When visitors come to Winchester they invariably go for walks along the weirs and across to St Johns Hospital and St Catherine’s Hill. However, for the more adventurous there are many other walks that will delight. The Walk from Winchester to Abbots Worthy is particularly pleasant and rewarding.
The walk is circular, starting from King Alfred’s Statue in the centre of Winchester. It proceeds past the City Mill and north out of Winchester. Within a very short time you will find yourself in open countryside with fishing lakes, marsh and water meadows. An attractive riverside path goes under the A33/A34 road and continues north-east to the exquisite house at Fulling Mill. After crossing a number of water channels, you’ll find a well defined path that crosses a quaint and rustic bridge over the Itchen River to the village of Abbots Worthy.
The return route is along the other bank of the Itchen via the village of Kings Worthy and the Church of St. Mary as well as Abbots Barton and the North Walls recreation ground.
Just off from the recreation grounds, there is the Winnall Moors Nature Reserve. This is a small diversion from the main walk but is definitely worth exploring. The nature reserve has much to offer the bird watcher and the quiet, patient observer.
A place of interest in the village of Abbots Worthy is St Mary’s church. The church has been a place of worship since ancient times. The present church is mainly from periods of reconstruction in 1849, 1864 and 1884 but further inspection will reveal that the tower, including the doorway and the font base, are Late Norman. The church has recorded rectors from at least 1290. Its flint-faced facade seems to fit admirably into this Hampshire village. There is usually a guide that is available inside by the Kings Worthy Local History Group.
On an historical note: the walk takes you passed the south side of the grounds of Abbots Worthy House to which Lord Eversley came in 1896 and stayed until his death in 1928 at the age of 97. He and his wife are buried in the church grounds. He was Postmaster-General in Gladstone’s government and introduced sixpenny telegrams; however his main preoccupation was access to commons and parks around London. In 1866, he chaired the first meeting of the Commons Preservation Society. He was also the author of a book entitled Commons, Forests and Footpaths published in 1894. On his death he left £1,000 in his will to the Commons and Footpath Preservation Society. Being free to ramble along Britain’s footpaths owes many thanks to this man.
There are a number of pubs along the way that the rambler can seek shelter and refreshment. The Cart and Horses pub is in Abbots Worthy and does a good pub menu. In Winchester, one can visit the King Alfred Pub on Saxon Road, which is just off from the playing fields, set in an estate of Victorian houses. The pub specializes in pub lunches and has a large and pretty beer garden.