Source to Abbots Worthy (22.9km)

I walked my third section of the Itchen Way from the source to Abbots Worthy on 29 September, catching the 67 bus from Winchester to near the entrance to the National Trust’s Hinton Ampner.

Crossing the road, there’s a diagonal path across part of the Hinton Ampner estate that leads out into the small village of the same name. Turning right, the route follows a minor road and then continues as a footpath. It’s a bit tricky to find, tucked at the side of the locked gates into the National Trust property. I then continued through the estate as it follows the boundaries of the NT’s ‘paid entrance’ area.

Hinton Ampner estate: Grassland in foreground, with trees in background
Hinton Ampner estate

The first Itchen Way sign appears as the footpath turns westward . It’s seems a bit premature as I hadn’t reached the source yet.

First Itchen Way sign. Yellow arrow on post.
First Itchen Way sign

There’s a fine view of Hinton Ampner House as the path continues westwards.

View of Hinton Ampner House, trees and grassland.
View of Hinton Ampner House

The footpath eventually reaches the Kilmeston Road and we turn right onto the road. The source of the river is close to this point. Depending on the season, it’s can be muddy or a small pool. There are further springs on the other side of the road.

Source of the River Itchen. Mud, wild plants and low wall.
Source of the River Itchen

The route continues north, parallel to the young river until it reaches the busy A272. Cross carefully,head eastwards along the road and then turn north along a footpath parallel to a channel of the river.

Itchen Way runs parallel to the River Itchen near New Cheriton. River, and manicured lawn with weeping willow tree
River Itchen near New Cheriton

The Itchen Way continues north, touching the B3046, then north through fields before turning east towards the picturesque centre of Cheriton, where the Itchen flows through the village and many houses are accessed by small bridges.

Brick bridge over River Itchen with old weight limit sign, river bank, cars and a bench.
Bridge over River Itchen in Cheriton

The Itchen Way route out of the village is not very clear. There’s a much more obvious sign for the Wayfarers’ Way. Eventually I found the Itchen Way route, up by the church.

Sign to 'The Church' and the  Itchen Way route via the church in Cheriton
Itchen Way route via the church in Cheriton

After zigzagging over fields north-west of the church, the Way heads north through fields and runs parallel to the river for about 1km until it reaches Cheriton Mill, where it crosses the river and provides an attractive view:

River Itchen meanders through floodplain
River Itchen at Cheriton Mill

Now a few metres along the B3046 before heading north-west across fields through Titchborne Park. There is then an annoying deviation north-east towards New Alresford and south-westwards back to Vernal Farm. Then across the river and road and up a steepish slope towards Trodd’s Copse. Just before the copse there’s a hedge and a bench with a fine view over the New Alresford.

Itchen Way: Landscape view of trees, fields and buildings in New Alresford.
View over New Alresford from near Trodd’s Copse

After a rest on the bench it’s onwards along the edge of Trodd’s Copse and a careful crossing of the busy A31 dual carriageway. The path then goes along the old road and turns right at the Mews Cattery. Leaving the woodland there is another fine view over the Itchen Valley above Ovington.

Attractive landscape of fields and woodland.
View over Itchen Valley, near Ovington

The Way descends over fields to a minor road which it follows past the rather grand Ovington House into Ovington itself.

View of Ovington House, a late 18th century house undergoing extensive repairs.
Ovington House

At the T-junction in the village, the Way continues straight on as far as the Bush Inn. On a nice sunny afternoon I was tempted to lunch in the garden which overlooks the river.

Pint of beer, panini and salad on a table in pub garden.
Lunch at the Bush Inn, Ovington

After the Bush Inn the Way crosses the river and reaches probably the most attractive section of the walk as it traverses a long, thin island between two channels of the river.

Clear water of River Itchen with early autumn colours of trees on both banks. The Itchen Way crosses the river here.
River Itchen near the Bush Inn.

At the end of the island the Way turns right, then left through a field to the south of Itchen Stoke. It then turns south west to cross the river again. But before reaching the river you need to cross a field with many springs – so it can be muddy, saturated or completed flooded. After crossing the river the path cuts through a field and then rejoins Lovington Lane. After 200m it leaves the road and climbs a steep bank. There’s a very Constablesque view of the river valley here:

River valley, with view of river, grassland and trees. Looks like a Constable painting.
River Itchen near Yavington FarmA

A rather boring section follows, eventually running along the southern and eastern boundaries of Avington Park golf course. Back on a minor road again, the Way does a dogleg and heads north past the grand entrance to Avington Park and into Itchen Abbas.

The Itchen Way passes this entrance to Avington Park. Column, gates and fence with notices saying closed.
Avington Park

Just to the north the church, the path heads west and runs along a bank with gardens of large houses on the right and views of the river valley to the left.

River Itchen, grassland and trees just turning colour.
River Itchen near Chilland

At Chilland, the Way crosses a small dead-end road, continues up a short bank and along the backs of large gardens and paddocks as far as the church in Martyr Worthy. It takes a left-hand turn and crosses the river again before reaching the road where it turns westwards to Easton. By the Chestnut Horse pub the path cuts through a home farm, where you might spot goats; and turns north onto Easton Lane.

After crossing the Itchen again, the Way passes through fields on the north bank of the river and under the M3. A deviation around a large house takes the path briefly up to the B3047 and then down through scrubland to the end for today at the foot of Mill Lane in Abbots Worthy.

The Itchen Way. Post with various footpath markers.
Itchen Way marker post at Mill Lane, Abbots Worthy
Itchen Way 3