camped with his army in this fort around AD 500 before he was defeated by Saxon invaders led by Cerdic on the banks of the Avon at nearby Charford.
4. Cross a stile and walk up to a wide crosspath. Turn right with ramparts on your left. The path curves left round the ramparts through the beech trees then crosses a cleared area to a crosstrack.
5. Turn left to continue to another crosstrack. Turn left again and follow the track uphill, curving left to a gate.
6. Do not go through the gate but climb the knoll on your left for a magnificent view over the Avon valley. Descend the knoll and take the footpath on your left, which runs steeply downhill to rejoin our outbound track. Turn right to retrace your steps, turning right at the division then following the track as it curves right. Look for the stile on your left you crossed outbound and follow the woodland path to meet the crosstrack. Turn left, then left again to retrace your route along the Avon Valley Path to the Tudor Rose Inn.
Fordingbridge with its magnificent seven-arched bridge over the Avon is an attractive small market town with many excellent shops and an interesting museum charting over 100 years of the area's social and domestic history. It is housed in an old provender mill next to the Information Centre in King's Yard off the High Street.
The starting point for this trail is the The Tudor Rose Inn, Lower Burgate. The Tudor Rose Inn lies beside the A338 Christchurch to Salisbury road in Lower Burgate just north of Fordingbridge. Customers may leave their cars in the pub car park while they are walking. There is a National Express bus request stop close to the Tudor Rose Inn.