An energetic cycle on quiet roads in the North Wessex Downs, passing through the highest village in Hampshire and enjoying some spectacular views and fast downhills. The route is on paved roads, often narrow with some very steep sections, and the surface is generally good - although there is some gravel on the tarmac in places.
Leaving the car park, turn right heading downhill to the T-junction. Turn right , passing immediately under the A34, through Enborne Row. Pass the Woodpecker pub on your left to arrive at a T-junction with the Andover Road, A303. Turn right.
1. Continue down the A303 for about 300m, taking a left turn into a quiet lane just before the used car dealers. After another 150m, follow the road as it turns 90 degrees to the right and continue down a straight road through an avenue of trees, passing underneath the A34 again. Continue on this quiet single-carriageway road through woodland and rhododendrons, passing Penwood Nursery, to arrive at a T-junction. Turn right and after 150m, take the first left.
Follow the road gently downhill, round sweeping curves through woodland and fields. After just over a km, a road off to the left will take you on a short detour to Highclere church. Continue following the road, bearing left where it splits, to meet the A303 again at a T-junction.
2. Go straight across the A303 into Star Lane. Shortly afterwards turn left at the next T-junction onto Tubbs Lane and then right into West Ridge. Follow this road with views opening out to the west to a junction where you turn right - signposted to Hollington. Continue following the road, passing The Natural Garden, to a point where the road splits. Bear left, on a narrow lane between hedges, heading steadily uphill. At the T-junction turn right and head up the long, increasingly steep hill to arrive in Ashmansworth.
3. Continue through Ashmansworth, passing the village centre and what was until recently an excellent pub, taking the road leading off to the right to Faccombe. The road is fairly narrow, but you can gather some speed as it heads quite steeply downhill. Watch out for the z-bend about 0.5km from Ashmansworth! The road continues downhill for another km, and then ascends very steeply , slowly levelling out into Faccombe. Turn right into Faccombe at the first junction.
4. The Jack Russell pub is off to the left, but continuing on, with Faccombe Manor on your right, you pass the church and then head out of the village.
Leaving Faccombe on a fairly flat road, pass a wind turbine after 1.5km, and enjoy some excellent views from both sides of the road. Reaching a high point of 287m, pass a mast on you right and start to gently descend until you meet a junction.
5. Turn right at the junction (mind the gravel) enjoying views into Berkshire and head steeply downhill. The road surface has some pot holes, but it's an enjoyably fast descent. Ignore the first turning to your left to West Woodhay and continue downhill, round a sharp left-right and then turn almost immediately left, towards North End. Follow the narrow road into the pretty village, and after passing an old red telephone box on your right, follow the road as it sweeps to the right. This brings you to a T-junction where you turn right, signposted to Newbury.
6. Follow the road uphill, passing the village shop, into Ball Hill. Pass first a garage on your left and then the Furze Bush Inn. This is a good place for some refreshment as the ride is almost over. Continuing on the road towards Newbury, cross a hump-backed bridge and then take the next right, just before the road goes under the A34. This road will lead you back to the car park.
Ashmansworth is the highest village in Hampshire at around 235m and affords excellent views over the surrounding countryside. Sadly the village pub, The Plough, closed in 2009, but the village remains popular with walkers and cyclists due to the accessibility of many excellent trails. The church is also worth a visit, dating back to the early 12th century.
The trail described starts from the car park for the National Trust woodlands, The Chase. This is easily accessible from both the A34 and A303 near Newbury. Alternatively, the trail can be extended to start/finish in Newbury, with its excellent road and rail links. In this case, the simplest option is to cycle from Newbury straight down the Andover Road (A303) to join the trail at point .