The Road to Recovery Part 4
The River Test is one of the most famous chalk streams in England – made famous for its trout fishing.
In order to get to Dunbridge I had to take 3 trains via Clapham Junction and Southampton Parkway. The high speed train from Waterloo to Southampton wizzes through parts of Surrey that I plod along by bike so it was quite interesting to watch it go by so fast. The slow local train from Southampton to Salisbury takes a gentle meander through several little villages in Hampshire before I unloaded myself at the splendidly named Mottisfont and Dunbridge Station.
I saw Mottisfont Abbey on my map and did some research into this National Trust property. Mottisfont Priory moved into private hands after the dissolution but in the 18th century, the Mill family decided that Abbey was more romantic than Priory and renamed the property. None of this was highly relevant on my ride because the National Trust are quite careful to prevent non-paying members of the public from seeing the house. So I moseyed on down to the Test Way which follows the obsolete Sprat and Winkle train route.
First impressions are of a clear stream where the trout can be seen enjoying the flow under a bridge.
The relics of the past around the track are still clear to see, an old railway line with an old station converted into a house and bits of old ironwork on the occasional bridge.
The wildlife along the river is pretty spectacular. I could hear several cuckoos and I even spotted one! I also spotted a grass snake slithering it’s way across the cycleway just in time to avoid running over it. The hedges were alive with birds of all varieties.
Stockbridge is a very elegant Edwardian town with a brige over the Test and lots of lovely shops and cafes.
The nearest to the exclusive Houghton Fishing Club you will get is if you encounter one of their meetings in the Grosvenor. There are only 25 members including Prince Charles. Otherwise the Thyme and Tides Deli has a coffee shop with a side entrance to take your bike in. Good food at a reasonable price.
Leaving Stockbridge on the Old Strockbridge road towards Grately, you go past another piece of history, the Danesbury Iron Age Hill Fort. The views from the top are amazing, truly unbeatable.
Grately is where you join Grately Drove, an offroad section taking you southwest towards Porton. This section is where you get up and personal with the farmland but at least the track is flat, running parallel to the Exeter – Basingstoke line.
There is a bit of a shock along this track. You go past Porton Down and there is suddenly warning signs, cameras and guard dogs barking. Further along is Boscombe Down which is a hush hush aircraft testing site.Photography around the runways and periphery is strictly forbidden!
Anyway, once past all the military warnings you come into Amesbury which is quaint enough but really just a stepping point to this piece of history just across the very busy A303.
You can cycle on the shared footpath/cycleway to “The Avenue” where you can cross but be careful please! Well worth a visit even if just on the free to use bridleway that runs alongside the visitors footpath. The people you see on the path have paid a cool £20 for the privilege of getting a few metres closer! Not much difference as you can see.
Crossing back from Stonehenge towards Amesbury, follow the Wilsford Road which goes past Amesbury cum Lake, Amesbury, Wilfsford and all kinds of gorgeous little views.
Eventually the sight that pilgrims of old yearned for appears in the very distance, Salisbury Cathedral. Even Russian GRU men have wondered about the dreamy spire.
Eventually, you get to a Cycleway that routes you directly into the heart of Salisbury but first you can admire a house where William Pitt the elder spent his childhood.
At this point I headed back to Dunbridge via East and West Grimstead. Charming little places but it was raining. I simply sped along a mostly flat and downhill road and got to the Mill Arms just in time to avoid a total deluge!
The long train journey home went by quickly as I reflected on the glorious rolling hills of the day. I got home in time for shower, supper and bed. Another grand day out while enjoying the greatest of English history.