The Test downstream of Sadler's Mill, Romsey
The Test is tidal in Southampton
and is lined with quays
Pen and Ink of the River Test near Long Parrish circa 1891
The River Test is a river in Hampshire, England. The river has a total length of 40 miles (64 km) and it flows through downland from its source near Ashe, 10 km to the west of Basingstoke (at grid reference SU 532 498), to the sea at the head of Southampton Water. In its upper reaches it is a chalk stream, known throughout the world for the excellent quality of its fly fishing for trout.
The river rises near the village of Ashe, and flows west through the villages of Overton, Laverstoke, and the town of Whitchurch, before joining with the Bourne Rivulet at Testbourne and turning into a more southerly direction. It then flows through the villages of Longparish and Middleton to Wherwell and Chilbolton, where the Rivers Dever and Anton contribute to the flow.
From Chilbolton the river flows through the villages of Leckford, Longstock, Stockbridge and Houghton to Mottisfont and Kimbridge, where the River Dun joins the flow. From here the village of Timsbury is passed, then through the grounds of Roke Manor before reaching the town of Romsey. On the western edge of Romsey, Sadler's Mill, an 18th Century watermill, sits astride the River Test.
South of Romsey, the river flows past the country house of Broadlands, past Nursling that was once the site of a Roman bridge, and between Totton and Redbridge. Here the river is joined by the River Blackwater and soon becomes tidal, widening out into a considerable estuary that is lined on its northern bank by the container terminals and quays of the Port of Southampton. Finally the Test estuary meets that of the River Itchen and the two continue to the sea as Southampton Water.
Between Chilbolton and Redbridge, the river was once paralleled by the abandoned Andover Canal. Much of the length of this canal was converted to a railway in 1865, and much of this railway has since also been abandoned. As a result, most traces of the canal have completely disappeared, although the remains of a stretch of the canal can still be seen between Timsbury and Romsey.
The river is managed by the Environment Agency, whilst the Port of Southampton is the navigation authority for the tidal section below Redbridge.
The River Test has given its name to the Test Valley District, a local government district in the area, and to Southampton Test, a UK Parliament constituency.
In Watership Down
The river plays a significant part in Richard Adams' novel Watership Down.
After Bigwig leads the breakout from Efrafa, the Watership rabbits are pursued by an Efrafan force led by their Chief, General Woundwort. Hazel carries out a plan devised by Blackberry which leads to their successful escape down the Test on a punt. In the text we are told that this plan would not have been possible on most rivers, but the Test's smooth-flowing, weed-free nature makes it an exception. Shortly afterwards, the punt becomes lodged on a low bridge, and the surviving rabbits are forced to swim under it to get out.
The following are the named tributaries of the River Test, listed in order upstream from Southampton Water.