Thoughts of war seem far removed from Cheriton, slumbering peacefully in its river valley, but in 1644 the most decisive battle of the Civil War was fought on the high downs east of the village. This walk climbs to the site of the battle, little changed since Cavalier faced Roundhead across the fields. A beautiful path beneath the beech trees of Cheriton Wood leads to a track over the battlefield and the downs beyond. After a steep descent into the Itchen valley, field paths beside the river take us back to Cheriton.
1. Turn left along the minor road in Cheriton with the green on your right towards a 30 mph sign. Just past the sign you will see a small brick bridge on the left and beyond it a large overhead sign for Freeman's Yard. Turn left to follow the lane running past the entrance to Freeman's Yard with a stream on your right. Continue for about 50 yards until just past a house named 'Martyrwell' you come to a footpath on the left.
2. Turn left over a low wooden barrier and follow the narrow path between a flint wall on the left (later a fence) and a fence on the right. The path rises gently uphill to continue between hedges then follows the side of a meadow with a hedge on the right. You now have a splendid view of the 1644 battlefield. Ahead of you lies a shallow valley shaped like a horsehoe with the dark line of Cheriton Wood forming the eastern rim. The Parliamentary troops established their positions along the southern ridge of the horseshoe facing troops loyal to the King who had assembled on the northern slopes. Under the expert leadership of Sir William Waller, who commanded an army of 10,000 men and an artillery train of 16 cannon (greatly outnumbering his opponents), the Roundheads were the victors. This battle turned the tide in favour of Parliament.
3. At the top of the meadow cross the stile and turn right with a field on your left and a hedge on your right. The path curves left beside the field with a hedge still on the right. You are now following the southern ridge crossing Lamborough Fields where the Roundhead army camped the night before the battle. They chose their situation wisely as there are wide views south over the Hinton Ampner valley as well as north over the downs. Cross the next stile and keep ahead down a wide green path to a crosspath. Go straight over and continue to another crosspath. Cross over and go through a small wooden gate to follow a narrow path beside a field along the top of the ridge with a hedge on your right. In a little under 1/2 mile you come to Cheriton Wood. Go through a wooden gate and a few yards further on turn left to follow the path just inside the wood. The path leaves the wood to descend into the valley and mount the northern ridge. Pass a track on the left signed 'Private Road' and continue for about 1/4 mile to meet a lane.
4. Turn left down the lane. Ignore a footpath sign and keep to the lane as it curves right to bring you to a track on the right with a footpath sign. Turn right and follow the track for about 3/4 mile. When you are about half-way you pass a joining path on the left. Keep ahead a little uphill to the next path on the left, indicated by a small wooden post marked with arrows on the right.
5. Turn left to walk down this attractive green path leading directly downhill. You can see the rooftops of Cheriton village in the valley. Walk over the main road, the B3046, and follow the lane ahead signed for Tichborne, crossing small bridges over the Itchen. At this point the river is divided into several streams running lazily through the meadows between mats of watercress. Pass the first of the Cheriton Mill buildings then turn left following the footpath sign along the metalled drive between the buildings. Go through a gate and continue over lawns past a house on the right. Cross a stile and keep ahead along the lower edge of a meadow with the river running behind a screen of tall trees on your left. Continue over more stiles and fields for about 3/4 mile to meet a lane in Cheriton. Turn left to walk down to the B3046. Cross over and follow the minor road ahead which curves right to take you back to your car.
If you imagine a miniature and more homely version of Venice then you will be able to picture Cheriton! For this old-world village, close to the source of the Itchen, is threaded by a network of sparkling streams flowing through green lawns and under tiny bridges. Many of the houses and cottages are thatched and date from the 16th century. Gardens overflow with flowers and gates open onto streamside footpaths, happy playgrounds for children and ducks.
The church of St Michael and All Angels, built during the 13th century, stands on a hill in the centre of the village. The stained glass windows in the nave were installed by Mrs Phipps Egerton in memory of four nephews killed in the First World War. Each of the four windows depicts a knight personifying duty, courage, loyalty and honour and the faces are those of her nephews.
Cheriton lies in the valley of the River Itchen 7 miles east of Winchester beside the B3046. You can approach from the south by turning for the village off the A272 or from the north by following the B3046 from New Alresford. Drive into the village and turn east off the main road by the war memorial into a minor road where there is good roadside parking.
Sun 1 Sep 2013, 19:09
Nice route and missed by most visitors to Cheriton. The arrival and parking instructions really need to be a bit clearer, Step 1 says "turn left along the minor road in Cheriton ..." but that depends on which direction you approach from, we almost gave up. I suggest re-wording your Step 1 instructions like this: !) Cross the main road from the church, bear right and cross a brick bridge over the stream, turn immediately right and continue for about 20 metres until just past a house named "Martyrwell", take the almost hidden footpath to the left. One other note, a few parts of the trail are a little overgrown so don't wear shorts like I did! (Sep 2013)