River Test

Coordinates: 50°55′30″N 1°28′45″W / 50.9251°N 1.4792°W / 50.9251; -1.4792
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

River Test
The Test downstream of Sadler's Mill, Romsey
River Test highlighted in red, shown in South East England
Physical characteristics
 • locationAshe, near Overton, Hampshire, United Kingdom
 • coordinates51°14′43″N 1°14′21″W / 51.2454°N 1.2392°W / 51.2454; -1.2392
 • elevation90 m (300 ft)
MouthSouthampton Water
 • location
Southampton, Hampshire
 • coordinates
50°55′30″N 1°28′45″W / 50.9251°N 1.4792°W / 50.9251; -1.4792
 • elevation
0 m (0 ft)
Length64 km (40 mi)
 • minimum1 m (3 ft 3 in)
 • average20 m (66 ft)
 • maximum56 m (184 ft)
 • minimum0.5 m (1 ft 8 in)
 • average2 m (6 ft 7 in)
 • maximum4 m (13 ft)
Basin features
 • leftRiver Blackwater, River Dun, Wallop Brook, River Anton, Pilhill Brook
 • rightRiver Dever, Bourne Rivulet, River Swift
Site of Special Scientific Interest
River Test at Tufton
Grid referenceSU 384 355[1]
Area438.0 hectares (1,082 acres)[1]
Location mapMagic Map

The River Test is a chalk stream in Hampshire in the south of England. It rises at Ashe near Basingstoke and flows southwards for 40 miles (64 km) to Southampton Water. Settlements on the Test include the towns of Stockbridge and Romsey. The river's valley gives its name to the local government district of Test Valley. Below the village of Longparish, the river is broadly followed by the Test Way, a long-distance footpath.[2]

Much of the Test is a 438-hectare (1,080-acre) biological Site of Special Scientific Interest.[1][3] It is part of the Solent and Southampton Water Ramsar site[4] and Special Protection Area.[5] The river is used for fly fishing for trout from its source to its tidal limit.[6]


Recorded forms are Terstan from 877 and 901, Tarstan stream in 1045, Terstein 1234, and Test in 1425. If Common Brittonic, not Old English, all related dictionaries show three suitable words beginning with Tre- and none with extremely rare Ter-. There is precedent to such metathesis: as for the river Tern in the far west, from tren 'strong'.[7] If so it most likely relates to the Welsh tres (tumult, commotion, contention, uproar) or trais (force, might in older Welsh).[7] A close set of words (diversely conjugated and pronounced) in Old English is (f)irst(en), the meaning of which is as at present, first.


The Test is tidal in Southampton and is lined with quays

The river rises near the village of Ashe, 7 miles (11 km) to the west of Basingstoke (at grid reference SU 532,498), and flows west through the villages of Overton, Laverstoke, and the town of Whitchurch, before joining with the Bourne Rivulet at Testbourne and turning in a more southerly direction. It then proceeds through the villages of Longparish and Middleton to Wherwell and Chilbolton, where the Rivers Dever and Anton join.[8]

From Chilbolton the river goes 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.[9]

South of Romsey, the river passes the country house of Broadlands, and then Nursling, once the site of a Roman bridge. Finally 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. The Test estuary then meets that of the River Itchen and the two continue to the sea as Southampton Water.[10]

Between Chilbolton and Redbridge, the river was once paralleled by the Andover Canal, which was itself converted to a railway in 1865, and then in turn abandoned. Most traces of the canal have disappeared, although the remains of a stretch can still be seen between Timsbury and Romsey.[11]


This chalk stream has one of the richest fauna and flora of any lowland river in England. More than 100 species of flowering plant have been recorded along its banks and 232 invertebrate taxa in the river. It is also important for wetland birds, with breeding species including kingfishers, grey wagtails and little grebes.[12]

Water quality[edit]

The Environment Agency measure water quality of the river systems in England. Each is given an overall ecological status, which may be one of five levels: high, good, moderate, poor and bad. There are several components that are used to determine this, including biological status, which looks at the quantity and varieties of invertebrates, angiosperms and fish. Chemical status, which compares the concentrations of various chemicals against known safe concentrations, is rated good or fail.[13]

Water quality of the River Test in 2019:

Section Ecological
Length Catchment Channel
Test (Upper)[14] Good Fail Moderate 14.803 km (9.198 mi) 177.062 km2 (68.364 sq mi)
Test - Bourne Rivulet to conf Dever[15] Good Fail Moderate 8.286 km (5.149 mi) 32.01 km2 (12.36 sq mi)
Test - conf Dever to conf Anton[16] Good Fail Moderate 3.869 km (2.404 mi) 13.295 km2 (5.133 sq mi)
Test - conf Anton to conf Dun[17] Good Fail Moderate 28.075 km (17.445 mi) 56.88 km2 (21.96 sq mi)
Test - conf Dun to Tadburn Lake[18] Moderate Fail Moderate 8.439 km (5.244 mi) 19.045 km2 (7.353 sq mi) heavily modified
Test (Lower)[19] Good Fail Moderate 8.579 km (5.331 mi) 3.91 km2 (1.51 sq mi)

In popular culture[edit]

The river features in Richard Adams' 1972 novel Watership Down.[20] When the Watership rabbits are pursued by an enemy force, one rabbit carries out a plan which leads to their successful escape down the Test on a punt. In the text, readers 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. The punt becomes lodged on a low bridge, and the surviving rabbits are forced to swim under the bridge to the riverbank.[20]


The following are the named tributaries of the River Test, listed in order upstream from Southampton Water.[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Designated Sites View: River Test". Sites of Special Scientific Interest. Natural England. Retrieved 18 May 2020.
  2. ^ "The Test Way". Hampshire County Council. Retrieved 7 September 2020.
  3. ^ "Map of River Test". Sites of Special Scientific Interest. Natural England. Retrieved 18 May 2020.
  4. ^ "Designated Sites View: Solent and Southampton Water". Ramsar Site. Natural England. Retrieved 23 April 2020.
  5. ^ "Designated Sites View: Solent and Southampton Water". Special Protection Areas. Natural England. Retrieved 23 April 2020.
  6. ^ Environment Agency (2006). Fact file on the River Test. Retrieved 8 February 2006. Archived 8 April 2005 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ a b Breeze, Andrew (1998). "The name of the River Test" (PDF). Proceedings of the Hampshire Field Club & Archaeological Society. 53: 226–227. Retrieved 27 January 2017.
  8. ^ Ordnance Survey (2004). OS Explorer Map 144 – Basingstoke, Alton & Whitchurch. ISBN 0-319-23606-4.
  9. ^ Ordnance Survey (2004). OS Explorer Map 131 – Romsey, Andover & Test Valley. ISBN 0-319-23600-5.
  10. ^ Ordnance Survey (2004). OS Explorer Map OL22 – New Forest. ISBN 0-319-23616-1.
  11. ^ Andover Town Central (2000–2006). The Andover Canal Archived 6 July 2008 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 9 February 2006.
  12. ^ "River Test citation" (PDF). Sites of Special Scientific Interest. Natural England. Retrieved 18 May 2020.
  13. ^ "Glossary (see Biological quality element; Chemical status; and Ecological status)". Catchment Data Explorer. Environment Agency. 17 February 2016. Text was copied from this source, which is available under an Open Government Licence v3.0. © Crown copyright.
  14. ^ "Test (Upper)". Catchment Data Explorer. Environment Agency.
  15. ^ "Test - Bourne Rivulet to conf Dever". Catchment Data Explorer. Environment Agency.
  16. ^ "Test - conf Dever to conf Anton". Catchment Data Explorer. Environment Agency.
  17. ^ "Test - conf Anton to conf Dun". Catchment Data Explorer. Environment Agency.
  18. ^ "Test - conf Dun to Tadburn Lake". Catchment Data Explorer. Environment Agency.
  19. ^ "Test (Lower)". Catchment Data Explorer. Environment Agency.
  20. ^ a b Rock, Peter (15 May 2018). "On the Unsettling Allure of 'Watership Down'". The New York Times. Retrieved 3 April 2021.
  21. ^ Ordnance Survey (1995). OS Landranger Map 185 – Winchester and Basingstoke. ISBN 0-319-22185-7.
  22. ^ Burgess, Lawrence (1982). The Streams and Watercourses Of Southampton. Friends of Old Southampton. p. 4.

External links[edit]