Yesterday Felix and I got our walking boots and recording gear together and got the train down to Romsey. The plan was to walk the leg of walk2012 between Romsey and Winchester, and document it as we went so that I can start putting together the guidebook.
View Romsey to Winchester in a larger map
It was important to me that we picked a leg that had some complexity to the instructions because I want to figure out how to make the walking instructions succinct yet actually helpful. Plus it was an opportunity to finesse the route out of Romsey – when I last walked it I tramped along an A-road for a couple of kilometres. This time we concocted an alternative route that was twice as long but in my view many times better. It follows a small river north out of Romsey with huge fish in it, although none quite as large as this local artist suggests:
Part of the alternative route involves walking across some farmland which at this time of year is populated with frisky horned cattle like this fine fellow. We had a stand-off with two who were blocking our way for a couple of minutes as the rest of the herd quielty surrounded us. Of course they backed away and all was fine – but in the moment you can’t help but imagine the local news story…
The reworked route is a triumph – no busy roads at all, and a much more rural setting for the walk. It does add a couple of kilometres to the route, but I feel its good value, and we get to spend longer in Ampfield Wood too, which is a fungi-fan’s dream destination.
The wood is managed by the Forestry Commission and they like to keep walkers on their toes by re-routing the paths on a regular basis. However as long as you head East it will be fine and eventually you’ll hit the Monarch’s Way, which will lead you through a tree nursery to Knapp, where there’s a bit of road before diving back into the woods and onto Hursley.
Throughout the woods there were signposts and distance markers for the Hursley 10k all terrain run, which is happening today (Sunday). It looks like a great route. So that explains the sign in this picture, but can you explain what on earth Felix is doing?!
The trees were ringing with birdsong – my guess is that there was one of those huge flocks of starlings all around us, and they were having a party! Hopefully Felix’s recording (she is holding 2 microphones) will come out well and she’ll post it on her blog.
Hursley has 2 pubs – the Kings Head and the Dolphin. Our route goes past the door of the Kings Head but there was a wedding on and they didn’t want muddy walkers like us in the photos! Consequently we ended up at the Dolphin which has a really friendly landlady and we were soon tucking into a ploughman’s and a pint of Ringwood Best in their lovely garden.
There is a long stretch across wide open fields to Shawford, which is just south of Winchester. Clearly I know too many knitters and felt-makers because I found myself thinking about the colours and the patterns in the fields. My friend at work, Amelia – is doing her Masters and recently sent out abstract squares of felt for comment. This field reminded me of her…
…and this one had me thinking about the suitability of these colours for a Fairisle project, for someone else to knit of course!
Just past Shawford station we turn left onto the Itchen Way and follow the river into Winchester. Apart from a dodgy bit under the M3 it is a stunningly beautiful walk, particularly with the sun low in the sky.
As well as the river, the path takes you past St Catherine’s hill, which is the site of an ancient fort and a huge number of stairs for budding young Rocky Balboas to run up!
The Itchen is a very inviting river and the temptation to take a sneaky swim is hard to resist. In fact it is one of the many spots that Roger Deakin goes for a “wild” swim in his beautiful book Waterlog. This book and another of his (Wildwood) are two of my favourite books about our connection with nature, and I love his irreverence and sense of mischief.
We followed the medieval city wall into the bustling heart of Winchester and headed up the high street towards the station and home, stopping for a celebratory pint just by the grounds of the Cathedral. In all I made 72 recordings of instructions on the dictaphone, and today I’m going to try and turn them into a guide. Watch this space