The battle of Cheriton was a major turning point in the English Civil War and resulted in an important Parliamentarian victory that helped shape the future of England. This trail follows in the footsteps of the men who fought on both sides of this important battle.
This walk crosses tenanted, working farmland so please keep dogs on leads at all times. Some of the pathways can be narrow so please consider other path users and adhere to social distancing guidelines. Please take any rubbish home with you so we can keep the countryside beautiful for everyone. There are grazing animals around the estate – please shut any gates that you open and keep four legged friends on leads at all times.
Distance: 5-6 miles
Map: Explorer 132
Start: Hinton Ampner church
- Start off at the church in the grounds at Hinton Ampner then walk down Hinton Hill towards the A272.
- Cross the main road onto a farm track directly opposite (which then leads to a footpath).
The eve of battle.
It is barely light on the morning of 29 March 1644, the eve of battle. A thick mist lingers in the valley and clings to the slopes of the ridge of high ground behind you. Leaving Cheriton to its fate, you walk on. In the fields on your right, is the Parliamentary force, 10,000 strong. It is so close you can smell the horses and hear the shouts of command. To the rear are the cannon, in the centre the main body of troops, pikemen and musketeers, flanked to left and right by cavalry.
- After a short walk up the hill you will reach a crossroads of footpaths, turn right walking for about a mile.
You have attempted to clear the Parliamentarian lines but through the morning mist you begin to make out the distinctive sounds of troops and cavalry preparing for battle. This is the Royalist force of 7,000 and they are directly ahead of you, although it is impossible to say how far. It is time to try and exit the battlefield, but it may already be too late.
- Just before you reach the road veer left following the margin of the field to the top right-hand corner then walk through the gap in the hedge onto a farm track walking left up the hill.
As you reach the end of the lane you hear the sound of musket shots, mingled with shouts and cries, some distance away on your left. The battle has begun. Now curiosity gets the better of you, you must have a closer look. This is your chance to see history in the making.
- Continue on for a mile and a half with Cheriton Wood to your right-hand side.
During the night the Parliamentarian commander, William Waller, positioned a mixed force of cannon, cavalry and musket in the wood in an attempt to outflank the Royalist line. Ralph Hopton, the Royalist commander, quickly moved to counter the threat, sending a force of 1,000 musketeers to take the wood. The sound of fighting is getting closer. Several riderless horses come careering out of the trees, withthe remaining Parliamentary troops close behind. Hopton’s musketeers, now using their muskets as clubs, have routed Waller’s inexperienced London Brigade who are now in full retreat back to the safety of their own lines. You continue on towards the relative safety of the Royalist position.
- You should now be joining up with a road, follow it round to the right walking towards the site of a memorial commemorating the troops from both sides who lost their lives during the battle.
This high ground, occupied by the Royalist force, offers the best view of the battlefield. Cheriton Wood, now in Royalist hands, can be seen on the left although the main Parliamentary army is obscured by East Down in the middle distance. Hopton now takes the decision to move his troops forward onto this ridge. You decide to follow.
- Retrace your steps on Badshear Road walking for a mile then turn left off the road past some barns and back onto a farm track and footpaths.
You can clearly hear the sound of battle as you approach the ridge, a position the Royalist commanders were content to hold. But one of their officers, Sir Henry Bard, has rashly led his infantry in an attack. Surprised by Parliamentarian cavalry, his men are being cut to pieces.
- At the top of the ridge (half a mile walk from road) turn right then follow the ridge along for half a mile before turning left down the footpath.
Bard’s action has resulted in increasing numbers of Royalist troops being committed to the attack. Losing the advantage of the high ground, they engage with the advancing Parliamentarian musketeers. Fierce fighting has broken out all along the line. With one last roll of the die the Royalists send in their cavalry.
- At the next footpath crossroads head straight down into Cheriton village.
The terrain only allows the cavalry to advance in small groups down two lanes and you follow one towards Cheriton. Parliamentarian troopers are deployed and waiting for them. Outnumbered and hemmed in by the deep sunken lanes, they are beaten back. Now Waller makes his move. Looping round both flanks of the Royalist force, his infantry advance, every ditch and hedgerow is contested as the Royalist begin to give ground.
When you reach the village road, turn left following the road to the main road (A272). Then left again at the main road past the pub – The Hinton Arms, and onto the entrance of the parkland.
Battle rages in the fields above and the wreckage litters the fields. As many as 500 may have died with many more wounded. The Royalists have been forced back to their original position from where Hopton will make an ordered retreat to Basing House, sacking Alresford on his way. Our story of the battle is now over and your journey through it at an end.
Walk courtesy of nationaltrust.org.uk