Allan King Way Part 4

  • 1st May 2024
  • Walk Leader: Sandy Arpino
  • Distance: 10 miles (approx.)

Final Part (4) – Tichborne to Winchester

The drive to Winchester Park & Ride – the meeting place for the fourth and final part of the Allan King Way – was a doddle compared to the journeys of previous weeks, so everyone arrived early. The usual footwear changes, rucksack and pole transfers between cars, and redistribution of walkers into half the cars was executed like clockwork, a now familiar routine. Four cars shot out of the car park, heading for Tichborne. Suitably assembled at the walk’s starting point, it was time to set off on our final leg – a fairly flat 10 miles.

Sunshine and blue skies greeted us, much to everyone’s delight, and soon jackets were cast aside. A few members of our party even admitted to applying sunscreen before leaving home – probably for the first time in 2024! In good spirits we crossed arable fields to reach the dual carriageway of the A31.  

Crossing with care, we continued through woodland and fields before turning north on a road into Ovington. Just past the church our amended route took us west along little Lovington Lane for over a mile. The AKW loops up around Itchen Stoke, dropping to the lane further along, but recces had shown this course to be unviable. It crosses a water meadow – fed by natural springs – to reach a footbridge over the River Itchen; soaked feet are guaranteed!

But we were more than happy to keep our feet dry and enjoy the full length of this delightfully scenic lane all the way to Avington Park golf course. We passed Yavington farm house, which looked amazing, covered in wisteria.

There were huge oaks and copper beeches, splendid in fresh spring foliage, and some unusual natural wonders. One field was so carpeted in daisies it looked like snow – while big balls of parasitic mistletoe filled the tops of tall trees on the golf course.

Turning north again we crossed the fast-flowing River Itchen on a road bridge before passing through the lychgate into Itchen Abbas cemetery. Another churchyard, another coffee break! And this being the AKW walk, there was a kindly handout of delicious caramel shortbread. Some walkers remembered the location – indeed much of this part of the walk – from our trek along the Saint Swithun’s Way in 2023.

Revitalised and warmed from the sun, we continued west on a path running parallel to the river for a mile, until we came to Martyr Worthy – yet another charming little village. Thankfully there were no cows in the fields; less agreeable was the kissing gate that was so poorly designed that even we trim ramblers had difficulty getting through, though we removed our rucksacks!

Passing St Swithun’s Norman church with its rounded end, the way resumed its course just above the River Itchen for a further mile – lined with swaying cow parsley. Then unwelcome road noise hit our ears; we were getting ever closer to the M3.

After observing the high levels and wild currents of the river, we shared its subway under the motorway, through a dark tunnel. Emerging into the light, the path briefly touched the B3047 before dropping down onto riverside meadows rich with wild flowers, including early dainty red campions.

After clambering over a huge fallen tree (with accompanying mud) and crossing the busy A33, the refuge of Kings Worthy church was very welcome. As it was lunchtime, the wooden benches in the churchyard beckoned and once again we found ourselves enjoying refreshment by a church. Hospitality knew no bounds: we were invited to use the church’s toilets and one walker handed out cherry liqueur chocolates!

The walk leader brought the break to a timely end as rain was forecast by 3pm. Ducking under the A34 dual-carriageway through two subways, the group followed a long – sometimes muddy – fenced footpath south, then passed through more restful water meadows and a nature reserve. A nesting swan was observed, as were emerging colourful yellow flag irises – and an unattractive sewerage pipe.

The route shielded us from urban sprawl for as long as possible but finally the High Street was upon us, alien after a day in such lovely rural scenes. We soldiered on to our goal past Sainsburys and Debenhams, the historic Guildhall and imposing King Arthur statue. At the Bridge pub we took a sharp right, down steps into pretty gardens by a raging stream – the start of the South Downs Way. But today we were seeking something else: the post marking the end of the Allan King Way after 44 miles of trail. Then we found it – underwhelming and rotting! Nonetheless we gathered for an essential photo, our journey accomplished.

Time to celebrate! We cantered back to the Park & Ride, just in time to miss the rain, then hurried back to the Tichborne Arms for drinks and cake. Conversation flowed, laughter rippled. There was one final surprise: one talented walker had written an admirable poem covering part two of our adventure. This tremendous poem “The Water and Chocolate Walk” (see separate blog) was read to us in suitable style, eliciting murmured agreement and some laughter as each of us got a mention.

And so our venture ended … until next time.

Author and Photographer: Sandy Arpino

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