We sayWinchester's robust and ancient cathedral, resting place of King Alfred the Great and Jane Austen is your starting point for this walk. Walk down the right hand side of the building, and head across the beautiful walled close at the back and under the arch towards College Street, passing P&G Wells, a fab little bookshop, then take a right down College Walk past Wolvesey Castle (if you’re lucky, the ice cream van might be parked just outside). Turn right at the end of College Walk, sidestepping the scrum of boys, and follow the footpath sign just ahead of you on the left. Here start the water meadows running gently along the right, amazingly clear, with green vegetation, vocal moorhens, brown trout and the odd crisp packet. The more substantial body of water on the left is the Itchen, flowing around the nature reserve. Follow the slightly bumpy path, flanked by the college playing fields on both sides, until you reach Garnier Rd at the end. Cross the road and join the path signposted Clarendon Way at the old mill, and walk down the path towards St Cross Hospital, with the river on your right. Soon enough, you’ll pass a sweet mews of houses and allotments – the nearby Bell Inn on St Cross Road is a great lunch stop – until you reach a meadow and the tranquil Hospital and Church of St Cross, whose medieval buildings and gardens are open to the public. Continue from here, through many cow gates and a tree-lined avenue and past the college cricket grounds and farm buildings. The last gate leads to a tarmac road on the left which ends with a large metal gate, behind which is the M3 motorway. The brave and hearty could take a right and stride on to Southampton, but for this walk take a left towards the direction of the Itchen Navigation path. Amble along the former railway line, passing the foot of St Catherine’s hill, where wooden steps run up its steep incline – a walk for another day. Surrounded by trees and birdsong, with the Itchen flowing on your left, the path widens into open space and a handy car park signals the end of this section of the route and the beginning of the final plod. At this junction, walkers can either veer right up the hillside, joining the cycle path which promptly leads them to the end of the walk or cross the main road into the playing fields and stroll the last leg along the river, joining the ducks, swans and the occasional rower. At the end of the walk, lies Wharf Hill, which leads to the Black Boy pub, where you can enjoy a well-deserved fishfinger sandwich and chips and a home-brewed pint amongst a menagerie of stuffed animals and salvaged treasures.
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