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Please see the Saturday Walker's Club This Week's Walks page.

This is an archive of walks done by the Saturday Walker's Club. You should only need to use this page if the SWC website is down.

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Saturday, 19 December 2015

Saturday Second Walk - Ancient hillfort, cathedral city

SWC Walk 15 - Winchester Circular
Length: 17.7km (11 miles)
Toughness: 4 out of 10

9.35 (Weymouth-bound) train to Winchester, arriving 10.32

If you miss this, the 9.39 (Poole-bound) train is not tragic: it makes a few more stops (including Clapham Junction at 9.46) but still gets in at 10.48, giving you a good chance of catching the group up. 

For walk directions click here.

This is a bit of a splurge choice (a day return to Winchester is £22.65 with a Network Card), but you get a lot for your money. First a walk through Winchester with its historic attractions (see walk document), then a climb up an ancient Celtic hillfort, a riverside walk, and then more historic attractions on the way back into Winchester. You land up in the Cathedral Close which has a Christmas market, and in general the town is cheerfully bedecked + has lots of tea options. All in all a jolly pre-Christmas outing.

It would be dishonest not to mention that this walk is also in close proximity to the M3 motorway at several points, but one notices this less in the winter somehow, and in the morning fine views compensate. How much traffic noise there is depends on wind direction: with a stiff westerly the afternoon should be fairly quiet. While mud is inevitable on winter walks, this one does have a reasonable number of sections on firm paths or tracks, in particular the afternoon curve back from Shawford to Winchester, which is quite solid underfoot as far as I recall.

The Bridge in Shawford, the lunchtime pub, is large and capacious (or was last time I looked) and so should have no problem fitting us in: but it would do no harm to phone from the station to reserve a table.

If you want to spend the afternoon seeing the sights in Winchester, there is an hourly train at 19 past the hour from Shawford station, almost adjacent to the pub, taking 5 minutes: if you plan to do this, buy a day return to Shawford which is the same price as a day return to Winchester.

Winchester Cathedral charges a hefty £7.50 admission fee, but if you slip in a bit before it closes at 5pm you might get a brief free view.  If you do decide to pay for admission, see the end of the walk directions for a comprehensive walking tour of the cathedral's points of interest. There is also a Carol Service at 6.30pm, but this is ticketed and probably sold out by now.

The Cathedral Refectory (ie the tea room) also closes at 5pm, but there later options in the town. For pubs, you are spoilt for choice, but my recommendation is the Wykeham Arms, just before the end of the walk, where some of the tables are (or used to be) former Winchester College desks.

Trains back are at 18, 25, 48 and 56 past, the 18 and 48 being marginally quicker (1hr v 1hr 10 for the other two).

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Given that Winchester is likely to be busy with Christmas shoppers, would it be better to do the countryside bit first and the bits around the town at the end of the walk?

Walker said...

We are talking about Winchester here. Cheerfully busy it may be but it is not Oxford Street. Besides, only 80 metres of the walk is along the high street and you have to do that both outbound and inbound.

Walker said...

n=15 on this walk, though all were never in the same place. Five came on the specified train, six on a slightly earlier train, two on a slightly later train, two by car (finding us only at lunch: a warning to car drivers!!). People joined the group, people got split off from the group. It was all a bit fluid.

Winchester was in very festive mode, the Christmas market filling the Cathedral Close and spilling into the High Street (or were there two rival Christmas markets?). The weather was w=bright rather than sunny - high cloud, mainly - and w=weirdly_warm. The views from St Catherine's Hill proved as scenic as ever and the noise from the motorway was much more muted than I have ever known it, barely noticeable mostly. Nowhere was particularly muddy.

After lunch - or even during it - there was fragmentation. Several parties expressed their intention to shorten or even skip the afternoon to see more of Winchester. At least five of us did finish the walk, but in two groups. Disappointingly the Cathedral had closed at 3.30pm to prepare for the evening's carol concert (a piece of information left off their website), but everything looked very cheerful when we got back to town, with Christmas lights everywhere, and mulled wine, and kids skating on the rink despite it being covered with two centimetres of meltwater.

Three of us tried to find a pub for dinner, but Winchester is party town, and it was only after trying about ten places that we discovered a Weatherspoons that could squeeze us in.

All in all, I think all agreed, a happy cheerful pre-Christmas Day out.