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Winchester walk - December 2013

PUBLISHED: 14:18 17 December 2013 | UPDATED: 14:18 17 December 2013

The lovely west face of Winchester Cathedral

The lovely west face of Winchester Cathedral

© Steve Davison

Steve Davison leads the way on a 4 ½ mile walk taking in some of Winchester’s celebrated sights

This month’s walk is centred on the historic City of Winchester, built on the foundations of the Roman town of Venta Belgarum, this one-time capital of England is home to a stunningly beautiful cathedral that has stood for over a thousand years. However, before that we firstly head up St Catherine’s Hill which is crowned by the earthworks of a former Iron Age hill fort, a 17th-century turf miz maze and a small copse marking the site of the 12th-century St Catherine’s Chapel. After admiring the views from this lofty position we head downhill to follow a short section of the River Itchen, a picturesque chalk stream famed for its wildlife including kingfishers, water voles and otters.

Close to the disused Hockley Viaduct we head north passing the historic St Cross Hospital and almshouses. Founded by Henry de Blois, Bishop of Winchester, St Cross has provided shelter for people in need for over 850 years. The route continues alongside the River Itchen passing close to the ruins of Wolvesey Castle, built in the early 12th century but sadly destroyed during the English Civil War before heading along College Street; look out for the plaque on the house where the novelist, Jane Austen, spent her last few weeks before her untimely death, aged just 41 years.

Finally we arrive at the magnificent cathedral. Pop inside to admire the beautiful interior, to see Jane Austen’s grave and to remember William Walker. By the early 1900s cracks were appearing in the building that could have lead to its total collapse, however, Walker worked for six years in a full diving suit placing bags of concrete around the waterlogged foundations thus helping to save the building for future generations.

The final section passes the statue of the Saxon king, Alfred the Great, before following the River Itchen back to the start. Incidentally, human remains have recently been exhumed from an unmarked grave at St Bartholomew’s Church and some believe these could be the mortal remains of the great Saxon king – maybe one day we’ll know the true answer.

***

Information:

Distance: 4 1/4miles (6.8km).

Time: 2 1/4 hours, excluding time for all the sightseeing along the way.

Terrain: One steep climb and descent, tracks and paths which can be muddy, roads, stiles and gates.

Start/Finish: St Catherine’s Hill car park on Garnier Road, 1/2 mile west from M3 junction 10; grid ref SU483280.

Map: OS Explorer 132.

Refreshments: Plenty of choice in Winchester city centre.

More Information: To find out more about Steve, including information on his walking books, visit: www.steve-davison.co.uk

***

1 (SU480280) – From the back of the car park bear left under the old railway bridge (anyone not wanting to climb the hill can follow the riverside Itchen Way south for 700m and rejoin the main walk at a path junction). Go through the kissing gate and follow the path up St Catherine’s Hill, keeping left at the split to follow a fence on the left before turning right up some steps to reach the earthworks. Go left and then right towards the small copse beside the miz maze. Follow the path counter clockwise round the trees to the far side and then head south on a path to reach the earthworks. Continue down the steps and go through two gates to join the Itchen Way (the shortcut joins from the right). Turn left following the River Itchen on your right for 600m, later passing under a railway bridge to a path junction.

2 (SU479267) – Turn right and follow the old road heading north-west for 600m. Shortly after crossing St Cross Bridge and the River Itchen turn right along the track for St Cross Farm and Mill. At the junction keep straight on following the signposted path to draw level with St Cross Hospital on the left; to the right is the River Itchen. Continue alongside the stone wall and where this turns left go straight on, cross a footbridge and through a kissing gate. Keep to the riverside path, at Garnier Road go right over the bridge and then left, still following the river which is now on your left. At the road turn right, then left along College Walk to a T-junction; across to the right is a path that gives access to Wolvesley Castle.

3 (SU482288) – Turn left along College Street to a T-junction; to the left is The Wykeham Arms. Turn right through the gateway and then right again through another gateway with a Royal coat of arms above. Follow the driveway round to the left and continue northwards past the green towards the cathedral. Turn left at the cathedral wall and then right to reach the main west entrance. Continue northwards across the green – site of the annual Christmas Market – and keep ahead along Market Street. Turn right along the High Street and continue past the statue of Alfred the Great.

4 (SU485293) – Just before the bridge and historic City Mill (National Trust) turn right beside The Bishop on the Bridge following the surfaced path with the river on the left, soon passing some Roman ruins on the right. Keep left at the split following the river and turn left over the bridge. Bear right to the road and continue along Wharf Street. At the right-hand bend go straight on along the lane for 100m and just after passing the boathouse and two cottages turn right along an easily missed path to reach the river. Bear left alongside the river to Tun Bridge and the car park.

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