Notes on the Millennium Pilgrims’ Trail. Winchester to Southwick section – 22 miles.

This was walked over two days at the start of November, 2021: Winchester to Bishop’s Waltham (12 miles) and then Bishop’s Waltham to Southwick (10 miles). We got a taxi back to Winchester from Bishop’s Waltham at the end of the first day. We then started the following day by leaving the car in the large carpark of The Crown Inn, which the landlord was pleased to allow. This is also an excellent place to start a short stroll through to the old bishop’s palace. Finishing in Southwick, a Fareham taxi picked us up from the Red Lion to take us to our car at Bishop’s Waltham. Taxis are worth booking in advance or at least you should avoid wanting one at the end of the school day when they may be busy getting children home across rural communities.

Using OS Explorer maps OL32 and OL3,note that the Trail is not always named as such on the maps. At times it follows the Monarch’s Way, and even the (Allan) King’s Way. Nevertheless, with the help of the green discs on footpath signposts and an occasional compass check on direction, it isn’t difficult to follow, once started on the right path. The GPX file Pilgrims Trail - Winchester to Portsmouth.gpx , was excellent if you like looking at your smartphone out on a walk / pilgrimage.

Leaving Winchester on the right route is not at all obvious. Neither the cathedral bookshop nor the Tourism Centre has any individual leaflet or other set of notes. We followed signs to the water meadows and crossed these over a footbridge, Wharf Bridge I think. Keeping the Itchen Navigation on our right, we headed south past some playing fields and soon arrived at St Catherine’s lock and Tun Bridge. Thereafter, it was easy to keep St Catherine’s Hill on our left until we could turn into the long sweeping meadow that bends around the south of the hill. Once across the M3 we knew we were on our way. An alternative through the meadows is to follow the relevant part of the excellent notes to be found at Walk the Winchester Water Meadows - Bright Lights Big City.

The trail is initially high up on the Downs. It was mild, the showers passed away to the south and there were beautiful views for miles around as Winchester cathedral, the school and St Cross Hospital slowly dropped from sight. We had left Winchester late morning so lunch on a bench near St Andrew’s church at Owslebury was welcome.

As others have commented, parts of the route can be very muddy, especially before and after Tangier Farm, OS map OL3, grid reference SU539173. After the mud, turning north just before Brooklands Farm, we were too eager to get into Bishop’s Waltham before dark and sadly missed the old railway track. Another well-defined track, that looks as if it might have been a railway bed, lead through Priory Park and a Bowling Green, unfortunately ending up in housing estates.

Leaving Bishop’s Waltham from The Crown, it is easiest to walk a short way up the busy Botley Road B3035, turning into the fields after the houses on the left to follow the King’s Way. The alternative is to try and pick up the Pilgrim’s Trail south of the ruined palace.

Helpfully, the Roebuck Inn is marked on the OS map (SU586132) and is an excellent stopping place for coffee, lunch or a bed for the night. The landlord knew little of the principles behind a pilgrimage but was keen to support the idea, provide a welcome and even his business stamp for those who use a pilgrim passport. Travelling on through West Walk, Forest of Bere, was straightforward but it is worth taking care to find the right track when ending at the public carpark as there are no obvious signs where the tarmac road starts. Follow a car or ask a ranger!

The tracks and roads from there on were quite easy to follow but it is necessary to look out for the turning down the private road to Vernon’s Farm (SU625097). We ignored it as it isn’t signposted. We walked on a further mile to turn across the fields along a local footpath and joined the lane up into Southwick that way.

The village is still largely privately owned by the local estate (see It is beautifully kept, as is the church, appropriately named after St James, no less! There is little left of the ruined priory but the Red Lion offered a warm welcome and good beer.

Piers Baker
November 2021