A mixed on and off-road cycle in the North Wessex Downs, with some steep ascents and some good downhill sections. The off-road sections are on mixed ground, with some heavily rutted tracks on the Wayfarer's Walk which can be particularly challenging after rain. The rewards are some great views and an enjoyable ride.
Leave the Hurstbourne Tarrant car park the way you came in and return to the road. Turn left and head back towards the village centre and the A343. Continue straight across the offset cross-roads in the village centre towards the pretty village of Ibthorpe.
1. Turn right on a minor road just afer crossing the River Swift. Follow this road to the left, then turn right on a track heading north and uphill. After about 0.7km, another track joins from the left. Ignore this and continue straight on and descend to meet a T-junction.
2. Turn left and follow the minor road for about 1km, before turning right on the minor road through Faccombe Wood. Follow this for 1.5km, to a junction at Kimmer Farm. Keep left towards Faccombe and follow the road. At the edge of the village, the road from Ashmansworth merges from the right. Continue straight on with the wall of Faccombe Manor on your right.
3. The next left leads to the Jack Russell pub, but continue on, with Faccombe Manor on your right. Pass the 17th century church on your left and continue straight on leaving Faccombe on a fairly flat and fast road. Pass a wind turbine after 1.5km, and enjoy some excellent views from both sides of the road to reach a high point of 287m. Continue on, passing a mast on you right and descend to meet a junction.
4. Continue round to the right and then immediately right to almost double back on yourself onto the signed track. This is the Wayfarers' Walk. Follow the wide track along the side of the downs. The track is very rutted in places, but the views to the north into Berkshire are well worth the effort. After almost 3 km, pass a vehicle barrier and a 'Huf' house and head downhill to meet the road.
5. Turn tight along the road for 0.3km before branching left onto the track, passing the barrier to motorised vehicles. Continue along the mostly level track through woodland a fields, to meet the road just outside Ashmansworth.
6. At the T-junction, turn left then right and follow round to the right again to stay on tarmac, leaving the Wayfarers' Walk and heading roughly due south. Follow this road for 1km into Crux Easton, before turning right. At the cross-roads (phone box) turn left and follow the road, which soon becomes a track beside a field. Follow this round the sharp bend to the right and continue along the edge of a field, with woods shortly on your right (Beech Hanger Copse).
7. Continue on the track through a break in the trees across fields. Continue on the track through woods, passing the track to Lye Farm. About 0.5km further on the track splits. Keep right and after another 0.5 km meet a cross-roads (Binley signed left).
8. Continue straight across the cross roads and follow the minor road towards Stoke, reached in 2km, where there is a pub (The White Hart) for some refreshment.
9. Leave Stoke on the B3048 towards Hurstbourne Tarrant and after 2km arrive back at the lane (on your left) to the car park. If you continue into the village centre there is another pub, the George and Dragon, if you are in need of refreshment.
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.
Parking is available in the parish car park (signed) just before reaching the church on the B3048 from Hurstbourne Tarrant to Stoke. Alternatively the route can be started from the car park near Walbury Hill (SU379616), or from Ashmansworth, where on-street parking is available in the village.