Categories
Craft beer Food and drink Hampshire Outdoors Walking

Dog-friendly pubs in Southampton (including restaurants, cafes and bars)

This is an ever-growing list of dog-friendly pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants in Southampton and the surrounding area. Includes a description of each pub that allows dogs, plus where to find them.

With hundreds of acres of green spaces, four city parks recently named among the top parks in the UK and the New Forest and South Downs National Parks in easy reach, Southampton is a great place for dog owners.

For me, there’s nothing better than a visit to a pub to refuel after a long dog walk.

Here’s an ever-growing list of dog-friendly pubs and bars, cafes and restaurants that allow dogs in Southampton and the surrounding area.

If you have any recommendations or suggestion, or spot something that’s not quite right, leave a comment below, tweet me or drop me a line on tshallett [at] gmail dot com.

Dog-friendly pubs in Southampton (including restaurants, cafes and bars)

Belgium and Blues

  • Address: 84 Above Bar St, Southampton, SO14 7DW
  • Website: belgiumandblues.co.uk
  • Phone: 023 8022 5411
  • Email: Unknown
  • Opening times: Sunday-Thursday 12-11pm and Friday and Saturday 12pm-12am

A Belgian-inspired bar serving Belgian beer alongside UK craft beer, real ale and gin with a Belgian-themed food menu.

The Bookshop Alehouse (Portswood)

  • Address: 21 Portswood Road, Southampton, SO17 2ES
  • Website: facebook.com/BookshopAlehouse
  • Phone: Unknown
  • Email: Unknown
  • Opening times: Monday-Sunday 12-11pm

Pub slash bookshop at the St Denys and Bevois Valley end of Portswood Road.

You might also like: The ultimate guide to Southampton’s craft beer bars and real ale pubs

Brewhouse and Kitchen (Highfield)

  • Address: 47 Highfield Ln, Southampton, SO17 1QD
  • Website: brewhouseandkitchen.com/southampton
  • Phone: 023 8055 5566
  • Email: southampton [at] brewhouseandkitchen.com
  • Opening times: Monday-Thursday 11am-11pm, Saturday 11am-12am and Sunday 12-10.30pm

Based in Highfield, not too far from Portswood High Street and the Common. Dogs allowed in the bar. Takeaway draught ale available.

Butchers Hook Alehouse (Bitterne Park)

  • Address: 7 Manor Farm Rd, Bitterne Park, Southampton, SO18 1NN
  • Website: butchershookpub.com
  • Phone: 023 8178 2280
  • Email: hello [at] butchershookpub.com
  • Opening times: Wednesday and Thursday 6-11pm, Friday 4-11pm, Saturday 1pm-12am and Sunday 2-10pm

Southampton’s first micropub situated near Riverside Park. Takeaway draught beer available.

Caskaway

  • Address: 47 Oxford St, Southampton, SO14 3DP/li>
  • Website: facebook.com/caskaway
  • Phone: Unknown
  • Email: Unknown
  • Opening times: Tuesday-Sunday 12-10pm

Another micropub for Southampton at the bottom end of town on Oxford Street.

The Cowherds

  • Address: The Common, Southampton, Hampshire, SO15 7NN
  • Website: Vintageinn.co.uk
  • Phone: 023 8055 8405
  • Email: Unknown
  • Opening times: Monday-Saturday 12-11pm and Sunday 12-10.30pm

Popular pub near the south-east corner of Southampton Common off the Avenue. Dates from 1762. Cosy interior with some seating outside.

Cracklerock (Botley)

  • Address: The Old Cooperage The High Street, Botley, Southampton, SO30 2EA
  • Website: cracklerock.co.uk
  • Phone: 07733 232806
  • Email: pxwhitfield [at] aol.com
  • Opening times: Thursday and Friday 6-9.30pm, Saturday 12-9.30pm and Sunday 12-3pm

Brewery tap room in Botley offering the brewery’s ales plus occasional guest beers. Takeaway available.

Dancing Man

  • Address: 1 Bugle Street, Southampton, SO14 2AR
  • Website: dancingmanbrewery.co.uk
  • Phone: 023 8083 6666
  • Email: Unknown
  • Opening times: Sunday-Wednesday 12-11pm and Thursday-Saturday 11am-12am

Pub and microbrewery in Southampton’s historic Wool House, a Grade II listed building. Great choice of beers. Food too plus takeaway ale.

The Dolphin (St Denys)

  • Address: 30 Osborne Rd South, Southampton, SO17 2EZ
  • Website: thedolphinpubstdenys.co.uk
  • Phone: 023 8055 0277
  • Email: Unknown
  • Opening times: Monday-Thursday 3pm-12.30am, Friday and Saturday 12pm-12.30am and Sunday 12pm-12am.

Just north of St Denys railway station. Great ale and beer selection and varied food menu.

The Elm Tree Inn (Swanwick)

  • Address: 1 Swanwick Lane, Swanwick, Southampton, SO31 7DX
  • Website: elmtreeinn.co.uk
  • Phone: 01489 579818
  • Email: Unknown
  • Opening times: Sunday-Thursday 11am-11pm and Friday and Saturday 11am-12am

Freehouse with a small garden in Swanwick near Park Gate.

Farmers Home (Durley)

  • Address: Heathen St, Durley, Southampton, SO32 2BT
  • Website: thefarmers-home.co.uk
  • Phone: 01489 860457
  • Email: Unknown
  • Opening times: Monday-Saturday 11am-11pm and Sunday 12-10pm

Nestled in Durley, between Hedge End and Bishop’s Waltham with great walks nearby. Massive beer garden.

Fox and Hounds (Bursledon)

Situated in the small village of Hungerford close to old Bursledon.

Guide Dog (Portswood)

  • Address: 38 Earls Rd, Southampton, SO14 6SF
  • Website: facebook.com/TheGuideDog
  • Phone: 023 8063 8947
  • Email: Unknown
  • Opening times: Monday-Saturday 12-11pm and Sunday 12-10.30pm

Award-winning pub offering up to 11 cask ales.

The Humble Plumb (Bitterne)

  • Address: 1 Commercial Street, Bitterne, Southampton, SO18 6LY
  • Website: humbleplumb.co.uk
  • Phone: 023 8043 7577
  • Email: humbleplumb [at] wadworth.co.uk
  • Opening times: Monday-Saturday 12-11pm and Sunday 12-10.30pm

Rural-style pub with bare floorboards and open fires, plus a beer garden.

The Jolly Sailor (Bursledon)

  • Address: Lands End Rd, Bursledon, Southampton, SO31 8DN
  • Website: jollysailoroldbursledon.co.uk
  • Phone: 023 8040 5557
  • Email: jollysailor.southampton [at] hall-woodhouse.co.uk
  • Opening times: Monday-Saturday 11am-11pm and Sunday 12-10.30pm

Overlooks Swanwick Marina and has its own pontoon. A Hall and Woodhouse pub featured in the TV series “Howards’ Way in the 1980s.

The King and Queen (Hamble-le-Rice)

  • Address: High St, Hamble-le-Rice, Southampton, SO31 4HA
  • Website: thekingandqueenpub.co.uk
  • Phone: 023 8045 4247
  • Email: Unknown
  • Opening times: Monday-Saturday 11am-12.30am and Sunday 11am-12am

Famous for its rum collection and popular with the yachting community. Great steaks on a Thursday night.

Maritimo Lounge (Ocean Village)

  • Address: 1 Moresby Tower, Admirals Quay, Ocean Way, Southampton, SO14 3LG
  • Website: thelounges.co.uk/maritimo
  • Phone: 023 8021 1791
  • Email: maritimo [at] thelounges.co.uk
  • Opening times: Sunday-Friday 9am-11pm and Saturday 9am-12am

Overlooking the water at Ocean Village.

Mettricks (Bargate)

  • Address: 6 East Bargate, Southampton, SO14 2DL
  • Website: mettricks.com
  • Phone: 023 8036 1507
  • Email: bargate [at] mettricks.co.uk
  • Opening times: Monday-Friday 8am-6pm, Saturday 9am-6.30pm and Sunday 9am-5.30pm

Close to the city centre parks and the waterfront.

Mettricks (Guildhall Square)

  • Address: 1 Guildhall Place, Southampton, SO14 7DU
  • Website: mettricks.com
  • Phone: 023 8022 1930
  • Email: guildhall [at] mettricks.co.uk
  • Opening times: Monday-Thursday 7.30am-10pm, Friday 7.30am-11pm, Saturday 9am-11pm and Sunday 9am-10pm

Handy after a walk around the city centre parks.

Mettricks (Old Town)

  • Address: 117 High St, Southampton, SO14 2AA
  • Website: mettricks.com
  • Phone: 023 8071 0583
  • Email: oldtown [at] mettricks.co.uk
  • Opening times: Monday-Friday 7.30am-4pm and Saturday and Sunday 8.30am-4pm

Ideal for a stroll around the old town and city walls.

Mettricks (Woolston)

  • Address: 8 Centenary Plaza 9UE, Woolston, Southampton, SO19 9UE
  • Website: mettricks.com
  • Phone: 023 8071 0583
  • Email: woolstonwaterside [at] mettricks.co.uk
  • Opening times: Monday-Thursday 7.30am-10pm, Friday 7.30am-11pm, Saturday 9am-11pm and Sunday 9am-10pm

Near the start of the Itchen Way footpath.

The Navigator (Lower Swanwick)

  • Address: 286 Bridge Rd, Lower Swanwick, Southampton, SO31 7EB
  • Website: thenavigatorswanwick.co.uk
  • Phone: 01489 572123
  • Email: info [at] thenavigatorswanwick.co.uk
  • Opening times: Monday-Friday 7am-11pm, Saturday 8am-11pm and Sunday 8am-10.30pm

Upham Ales pub that’s handy for breakfast and well as lunch and dinner. Close to the Hamble River footpaths.

The Old Ship (Lower Swanwick)

  • Address: 261 Bridge Rd, Southampton, SO31 7FN
  • Website: theoldshipswanwick.co.uk
  • Phone: 01489 575646
  • Email: Unknown
  • Opening times: Monday-Sunday 12-11pm

Old pub close the public hard at Lower Swanwick. Handy for the walk along the River Hamble to Warsash.

Overdraft Craft Ale Bar (Shirley)

  • Address: 383 Shirley Rd, Southampton, SO15 3JD
  • Website: facebook.com/overdraftcraftale
  • Phone: 023 8077 5823
  • Email: Unknown
  • Opening times: Monday-Wednesday 5-10.30pm, Thursday 5-11pm, Friday 3-11.30pm, Saturday 1-11.30pm and Sunday 2-10.30pm

Cool micropub serving cask and keg ales and cider in an old bank. Occasional outdoor seating on the street outside. Carry outs available.

Platform Tavern

  • Address: Town Quay, Southampton, SO14 2NY
  • Website: platformtavern.com
  • Phone: 023 8033 7232
  • Email: Unknown
  • Opening times: Sunday-Wednesday 12-11pm and Thursday-Saturday 12pm-12am.

Opposite Southampton’s ferry terminals. Former home of the Dancing Man Brewery.

The Rockstone

  • Address: 63 Onslow Rd, Bevois Valley, Southampton, SO14 0JL
  • Website: therockstone.co.uk
  • Phone: 023 8063 7256
  • Email: enquires [at] therockstone.co.uk
  • Opening times: Sunday-Thursday 12pm-12am and Friday and Saturday 12pm-1am

Pub a few minutes from the city centre famous for its burgers and real ale selection. One of my top five dog-friendly pubs in Hants.

Santo Lounge (Shirley)

  • Address: 429 Shirley Rd, Southampton, SO15 3JF
  • Website: thelounges.co.uk/lounges/santo-lounge
  • Phone: 023 8087 8996
  • Email: santo [at] thelounges.co.uk
  • Opening times: Monday-Sunday 9am-11pm

One of the “Loungers” chain of cafe/bars.

Shooting Star (Bevois Valley)

  • Address: 40-42 Bevois Valley Rd, City Centre, Southampton, SO14 0JR
  • Website: facebook.com/TheShootingStarBar
  • Phone: 023 8021 1115
  • Email: Unknown
  • Opening times: Monday-Thursday 3pm-12am, Friday-Saturday 3pm-2am and Sunday 3-10pm.

Located on Bevois Valley road on a decent pub crawl route from St Denys to the city centre.

Vine Inn (Bursledon)

  • Address: High St, Bursledon, Southampton, SO31 8DJ
  • Website: thevinepub.co.uk
  • Phone: 023 8040 3836
  • Email: gillyandy [at] hotmail.com
  • Opening times: Monday-Wednesday 5.30-11pm, Thursday and Friday 12-2.30pm and 5.30-11pm, Saturday 5.30-11pm and Sunday 12-8pm

Within walking distance of the River Hamble and Bursledon train station bang in the centre of Old Bursledon.

Wheatsheaf Inn (Shedfield)

  • Address: Botley Rd, Shedfield, Southampton, SO32 2JG
  • Website: flowerpotscheriton.co.uk/wheatsheaf/
  • Phone: 01329 833024
  • Email: Unknown
  • Opening times: Monday-Saturday 12-11pm and Sunday 12-10.30pm

On the main A334 main road between Botley and Wickham. Several Flower Pots ales as well as guest beers. Homecooked food and two resident doggies.

Acknowledgements

Thanks to the following people and organisations for helping me compile this list:

Categories
Hampshire Outdoors Walking

Five of the best River Itchen walks (with maps and directions)

With its clear, trout-filled waters and abundance of flora and other fauna, there are few better places to go for a evening stroll or weekend ramble in Hampshire than the banks of the River Itchen.

The Itchen rises near Cheriton in the middle of the county and runs for almost 30 miles across to the roman city of Winchester and then down to Southampton Water. The towpath of the disused Itchen Navigation, which was a canal system that linked Winchester to the sea until the late 1800s, accompanies the river for 11 of those 30 miles.

This means there are plenty of walking routes along this Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) to explore. If you’re lucky, you might even see a water vole, heron, kingfisher or an otter along the way.

The Itchen Navigation near WInchester
The Itchen Navigation near Winchester

As a big fan of the outdoors and owner of a restless Border Terrier, I’ve walked stretches of the River Itchen many times. I even walked the entire length of the Itchen Way long distance footpath in a day in 2016.

Here are five of my favourite Itchen Navigation and River Itchen walking routes.

You might also like: Six beautiful winter walks in south-east Hampshire

Four of them are circular walks within the South Downs national Park boundary. There’s something for all ages and most abilities, including kids.

Each walk includes detailed directions and a map.

Five of the best River Itchen Walks

1. Itchen Abbas and Avington (2.5 miles)

The villages of Itchen Abbas and Avington are situated on the first half of the river, a few miles east of Winchester.

This circular walk starts from a small car park in a shallow combe known as “Low Grounds” overlooking Avington Pond. This is the subject of a folk song of the same name. (Come, gentlemen all and I’ll sing you a song, it’s about the mud-plumpers of Avington Pond”.)

Through the reeds and beyond the water is the Avington Park stately home. The Itchen, which you can’t see from this point, supplies water to the pond.

Avington Park House
Avington Park House

You then head west along a quiet park lane to a track past the park lodge and cattle grid that prevents the estate’s Highland cows from wandering. This that takes you through a marshy area and over a few streams to a bridge over the main river channel.

From there, you head back east picking up the Itchen Way. Most of this section is a pleasant walk aside a ridge looking over the river. There’s also a sheltered spot close to the river’s edge, ideal for a picnic or an afternoon siesta in the sun.

By the river in Itchen Abbas
By the river in Itchen Abbas

When you reach the church at Itchen Abbas, you follow the tree-lined road back to Avington. This takes you over several channels of the river including the one that feeds Avington Pond. There’s an old river mill and some waterfalls along the way.

Before you reach the village of Avington you pass the main gates of the Avington Park house. This attractive stately home was built in the late 16th century. The house and grounds are open on Sunday and bank holiday Monday afternoons in the summer.

Soon after the road heads east you’ll enter Avington village with its wisteria-covered red-brick cottages and cute castle-like church. The church’s pews are supposedly made from mahogany gathered from Spanish Armada galleons.

On the way out of the village, you take a right-turn that takes you back to the car park at “Low Grounds”.

Getting there

You can park in the car park that overlooks Avington Pond.

  • Start grid reference: SU528320
  • Start postcode: SO21 1DE (nearest)
  • Start coordinates: 51.085723, -1.2471145

Refreshments

The Plough Inn (01962 779191), where the workers featured in the Avington Pond folk song supposedly collected their wages, is a few hundred yards from the church in Itchen Abbas.

Directions

  1. Head west from the car park along the road (with the pond on you right) for just under 1/2 mile.
  2. Take the track on your right.
  3. After 1/4 mile you get to a bridge over the river and some houses. Take the footpath on the right signed “Itchen Way”.
  4. Follow this path, ignoring the path on your left after about 1/4 mile.
  5. After 3/4 mile you’ll get to the road and church. Go right.
  6. Follow the road for 3/4 mile through the village of Avington. Go right at the road that’s signposted “Easton”. That takes you back to the car park.

Map (buy map or download .gpx file)

2. Bishopstoke to Shawford (4.8 miles)

The Itchen Navigation runs from Blackbridge Wharf in Winchester down to Woodmill in Southampton. Most of the disused navigation is still running water with waterfalls and sluice gates replacing the locks.

This walk is along a section of the towpath between Bishopstoke and Shawford.

Unless you want to walk there and back it’s best to park at Shawford and catch the train to Eastleigh.

The first section of the walk from Eastleigh station to the river at Bishopstoke isn’t the most attractive. Fortunately, the rest of the route back to Shawford is rather lovely.

You might also like: River Hamble Howards’ Way walk through Bursledon, Hamble village and Lower Swanwick

The first stage of the walk is under some trees alongside the navigation. After a short stint along the river proper, the navigation and towpath then branches off to the left, arcing under the railway.

After you cross the B3335 road at Allbrook, you continue north along the towpath. This is a stunning spot when the leaves are turning in the autumn months. Along here there are a few bridges over some sluices that send water from the navigation gushing into one of the channels of the river proper, which is below you on the right-hand side as you close in on the hamlet of Brambridge.

The Itchen Navigation at Brambridge
The Itchen Navigation at Brambridge

At Brambridge, you cross another road and continue along the tow path on the west side of the navigation.

Because the water is backed up behind another disused lock, its flat and calm here with baby fish sheltering near the banks in the warmer months.

When the navigation merges with the river again for a couple hundred yards, you pass Otterbourne Treatment Works.

Don’t worry, this isn’t a sewerage plant but the spot where Southern Water collects water from the river and turns it into drinking water for people in Southampton. The intake, which the footpath crosses, can take up to 45 million litres of water a day.

The area by the treatment works is a surprisingly pleasant spot with a bench and dog dips, ideal for canines and humans alike to have a paddle.

The footpath leaves and then returns to the water’s edge as you get closer to Shawford. And there are glimpses across to the main river as it snakes through the nearby fields. At Shawford, the path passes behind some cottages that back onto the navigation before you reach the High Street.

Getting there

Park in the High Street in Shawford or in the Shawford Down car park, which is under the bridge and a little way up the hill out of the village towards Compton and Winchester.

  • Start grid reference: SU 47312 24978 (Shawford) SU457190 (Eastleigh)
  • Start postcode: SO21 2BN (Shawford) SO50 9XN (Eastleigh)
  • Start coordinates: 51.022232, -1.3268137 (Shawford) 50.969238, -1.3501167 (Eastleigh)

Refreshments

There’s a restaurant and carvery at Brambridge Garden Centre (01962 715 927), a few hundred yards from the route at Brambridge. And there’s the Bridge Inn pub (01962 713171) in Shawford, between the navigation and the railway station.

Directions

  1. Head right out of the main entrance to Eastleigh station and follow the road as it loops back over the railway bridge with the station on your right as you cross.
  2. Follow this road for about 1/2 mile until you reach the sign for “Bishopstoke” at the playing fields.
  3. Take the path left along the river marked “Itchen Way”.
  4. You can now follow the marked Itchen Way path all the way back to Shawford. Stay right when the path splits after Brambridge.

Map (buy map 1 and map 2 or download .gpx file)

3. Keats’ Walk, Winchester Cathedral and St Catherine’s Hill (4.1 miles)

In the early autumn of 1819, romantic poet John Keats spent a few weeks living in Winchester. It was here he wrote his poem, “Ode to Autumn”.

Many believe he found the inspiration for this composition on his walks through the water meadows to St Cross on the outskirts of the city.

The first section of this walk includes the route he would take, known locally as “Keats’ Walk“. It also passes the Hospital of St Cross, Winchester College, the cathedral, part of Winchester’s medieval High Street and the start of the Itchen Navigation.

It begins on Five Bridges Road, a few moments’ drive from the M3.

Once a busy road, this is now a quiet dead-end and a handy place to park the car. You then follow one of the Itchen’s feeder streams to the fields surrounding the beautiful Hospital of St Cross almshouse. An avenue of tall trees leads you to the back of its 12th century church, which looks like a mini-cathedral.

The church of the Hospital of St Cross
The church of the Hospital of St Cross

Behind the church, the river appears on your right-hand side. There’s then a path that takes you along one of the river channels to Garnier Road. Cross here to reach a path that splits the faster-moving river on one side and a calmer man-made channel on the other.

The path ends in the streets surrounding Winchester College where you pass sights such as the medieval city walls, the ruins of Wolvesey Castle, the house where Jane Austen spent the final days before her death and the magnificent arches of Kingsgate. This is one of the two remaining gates to the ancient city and has a small church across its span.

You then pass through Prior’s Gate, past the timber-framed Cheyney Court and into the cathedral’s “Inner Close”. The arches of Curle’s Passage at the side of the cathedral lead you to the “Outer Close” at the front of it.

Walk past the cathedral doors and you soon reach the city’s medieval High Street, where you can pick up a bite to eat or browse the shops. You then head towards the bronze statue of King Alfred the Great at the bottom of the Broadway, which also includes the neo-gothic city Guildhall and the pretty Abbey Gardens.

Past King Alf’s statue is City Bridge, built over the Itchen in 1813, as well as the restored city mill. You then head along “The Weirs” – a pleasant promenade and gardens that sits between the remains of the city walls and the river.

The Weirs in Winchester
The Weirs in Winchester

When the water disappears under a converted warehouse, you cross the river and continue along Wharf Hill. This is so called because it leads to the site of Blackbridge Wharf, which was the start of the Itchen Navigation to Southampton.

You might also like: A walking tour of Winchester’s best real ale pubs and historic sites

You can then accompany the first stage of the navigation as its lazy waters slide through weeping willows away from the city.

After you cross Garnier Road again, the towpath continues beside the route of the Didcot, Newbury and Southampton Railway under the shadow of St Catherine’s Hill nature reserve. There are great views of the city and the water meadows if you have enough energy to take a detour up the hillside.

Until 1995, the busy A33 also shared this part of the route. Now the road has been restored to nature and the hum of traffic has been replaced with the sounds of birds chirping, entwined with the occasional bell ring from a passing cycle and the thud of the oars of the rowers who use this stretch of water for practice.

The last part of the walk is on the now-closed road that leads you back up to your jump-off point, where you cross the river one last time at St Cross Bridge.

Getting there

There’s plenty of free parking on Five Bridges Road. Alternatively, you can in the city centre and do the walk from the the statue of Alfred the Great.

  • Start grid reference: SU475271
  • Start postcode: SO23 9RU (nearest)
  • Start coordinates: 51.042190, 51.042190

Refreshments

There are scores of pubs, restaurants, cafes and food stalls in the centre of Winchester. The Black Boy (01962 861754) and Wykeham Arms (01962 853834) are two particularly interesting pubs.

Directions

  1. On Five Bridges Road, take the first track on your left as you head away from the main road. This leads to a footpath after a few yards.
  2. Follow the stream on your left-hand side until you reach the walls at the back of the Hospital of St Cross. Follow the path that veers slightly to the right to a gateway at the end of the field.
  3. Follow the path until you reach the road. Cross, and continue on the path ahead
  4. When the path reaches the next road, follow the road right, then go left and left again onto College Street.
  5. When you see the Wykeham Arms pub, go right under the arch then under the next arch.
  6. Head for the left-hand side of the cathedral and go up the passage beside it.
  7. When you reach the front of the cathedral, go right until you get to the High Street.
  8. Head down the High Street towards the statue of King Alfred.
  9. Walk past the statue until you reach the Bishop on the Bridge pub. Go right along the river.
  10. Cross the river on your left when it goes under a building. Then head right.
  11. When the road bends to the right, keep going straight along Domum Road.
  12. Take the second public footpath on your right. This takes you to the water’s edge. Alternatively, walk to the tennis courts at the end of the road and then go right across the playing fields.
  13. Now follow the path for just over a mile. This goes over another road, through a small car park and then breaks off into two paths after about half a mile – you can take either route.
  14. A little while after you pass under an old railway bridge you’ll see the ramp leading to Hockley Viaduct – take the road that cuts through the old railway embankment on your right. This goes back to the start.

Map (buy map or download .gpx file)

4. Twyford Meads and Berry Meadow (1.2 miles)

While the job title of “drowner” might raise a few eyebrows nowadays, these people were a common sight on the Itchen in days gone by. This is because it was they who worked the river’s many water meadows.

Water Meadows are areas of grassland that are irrigated using water from a river. This reduces the effects of frost in the winter and stops the ground drying out in the summer. This means the meadows are available for grazing for longer. It also increases hay production.

There are many water meadows along the Itchen, including at Winchester, Hockley and Avington. One of the most accessible and best preserved Itchen water meadows is Twyford Meads between Shawford and Twyford, a couple of miles south of Winchester.

There’s a lovely walk across the meadows from St Mary’s Church. This is a great one for kids because they can paddle in the meadow’s channels, which usually have just a few inches of water. On spring and summer mornings and evenings, the bridges over the main river are also great for watching trout jumping out of the water to feed on flies and nymphs.

From the path that leads from the church, you cross the main river and then walk across the meadows to Compton Lock on the Itchen Navigation. This disused lock is a popular spot for swimming in the summer months because it’s quite deep and easy to access.

Here, the parish council have also restored part of the meadow so you can get an idea of what it would have been like in its heyday.

The system is based around an artificial channel called a leat that takes water from the Itchen Navigation and sends it across the meadow via a series of smaller channels, which run along the top of ridges.

When the meadows required watering, the drowners would block the channels with turf to make them overflow so water runs down the ridges to water the grass. It would then run into drainage channels that lead to the main river on the other side of the meadows.

From the restored area at Compton Lock, you then walk back across the meadows to another bridge over the main river. From there, it’s a short stroll back along a quiet lane past the 18th century Twyford Lodge to the church.

Getting there

There’s a small car park at St Mary’s Church, a few hundred yards from the river. Alternatively, you can catch a train to Shawford and get to the meadows along the Itchen Way footpath.

  • Start grid reference: SU480251
  • Start postcode: SO21 1NT (nearest)
  • Start coordinates: 51.023473, -1.3158703

Refreshments

There are two pubs in Twyford – The Phoenix Inn (01962 713322) and The Bugle Inn (01962 714888). Winchester is a couple of miles north.

Directions

  1. From the car park, follow the track down to the river.
  2. Cross the footbridge, go through the gate and follow the path that runs through the right-hand side of the field.
  3. Go through the gap to the next field and over to the Itchen Navigation.
  4. Facing up stream, take the other path on your right, back across the meadows.
  5. Cross the river bridge and then go right along Church Lane. This takes you back to the church.

Map (buy map or download .gpx file)

5. Cheriton (2.8 miles)

Cheriton is one of the first settlements on the River Itchen, only a mile or so from its main spring. As such, the river is not much larger than a stream here.

Cheriton village green
Cheriton village green

This walk starts in the village centre where a couple of feeder streams from other nearby springs converge with the river. You then leave the river temporarily to pass through the wild flowers of the churchyard of the 11th century St Michael’s Church to Hill House’s Lane. Then there’s a footpath through a lush, shallow valley towards Tichborne.

Along the valley, the river appears again on your right where it eventually flows under and beside Cheriton Mill, which is now part of a respectfully restored office complex.

You then cross the river on a road bridge and take an ancient lane up to the brow of the hill overlooking the Itchen Valley, before making your way back towards Cheriton along another medieval lane.

Near the site of the Battle of Cheriton, which took place in the Civil War in 1644, you rejoin an earlier section of the Itchen Way. This takes you back down into Cheriton.

Getting there

There’s plenty of parking space, away from people’s houses, in the centre of Cheriton. You can also get the 67 Winchester-Petersfield bus, which runs through the village.

  • Start grid reference: SU582284
  • Start postcode: SO24 0PZ (nearest)
  • Start coordinates: 51.052543, -1.1696523

Refreshments

You can’t beat a post-walk drink in the Flower Pots Inn (01962 771318), which serves beer from its on-site microbrewery.

Directions

  1. Head up the church path off the main road near the village green.
  2. When you get to the church, go right and follow the path along the boundary of the churchyard and then along the boundary of the next field.
  3. At the road go left and then right after the stable along the path marked “Itchen Way”.
  4. Follow the path for just over 1/2 mile until you reach the old mill. Go right at the road and then cross the main road and head along the track, up the hill.
  5. When you reach the next track, go right.
  6. Stay right at the junction with the next track and cross the road.
  7. About 1/3 mile after the road you’ll reach a section with a path signposted “Itchen Way” on your right and a track to your left. Take the path back towards the village.
  8. After the path goes right then left to dodge a field, stay left until you go between some gardens and end up back in the village.
  9. On the road, go right, then left, then left again until you reach the village green.

Map (buy map or download .gpx file)

Categories
Craft beer Food and drink Hampshire Outdoors Travel Walking

A walking tour of Winchester’s best real ale pubs and historic sites

If you like sightseeing and love beer, the roman city of Winchester is perfect.

Not only is there lots of history, heritage and fine architecture dotted throughout the city’s medieval streets, but there are also many excellent traditional pubs serving excellent real ale.

This pub crawl and walking tour of Winchester allows you to see many of the sights of the city while sampling real ale from some of Hampshire’s 30+ breweries.

It includes attractions such as Winchester Cathedral, the Great Hall, Winchester College, the River Itchen and the two surviving medieval gates to the city – Westgate and Kingsgate. Some of the pubs along route also have a story to tell.

Five pub stops

The walk is a shade under three miles in total (around one hour 30 minutes’ walking time). But there are five pub stops along the way, giving you more than enough opportunity to catch your breath.

All the pubs listed here are dog-friendly if you want to bring your canine companion, although some of the attractions in the city such as the Great Hall don’t allow dogs.

It’s best to leave yourself several daylight hours to complete the walk, especially if you want to sample a few ales along the way and take in the majesty of the city.

Getting there

The walk starts and ends at the railway station where there are regular trains from Portsmouth, Southampton, London, Basingstoke, Reading and Bournemouth.

Many buses also stop at the station, including two services that orbit the city centre – the Stagecoach Number 5 service and Park and Ride service (which you can still use to get around the city if you haven’t used the Park and Ride).

You might also like: A taste of Hampshire and beyond at some of Southampton’s newest craft beer bars

Winchester pub crawl and walking tour

Pub 1 – The Albion

The Albion is the first pub on the route, about a minute’s walk from the eastern side of the station (platform 2). Head down the hill and you can’t miss it – it’s the grey building on the corner to the left of the junction.

The Albion Pub WinchesterThe pub is one of three pubs owned by the Flower Pots Brewery in nearby Cheriton. Being on the corner of a junction where several roads meet, the pub is an unusual V-shape. It’s light and airy and a great place to watch the world go by out the window.

There are four hand pumps for real ale, usually featuring the Flower Pots’s own award-winning beers including Gooden’s Gold and Flower Pots Bitter (or “Pots” if you want to sound like a local). The pub occasionally features guest ales from other local breweries too.


There’s no cooked food, although bar snacks like pork pies and scotch eggs are available.

Hyde Abbey

From the Albion, head along Andover Road (left from the pub’s main door). Then take the second road on the right down Worthy Lane and then the second right again (Hyde Church Lane).

Straight ahead at the crossroads at the bottom of the lane is the site of what many believe is King Alfred the Great’s final resting place, Hyde Abbey.

King Alfred ruled the Kingdom of Wessex, of which Winchester was the latterly the capital city, from 871 to his death in 899. The story goes that King Alfred was reburied in the grounds of Hyde Abbey in the 12th century, 200 or so years after he died.

All that remains of the abbey now is the odd bit of stonework by the millstream and the gatehouse. This is on the right-hand side of the road, a moment’s walk down King Alfred Place.

Hyde Abbey gatehouse
Hyde Abbey gatehouse

Nobody knows where the King’s grave is, or if his remains are still on the site of the abbey.

Pub 2 – Hyde Tavern

You can see the Hyde Tavern from the top of King Alfred Place. It’s a little way along the street from the crossroads.

Outside, it’s a cute, two-gabled building sandwiched between two taller buildings. Inside, it’s everything you’d expect from a traditional inn – low-beamed ceilings, open fires, sloping flagstone floors. It’s cosy in winter and a cool respite from the hot sun in the summer.

Hyde Tavern
Downstairs there’s a cellar room that hosts folk music gigs, poetry nights and the like. The stairs also lead to a rustic beer garden, which is bit of a sun trap come summer.

Beer-wise, there are up to seven real ales available – three on tap and four on gravity dispense from casks behind the bar. Expect to see beers from Hampshire breweries such as Red Cat and Bowman Ales as well as the odd beer from Sussex and Wiltshire.

hyde tavern beer garden
The Hyde Tavern beer garden

Like the Albion, there’s no food here. But you’re welcome to bring your own or order a takeaway – the pub will supply cutlery and plates for a small charge.

Note that this pub doesn’t open until 5pm on weekdays. But it’s open from 12pm on Saturday and Sunday.

God Begot House and the Butter Cross

When you leave the Hyde Tavern, head left back towards the city centre along Hyde Street. When you reach the traffic lights, continue straight along Jewry Street.

At the next traffic lights, head down St George’s Street. Then duck down the passageway beside the Royal Oak pub.

The Royal Oak is one of the oldest pubs in England. The building dates from the 11th century, and it’s been a pub since around 1400.

The timber-framed building with the overhanging floor on the opposite side of the passageway dates from around the same time. This is God Begot House, which was formerly a safe-house for criminals and the like, due to its status as a separate manor within the city limits.

You’ll exit the passageway on the High Street, which claims to be the oldest street in any UK city. Look up and you’ll see the beautiful High Street clock. This next to the curfew bell tower. The bell inside still rings at 8pm every evening.

The High Street Clock and God Begot House (right)

Further down the High Street is the ornate Butter Cross. This is where traders would have sold produce such as milk, eggs, cheese and – you guessed it – butter to the townspeople.

Nowadays the High Street is usually chock full of market stalls instead.

The Buttercross (image credit: Flickr/Herry Lawford)

King Alfred statue and the Nunnaminster

Continue down the High Street onto the Broadway and you’ll soon glimpse the imposing bronze statue of King Alfred looking back at you from the very bottom of the hill.

Don’t go as far as the statue itself though – instead go down Abbey Passage, the alleyway next to the Gothic-style Victorian Guildhall.

They love their abbeys in Winchester, and this is the site of another, known initially as Nunnaminster and later, St Mary’s Abbey. King Alfred’s wife Queen Ealhswith founded the abbey around 900 and died there in 902.

The abbey was rebuilt and extended several times. Then in the 1500s it was demolished. All that remains now is a sunken, fenced-off area that houses some of the abbey’s ruins and the stone graves of four people – an adult, a child and four babies.

The Nunnaminster graves

The Weirs

At the end of Abbey Passage, turn left down Colebrook Street. Follow the road left around the bend at the bottom of the road and then nip into Scott Garden, which overlooks the River Itchen.

Take the steps down onto the pathway and go right. This picturesque area beside the river s known as The Weirs or Wolvesey Slips.



Follow the river until it disappears under a converted warehouse. Go left here over the river and you’ll see the next pub, the Black Boy, about halfway up the hill in front of you.

Pub 3 – The Black Boy

Not only is the Black Boy everything you’d want in a traditional pub – well-kept beers, tasty and simple food, cosy nooks, open fires, amusing graffiti in the toilets – but the pub also boasts an amazing collection of quirky and eccentric bric-a-brac, artwork and taxidermy.

This makes it arguably the most well-known pub in Winchester and the one most people head for on a visit to the city.

The real ale in the Black Boy is almost always from Hampshire breweries such as Alfred’s, Itchen Valley Brewery, Andwell’s, Flower Pots and Bowman Ales. Beer from Salisbury’s Hopback Brewery is also often available.

Food-wise, it’s proper, simple homecooked fare such as doorstop sandwiches, beer-battered fish and chips, shepherds pie and the like with good-value roast dinners on a Sunday.


The pub has five rooms full of treasures to explore as you sip on your ale.

There’s also a sheltered garden nestled beside the building.



Wolvesey Castle

On leaving the Black Boy, go back the way you came back to The Weirs pathway and turn left. Follow the path as it hugs the medieval walls of the city, which are at their original height at this point.

After a few hundred yards you’ll reach a gap in the walls where you can access the ruins of Wolvesey Castle (open 10am to 5pm, April to October; closed November to March). This complex – which was more like a palace than a castle – included a great hall, barns, stables, a prison and towers.

Wolvesley Castle (image credit: Flickr/Eric Titcombe)

The castle was the main residence of the bishops of Winchester from around 1100 until 1680. It fell into ruin with the coming of the new Bishop’s Palace, which still stands grandly next to the old castle.

You might also like: A spring walk into Winchester via the Hospital of St Cross, Keats’s walk and Cathedral Close

Winchester College

Across the street from the gates to the new Bishop’s Palace is Winchester College, one of the oldest schools in England.

William of Wykeham, who was born in nearby Wickham, set up the school in the 1390s. One of its goals was to be a feeder school to New College in Oxford, which William also founded.

The first private home you come to on the left-hand side of the road after the school is 8 College Street. This is where novelist Jane Austen died in 1817. She’s buried in the cathedral.

Pub 4 – The Wykeham Arms

Our next pub – the Wykearm Arms – is named after the aforementioned founded of Winchester College. It’s on the corner of Canon Street and Kingsgate Street.

The building dates from 1755 and was apparently a brothel for a short time back in the day. Now it’s a classy and cosy pub.

There’s plenty to see once you enter through the pub’s distinctive curved doors. And although the collection of memorabilia and bric-a-brac isn’t quite as wacky as the Black Boy’s, there are hundreds of treasures adorning its walls and ceiling.



Among these are many connections to the nearby school, including a collection of old canes and several reclaimed desks lined up along one wall. There’s also loads of cricket memorabilia and hundred of tankards.

The Wykeham Arms is a Fuller’s pub, so the ale is mostly limited to the brewery’s own such as “London Pride”, “Seafarers” and “HSB”. However, the pub regularly has one guest ale on, typically from a local brewery such as Flower Pots.


The pub serves food in the bar and there’s a couple of restaurant areas at each end of the L-shaped bar.

The Kingsgate and Cathedral Close

Head up to the arches of the Kingsgate when you leave the pub. This is one of the two surviving medieval gates to the city (along with the Westgate).

Within the arches is a charming book and picture shop. Above the arches is the tiny St Swithun-upon-Kingsgate church, which was added around the 13th or 14th century.

Kingsgate Book and Prints, in the Kingsgate Arches
St Swithun-upon-Kingsgate church (image credit: Flickr/Alessandro Grussu)


Next, go right and pass under the Prior’s Gate. This takes you into Inner Close, a sheltered and tranquil area around the city’s cathedral.

Immediately on entering the close you’ll see the timber-framed Cheyney Court. This is a residential property that dates from the 15th century. Part of it is covered in dazzling wisteria flowers in springtime.

Prior’s Gate
Cheyney Court

You can then wander over the Inner Close to the archways of Curle’s Passage, which takes you to the Outer Close in front of the cathedral.

Watch out for the limping monk, which is said to haunt this area.

Winchester Cathedral (image credit: Flickr/Ben J Gibbs)

When you reach the Outer Close, hug the flintstone wall on the left-hand side until you reach the crossroads where Great Minster Street, Symonds Street, Little Minster Street and Minster Lane meet.

Continue up Minster Lane. Go left at St Thomas Street and then go up St Thomas Passage, which is a few yards along on the right.

There’s a lovely view back down the passage and on to the cathedral when you reach Southgate Street. Opposite is Serle’s House, which is home to the Royal Hampshire Regiment Museum.

Peninsula Barracks and the Great Hall

Next, go up Archery Lane, which is a few yards left of Serle’s House. Follow signs for the Romsey Road – this will take you through some communal gardens and up a steep hill into the Peninsula Barracks complex.

This impressive set of buildings, complete with manicured lawns, a large pond and fountains, was built in the early 20th century. The site was a military barracks from 1796 to 1965. Most of the complex is now in residential use, with some buildings set aside for several other military museums.

Behind the Gurkha Museum building is the Great Hall, which is the only surviving part of Winchester Castle.

Henry III added the Great Hall to the castle in the early 13th century. In it hangs the famous Winchester Round Table. The table was probably originally created for a Round Table tournament around the same time as Henry III built the hall. These tournaments, popular in the Middle Ages, celebrated the time of King Arthur with jousting, feasting and dancing.

The Great Hall and Round Table (image credit: Flickr/Leimenide)

The paintwork on the table dates from 1522. It shows Henry VIII sitting atop a tudor rose and bears the names of various knights of King Arthur’s court.

You’ll need to walk out onto Romsey Road and turn right if you want to go inside the Great Hall (open all year, 10am to 5pm; suggested donation, £3) – the entrance is on the cobbled Castle Avenue, opposite our final pub stop – The Westgate.

Pub 5 – The Westgate

This pub is named after Westgate to the ancient city, which is across the road from the pub. This gateway, which was built around the 12th century, was in use until 1959 when the council built a road around it. It’s now a small free museum (opening times vary, closed November to February), having also been put to use as a prison in the past.

The Westgate

The Westgate pub opened to serve railway passengers in the late 19th century. Inside, the L-shaped pub is modern but retaining some original features such as etched windows, bare brick walls and wooden floors. As well as standard pub seating, there are stools that look out to the Westgate and old buildings around the Great Hall.

There’s a changing selection of ale here from the likes of Flack Manor, Flower Pots, Red Cat Brewing and Itchen Valley Brewery. There’s a modestly priced food menu too with everything from burgers and steaks to salmon and vegetarian risotto.

Getting back to the train station

The train station is a 5-10 minute walk from the Westgate. Go left out of the pub door and follow Upper High Street.

At the railway bridge, don’t cross but continue right – the entrance to the station is at the bottom of the hill.

Over to you

Have you been to any of the pubs or sights on this pub crawl? What pubs and attractions do you recommend in Winchester?

Leave a comment below or let me know on Twitter.

Map of the pubs and historic sites in Winchester

Click or tap on the little star to save it to your Google Maps account.

Categories
Hampshire Outdoors Walking

The best bluebell woods in Hampshire

Read on to find out five woods where you can see amazing displays of bluebells in Hampshire. Includes locations and walks in the South Downs and New Forest national parks plus directions.

You know summer is well and truly on its way when you peek into the woods to see streaks of sunlight shining down onto a carpet of bluebells.

Thanks to a mild winter and a lot of early spring rain, bluebells have bloomed early again this year.

And, because they generally come out sooner in the south of the country, now is a great time to take a bluebell walk in Hampshire. Finding the best displays of bluebells, however, isn’t always easy.

Where to find bluebell woods

Bluebells prefer moist, shady conditions. You’re most likely to find them in the stable conditions offered by the county’s ancient woodlands.

This means they don’t spring up in any old place. The environment needs to be just right before you can spot that beautiful mix of light purple flowers and deep green leaves.

You might also like: A spring walk into Winchester via the Hospital of St Cross, Keats’s walk and Cathedral Close

Five places to see bluebells in Hampshire

Here are five great bluebell woods in Hampshire this spring.

Know any other good bluebell walks? Tweet me or let me know where in the comments below – if you want to giveaway the location that is!

1. Manor Farm Country Park, Burseldon

Manor Farm Country Park, on the banks of the River Hamble near Southampton, has more than 400 acres of woodland and open spaces to explore. Entry is free. But you’ll need to pay for parking.

You’ll find bluebells dotted in various parts of the woodland. However, the most impressive display runs either side of the path for a few hundred yards on the north side of “Docks Copse” on east side of the park (PDF map).

Bluebells-Barney-Wood
Image credit: Barney Moss

To get there, head along the road that goes to the farm itself at the far end of the park. Take the path right at “Longmead” and continue until you get to the woods. Then go right.

There’s also a good smattering of bluebells in “Vantage Copse” and “Bottom Copse”.

Directions: Manor Farm Country Park is on Pyland’s Lane, just off junction 8 of the M27 between Bursledon and Hedge End.

2. Exbury Gardens, New Forest

With mile after mile of boggy woodlands to explore, there are plenty of places to spot bluebells in the New Forest come springtime.

For a guaranteed bluebell show, head to the 200-acre Exbury Gardens in the south-east corner of the national park.

As you arrive,  look out for the carpets of bluebells lining “Summer Lane”. Then there’s even more bluebells inside the gardens alongside other spring bloomers such as azaleas, primroses and camellias.

Directions: Exbury isn’t far from Beaulieu and Fawley. Look for the brown signs off the A326. The postcode is SO45 1AZ.

3. Durley Mill, Botley

Durley Mill is a hamlet between Durley and Curdridge, near Botley. It’s named after the Grade II listed watermill and millhouse that straddles one of the channels of the River Hamble.

The woodland around the river is packed with bluebells come springtime.

Park in the large lay-by on the edge of the hamlet and head up the slope and through the gate at the top of the small ridge.

bluebells-alan-cleaver
Image credit: Alan Cleaver

From there you can walk along the edge of the woods. The best display is usually at the far end of the woodland just before you come out in the fields.

Directions: Head down Calcot Lane at the duck pond on the B3035 between Bishop’s Waltham and Curdridge. Go under the old railway bridge, then take the next left. The lay-by is after a sharp bend in the road.

4. Micheldever Wood, Winchester

Micheldever is a few miles north of Winchester. The wood is to the south-east of the village. The M3 runs through part of it, but don’t let that put you off.

Come April/May you’ll find carpets of bluebells throughout the wood. However, this is a working forest so it’s possible that they might decide to stay snuggled underground in areas of deforestation.

Bluebells-Charles-D-P-Miller
Image credit: Charles DP Miller

The wood has marked paths. You can cycle on some of the trails.

Directions: There’s a car park on Northington Lane off the A33. The nearest postcode is SO24 9UB.

5. Hinton Ampner, Alresford

Hinton Ampner country house is famed for its garden’s floral displays. But its in the hedgerows and small copses around the estate that you’ll find the best bluebell displays.

To see these, and more, there’s a nice circular walk you can do from the house’s car park.

You might also like: Where to see lavender fields in and around Hampshire

Take the footpath over to Hinton Ampner village, which lies on the east side of the house near the church. Go through the village (it’s only a handful of pretty houses) and continue straight onto a muddy track when the road turns sharply right.

When you reach a crossroads in footpaths, head down the hill. At the cottages at the bottom, go right where you’ll pick up another footpath/bridleway.

Cross the road and you’ll soon see the house on your right-hand side. Here, there’s another footpath that takes you back up the village and the church.

Directions: Hinton Ampner house car park is off the A272 between Winchester and Petersfield, near to Cheriton.

Panoramic-Bluebells-Micheldever-Charles-D-P-Miller
Image credit: Charles DP Miller

Over to you

Where’s your favourite place to see bluebells in Hampshire?

Categories
Hampshire Outdoors Walking

Six beautiful winter walks in south-east Hampshire

Read on to discover six beautiful winter walks in south-east Hampshire. I’ve included detailed descriptions, maps and where to get refreshments along the way.

With its pretty villages, chalk streams, rolling downland, wide valleys and ancient forests, south-east Hampshire is a great place to go for a walk on a crisp, clear winter’s day. Especially if you finish up warming up with a cake in a cafe or with a beer by a roaring fire in a pub.

I spend a lot of time at weekends walking my Border Terrier Tilly around some of the county’s thousands of miles of footpaths, bridleways and tracks.

Here are six of my favourite winter walks in south-east Hampshire, complete with walking directions, maps and – importantly – information on where to refuel afterwards.

The walks listed here range from 1.5 miles to 6.5 miles in length.

Six beautiful winter walks in south-east Hampshire

1. Beacon Hill, Exton and Betty Mundy’s Bottom (6.5 Miles)

This walk begins under the trees in a small car park at Beacon Hill – a nature reserve near the villages of Exton, Warnford and Corhampton.

The start of the walk is on the South Downs Way as it heads towards Sussex where there are some fantastic views over to Southampton, the New Forest and the Isle of Wight. Then, as you continue along the track there are also views of Old Winchester Hill and the Meon Valley as it cuts through the landscape below.

Beacon Hill, Exton view
Image credit: Hardo Muller

After a steep drop into the pretty village of Exton, the route heads up past the “Punch Bowl”, a picturesque dry valley that rises back up towards Beacon Hill and through woodland to the base of Betty Mundy’s Bottom, a partly wooded, shallow valley on the Preshaw Estate.

Apparently, the Romans named this area “Beati Mundae” which is loosely translated as “the most blessed place in the world”. I’m not sure about that, but it is very nice.

Another story says that a lady named Betty Mundy once cursed a herd of cattle. So local people burnt down her cottage while she was still in it. These days, she’d have probably just received a police caution.

You might also like: Five of the best River Itchen walks (with maps and directions)

After you’ve passed through Betty Mundy’s Bottom (which is nicer than it sounds, despite the slight incline) the walk takes you back onto the South Downs Way to the car park at the peak of Beacon Hill.

Refreshments

There are no stops directly on the way round. But The Shoe Inn (01489 877526) in Exton is a short stroll off the route – just take a left when you first get into Exton and head right after the church.

Getting there

  • Start grid reference: SU 58192 21358
  • Start postcode: SO32 3LP (nearest)
  • Start coordinates: 50.988692, -1.1722863

It’s easiest to the car park from the B3035 Bishop’s Waltham to Corhampton road.

The turning up to Beacon Hill is on a crossroads, just under three miles from Bishop’s Waltham (on the left) and about one mile outside of Corhampton (on the right). The turning is by a small red post box.

The car park is then about 1.5 miles up this lane, on in bend.

Route map

Detailed directions

  1. Facing the road from the car park, go left through the gate and along the track for just over 1/4 mile.
  2. Take the path signed “South Downs Way,” through the gate and down to the road. Then take the path on the left, down the hill (with the beacon on your left).
  3. Continue on this path down into the valley. You’ll pass through several gates and stiles and you’ll reach the village of Exton after about a mile.
  4. When you reach the road in the village, go right.
  5. At the next junction, go right, then follow the road around to the left along Allens Farm Lane.
  6. After about 250 yards, the road goes sharply right. Stay on the road here and continue on it as it turns into a track.
  7. You’ll reach a road with some cottages on your left, after about 3/4 mile. Cross the road and take the footpath straight ahead.
  8. After just under 1/4 mile, there’s a wide gap in the trees and hedgerow on your left. Slip through here and then stay to the right of the field.
  9. Go into the woods. The path goes left, then right into a small opening.
  10. Keep straight as the path turns into a logging track. The track narrows, then you’ll reach a lane. Cross this and continue on the footpath.
  11. Stay right. At the track, go right and follow the path through the valley, across a track and into the woods.
  12. Follow the path through the left-edge woods along the wooden fence until you come out in a field.
  13. Hug the right side of the field until you reach the top corner. Then go through two gates on your right, across another track.
  14. Stay on the left-side of the field. Ignore the first gap in the trees. Take the path that goes through the second gap.
  15. When you come out in the field, head right and aim for the gate at the bottom of the wood on your left.
  16. Hop over the stile and pick up the track on your left. Follow this as it curves round to the right, just inside the wood. Ignore the track that heads off to the left, about half way along.
  17. When you come out in the field, head straight across and take the path along the top of the small ridge that runs up the field.
  18. Take the track up past the farm buildings and then go right.
  19. Follow this track for about 1/2 mile back to the road. The car park is a short walk along the road.

2. Durley Mill and the upper Hamble River near Botley (1.7 miles)

There’s something haunting about encountering abandoned railways. This short walk gives you an idea of the picturesque views you would have enjoyed on the Botley to Bishop’s Waltham branch line, before it closed to passengers in 1932.

It starts in a lay-by on a quiet road between the villages of Curdridge and Boorley Green. Then, after a short walk along a narrow lane, you head into fields that give you a view of the upper reaches of the River Hamble, which is no more than a wide stream at this point.

Next comes a stroll through a wood, which takes you to the Grade II listed Durley Mill. This is now a private house, so you can’t see too much of the waterwheel, which was added in 1875. But there are still glimpses of this historic building as you cross the two new wooden bridges that span the river and the artificial channel that feeds the mill.

upper-hamble-river

From the river, you head up towards the site of the old Durley Halt railway stop. This was built in 1910 to serve the village of Durley and the mill, although it’s hard to imagine any flour being carted up this muddy track.

The walk then takes you over a stile and into another wooded area alongside the old railway earthworks. But before you take this path, it’s worth walking up a few yards to the old railway crossing.

A lady named Alice Elliot was responsible for looking after this from 1907 until she retired in 1954. The old white crossing gate is still there, unlike Ms Elliot’s track-side cottage which was demolished soon after the rails were lifted in 1962.

Back on the route, you enter a large field after you come out of the wooded path, which then takes you to a long driveway. Here, there is often a selection of preserves and eggs for sale from a hatch outside one of the bungalows.

At the end of the driveway, you next wander back down the hill and under the old railway bridge back to the lay-by and the start of the route. This does involve walking along a minor road for around 1/4 mile, but it’s relatively quiet.

Refreshments

There are no pubs or cafes en route. However, Botley is about 1.5 miles from the start/finish point. There you’ll find the cosy Cracklerock brewery tap room and Elsie’s Tearooms (01489 781950).

There are also several pubs in nearby villages, including The Farmer’s Home (01489 860457) in Durley and The Cricketers Inn (01489 784480) in Curdridge.

Getting there

  • Start grid reference: SU 51819 14388
  • Start postcode: SO32 2DB (nearest)
  • Start coordinates: 50.926627, -1.2640740

There’s a lay-by on either side of the road for easy parking. To get there, head to either Boorley Green or Curdridge.

At Boorley Green, look for Maddoxford Lane off the B3354 – this is between the Botley Park Hotel and the railway bridge. The lay-bys are around 3/4 mile down this road.

From Curdridge, look for Wangfield Lane off the B3035 (Botley to Bishop’s Waltham road). This is on the right, immediately after the church if you’re coming from coming from Bishop’s Waltham. Or the second turning on your left if you’re coming from the junction with the A334. The lay-bys are about 3/4 mile from the main road.

Route map

Detailed directions

  1. From the lay-by, head right up Netherhill Lane.
  2. After just under 1/4 mile, cross the stile to your right and take the path that hugs the right-hand side of the field.
  3. At the stile/gate, continue along the path – this follows the hedgerow on the left-side of the field.
  4. You’ll then enter a third field – follow the path straight across until you enter the woods. Follow the path here until you reach another stile, which takes you down to the road.
  5. Go right and take the path on the corner of the road. Cross the two bridges.
  6. After the second bridge, take the stile on your right. Follow the path through the woods.
  7. When you come out in the field, stay on the left-side of the field and pick up the driveway.
  8. Follow this until you reach the road, then go right. This takes you back to the start.

3. Upham and the Royal Observer Corps bunker (1.5 miles)

If you were to take a dusk walk on the hills in east Hampshire 70-odd years ago and look towards the coast, you might have seen the agonising sight of the Luftwaffe dropping bombs on Southampton or Portsmouth.

Radar was a recent invention in the 1940s and it certainly gave our air defences an indication that the enemy was on his way.

But it was the work done by the “eyes and ears of the Royal Air Force” – The Royal Observer Corps – that provided information on the size of air raids like these and the likely destination for their hundreds of bombs. Without this, many more people would have died and Hitler’s bombers would have inflicted a lot more damage on the British war machine.

On the face of it, the job of the people of the Royal Observer Corps – many of them volunteers – was actually quite simple: Look to the skies and report back on enemy aircraft movements.

But, the reality was much more complicated than this, with observers trained how to identify an aircraft by the sound of its engine or the shape of its silhouette, or how to use special equipment to measure an aircraft’s speed, height and location. They then telephoned their observations through to operations rooms so that the RAF could send up fighter aircraft to engage the bombers and so that towns and cities could sound their air raid sirens to get people off the streets.

Many of the unsung heroes of the Royal Observer Corps did their work from bunkers dotted around the countryside. Most have these have now been filled in, but one of them still exists just outside the village of Upham, on the edge of the South Downs National Park. The bunker is situated on a public footpath and there’s a pleasant walk that you can take that passes right by it.

The walk begins at the small car park at Upham recreation ground. You then head north-east along a shaded farm track, which has some gorgeous views into the valley below.

Next, it’s onto a hillside brimming with newly-planted trees. This is a great spot for a rest as there are some more views over the downs and a couple of benches you can perch on when the ground is damp. You’ll also see families of pigs relaxing in the muddy fields below.

View from Upham Hampshire

You then hug the border of the next-door field, which eventually brings you to the bunker, hidden in a small copse of young trees.

You can’t get into the bunker anymore, but it does give you an idea of what it was like to perch at its access hatch for hours on end, scanning the skies above Hampshire for aircraft. There’s also an information board with more about life as an observer here.

You then join up with the original path near the recreation ground, to make your way back to the car park – a route that observers would have also taken after an eight-hour stint in the bunker, 70 years ago.

Getting there

  • Start grid reference: SU 53891 20837
  • Start postcode: SO32 1JN (nearest)
  • Start coordinates: 50.984421, -1.2336364

It’s easiest to get to Upham from the B2177 Bishop’s Waltham to Colden Common road.

When you enter Lower Upham village on the main road, look for signs for Upham – the turning is next to the Woodman pub.

Then follow the road up into the village and past the school on your right. After just over a mile, take the road to your left, which is signposted “Recreation Ground.”

You’ll see the car park and the rec ahead of you, after a few hundred yards.

Refreshments

No refreshments on the route, but the Brushmakers Arms (01489 860231) is in the centre of Upham, a short walk from the car park.

There’s also some pubs in nearby Fisher’s Pond and various pubs and cafes in Bishop’s Waltham.

Route map

Detailed directions

  1. From the car park, head past the recreation ground buildings and pick up the track on the left-hand side of the football pitch.
  2. After about 1/2 mile, at the start of a short descent, take the path on your right. This goes into a narrow field of young trees.
  3. Follow this path for 1/4 mile, then go right into the adjoining field.
  4. Hug the left-edge of the field until the hedgerow ends. You’ll then see the small copse of trees that contains the Royal Observer Corps Bunker in front of you.
  5. Follow the path back to the track you walked on earlier. Turn left to go back to the recreation ground.

4. Upper Swanmore and Fir Down near Bishop’s Waltham (3.9 miles)

This varied four-mile route includes spectacular views of the Meon Valley, as well as the Isle of Wight and Southampton.

It starts on a quiet lane near the historic Swanmore Park House and passes the pretty cottage gardens of Upper Swanmore along a farm track called Green Lane. This section has far-reaching views over to the Isle of Wight, as well as the power station at Fawley 11 miles away.

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You then head into a pretty valley and pick up a quiet lane that runs over the brow of the ridge a hill overlooking the village of Droxford in the Meon Valley.

After a steep shimmy down some wooden steps into the fields below you slip up through a small wood onto a peaceful meadow to pick up a section of the Wayfarer’s Walk footpath.

Gaps in the hedgerows provide more teasing glimpses of Droxford, Beacon Hill and Old Winchester Hill as you start the climb out of the valley.

Next, a bridleway carries you towards Dundridge, providing yet more far-reaching views, this time of the tower blocks of Southampton at the very end of the valley.

The last section of the walk is along a wide path on the edge of some woods and up a final short but steep hill to the start at Upper Swanmore.

Getting there

  • Start grid reference: SU 57828 17706
  • Start postcode: SO32 2QR (nearest postcode)
  • Start coordinates: 50.955886, -1.1780477

The best way to get there is to go to Swanmore and take a road called Hampton Hill. This is off the main street that goes through the village, on the Bishop’s Waltham side. It’s signed “Upper Swanmore” and “Kilmeston.”

Continue on this road for about a mile until you reach a T-junction at the top of the hill. There’s some space to park a car or two on the side of the road near this T-junction. Just be careful not to block the gateway.

Refreshments

There aren’t any stops on the walk itself, but The Hampshire Bowman pub (01489 892940) is a short detour from point 12 (see below). Look for the wooden footpath sign in the woods and go right until you reach the road. Then go right again.

The Hunters Inn (01489 877214), which boasts a resident ghost, is a short drive from the start of the walk, in Swanmore. There are also plenty of pubs, cafes and restaurants in nearby Bishop’s Waltham.

Route map

Detailed directions

  1. From the T-junction, take the road signed “Swanmore 1.”
  2. At the grass triangle (after about 1/4 mile) go left and then take the first turning left at the next grass triangle, onto a track, through some trees.
  3. Follow this track for about 2/3 of a mile until you reach a road next to a large thatched house.
  4. Go left. When the road split in two, keep straight. Follow the road for just under 1/2 mile until you see a steep footpath, on your left, before a wooded area.
  5. Take this path down the steps, then go left at the bottom and follow the path around the edge of the field until you get to a small wood on your left.
  6. Go into the wood, through the kissing gate. Follow this path along the bottom of a narrow field for just under 1/2 mile.
  7. When you reach a track at the end of the field, take the path left into another small wood.
  8. You’ll come out in a field that has motocross track on your right-hand side. Keep left as you walk up the hill.
  9. The edge of the field then goes right and then left. Follow the edge of the field to the road.
  10. Cross the road and take the bridleway straight in front of you.
  11. After almost 1/2 a mile you’ll cross another track. Follow the path down through the woods. (This path isn’t marked on some maps.)
  12. Continue on the path along the edge of the wood. Just after a wooden footpath sign (which marks a footpath off to your right) the path that you’re on splits in two. Stay left here.
  13. When you get to the top of the hill, go left at the road until you get back to the start of the walk at the T-junction.

5. Hinton Ampner estate near Cheriton (3.6 miles)

Not only is the Hinton Ampner estate between Winchester and Petersfield a great place to see the autumn colours and bluebells, but it’s also a beautiful location for a walk in winter.

The National Trust owns the house, gardens and estate. And while you need to pay to see the gardens, there’s a multitude of public rights of way and permissive paths throughout the estate.

This walk provides a glimpse of the 18th-century house and gardens. It also includes stretches in the surrounding parkland, including some paths that have only just opened to the public.

From the house’s main visitor car park, you head through the village the house is named after and go east towards Bramdean where there are some commanding views of the surrounding countryside. It’s near here where Parliamentarian Roundhead’s camped overnight before 1644’s Battle of Cheriton in the English Civil War.

House at Hinton Ampner village
Image credit: Herry Lawford

You then descend a hill into a shallow valley and pick up a quiet lane that runs up towards Joan’s Acre Wood. This is named after Joane Dutton, the sister of the last owner of the estate.

Next, you begin looping back to the house with a stroll through the woods on the right side of the road. Here there are many specimen trees to look out for including some giant redwoods. Part of the marked path also includes an imposing and impressive avenue of beech trees.

Oak trees in fog in winter

Finally, the walk takes you along the bottom of the valley and along the border of the house’s gardens to the village church. This was also the site of the original Hinton Ampner house, which the owners pulled down in 1793 due to a severe haunting. As you do.

Getting there

  • Start grid reference: SU 59486 27693
  • Start postcode: SO24 0LA (nearest postcode)
  • Start coordinates: 51.045513, -1.1528177

Hinton Ampner is easy to get to. It’s a few hundred yards east of the village of New Cheriton on the A272 between Petersfield and Winchester.

Refreshments

There aren’t any stops on the walk itself but there are a few places that are nearby including the Flower Pots Inn (01962 771318 ) and the National Trust cafe in the grounds of Hinton Ampner House (01962 771305 – admission fee applies).

Route map

Detailed directions

  • In the car park facing the entrance to the house and gardens, head left to the stile in the hedgerow.
  • At the road, go right and follow the road through the village for just under 1/4 mile.
  • When the road bends sharply to the right, continue straight through the farm and into fields.
  • After about 1/2 a mile you’ll see a small, narrow copse in front of you where two rights of way cross each other. Go right and follow the path down the hill to the road.
  • At the road, go right past the cottages then immediately left up the lane.
  • After just over 1/2 a mile you’ll see a gateway into the woods on your right-hand side. Go through here and follow the purple markers through the woods.
  • After a mile or so you’ll come out of the woods onto a bridleway. Head left and cross the road.
  • You’ll soon see the house on your right. Before you reach it, take the path that runs up alongside the gardens to the church.
  • Pick up the road you walked earlier and then head back over the stile to the car park.

6. Old Winchester Hill and Meon Springs (2.6 miles)

Rather than take you to the peak of Old Winchester Hill with its views over the Meon Valley, this walk takes you through the less-well-trodden valley to the east of the Iron Age hill fort. It’s a stunning walk on a hazy winter’s morn.

Valley with sheep near Old Winchester Hill
Image credit: Herry Lawford

Parking is in the main car park. From there you head first along the road and then through a small copse and down a steep hill along the Monarch’s Way long-distance footpath to the valley below.

At the end of the valley is Meon Springs, a kind of mini countryside resort that provides fly fishing, clay pigeon shooting, camping and more.

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Here there’s a small fishing lake plus a quaint cafe offering hot drinks, sandwiches, homemade cakes and a warming wood-burning stove where you can boost your energy levels before the ramble along a chalky track up the side of the hill back to the top of the ridge.

View from Old Winchester Hill
Image credit: Herry Lawford

At the top, there are great views across the Meon Valley before you head back along the path to the car park.

Getting there

  • Start grid reference: SU 64582 21422
  • Start postcode: GU32 1HW (nearest postcode)
  • Start coordinates: -1.0812521, -1.0812521

Park at the main car park for Old Winchester Hill. It’s clearly signed from the A32 at Warnford.

Refreshments

The cafe at Meon Springs is cosy and good value for money. You can also head to the George and Falcon pub (01730 829623) in nearby Warnford afterwards.

Route map

Detailed directions

  1. From the car park, head for the gap in the corner of the car park and walk along the path towards Old Winchester Hill.
  2. After almost 1/2 a mile, the path goes right next to a gate to the road. Go through here and continue along the road.
  3. Just shy of 1/2 a mile, there’s a stile on your left in front of a small copse. Enter the field and follow the path through the copse.
  4. When you come out of the trees, head down the hill to the stile at the bottom. Then go left towards the houses.
  5. Follow the track through the farmyard until you reach the South Downs Way. If you want to visit the cafe at Meon Springs, go right for about 400 yards.
  6. Go left towards the ridge and follow the track as it climbs right up to the top of the hill.
  7. At the top, take the path on the side of the road back to the car park.

Over to you

Have you done any of these six winter walks? Where are your favourite places to walk in the winter months?

Holly and red berries

Categories
Hampshire Outdoors Walking

Walking the Itchen Way river footpath from Southampton to Hinton Ampner

I walked the length of the 30-mile River Itchen along the Itchen Way to raise money for the Dogs Trust’s Hope Project – a scheme that helps dogs whose owners are homeless or experiencing a housing crisis. Find out how I fared (and feel free to sponsor me).

It was probably the worst day of the summer to attempt to walk along the Itchen Way – the long-distance footpath that follows the route of the River Itchen for around 30 miles from Southampton to Hinton Ampner, between Petersfield and Winchester.

For starters, I didn’t sleep well because of thunderstorms overnight. (I’d have probably slept through it if my Border Terrier Tilly wasn’t perched on my legs all night.)

There was also morning-rush-hour chaos due to floods and fallen trees.

And, when I finally got to Bursledon to catch the train to my start point at Sholing, a foot or so of dirty water stood between me and the train station. I ended up having to backtrack on foot and find another route through a myriad of village footpaths and cul-de-sacs.

Burseldon-flood
A flood at Bursledon

I made the train, just.

It was incredibly humid, too. I was dripping with sweat before I’d even started.

Plus there was a forecast of more lightning in the afternoon. I was already wondering where I’d take shelter if a storm did come overhead.

Yep, definitely not ideal conditions and preparations for a 30-mile ramble and not what I expected when I planned this midsummer walk a few months ago.

Sholing – 0 miles

Things got worse when I got off the train at Sholing station. The walk was supposed to take me down to the mouth of the Itchen through Mayfield Park.

But, the stream that runs from nearby Millers Pond had burst its banks. Most of the water had ended up spilling onto the road under the railway bridge and gangs of school kids were milling around, their route to school blocked. As I thought about what to do myself, I spotted what looked like a Koi Carp swimming in the torrent. At least someone was enjoying it.

sholing-flooding
Flooding at Sholing

So it was back up the hill to the station on yet another detour. Fortunately I was able to get down to the mouth of the Itchen through residential streets without further incident.

Woolston – 1.5 miles

Much of this first stage of the walk is through residential areas anyway.

I went through Woolston along Victoria Street and its hotchpotch of independent cafes, 99p stores, bookies and newsagents. Then along Hazel Road under the spans of the towering Itchen Bridge, which connects Woolston with the city centre.

IMG_5814
The Itchen Bridge

This was the location of Woolston’s Supermarine factory, where engineers designed and built the Spitfire fighter plane in the 1930s. This made Hazel Road a target for German bombs in the Second World War. On one night in September 1940, more than a hundred people where killed in just one brutal air raid on the site.

About half way along Hazel Road I climbed inland to Peartree Green – an open space with great views across the river into the city. From there it was through yet more quiet residential roads into Bitterne Manor.

You might also like: Five of the best River Itchen walks (with maps and directions)

Bitterne Manor – 4 miles

To follow the dog-leg of the river, the Itchen Way takes a twisting route here past the gates of the former manor house and through a maze of roads.

IMG_5821
The tidal Itchen at Bitterne Manor

I stubbornly stuck to the official path despite knowing I could lop off a mile or so by heading straight to Bitterne Park.

Bitterne Park – 5 miles

There’s finally some greenery at Bitterne Park because the Itchen Way goes through Riverside Park. However, I continued along more house-lined streets so I could make a beeline for the toilet facilities at the end of Manor Farm Road without going too far out of my way.

The tidal section of the River Itchen ends at Woodmill lock, about two-thirds of the way through Riverside Park. The lock itself isn’t there anymore.

The Itchen is a chalk stream, perfect for watercress and trout fishing, so it usually resembles liquid glass beyond Woodmill. Today, after the previous hours’ heavy rain, it was brown and full to bursting.

Mansbridge – 6.5 miles

At the 19th century bridge at Mansbridge, I lost sight of the river because the Itchen Way picks up the towpath of the disused Itchen Navigation canal. It follows this pretty much all the way to Winchester.

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Mansbridge

There isn’t much left of the canal here – just a few permanent puddles and the brickwork of some of the locks, which volunteers have tidied up and labeled with neat plaques.

Go back a couple hundred years though and this junction would have been a hive of activity with barges transporting farming produce, timber, chalk and coal negotiating the locks on their journeys to and from Winchester.

The arrival of the London and Southampton Railway in 1840 signalled the demise of the navigation. And with the motorway ploughing over the route in the late 70s, there’s little chance of it being fully restored. However, the Itchen Navigation Project has sought to repair the towpath and protect wildlife along the length of the canal. Without schemes like this, it’s likely that the path would be inaccessible.

IMG_5834When I was planning this walk, I thought the start of the journey through Southampton would be the least interesting.

Not so. Despite being out of the city, I found this stretch from Mansbridge towards Bishopstoke boring. Apart from the odd glimpse of the empty meadows of Itchen Valley Country Park through the trees, there wasn’t much to look at.

IMG_5832It was eerie too, the stillness only broken by the odd plane taking off or landing at Southampton Airport, which was out of sight on the other side of the navigation.

Bishopstoke – 10 miles

I felt less alone as I passed under the Eastleigh-Portsmouth railway line near Bishopstoke. But, as the route rejoined the river for a short stretch, discomfort returned in the form of shoulder-high vegetation – mostly wet grass and stinging nettles – which crisscrossed the path. By the time I got to Bishopstoke, I was soaked through and covered in nettle rash.

IMG_5835Unlike the dried-up first section from Mansbridge, the navigation is flowing at this point. And, due to last night’s downpour, it had burst over the path to flood nearby fields.

My feet were already sodden from my ramble through the grass. Yet I still had to think twice before wading through the burst sections – my waterproof boots weren’t going to keep my feet dry in half a foot of fast-moving water.

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Bishopstoke

Now, with loud squelches emanating from my boots every time I took a step, I was seriously contemplating giving up and saving this walk for another day. I decided to try to make it to Winchester – another seven miles upstream – and take stock there.

Allbrook – 11.5 miles

After briefly joining the main channel of the river again north of Bishopstoke, the navigation and its towpath arcs up towards Allbrook. From there it passes the edge of the small village of Brambridge and then leads up to Shawford.

Although the water on my boots and socks made my feet heavy, I enjoyed this section. The occasional clattering of a train from the adjacent railway line and the distant hum of the M3 were the only manmade noises competing with nature’s sounds.

IMG_5838 IMG_5842There was no wind either and the stillness definitely had a “calm before the storm” feel about it. How long before the storm would move in?

Shawford – 14 miles

The railway bridge in the centre of Shawford is where Victor Meldrew met his demise in a car accident in the last episode of “One Foot in the Grave”. I was feeling slightly more alive by now though, especially after I’d taken my boots off and wrung the water out of my socks.

IMG_5847The Itchen Way continues along the navigation after Shawford alongside the Twyford Meads water meadows. Until the 1930s, farmers used a complicated system of sluices and hatches to flood the fields at specific times of the year. This stopped the ground freezing in winter and allowed them to harvest two hay crops a year rather than the usual single crop. Today, a few cows were grazing in the vast meadow.

After the meads I passed under the motorway near Hockley Viaduct to pick up the Viaduct Way. This runs past St Catherine’s Hill – an ancient hill fort – into Winchester where the Itchen Navigation ends at Blackbridge Wharf.

IMG_5850Before the arrival of the M3 in 1995, the busy Winchester by-pass spreaded fumes and traffic noise through this peaceful route. The Didcot, Newbury and Southampton Railway, which closed in 1964, also ran along here on its way to Chesil station in Winchester.

When the M3 tore through Twyford Down on the other side of St Catherine’s Hill, one of the upshots was that the by-pass – tarmac, signs, crash barriers and all – was removed and the cuttings filled in. Now it’s a hard-surface path popular with walkers, joggers and cyclists with excellent views over to the Hospital of St Cross.

Winchester – 17 miles

After crossing Garnier Road, the route passes under the weeping willows of one of Winchester College’s playing fields and then along the bottom of Wharf Hill to “The Weirs”, a popular spot for locals and tourists along a fast-moving channel of the river.

IMG_5853IMG_5856 IMG_5857Here, I grabbed a sandwich and changed my sopping socks. A group of German tourists, here to see the sights of the city, didn’t give me a second look as I sat barefoot, drying my feet.

Keen to cover as much ground as possible before the lightning moved in, I didn’t hang around too long. And after a brief detour past the imposing bronze statue of King Alfred at the bottom of The Broadway to stock up with more water, I was back on my way safe in the knowledge that I’d passed the halfway point.

Following a short stretch of road walking the route darts back into the fields near the edge of the city at Winnal. There was some more vegetation here, but not on the scale I experienced earlier at Bishopstoke.

However, I soon hit upon another obstacle – the path was flooded again. And with the busy A34, which I was just about to pass under, on one side and marshland on the other I had no option but to wade through it. My new pair of socks stayed dry for less than an hour.

IMG_5859A34 bridge – 19 miles

The Itchen Way splits in two for a few miles after it passes under the A34. Keen to finish the walk before the weather worsened, I opted for the slightly shorter southerly route. This joins up with the northerly route again after a few miles.

IMG_5861From this point, there’s not much riverside walking on the Itchen Way. Rather the path follows the route of the river loosely, crisscrossing it several times. At least there was less chance of flooding now.

Easton – 21 miles

I soon entered the village of Easton where I passed its handsome 12th century church and then walked by the open windows of the village’s Chestnut Horse pub.

With drizzle now falling, the chatter and smells from the pub almost enticed me in for a pint by the fire.

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Easton Church

IMG_5870The two paths of the Itchen Way rejoin again at Martyr Worthy.

I then walked through several meadows on the north side of the river until I bridged it again at Itchen Abbas. From there it was past the gates of the stately home at Avington Park and around the edge of Avington Park Golf Club to Ovington, just outside New Alresford.

Ovington – 25 miles

A mile or so before Ovington the Itchen Way again splits in two and again I took the shorter route along a country road named Lovington Lane.

Surprisingly for a path that follows the route of a river, it’s rather hilly around Ovington. There’s a ridge to climb just outside the village, made worse today by my fatigue and yet more long grass causing me to lift my feet up to avoid tripping. Thankfully, there’s an energising view into the valley where River Alre joins the Itchen at the top of the hill.

IMG_5873 IMG_5876There’s another main road – the A31 – to cross before dropping down into the small village of Tichborne. Yet again, there are two routes to choose from. I took the longer option…

Not really! With the skies getting blacker by the second and my legs aching, I took the most direct route.

IMG_5877Like much of this northern section of the walk, there wasn’t much sight of the river itself. That’s until the final mile or so into Cheriton, where the path runs alongside the water in a sheltered valley.

Cheriton – 28 miles

When I reached Cheriton, I walked through the churchyard and into the main part of the village. The river springs are only about a mile from here and the mighty estuary I walked along just a few hours ago is now just a shallow stream.

IMG_5888Unfortunately for my aching muscles, there was a sting in the tail of this walk. Instead of taking the most direct route along a busyish B road, the Itchen Way climbs another hill towards the site of the 1644 Battle of Cheriton before it takes you back down into “New” Cheriton.

Hinton Ampner – 29.5 miles

I was on the home straight when I reached the A272. About a quarter of a mile up the road to Kilmiston is a narrow copse of trees. Inside is the main spring of the river in a sunken glade brimming with pond weed.

Source of the Itchen
The source of the Itchen at Hinton Ampner

And that was that. Eight hours and 25 minutes and almost 30 miles (29.56 to be precise) later, I’d conquered the Itchen.

I paused briefly to reflect on the last few hours. Then, with thunder rumbling in the distance, I decided it was time for a pint.

Just one problem: the pub at Hinton Ampner was shut. So I sat on a bench outside in the rain to wait for my lift home. After the day I’d had, a little more moisture couldn’t hurt.

Info: The Itchen Way runs from Hinton Ampner to Sholing railway station in Southampton. It’s not clear exactly where the route begins and ends, but its waymarked along most of the route. It’s best to have a map handy – the Ordnance Survey’s OL32 and OL22 maps cover the north and south sections of the route respectively.

Sholing train station is on the Portsmouth-Southampton line, with trains typically calling at Sholing every hour.

The 67 bus, which runs from Winchester to Petersfield calls at New Cheriton near the river’s springs. Buses are hourly on weekdays and every three hours on Saturdays. There’s no service on Sundays.

Route