This leg follows the wide valley of the River Avon as it heads between the two towns of Christchurch and Ringwood. The river is seen only occasionally, and much of the walk is spent in fields. Most of the walk is on footpaths, except for road sections in Burton and Christchurch, and a mile-long stretch of main road near Bitterne church.
It should be noted that much of this stretch of path can be flooded after heavy rains.
3 hours 36 minutes
Map of the leg
Maps courtesy of Google Maps. Route for indicative purposes only, and may have been plotted after the walk. Please let me have comments on what you think of this new format.
North to south
This walk starts off from the long-stay car park in Ringwood, and follows the Avon Valley Path south to Christchurch and back. Leave the car park and head south down Furlong Street, following it as it curves to the right near the Tourist Information office, narrowing before ending at a junction with the High Street. Turn right to head westwards along this, as it becomes West Street. The road curves to the left near the church, and when the road crosses a tributary of the river turn left to continue along the Avon Valley Path.
This heads down a track that leads into a caravan park. Walk to the end of the tarmac, cross a small patch of grass, and then go through a clappergate. Turn half-left to head southeastwards across fields for a short distance until a footbridge is reached over the same stream. Cross this, and on the other side turn right across grass to reach a road. Turn right to head south across Bickerley Common for a short distance, with houses set back on the right. When a road comes in from the left, turn right down a gravel track; as this curves to the left turn right down another track. Pass some houses on the left; a concrete bridge leads across the stream once more, and on the other side climb up a slope onto an old, disused railway bridge.
Cross the bridge and go through a stile to enter a field. Turn half-right to head southwestwards for a couple of hundred yards, before turning to the left to follow a hedge southwards. When the hedge ends continue straight on along an obvious path across the field, which soon turns to the left to head southeastwards, crossing a little boardwalk over a boggy area of ground. This reaches a narrow footbridge over a stream beside the River Avon. Cross the bridge and continue on southwards, with the river close-by on the right.
Cross a stile and join a track, that has hedges on either side. Continue southwards along this to a series of three footbridges that cross another tributary of the river beside a ford. On the other side, head south along good tracks that enter Kingston North Common. The path passes a house close-by on the left, and after nearly a mile ends at the B3347 road.
Turn right to head south along the B3347 for a short distance along a sweeping left-hand bend, before taking a road that leads off to the right. A few yards along this, turn left to start following a path that runs along a track southwards. This heads past a couple of buildings before reaching a triangular junction; take the right-hand fork and join a road. Turn right and follow this road westwards for a quarter of a mile to about SU142016.
Here turn left and follow a footpath as it heads southeastwards; the path curves slowly to the left to finally reach an easterly course, before ending at the B3347 after half a mile in Bisterne. Turn right and start following the B3347 road southwards for a little under a mile. The road curves to the right; when a track is reached at SZ149999, turn left and follow the track southeastwards. This enters a patch of trees before curving to the right to head south to reach Anna Lane. Cross the lane and continue on southwards across fields for 0.4 miles until another lane is reached. Cross this, and continue southwards for another 0.6 miles with a hedge on the right. Two narrow bands of woodland are passed before the footpath ends at another road at SZ155981.
Turn left to head east along this road for a short distance until a bridge over a stream is reached. At this bridge turn right and start following the stream southwards for two-thirds of a mile; the back gardens of houses slowly encroach on the right before the path ends at the B3347 road immediately to the north of Sopley. Turn left to head south along the road; when it forks take the right-hand fork through the village. This turns sharply to the left by the Woolpack Inn to reach a complex junction.
Head straight across the junction and head through an imposing gateway, Head up the track for a short distance before taking a footpath that heads off to the left. This skirts the edge of a paddock before passing the driveway leading to an imposing house to the right. Head straight on, and then turn right as the footpath heads southeastwards across a series of paddocks before ending at Harpway Lane at SZ163967. Turn right and start heading south along the lane for a quarter of a mile until it ends at another road; turn right down this road for a short distance until a pub is reached.
At the pub turn left along a lane that passes the pub. After a short distance a stream is reached; cross this bridge and then immediately turn to the right to start following the stream southwards. After a little over half a mile, the footpath ends at a bend in Salisbury Road on the northern outskirts of Burton. Turn left to head south down Salisbury Road; just before Preston Lane comes in from the left, turn right down a surfaced path. This curves to the right before ending at a bend in Morrcroft Avenue. Follow this road westwards until it ends at a T-junction with Priory View Road.
Turn left down Priory View Road and follow it as it curves to the right and then the left. Pass a playground on the right, and then turn right down a surfaced path that heads westwards. This path ends at Pitmore Road; cross this and then continue on westwards down another surfaced path, which eventually ends at the B3347 road once more. Turn left to head south down this road for a few yards, and then turn right along another footpath. This crosses a footbridge and then head south-southwestwards across the floodplain, heading slightly to the south of a trig pillar.
The footpath meets the River Avon at a bend in the river. Keep the river to the right around the bend, and then head towards an electricity pylon. At the pylon turn left to head south-southwestwards back towards a pipe bridge over the river. Do not walk along the river, but instead cross a footbridge over a tributary of the river, and then continue on with the river on the left. Cross another couple of footbridges before a building is reached on the right. Pass this, and then immediately turn to the right to cross another tributary of the river.
Immediately on the other side, turn left to walk southwards with the river on the left. Continue on as the path becomes a track and reaches a railway bridge over the river. Pass under this and continue on along a path on the other side. This turns to the right and follows a track southwestwards for a short distance, before curving to the left before ending at a road called Avon Buildings. Turn right and follow this road for about a hundred yards until it ends at the B3073 road on the northern outskirts of Christchurch.
Turn left and follow the B3073 south-southeastwards to a large roundabout with the A35. Turn left at this roundabout to reach an underpass; use this to pass under the A35. On the other side head southeastwards along the High Street. At a junction continue straight on along Church Street; when this ends at a gate go through it to reach the churchyard belonging to Christchurch Priory. Walk along a surfaced path to reach the church, where the Avon Valley Path starts or ends.
South to north
Leave Christchurch Priory and take the surfaced path that heads north through the churchyard. Go through a gate and join Church Street; follow this northwards until it reaches a junction near the Ye Old George Inn pub. Here continue straight on, heading up High Street northwestwards until a roundabout with the A35 is reached. Head to the right for a short distance to reach an underpass under the A35; used this to cross the road. On the other side head north-northwestwards along the road.
When Avon Buildings is reached at SZ155931, turn right to head along the road. When it ends turn left along a track, and then right to head towards the river. Turn left and start following a footpath northwards. This passes under a railway bridge and then jinks to the right and left to continue north with the river to the right. The path ends at a waterworks building; turn right to cross a bridge over a tributary of the river. On the other side turn left to follow a path northwards with the river on the right, crossing two footbridges before reaching a third. Cross this to reach the floodplain on the other side.
Turn slightly to the left to head northwards towards a pylon in the distance, crossing two small plank bridges on the way. The path reaches the river bank just to the left of the pylon; turn right and follow the river bank eastwards. The river bank starts to curve to the left; as it does so continue on north-northeastwards across the floodplain, heading to the south of a trig pillar. Cross a footbridge and then continue on to reach the B3347 road.
Turn left along the B3347 to hea dniorth for a few yards, before taking a surfaced path that heads off to the right. This path heads eastwards before ending at Pitmore Road. Cross this road and continue on along another surfaced path until Priory View Road is reached. Turn left along this road, and follow it as curves to the right and then the left. Take the first road off to the right, Moorcroft Avenue, and follow this as it heads eastwards. When this road curves to the right continue straight on along a surfaced path, which ends at Salisbury Road.
Turn left and follow Salisbury Road northwards for a couple of hundred yards. When the road curves to the left, head straight on along a footpath that heads northwards for a little over half a mile beside a stream. The footpath ends at Bockhampton Road by a little bridge. Turn left and follow this road northwards until it ends at a T-junction by a pub. At the junction turn right to head northwards along a road for a few yards, and then turn left to follow Harpway Lane northwards for a quarter of a mile.
A footpath heads off to the left at SZ163967. Follow this as it heads northwestwards across a series of paddocks; it then turns to the left past the entrance to a large house. The path keeps a hedge on the left as it winds around past a series of paddocks, eventually joining a tree-lined track that descends for a short distance to meet the B3347 road in Sopley. Carefully cross the road and head towards the Woolpack Inn. Follow the road as it curves to the right to head northwards through the village.
At SZ156971 leave the road, and take a footpath that heads off to the right. Follow this northwards for two-thirds of a mile until it ends at a road. Turn left to head westwards for a short distance, and then turn right past a gate into a field. Follow this footpath it as it heads northwards across fields with a hedge on the left. The path soon squeezes between two sets of trees, and after half a mile reaches another road.
Cross this road and continue on northwards for a little over half a mile; it crosses another road (Anna Lane) before entering some trees and ending at the B3347 road. Turn right and start following this road as it heads northwards for a little under a mile. Opposite Bisterne church a footpath leads off to the left. Follow this footpath as it crosses fields for half a mile, curving to head northwestwards and ending at a road. Turn right and follow this road eastwards; when it curves to the right turn left along a track that leads through Kingston to reach a minor road.
Turn right along this road for a few yards until it reaches the B3347 road. Turn left and follow this road northwards for a short distance around a right-hand bend, then turn left down a footpath that heads northwards for a mile across Kingston North Common, until a footbridge across a stream of the River Avon is reached.
Cross a series of footbridges over a tributary of the river, and on the other side head north along a track between hedges. The hedges end, and the footpath continues on as the river approaches on the left. It meets the footpath at a footbridge over a tributary over the river at SU148041. On the other side of the bridge the footpath turns to the left to head northwestwards across the floodplain.
The path curves to the right to head northwards with a hedge on the right; when a footbridge is reached after a few hundred yards, turn half-right to cross it and head northeastwards across the floodplain to reach the embankment of an old railway line. Climb up to cross this, and join a track on the other side that immediately crosses the tributary of a river. Continue on northwards along this track; as it curves to the right turn left along Kings Arms Lane for a few yards until just before it reaches a road, then turn left to head across a green in front of some houses.
When the houses end, turn left to head westwards for a short distance to a footbridge over the same tributary. On the other side of the bridge, turn right to head northwestwards across a field to reach a caravan park. Head through the middle of this caravan park, heading north along the access driveway. This joins an access road that soon ends at West Street in Ringwood. Turn right and follow West Street eastwards.
At the church follow the road as it curves around to the right, becoming the Market Place. Take the first road off to the left, The Furlong, and follow this as it curves around in a rough northeasterly direction. The road joins another road near the Tourist Information office and continues on northwards to reach a roundabout. The long-stay car park in Ringwood is immediately to the north of this roundabout.
There are no alternative routes for this stretch of path. After heavy rain, much of the route can become impassable, meaning that diversions will have to be made onto local roads.
Places of interest
Christchurch is situated at the northern end of the small Christchurch Harbour. Two rivers, the Stour and the Avon, run into the harbour. Some of the town retains its Saxon street layout, which can still be traced out on maps. It is easy to spend a pleasant couple of hours walking around. Not much remains of the ruined castle, which was destroyed on Cromwell's orders in 1652, but an unusual survivor within the castle's bailey is the Constable's House, a domestic Norman dwelling.
The magnificent Priory Church was given to the town by Henry VIII for use as a parish church, explaining why a small town has such a grand building. Two of the bells in the church date from 1370, and were cast by Edward IIIs bellfounder. There are many other buildings of architectural and aesthetic interest in the town.
location UID #132
Sopley is a small village situated to the north of Christchurch. Nearby is Tyrrells Ford, where Walter Tyrrel crossed the Avon after accidently killing King Rufus whilst hunting in 1100.
The Manor House is believed to have existed at the time of the Norman Conquest, but was believed to have been rebuilt in 1790. It was demolished in 1988, but the grand Lodges remain.
The village has a pub, but no shops. Sopley Mill restaurant is located nearby in the mill. Thius was built in 1878, and was operational until 1946, but a mill on the Avon in the village was mentioned in the Domesday Book.
location UID #190
Ringwood is a large market town (markets are held on Wednesdays) situated on the River Avon in Hampshire. Unfortunately the atmosphere of the town is somehow spoilt by the presence of the A27 dual carriageway, which runs just to the north of the town. Despite this, it feels like a friendly place. There are many shops of varying sizes, and some historic buildings. These include Monmouth House, where the Duke of Monmouth was held in 1685 before being taken to the Tower of London to be beheaded.
The town is also home to the Ringwood brewery, whose many fine ales can be tasted in the local pubs.
location UID #184
Morebus service 125 runs between Ringwood and Christchurch a couple of times a day.
For more frequent services, you could take one of the twice-hourly X3 services between Ringwood and Bournemouth, and then either get a train or a Yellowbus 1a service from Bournemouth to Christchurch.