Hampton Ridge: the spine of the northern New Forest

In which I remember walks and views along Hampton Ridge

…that sporting ribbon which bleached by the sun and wind sweeps down through moorland from Windmill Hill only to mount swiftly again up the high, heathered bluff, standing over 300 feet above sea-level, which is the beginning of the Ridge. On it runs straight as a die through some of the wildest, finest country we know in the north of the New Forest.

Joan Begbie, Walking in the New Forest, published 1934 

Joan Begbie and her two dogs (Bill, a white bull terrier, and Mr Bundy, a diminutive griffon) loved Hampton Ridge, topped by its long, straight(ish) track running from Abbotswell to Fritham. Joan was inspired by the wide expanses and glimpses of distant hills. Mr Bundy took heart from running by his mistress as she panted up the steep first part of the path on a blustery day. Bill…well who knows what Bill thought, as, on walks along the Ridge, he was more often than not “a white dot among the heather”.

I have read that Hampton Ridge was so named because it was a main route through to Southampton, or that it was named after Sir John de Hampton, a Southampton knight of the fourteenth century. Either could be correct, I suppose. Southampton itself was originally called Hamwic or Hamtun (probably meaning settlement on a river bend); the prefix South- was added in the eleventh century.

Hampton Ridge starts its rise at Abbotswell. The wonderful views from the car park there are the first taste of the many more wonderful panoramas that can be seen from atop the Ridge. It passes between Pitts Wood, Hasley Hill and Alderhill before diving down into Amberwood and the southern edge of Islands Thorns, and so to Eyeworth and Fritham. Exposed even in spring and summer, autumn and winter walks there are particularly breath-taking, sometimes literally if the wind is up and the air is frosty. It’s worth it, but wrap up very warm.

Though Amberwood’s sunlit recesses looked alluring over the gate we kept on with the track and were soon out in the open country of the Ridge, walking as if on air. The Dorset highlands ahead, the moorland’s hills, vales, and woods on our right, the ridges and woodlands across Latchmore Bottom, cut by its brook’s gleaming curves and watched over by Hasley, were all radiant under the Spring sun.

Joan Begbie, Walking in the New Forest

I have done a few walks with Joan that include all or part of Hampton Ridge. I ended up on the track down from Hampton Ridge after a muddy walk through Islands Thorns in March, and as part of a circular walk from Telegraph Hill in October; and I walked all the way along the Ridge from Abbotswell to where it enters lovely Amberwood in an early summer full of skylark song. At any time of year, Hampton Ridge is a wonderful place for a good, invigorating walk.

6 thoughts on “Hampton Ridge: the spine of the northern New Forest

  1. Carolyn Lambert

    Oh…..that was too short a walk for me! I have become greedy, and was ready to accompany you on a much longer one! Sorry to complain, but I enjoy your descriptions so much that I’m left wanting more! Thank you anyway….and for your beautiful photographs, alaways an absolute joy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m sorry Carolyn! I’ve had a busy few weeks with various things, so haven’t been able to fit in a longer walk. But, like you, I’m missing a good long tramp through the Forest, so have planned one for this week. Watch this space! And thank you for your kind comments 😊


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