Mottisfont estate walk
Discover our beautiful and diverse estate on a varied walk through ancient woodlands, historic farmland and along the crystal-clear River Test.
The route is best walked anti-clockwise. Look out for the stone markers with the bear crest on them. Some of the markers have numbers which relate to point on this walking trail.
Spearywell car park, grid ref: SU316275
Set off from Spearywell carpark taking the left-hand path. This walk takes in much of the woodland. Follow the bear stone and post markers through the woodland until you exit the woods and come out by farm land.
We acquired Mottisfont estate in 1957 from Mrs Maud Russell, which includes the Abbey (house), gardens, woodlands, rivers and farmlands over 648 hectares (1645 acres). The land has been managed as a traditional working estate since 1500 and the countryside team here at Mottisfont manages 2227 hectares (5500 acres) to maintain access, enhance wildlife habitats and preserve the landscape.
Turn left right out of the woods and on a long path beside the fields. Go under a railway bridge to know you're on the right path!
We actively manage the woods for nature conservation and much of our work has been to restore the historic rides within the woodland to a width that favours plants and insects. Wide rides allow plenty of light and sun into the woods and this offers the perfect habitat for butterflies such as Silver-washed Fritillary, White Admiral, Meadow Brown and the scarce Duke of Burgundy Fritillary.
Walk across the fields and under railway tunnel turning right at kissing gate.
The three freshwater springs here feed into the surrounding ditch systems and the River Dun. The adjacent fields are managed as traditional hay and grazing meadows without intensive fertilisers, herbicides or pesticides. Such management will protect local habitats. Dragonflies, damselflies and water voles can also be found here.
Follow the River Dun towards the railway station.
Much of the land is farmed, either growing arable crops such as Barley and Wheat or for grazing cattle. We work closely with our tenant farmers to improve the wildlife habitat and although there is much to do, many hedges have been replanted where they once existed, and buffer strips of natural vegetation have been left uncultivated to protect rivers and woods and provide habitats for plants, insects and small mammals. These areas also offer fine opportunities to kestrels and barn owls for hunting.
Over the level crossing and across the fields via kissing gate a few yards from Station.
The Mottisfont estate
We owns 64 houses within the estate, mostly in the village of Mottisfont. One of the oldest properties is the Fox which you will pass once you cross Hat Lane. This was one of many pubs in the village until the estate owner Mrs Vaudrey Barker-Mill closed them down around 1920. The church dates from 1150 and it is said that a tunnel connected the church with the main Abbey. The oldest houses in the village date from the 1500s.
Walk along Oakley Road along the West perimeter of the Abbey. Turn right off the road by the marker.
Like all of the estate woods, this copse was once managed as an oak woodland with an understorey of hazel. It takes upwards of eighty years for an oak to mature for timber. Hazel, if cut regularly, provides fuel, fencing and thatching materials on average every ten years. This regular cutting is called coppicing and benefits wildlife, but the practice is dying out as the demand for hazel products has diminished. However we have reintroduced coppicing in this copse.
Continue through Queenmeadow Copse and along the perimeter of Clapgate Copse, across fields to Great Copse.
All of the woods on the estate have been in place for more than 400 years and this makes them Ancient Woodlands. They are in a semi-natural state due to management over time. One of the best examples of the semi-natural ancient woods is Great Copse which you are about to enter. Look out for plants such as Solomon's seal, wood surge, herb Paris and bluebells: the presence of these plants indicates that the woodlands are very old.
Walk through Great Copse and into the top of Spearywell Wood. Follow the pathway back to the start point.
You are now entering the northern-most point of our estate. Commercial trees such as Douglas fir, Norway spruce and larch were planted in the 60s. These are felled and some of the timber is used on the estate for fencing, gates and stiles. They are then replaced with British broadleaf trees to encourage local plant and wildlife. The variety of trees makes the wood an enchanting place to find fungi during the autumn. Look out for the characteristic fly agaric and the musky smelling stinkhorn.
Spearywell car park, grid ref: SU316275
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