Five of the best spring walks in Hampshire - plus a pub pitstop at each
IT'S officially spring and meadows are starting to come alive with the first buds and blooms.
With the beautiful sounds, smells, and colours of spring blossoming, now is a great time to plan a Hampshire hike.
With a third of the land in Hampshire sitting within either a national park or Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, there is plenty of perfect spots to explore.
READ MORE: Hampshire riverside inn The Mayfly named pub of the year
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Here's our pick of five of the best spring walks to enjoy and the perfect pitstop for a pint afterwards.
The Test Way and Mottisfont
The Test Way is a 44 mile long-distance walking route. The walk begins high on the chalk downs at Inkpen and follows much of the course of the River Test to Eling where the river's tidal waters flow into Southampton Water.
This is Hampshire's longest and finest chalk stream, world-famous for its superb trout fishing.
The Way has been divided into eight sections, each providing a really good day out.
Choose between water meadows or tidal marshes, steep hills with exhilarating views or cool peaceful woodland.
Make sure you take in the National Trust's Mottisfont in spring. The garden’s spectacular white magnolia is anticipated to be in full flower slightly later than last year.
By early April visitors should be able to stand beneath its canopy to enjoy the spectacle and soak up the views of the orchard beyond.
In April the it produces copious displays of white blossom from 15 Mount Fuji trees.
Pop in to the Bear and Ragged Staff after. Surrounded by beautiful Hampshire countryside and with a delicious British menu and range of refreshing drinks, it's the perfect rambler’s reward!
Wander amongst one of the UK’s finest collections of spring flowering camellias.
Exbury is a Camellia Garden of Excellence, famed for its camellias some of which are around 100 years old, and these provide the first floral treats of the year with hundreds of different varieties and whole trees covered in bloom.
Visitors will also be able to explore Daffodil Meadow, which is planted with thousands of the yellow spring favourites, and the River of Gold, a 100,000-bulb colour burst that weaves around rare trees near Exbury House.
The Royal Oak Beaulieu is a lovely family-run pub perfect for a post-stroll pint. Everyone is welcome, muddy boots, cyclists, children, dogs and of course horse riders – with four horse corrals in the garden!
River Hamble Country Park
River Hamble is a great spot to find those bluebells as they start to meander across local woodlands.
Keen birdwatchers should look out for curlews along the river and skylarks in the fields.
There's lots of great walks nearby, all along the banks of the Hamble and it's a great place to go with children because you can do a bit of crabbing off the pontoon or visit Manor Farm with its friendly farm animals and traditional farmyard.
Your pub pitstop just has to be The Jolly Sailor in Old Burlsedon, made famous by the retro TV series Howard's Way. Expect good old-fashioned hospitality, a stunning marina view and a glorious outdoor terrace.
Walk via the Solent Way through a nature reserve rich in wildlife.
Along the route, there are views across the Solent to the Isle of Wight and the Needles and opportunities to watch the ever-changing bird life of Keyhaven Marshes.
Outside the sea wall, the mudflats and saltmarsh are rich feeding and roosting grounds for many bird species as part of Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust’s Lymington and Keyhaven Marshes reserve.
In spring, look out for spoonbills, and large white wading birds. You’ll know when you see one – the clue is in the name!
The Gun Inn is currently closed for refurbishment but try The Smugglers Inn in Milford on Sea, a traditional English pub only a stone's throw from the beach.
St Catherine's Hill, Winchester
The 58-hectare flower-rich chalk grassland nature reserve is carefully managed by Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust.
It’s home to some stunning wildflowers, and over 25 different species of butterflies including the marbled white, chalkhill blue and brown argus.
There are also ramparts of the Iron Age hill fort cut into the 70m high hill, buried ruins of the Norman chapel that gives the site its name and several rectangular burial mounds along Plague Pit Valley which mark the location of mass graves.
After a 220ft climb up the hill, there are spectacular views over Winchester, the Itchen Valley and the surrounding countryside.
Delicious food, local produce, fine wines, cask ales and a relaxed atmosphere await you at The Bell Inn, St Cross.