Mottisfont circular walk
A gentle one-mile walk around the grounds of Mottisfont, where ancient trees, rolling lawns and babbling brooks frame the romantic old house and gallery.
Mottisfont Visitor Reception, grid ref: SU327270
From visitor reception, walk ahead and over the brick bridge to the vast, open lawns in front of the house. Take the path on your left that winds its way through the hidden corners of the Stream Garden, which leads you to the Font.
From visitor reception, walk ahead and over the brick bridge to the vast, open lawns in front of the house. Take the path on your left that winds its way through the hidden corners of the Stream Garden, which leads you to the Font. This is where the groundwater bubbles up out the earth as a natural spring. Fonts were often used as meeting places and it is from this that Mottisfont takes its name – this is where the 'moots', the medieval word for meetings, happened around the 'font'.
From the font walk left up towards the Stables.
Walk up the main path towards the Stables (where you'll find toilet facilities, a cafe and our second-hand bookshop) and enter the paddock to the left of this building. Walk up to the beech circle on the horizon.
Walk across the old paddock towards the circle of trees.
This circle of beech trees was planted in 1967 as a replacement for a previous beech circle that used to be around the ice house (hidden in a cutting down the slope on your right). These earlier beeches had died when electricity arrived in the 20th century. All the ash from the redundant coal fires of the house was dumped in the ice house, and acid from this killed the trees.
From the beech circle, the view over the Mottisfont estate opens up, go through the gate just beyond the Beech Circle and begin your walk across part of our wider estate.
Our estate stretches over 1,645 acres (665 hectares) – you can explore more of it on the longer 6 miles (9.5km) estate walk (ask at visitor reception for a map). Go through the gate into the parklands, known on old maps as the 'Connygaer'. Before you are three different wildlife habitats: farmland, woodland and wetlands leading down to the river. The quarry in the distance on the right reminds us that clay, chalk, sand and peat have all been dug from this landscape in the past.
Continue across the fields baring towards the bottom corner of the field.
Mottisfont's parklands were never a formal 'park', and were instead used for agriculture. In the 1980s this area was planted with wheat but was converted to grass under an ESA (Environmentally Sensitive Area) scheme. This switch from arable to pastoral farming helped reduce the fertiliser run-off into the river. You may be able to see some cattle across the fields - the farmers graze Luing and Devon Red cattle here.
Keep walking across the fields.
As you follow the trail across the parklands, you'll see a small copse of Chestnut trees on your left, called the Rookery. It has been recorded on maps for several hundred years, and is thought to have held up to 10,000 birds. The large oak tree that stands alone on the right has a kestrel nesting box within its boughs. This contains a camera that shows the inside and outside of the box and is transmitted to the Nature Room in the Stables, where visitors enjoy seeing the kestrels nest and rear their young.
At the corner of the field turn right with the main house in the distance on your right.
Turning right, you begin to walk through a wetlands area. On the right there is a small tributary that runs into the river and an area of rushes and reeds beyond this. The wetland habitat here at Mottisfont is vital for a number of species including barbastelle bats, which feed on the insects found here and southern damselfly, a rare creature that breeds in the wet ditches here.
Go through the gate and cross the small bridge to reach the fishing hut and river walk.
The fishing hut
Soon you'll turn a corner to find a fishing hut fashioned from branches and decorated with twigs, resurrected in 1988 after being flattened by a tree in the 1987 storm. Feel free to look inside, though it can flood when the river is high. Fishing huts such as this were used by anglers to store their equipment and to shelter from bad weather.
Stay on this side of the river and walk down the length of the waterway.
The river walk
Now walk ahead down the path beside the crystal clear river, known as the Abbey Stream. This is a man-made carrier tributary of the main River Test, one of the finest chalk streams in the world, which flows around the estate. It isn't well date back to the medieval period when a thriving priory on the site needed water for its basic operation, including powering several mills and feeding stew-ponds where fish were kept handy for consumption.
Emerge back into the formal grounds of Mottisfont facing the north side of the house. Continue walking to reach the great plane tree.
The great plane
As you walk arrive back on the main lawn, you come to a huge plane tree beside the river. London plane trees grow well in the soils around Mottisfont, and many were planted here in the 19th century. There is evidence to suggest that the mighty Mottisfont Plane was planted around 1724. A clear champion, it is thought to be the largest of its kind in the UK. In 2011 it was measured to be 44yd (40m) tall with a girth of 13yd (12.26m).
This is the end of the trail. To get back to the car park, continue walking by the river and turn left over the brick bridge you crossed at the start.
If you'd like a cup of tea or bite to eat, the main café is just inside the East Porch of the house on this level – just follow the path that leads into the house from the plane tree. The toilets are further down the corridor after the café entrance.
Mottisfont Visitor Reception
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