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Jay Walking

St Swithins Way: Winchester to Four Marks

I started the walk on a Sunday, getting into Winchester quite early, I headed off to the high street, looking for a coffee shop as I’d not managed to grab anything in the rush to get the train. The major coffee chains were represented in the high street but looking through a passage between two building I saw an independent one and headed to that, picking up a coffee, a pain au chocolate and a croissant. This proved to be a good move as the coffee shop was situated near to the entrance of the cathedral, where I sat on a bench and got ready for the walk, watching people preparing for the Remembrance Day services around the cathedral, because of these preparations I could not get to the absolute start of the walk, but headed off back past the coffee shop and then in an Easterly direction.

Winchester Cathedral main entrance
Winchester Cathedral main entrance, with people gathering for Rememberance Sunday
The St Swithins Way as leaves Winchester through field and along side the River Itchen
The St Swithins Way as leaves Winchester through field and along side the River Itchen

More by luck than any navigational skill, I found myself on the right path out of town, past the King Alfred pub and then on to a track beside a small tributary of the River Itchen. The route continues along this for a while until it reaches the outskirts of Winchester and enters series of fields continuing along until it reaches a couple of tunnels under the A34. Just before reaching the tunnels I met a man and his young sausage dog out for walk, we chatted a bit about dogs, mine having just passed a week before, it was still an open wound, but I was glad to meet a happy young dog. Passing under the A34 I was passed by a group of runners and headed on to the small village of Kings Worthy and headed on through the church. At the church there was a well attended Remembrance Day service which I observed for a few minutes before continuing. After crossing the A33, the route follows the River Itchen though some meadows at a slight distance, before crossing a road and then cutting across a field to emerge on the B3047 for a small distance before tracking back to the river and crossing under the M3.

The underpass under the A3, withs lots of graffiti adorning the walls
The underpass under the A3, withs lots of graffiti adorning the walls
The 12 century St Swithins church in the village of Martyrs Worthy
The 12 century St Swithins church in the village of Martyrs Worthy

The way continues heading Eastwards for a couple of kilometres a little distance from a small branch of the River Itchen. Eventually reaching the small old looking village of Martyrs Worthy, which seemed to mainly comprised of old but well maintained thatched cottages. The path continued steeply uphill to reach the St Swithin’s church, a small 12th century building, though a church on this spot was mentioned in the Domesday book. I sat on a bench on the south side of the church enjoying the newly emerging sun, eating a little and having some water. After having a quick look in the church, which was quite small, I headed off again, following the St Swithins Way eastward through meadows and along tracks for a couple of miles ,generally parallel with the river but sometime going quite close to it.

The church at Itchen Abbas showing it graveyard
The church at Itchen Abbas showing it graveyard

After reaching the small village and of Itchen Abbas, with its unusual church, where the way heads south along a road for about a kilometre, crossing various channels of the River Itchen and passing by Arvington Park Estate on the right. At the end of the road the way continues through Avington Park Golf Course. The golf clubs clubhouse had a small cafe where I got a takeaway coffee and continued along a track on the edge of some fields before heading steeply down hill to a road, which was the start of a long period of road walking.

After a few kilometres the way reaches the village of Ovington, with another interesting medieval church. I was feeling a little tired and in need of a call of nature, so I headed for The Bush Inn, the village pub, which was handily next to the St Swithins Way. It was a nice pub, starting to get busy with lots of people having Sunday lunch, I settled for a disappointing pint of IPA and spent some time looking at the map. It was about 12:30pm, I’d been walking for a little under 3 hours, I was aiming to get to the oddly named town of Four Marks, which was still some distance away still doable.

The church at the village of Ovington
The church at the village of Ovington
The Bush Inn at Ovington
The Bush Inn at Ovington

I headed off along the road crossing the A31 just outside of New Alresford, continuing on a small path before reaching another small road, encountering ford a little way on, crossed via a small wooden bridge. The water table was very high here and there were a number of watercress beds along the road. Watercress seems to be an important theme around New Alresford with the volunteer maintained Steam railway being called The Watercress Line, which runs from Alton to Alresford.

The small bridge over the flooded road
The small bridge over the flooded road
One of the beds of watercress south of the town of New Alresford
One of the beds of watercress south of the town of New Alresford

The next few kilometres was a boring period of road walking which I didn’t really enjoy at all, initially the route follows the southern side of New Alresford, where at least there was pavement, after which there was a couple of kilometres road walking to the village of Bishops Sutton, where I avoided the temptation of the local pub. The weather had turned a little worse and was becoming overcast with a little drizzle. I managed to miss the turning to leave the village and had to back track about 300 metres to get on the correct path which went over another small ford and along a field boundary before crossing the A31 and heading southwards on another road before heading South Westerly along Tegg Down Road. Checking the map, I saw that I was nearing the village of Ropley and a little way beyond that my finishing point Four Marks, hopefully I’d be able to get there before it got dark. About one kilometre along Tegg Down Road the path headed off North Easterly across a field before emerging on another road which continued on to the small village of Ropley, passing through the village past the village church and the village hall where a basket making course was going on.

The chuch at the village of Ropley
The chuch at the village of Ropley

After passing a meeting of roads, the way headed off in a North Easterly direction though some fields, some containing sheep. The path was a little undefined but it was easy enough to find my way, and eventually I made my way to a small track, named as Andrews Lane on the map. This ended in a T junction where a small road was crossed to another field with an obvious path though a crop of swedes, some of them looking very small. After heading though Old Down Wood and then crossing a large field, the path follows field boundaries for a couple of kilometres, the way marking was very good and it was easy to find my way.

Eventually just south of Fork Marks the route passed a garden centre, which was just closing, I left the St Swithin’s Way and headed to the main road through the town by a series of public footpaths. Emerging onto the A31, opposite a bus stop, I checked the time to discover I’d just missed the bus to Alton, another one was not due for an hour. I headed to the bus stop to Winchester to find I only had mere 35 minutes to wait, it was getting dark and cold so I pulled on my jacket and sat down to wait for the bus.

Additional info

Date walked
14 November 2021
Distance walked
27 km or 16.78 miles
Weather
Overcast, with drizzle later on