Hampshire walk around Minstead visiting the grave of author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
PUBLISHED: 10:03 12 August 2014 | UPDATED: 10:18 12 August 2014
© Steve Davison
Steve Davison heads to the New Forest to explore the final resting place of author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
From Acres Down, our walk this month heads north along Ringwood Ford Bottom before turning east to follow quiet lanes to picturesque Minstead; where, huddled round the village green complete with replica stocks, you’ll find quintessential thatched cottages and, the unusually named pub – The Trusty Servant.
Step inside the 12th-century All Saints Church to see the three-decker pulpit and a pre-Norman font carved with four religious scenes: the Lord’s baptism (west); the Lamb of God (east); lion with two bodies (north); and two eagles and a tree (south). The churchyard is the resting place of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes, the famous fictional detective – look for the tall stone cross under an oak tree to the south of the church.
The sign at the Trusty Servant is a copy of the original painting of the Trusty Servant from Winchester College. The accompanying 16th century saying probably originates from the days when pupils had personal servants.
After leaving Minstead the next stop is Furzey Gardens. Established in 1922, the gardens are well-known for their year round colour (01280 812464). The walk then continues westwards to reach Stonard Wood before heading south over Hart Hill back to the car park; before leaving, call in at Acres Down farm shop for a delicious cream tea.
Distance: 5 1/4 miles (8.4km)
Time: 2 1/2 hours without stops or garden visit
Terrain: Some ups and downs, tracks and paths which can be muddy with stiles and gates, sections of road
Start/Finish: Acres Down car park 1 1/2 miles south of A31 at Stoney Cross; grid ref SU267097 (alternatively start at Minstead – Point 3)
Map: OS Explorer OL22
Refreshments: Minstead – The Trusty Servant (02380 812137), village shop and tea room (02380 813134); Acres Down – farm shop and tea room (02380 813693)
1 (SU267097) – From the car park turn right along the track and then left at the junction, signposted for Acres Down House. After passing a bungalow keep ahead over the open heath for 500m, passing just to the right of a stand of trees and then following the trees on the right. Where the path starts to bear left and climb slightly towards some tall conifers (SU264102), turn right down through some oak trees to cross a stream at Ringwood Ford. Once clear of the trees continue uphill, heading in a north-east direction past clumps of gorse and birch, later the path levels off and passes through some holly bushes. There are several paths around here which can be confusing; the aim is to join a road opposite a small red post box and entrance track to some houses.
2 (SU266105) – Cross over the road to the right of the track opposite and head along the left side of the small grassy area, passing an old vehicle barrier and bridleway sign. Continue into the trees and head downhill for 500m. Turn right along the surfaced lane and then left at the junction for 600m to a ford. Cross the Fleetwater using the footbridge and turn right onto a track for a few metres and then left through a kissing gate following the signed path up through the wood for 400m, later enclosed, to reach a surfaced lane beside All Saints Church. Follow the lane down to a road junction beside the village green.
3 (SU281110) – Turn left along the main road and about 20m after the turning to Newtown and Fleetwater, fork right onto an enclosed path running parallel to the road to bypass a narrow section of road, and then continue along the road for 125m. Turn left at the footpath sign and stile and go through the field to a stile in the lower right corner. Cross the footbridge and keep ahead through the next field to a stile in the top right corner. Turn right along the lane and then left at the junction; soon fork left to Furzey Gardens.
4 (SU273115) – Continue through the car park, passing the garden entrance, and continue along the waymarked track. At the split keep to the right-hand fork, following a path down through the trees. Go through a kissing gate, turn left and shortly after crossing a footbridge follow the path left to a stile. Continue along the enclosed path to a lane. Turn right up along the track passing The Red House, keep right at the split to pass Kings Garn house and soon fork right again to the road.
5 (SU264107) – Cross over and turn right following a path parallel to the road. Once opposite the entrance to Heath House, follow the path bearing slightly left away from the road and later turn left along a defined track to reach a split by some trees. Fork slightly left passing through some trees and then left again along a wide stony path, with Stonard Wood on your right to reach a trig point on Hart Hill. Follow the track downhill passing a handy seat and keep straight on at two track junctions before going up a short rise to a T-junction. Turn left along the gravel cycle track back to the car park.