Suburban Safari: Minstead Meanderings 

Suburban Safari: Minstead Meanderings 

Words and pictures by Katie Isham.

Someday, we’ll go on a walk that doesn’t involve consecrated ground, but that day is not today my friends. This walk meanders through a graveyard, past some of the greatest oaks known to exist and possibly the greatest country gate vista ever viewed. 

First, getting to Minstead: it’s not exactly walking distance, but it’s not far by car. Off the A31, the turning is the sharpest bend not on a racetrack. Rattle over the cattle grid and it’s country air from here on in. 

Minstead is a sprawling New Forest village just north of Lyndhurst. Pass Furzey Gardens and Minstead Hall to get to the hub. It’s no metropolis, but around the village green is a shop, a church, a pub and often a plethora of roaming animals. Park up around here and strap on the walking boots. 

Head up the incline towards the church. All Saints’ church has parts dating to the 11th century. Pop into the building and admire the patchwork nature of this holy place. There’s even more of interest in the graveyard. A real country cemetery with wild flowers, wilder views over the fence, gnarly trees and benches for peace and reflection. Towards the back of the site, there’s even a celebrity resident; Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s grave is easily spotted by the pipe adorning it. 

Back out the sheltered gate, turn immediately left and pass through a smaller gate leading onto a path sneaking along the tree line. Follow the route with trees and brambles on one side and the fence and fields on the other. Greet the cows as you squidge through the mud and mind the stinging nettles. 

The path bends to the right and another gate leads into the woodland realm. The quiet calm is punctuated only by birds chattering as the summer sunshine shifts through the lofty branches. You’ll wish the journey was longer. 

Yet another gate steers onto a driveway and the ground falls away towards a stream. Fleet Water flows through the village. In the current warm weather, crossing is easy, even without wellies. Sure, there’s a bridge further up, but skipping over the stones makes any adventure more exciting. 

On the other side, the ground rises again and another bench beckons. This one offers a grand view of a grand old oak, a majestic beast of a tree. 

Once the tree-ogling is over, cross the tiny bridge that runs alongside the road (never avoiding the bridge option for long) and head back up the hill. Minstead Study Centre stands opposite and is worth a visit for education and craft courses. 

Carefully traverse the hill, swapping sides of the road as the bends take their turns. Keep meandering until another great oak appears on the right, splitting the hedge row down the middle and peering over the road, almost reaching to the phone lines on the other side. Bursts of green branches stretch across the summer sky; it’s almost dangerous to walk by as your attention is so drawn to it. 


But then along the left edge of the field, an even better view arrives. The greatest quintessential English countryside gate view into fields, hedgerows, treelines and, if you time your visit right, an epic sky. Lean on the gate and take it all in. No wonder the gate is dipped in the middle; everyone who passes must pause in awe. 

Continue along the road past homes and farms until the striking red sight of the village phone box reveals itself at the bottom of the lane. Head towards it and swing right at the crossroads. Back into the village, pass more cottage gardens and soon the pub on the right. The Trusty Servant is a good pitstop. Or even better, if arriving during office hours, the village shop will offer you a range of cake as well as their other wares. 

Cake in hand (away from the donkeys usually hanging out by the stocks), head back up the hill towards the church. Those benches in the churchyard will wonder where you’ve been. Take a pew and recount your meanderings to the birds, oaks and spirits of Minstead.  


Cost: Free walking, free parking and free country air. Cost incurred at the pub or the shop. 

Accessibility: Main path into the graveyard but then off road between the graves. The country path is only for nimble feet as it gets bramble-scratchingly narrow, through gates and boggy after rainfall. This route takes the road round which is mostly quiet but needs good Green Cross Code skills for navigating bends. Reach Minstead mostly easily by car, just off the A31 or north of Lyndhurst. A short run by car from Southampton. 

Facilities: Car park at the pub and church. All Saints’ church is almost always open and they have services every Sunday and various events including the ‘Open Door’ community café once a month. The Trusty Servant is the local pub with food and drink aplenty. The village shop is next door with great cakes and oddities, run by the local community and open 10am-4pm. 

More information:

  • In Common is not for profit. We rely on donations from readers to keep the site running. Could you help to support us for as little as 25p a week? Please help us to carry on offering independent grass roots media. Visit: