5 child-friendly walks in Hampshire & the New Forest
Are you ready for the autumn half term? With crisp mornings and falling leaves, this is without doubt one of our favourite times for a UK break. It's also a great time to get out for a walk in the countryside.
Having previously recommended some child-friendly walking routes in the Lake District, our friends at Countryside Books are back with some suggestions for where to take the kids in the Hampshire area.
The following five walks originally appeared in Kiddiwalks in Hampshire & the New Forest, but they’ve kindly allowed us to pass them on to you (maps and all) free of charge.
If you want more like this, we recommend picking up a copy of the book. They’ve also got loads of other titles featuring child-friendly walks covering most regions around the UK. Even better, if you do, you’ll get an extra 20% off all books just for being a Travelzoo member. Enter this code at checkout: Travelzoo20.
Keep scrolling down this page to browse through the different walks. Alternatively, check out the options on the map below, click on the corresponding item in the list next to the map, and hey presto, you’ll be taken straight to it!
Down by the riverside
This easy 4-mile walk is on level paths alongside the Beaulieu River, with a pleasant return journey through the woods.
The picturesque village of Beaulieu is in the heart of the New Forest. The landscape of coastal salt marshes, mud flats, heath and ancient woodland is much the same today as it was 900 years ago, when William the Conqueror hunted wild deer and boar through the forest.
As well as this interesting circuit, you will find plenty of things to do in and around Beaulieu, where you can visit the abbey, Palace House and gardens, and the British National Motor Museum. Nearby is the 18th-century village of Buckler's Hard.
Getting there: Beaulieu lies between Bournemouth and Southampton on the B3054. From the M27, exit at junction 2 and follow the brown signs to Beaulieu
Length of walk: 4 miles (add an extra mile if you continue to Buckler's Hard)
Time: Allow 2 hours for the walk, but you can easily spend the whole day here if you visit Buckler's Hard and the various sites in Beaulieu
Terrain: The paths are level and mostly gravel, with some wooden trackways by the river
Start/Parking: Pay-and-display car park in Beaulieu village (GR 387022)
Refreshments: The Old Bakery Tea Rooms and the Montagu Arms Hotel in Beaulieu village are both child-friendly and there are several shops selling ice creams
Fun Things to See & Do
- At the footbridge on point 2 of the walk, there is the perfect spot to play pooh sticks.
- While strolling along beside the river, children can count how many boats they see moored on the water and in the woods get them to look out for a wooden bungalow on stilts.
- In Beaulieu High Street take a look at the shop selling collectable teddy bears.
1. From the car park take the gravel path, which passes an information board and tea rooms. Cross the road and continue on the gravel path, following the signs for Buckler's Hard. Go through a kissing gate and after a short while pass through a second kissing gate and turn right. Carry on to a wooden gate and continue to North Solent Nature Reserve.
2. After a short while you come to a footbridge. Keep following the signs for Buckler's Hard and when you reach a sign for Riverside Walk, turn left.
3. Continue alongside the Beaulieu River and follow the path over wooden tracks and footbridges. When the path splits, bear left over a wooden footbridge and continue beside the river. When you come to a seat, bear right away from the river and eventually you reach a junction of paths.
4. At this point you can turn left if you wish to visit Buckler's Hard (below), which is about another ½ mile further on. To continue the walk, turn right to stroll through the woods, rejoining the outward route at the sign for the riverside walk in point 2. Continue, following the signs back to Beaulieu village.
Getting close to nature
Whatever time of year you visit the New Forest, there's always something to see and do. In spring, just before the bluebells fill ancient woods, see if you can spot the dainty nodding white flowers of wood anemone. In the summer months take a picnic to enjoy on the heath. In autumn, there's the fun of kicking fallen leaves along the paths leading through the woods at Castle Hill, the Iron Age hill fort, and watching squirrels burying nuts that they will later dig up to eat during the winter. Snowdrops are a wonderful sight in late winter, as are lesser celandine, with their bright yellow flowers, which herald the coming of spring.
Getting there: From the A338, when you reach Breamore take the turning for Woodgreen. Follow the lane to the village and fork right at the triangle. After about 1 mile you will see Godshill Wood car park on the left
Length of walk: 3 miles
Time: Allow 2 hours
Terrain: Mostly level gravel paths, with some woodland paths. There is a gentle walk up Castle Hill to the viewpoint
Start/Parking: Godshill Wood car park, where there is free parking (GR 176160)
Refreshments: The Horse & Groom in Woodgreen welcomes children and has a large beer garden. The Bat & Ball Inn in Breamore, is also child-friendly.
Fun Things to See & Do
- Keep an eye out for New Forest ponies and deer among the trees – you might see fallow, roe, muntjac, Japanese sika and red deer.
- As you walk along the paths, watch out for dung beetles and southern wood ants. On the heath, colonies of silver studded blue butterflies are found in the summer months and, if you look among the gorse, you might spot a tiny bird, the Dartford Warbler.
- Also stonechats are frequently seen; listen out for their song, which sounds like two stones being knocked together. If you visit the open forest in October, you might be lucky to see the pigs that are turned out at this time of year.
1. Leave the car park from the far end, passing through a wooden gate, then bear left along the path through the wood. At the gravel track, turn left and continue to the road. Cross the road, passing through the gates, and carry on through the woods. Fork right at a T-junction on the path and continue down the hill to pass through a wooden gate onto the road.
2. Straight ahead of you is the hill fort. To gain access to the fort, walk through wooden posts to the right of a house, climb up the hill and bear right past a house on the left.
3. To continue the walk, return to the road and carry on up the hill. After a while you will see a parking area and seats where you can sit and admire the lovely views across the valley overlooking the River Avon. When you are ready, continue along the road, which eventually drops down to a T-junction at Woodgreen village.
4. Turn right and then almost immediately cross the road to pass through a wooden gate on the left into Godshill Inclosure. Follow the path keeping straight ahead, ignoring the first two junctions of paths and at the third junction turn right then immediately left. This path takes you to a gate, which leads out of the woods.
5. Turn right and walk along the wide grassy path beside the wood. After a short while take a minor path on the left, which takes you to a gravel path. Turn right and follow the path, which runs along the edge of the hill. To the left there are lovely views across Millersford Bottom. Continue along this path to the car park.
A Roman adventure
This is an easy family walk with something for everyone to enjoy and the entire route is pushchair friendly. Within the Roman walls of Portchester Castle is a large grass area ideal for a picnic. The children will love climbing the stone steps to the top of the Norman keep and from the top there are splendid views across Portsmouth Harbour. There is a play area in the recreation ground near the castle with plenty of space for ball games and part of the walk passes through Castle Shore Park, which is a good place to look out for butterflies and wildflowers.
Getting there: From M27, junction 11, take the A27. Follow the brown signs for Portchester Castle
Length of walk: 1 mile
Time: 1 hour (allow extra time for exploring the castle and a visit to the play area)
Terrain: Paths are level, some on gravel, and all are accessible for pushchairs
Start/Parking: Start from the free car park (which has toilets), at Portchester Castle (GR 625047)
Refreshments If you take your own picnic, you will find tables near the castle car park or you can sit on the grass inside the Roman walls. The shop in Portchester Castle sells hot and cold drinks and ice-creams. The Cormorant in Portchester is child-friendly.
Fun Things to See & Do
- In Portchester Castle you can climb to the top of the Norman keep for stunning views across the Solent, explore the remains of the palace and see many interesting artefacts found on the site.
- There is a charge for entering the keep but visiting the outer bailey and Roman walls is free. Details from www.english-heritage.org.uk
1. From the car park turn left and follow the path in front of the castle. Go past the toilets, and follow the gravel path around the perimeter walls of the castle. At this point you can enjoy the views and there is plenty of activity, with boats sailing to and from the harbour. A little further on note the holes high up in the wall, known as garderobe chutes, which were used in the 12th century as toilets in the Augustinian priory. Continue following the gravel path and head back to the car park.
2. By the picnic benches at the back of the car park you will see a small brick building. This is a gunpowder store dating from around 1750 and was used by the military guard during wars in the 18th and 19th centuries. Walk along the path to the sea wall and bear left as it follows alongside the recreation ground, where you can see a play area on the far side.
3. At the end of the harbour wall, take the second path on the right, into Castle Shore Park. Continue straight ahead along the grass track through this lovely area, which is full of wildflowers and butterflies in the summer months. Take the left-hand fork when the path splits. Eventually you pass beside a gate and go onto a lane. Follow the lane to Castle Street.
4. Turn left into Castle Street to walk along the pavement past many attractive 18th-century houses and continue to the castle car park.
A stroll back in time
If you fancy an easy stroll for an hour or so, then Danebury is just the ticket. Three really useful information boards will help the children understand how Iron Age people lived on the hill fort and there is, of course, the fun of climbing the ramparts whilst adults can admire the fantastic views across the Hampshire countryside. As you walk around today’s peaceful setting, it’s hard to imagine that 2,500 years ago there were 300 to 400 people living and working on the hill fort, which was surrounded by huge ramparts topped by palisades. From excavations carried out, there is evidence to suggest that these Iron Age people were a farming community keeping sheep and cattle, making leather goods and weaving woollen cloth.
Getting there: Follow the brown signs on the A343, signed to Danebury Hill Fort. The entrance is on the road between the A30 at Stockbridge and the A343 at Middle Wallop airfield
Length of walk: 1¾ miles
Time: Allow about 1½ hours
Terrain: There is a gentle slope up to the trig point. Once through the gates into the centre of the hill fort there are level paths suitable for pushchairs. The path around the perimeter of the fort is uneven in places with a few slopes and two kissing gates to negotiate
Start/Parking: There are two car parks. The walk starts from the second car park, which is next to the toilets. Parking is free (GR 329377)
Refreshments: We recommend taking a picnic for this walk. There are picnic tables in a field with lovely views; this can be reached from the car park by the toilets via some steps and through a wooden gate
Fun Things to See & Do
- Children will love scrambling up and down the rampart.
- Get them to look out for a flock of Manx Loghtan sheep, originally bred on the Isle of Man, and the Dexter cows, which originated from Ireland. These are similar to hardy breeds that would have grazed here in the Iron Age.
1. From the car park, walk past the toilets and go through a wooden gate. A little further on is an information board that gives the history of the fort and the wildlife to look out for.
2. Walk past the trig point and shortly pass through two wooden gates. On the left is another information board; this one explains how the fort was constructed and has details of some of the excavations carried out. Continue along a gravel path, which turns into a grass path, leading to the final information board. This tells the story of how Iron Age people lived and worked at Danebury.
3. Continue ahead and climb up onto the rampart. Turn right and walk along the gravel path. There are fantastic views here and on a clear day you can see in the distance the huge white dish of Chilbolton Observatory, a facility for atmospheric and radio research which opened in 1967.
4. Go down some wooden steps and back out of the fort through the two wooden gates. Turn left and follow a grass track with the fence to your left. After a short while pass through a kissing gate and carry on following the track around the outside of the fort to pass through another kissing gate. The path continues back to the trig point where you walk down the hill back to the car park.
Full steam ahead
A visit to Alresford is fun for all the family. A short stroll around the attractive Georgian town is suitable for pushchairs and includes a walk along the River Alre where ducks and fish are usually waiting to be fed. The return journey takes you through the recreation ground to the play area. This walk can be extended alongside the river to see the eel house. A visit to the station is a must, for a trip on a steam train through the beautiful Hampshire countryside.
Getting there: From the A31, take the B3047, which takes you into Alresford town centre. Follow the signs for the railway and car park
Length of walk: 2½ miles or 1 mile for the short walk
Time: 1½ hours or 1 hour for the short walk
Terrain: The short walk is on pavements and gravel paths suitable for pushchairs. The minor roads on the longer walk are quiet but they don’t have pavements so keep a careful eye out for any traffic
Start/Parking: Start from Alresford station pay-and-display car park (GR 588325). Parking is free on Sundays and bank holidays
Refreshments: The war memorial garden (see point 2) would be ideal for a picnic. The Tiffin Tea Rooms in West Street has outside seating in a courtyard to the rear and serves light lunches and home-made cakes. The Cricketers Inn in Jacklyns Lane is a family friendly pub with a large outdoor play area
Fun Things to See & Do
- In 1997 part of the River Alre was designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest and there is plenty of wildlife to be seen. It is home to less common animals and birds including water voles, otters and water rails. You might also glimpse kingfishers, herons, little egrets and brown trout. Wildflowers include ragged robin, meadowsweet and flag iris.
- The Watercress Line at Alresford is well worth a visit – there is a lot to see at the station, and even more on one of its special activity days.
1. From the car park, walk back down Station Road and turn right, opposite the toilets, onto a footpath leading to the churchyard then turn left to walk past the church of St John the Baptist. Just before the road there is an information board. Cross the road with care and continue straight ahead along Broad Street, which has many fine Georgian houses and interesting shops. There is an information board halfway down the street.
2. Walk down Mill Hill to another information board on the right. Turn left into Ladywell Lane, which leads to a gravel path. You are now on the Wayfarer’s Walk, a 70-mile route between Emsworth on the coast near Portsmouth to Inkpen Beacon in Berkshire. Soon you will see on the left the war memorial garden, which is a good spot for a picnic. Continue alongside the River Alre to the thatched fulling mill, which was built in the 13th century. Along this stretch of the river there are usually ducks to feed and watercress can be seen growing on the opposite side of the river just past the mill. When you reach the road turn right to follow the footpath with the river on your right. After a short while you will see an information board by a kissing gate.
3. At this point, if you are following the shorter walk, pass through the kissing gate into the recreation ground. Follow the gravel path to the right, which passes a skateboard park and a little further on is the play area. Continue along the gravel path to the road, turn left and walk into the town. Turn right into Station Road to return to the car park.
4. To continue the main walk, carry on beside the river and soon you will see a small brick building called the eel house. This was built in the 1820s and the three brick-lined channels underneath would have contained eel traps. Walk to the right of the eel house and follow the path, which eventually passes houses on the left and skirts a private parking area. Continue ahead along the footpath, which shortly merges into a lane. Follow the lane as it bears left and walk for ¼ mile to Winchester Road.
5. Turn left and head back towards the town along The Avenue, a pleasant walk between mature lime trees. This was originally a recreation area owned by the Bishop of Winchester. Look out for Turnpike House, a red-brick hexagonal building on the left, which used to be a toll house. It was built this unusual shape to allow the keeper an all-round view and prevent anyone trying to avoid paying the toll. Walk into the town along Pound Hill. Cross the road and carry on along West Street. Turn right into Station Road to return to the car park.