Bishopstoke to Winchester (12.4km)

On 15 July 2020 I took the opportunity of getting a lift with my wife to her workplace to do some longer, linear walks back home. This led me to planning to walk the 51.2km (31.8 mile) Itchen Way. Given the aforesaid lift, the first walk was from Bishopstoke to Winchester. Starting where the Itchen Navigation canal crosses Bishopstoke Road.

South of Winchester, the Way mainly follows the Itchen Navigation which was essentially the improved river, with the main river channel being used for some sections, and cuts with locks used to bypass the difficult sections.

And just north of Bishopstoke Road the Way passes the disused Stoke lock, which now functions as a weir and sluice.

Looking north along the canal to the disused Stoke lock
Stoke Lock

(1.6km) North of the Eastleigh railway yards, the navigation and path loop under the railway and there’s a whole road of houses have gardens backing down to the water. I was really taken with the quirky use and decoration of the bank.

Back garden in Allbrook, with decking, steps down to the canal and lots of statuettes
Back garden in Allbrook

The loop ends with the path passing under the railway again, crossing Highbridge Road (2.5km) and passing Springbridge farm, which appears to have rare breed sheep.

Several rare breed sheep grazing by a pond at Springbridge Farm
Springbridge Farm

The path then parallels the navigation as far as Bambridge, passing the Hengist Alpaca Farm, a smallholding specialising in alpacas with superior genetics that also offers trekking.

Alpacas at the Hensting alpaca farm, bordering the Itchen Navigation, where a swan is swimming
Alpacas at the Hensting alpaca farm

One of the ‘wild’ branches of the river also approaches the path here.

Shallow river Itchen flowing under trees
River Itchen at Brambridge

(4.0km) The path emerges onto the narrow and quite busy Kiln Lane, cross the bridge and take a right onto a beautiful and peaceful part of the navigation as you approach Otterbourne.

The Itchen Navigation flowing between trees and marsh plants
Itchen Navigation at Otterbourne

On the day I was here, walkers were held up by this young kingfisher who was sitting on the path looking and sounding lost. `We managed to eventually encourage it into the undergrowth.

Young kingfisher with red head and green plumage sitting on a fence
Young kingfisher

(5.1km) A little further north, the way passes Southern Water’s treatment plant.

Metal fencing surrounding the inlet/outlet from the water treatment works into the Itchen Navigation
Water treatment works inlet/outlet

North of here, I didn’t take any more photos on the day of the walk, but I returned in October to some of the route to take extra photos.

As the path approaches Shawford it runs close to and parallel with a towering brick embankment of the railway. Shawford station provides handy access to the Way and to the attractive village. The path passes in front of some houses with attractive cottage gardens and leads to Shawford road (6.9km). Turn right by the Bridge Inn, cross the navigation and river and take the path on the left.

The Way runs beside the navigation, with large gardens on the other side of the water, and comes out into the Twyford water meadows. The main ‘wild’ river channel is over to the west.

(7.6km) Compton Lock is a popular spot for paddling and wild swimming, but as the path continues north the noise of the M3 motorway becomes more noticeable.

Near the M3, the official path runs through a small thicket onto the B3335 Winchester Road then left along the road, under the motorway and across the busy Hockley Link road (9.0km). There’s also a wider path that sticks close to the water, runs under the M3 and emerges onto Hockley Link.

Itchen Way sign pointing left along the B3335 Winchester Road
Itchen Way sign pointing left along the B3335 Winchester Road

After crossing Hockley Link the Way can get busier as it forms part of the National Cycle Route 23 as well as a popular short walk. The path runs parallel to the trackbed of the former Oxford to Southampton railway line, past St Catherine’s Hill on the right and partial views of water meadows and the Hospital of St Cross on the left.

Itchen Way passes under this former railway bridge
Itchen Way passes under this former railway bridge

Just before Garnier Road, there is a car park (10.4km) and the Handlebar cafe that sits up on the former railway embankment.

The Handlebar Cafe that is situated on the railway embankment above the Garnier Road car park
The Handlebar Cafe

There are three routes into Winchester from Garnier Road, but the Itchen Way takes the most obscure one, running on the west side of the navigation after crossing the Tun Bridge on Garnier Road. The path runs through scrubland, whilst the manicured grass of Winchester College lies on the other side of the water.

Path and gate on the Itchen Way, with lifebuoy
Entry to the Itchen Way from Garnier Road

Eventually the path leads to Wharf Bridge and into the urban area at Wharf Hill (11.3km). The Itchen Navigation ends here, but the river, of course, continues upstream.

Wharf Bridge at the terminus of the Itchen Navigation
Wharf Bridge

Passing in front of the large Wharf Mill (long since converted into flats), the Way enters the famous stretch called The Weirs, where the Itchen flows very fast and clear.

The Weirs ends by the Bishop on the Bridge pub (11.9km) and the Way continues by crossing the river and passing the Winchester City Mill before turning sharp left onto Water Lane. Not surprisingly the lane faces the river and is subject to flooding.

The fast-flowing River Itchen at the Weirs, with the bridge and the City Mill behind.
The Weirs, City Bridge and the City Mill

This section of the walk ends where Water Lane meets the junction of Durngate Place and Wales Street (12.4km).

Fast-flowing river Itchen with views of houses and bushes with autumnal coloursat Water Lane
The Itchen at Water Lane
Itchen Way 1