UK National Cycle Route 23: Part 4 - Eastleigh to Alresford, Hampshire via Winchester Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

UK National Cycle Route 23: Part 4 - Eastleigh to Alresford, Hampshire via Winchester

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UK National Cycle Route 23
Introduction | Sandown to East Cowes, Isle of Wight
Southampton to Eastleigh, Hampshire | Eastleigh to Alresford, Hampshire via Winchester
Alresford to Basingstoke, Hampshire | Basingstoke, Hampshire to Reading, Berkshire

A sign showing how far Basingstoke and Alresford are from Medstead on National Cycle Route 23

National Cycle Route 23 is part of the UK's National Cycle Network. It takes cyclists from the picturesque seaside resort of Sandown on the Isle of Wight to Reading in Berkshire, the route covering 80 miles in total. This Entry describes the third section of the route, a hilly 18-mile trip from Eastleigh to New Alresford, Hampshire via Winchester, a former capital of England. This is the first section to involve a large degree of cycling on busy roads. It can be cycled in under two hours.

Getting to the Start of the Route

This section of the Route begins in Eastleigh, a town with very good transport links. Eastleigh is served by three motorway junctions, two railway stations and an international airport.

From Eastleigh Railway Station1, head west along the A335 to Leigh Road, some of which has an unsegregated shared-use footpath and cycleway. When this ends, head north (right) into the quiet road of Causton Gardens in a modern estate where there is a shared-use cycle path leading west to the quiet Kipling Road. Follow this west until Woodside Avenue. There turn right (north) onto Woodside Avenue and follow the cycle lane to the Matthew's Way shared-use footpath and cycleway. Follow this up Lewes Close, a quiet road that heads northwest, and from here take the short cycle path, the last link of Matthew's Way, uphill heading towards the electricity pylon. Stop and cross Bosville into Boyatt Lane, a country lane leading northwest.

Attractions En Route

This section of National Cycle Route 23 travels close to several points of interest. These include:

  • Otterbourne Park Wood –  woodland looked after by the Woodland Trust
  • Hockley Viaduct – former Didcot, Newbury and Southampton Railway 2,000-yard-long, 33-span bridge built in the 1880s
  • South Downs National Park – the UK's most recent National Park
  • The Itchen Navigation – disused canal based on the River Itchen between Southampton and Winchester
  • The Hospital of St Cross & Almshouse of Noble Poverty  – England's oldest charity dedicated to hospitality. Passing pilgrims and travellers are entitled to receive the Wayfarer's Dole, a small beaker of beer and a morsel of bread
  • St Catherine's Hill Fort and mizmaze – Iron Age hill fort and a rare type of mediæval maze with only one track to follow
  • Winchester Cathedral – the longest mediæval cathedral in Europe
  • The house where Jane Austen died – not open to the public, but commemorated by a plaque
  • Winchester College – independent public2 boarding school founded in 1382
  • Wolvesey Castle  – home of the Bishop of Winchester
  • Statue of Alfred the Great  – the king who made Winchester his capital
  • Winchester City Mill – a working watermill owned by the National Trust
  • Avington Park – Palladian mansion surrounded by a beautiful landscape, occasionally open to the public
  • Watercress Line Steam Railway – Hampshire's heritage steam railway

Signs and Maps

In this section it is difficult to follow the signs. Between Eastleigh and the end of Water Lane, Winchester, at time of writing (May 2013), the route is not signed. It is therefore recommended that you take an up-to-date Ordnance Survey3 map with you.

For this section you can use Explorer 132 Winchester, which just covers this area and some of the Eastleigh to Winchester section, or Landranger Map 185 which also covers the route heading to Basingstoke. On an up-to-date Ordnance Survey map, the route is included as a red or orange4 dotted line clearly labelled with '23' in a rectangle. Much of the section between Eastleigh and Winchester has not been finalised, and so this route is not shown on OS Maps at time of writing.

The Route

In this Entry, we join National Cycle Route 23 where it turns away from the town of Eastleigh, close to where Eastleigh Borough Council's district ends and Winchester City Council district begins. This section of the Route ends in New Alresford near the Watercress Line Steam Railway's station and has a more rural character than the previous section, coupled with a diversion through the historic city of Winchester.

Boyatt Wood to Otterbourne

Go up Boyatt Lane, heading northwest and following the curve of the lane round to head north. This lane is mainly uphill with some short downhill sections, and gradually gets narrower and narrower until it passes beneath the A335 Allbrook Way, when it is a footpath and cycleway. You have now left Eastleigh Borough and are in Winchester City Council's district. At this point the lane heads northeast before entering the settlement of Otterbourne Hill. Continue to head north up Boyatt Lane until reaching the crossroads with Park Lane, where Boyatt Lane becomes No Entry. Head west along Park Lane, passing the Otter pub, before turning right (northeast) onto Otterbourne Hill. The pavement on the right (east) side is a shared-use unsegregated footpath and cycleway.

Cycling downhill, the path soon separates into footpath and cycleway. Stay left next to the wooden fence and continue downhill. You will quickly glimpse Otterbourne's 13th Century parish church, St Matthew's5, as well as the war memorial and 'Welcome to Otterbourne' sign on the opposite side of Otterbourne Hill while passing the outskirts of Otterbourne Park Wood. Slow down before crossing Kiln Lane. Head to the toucan crossing to cross the road the cycleway has been parallel to, which is now renamed Main Road.

There is a very short section of cycle path on the pavement following the toucan crossing which lasts a few yards before returning cyclists to the road. Continue down Main Road, looking out for a cycle path on the left that takes cyclists briefly onto Cranbury Close, a quiet road that runs parallel to Main Road for a short stretch, before returning to Main Road.

Otterbourne to Hockley Viaduct

The road from Otterbourne follows the old Roman road from Southampton (Clausentum) to Winchester (Venta Belgarum). Follow Main Road to the roundabout at the bottom of the hill and head straight on, north-northeast, up Otterbourne Road as it climbs over Shawford Down. Continue uphill as the road curves round to the right, heading northeast, close to a bridge over the M3 motorway. Shortly after this curve, the road heads downhill and naturally takes you over the M3 motorway. Continue north, again following the course of the former Roman road, and again head uphill. This road is a wooded arcade of trees.

Shortly after reaching the crest of the hill, you will pass a bus stop and a shared-use unsegregated footpath and cycleway sign on the pavement on the right hand side of the road. When safe to do so, cross the road onto the pavement and follow the cycleway north, stopping just before the busy roundabout. Turn right and cross the A3090 to the unsegregated cycleway and footpath on the east side of the road. Follow this cycleway south a short distance before turning left (east) over a railway bridge, and heading south again a short distance. The path then turns left (east) downhill, before heading through a gate, and the entrance to the Hockley Viaduct.

Hockley Viaduct to Kingsgate Road, Winchester

The Hockley Viaduct6 was converted into a cycleway in February 2013, when it was officially opened by local gold-medal-winning Olympic cyclist Dani King. The former Didcot, Newbury and Southampton Railway line ran along the top of the Hockley Viaduct, a railway bridge built in the 1880s. When the line closed in 1966, the viaduct was abandoned and subject to vandalism. Both National Cycle Route 23 and the South Downs Way National Trail7 now use this impressive 2,000-yard-long, 33-span structure as a shared cycle route and footpath. Reflecting its historic use, a third of the way along the viaduct can be seen a railway Upper Quadrant Semaphore Signal8 in the 'All Clear' position, symbolising that the viaduct is once again open for use.

Cycle along the viaduct to the other end; after crossing the viaduct, however, the former Hockley Canal Bridge that carried the railway over the Itchen Navigation canal no longer exists. Take the path down from the viaduct where the path meets a junction. From here you can follow the cycle path north-northeast, and go to Winchester via St Catherine's Hill, a former hill fort, although it is also possible to take a diversion and head to Winchester northwest via St Cross Hospital9.

Continue heading north-northeast, following the right (east) bank of the Itchen Navigation. This is a 17th-Century canal between Southampton and Winchester that is now a nature reserve and footpath, and is at the very edge of the South Downs National Park. The route passes the bottom of St Catherine's Hill, an Iron Age hill fort that is a Scheduled Ancient Monument now looked after by the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust. This was the site of a mediæval chapel and also contains a mizmaze, a type of mediæval maze with only one track to follow. You cannot cycle to the top of St Catherine's Hill, but as there are bike racks at the bottom where you can secure your bike, an ascent rewards you with a fine view of Winchester.

Having passed St Catherine's Hill, you will soon reach a car park followed by Garnier Road. Turn left (west) onto Garnier Road, crossing the bridges over the Itchen Navigation and River Itchen and, at the T-junction, turn right into Kingsgate Road.

Kingsgate Road, Winchester to City Bridge, Winchester

Continue to head northeast along Kingsgate Road. This is a charming road which narrows as it approaches Winchester, with the buildings getting older. At the end of Kingsgate Road the road reaches the Kingsgate, one of the two surviving mediæval gateways to Winchester. The current Kingsgate dates from the 14th Century and the first floor houses a church, St Swithun-upon-Kingsgate. The Grade I Listed gateway is closed to motorised traffic, but bicycles are able to cycle through. The gateway leads to Winchester Cathedral, but Route 23 turns right before the gateway so you should not cycle through.

Instead, turn right onto College Street, taking care of the tourists who routinely stand in the middle of the road, wishing to be knocked over. A short journey east along College Street will take you to the house where famous novelist Jane Austin died. This house is privately owned and not open to the public. Shortly after Jane Austin's house, you will pass Winchester College. Founded in 1382, this is the oldest school in England. Visitors are able to take a guided tour of the college, which contains several listed buildings. After passing Winchester College, continue to the end of the road and follow the path straight ahead east when the road bends right to the southeast. The path passes Wolvesey Palace, the Grade I Listed home of the Bishop of Winchester, and the mediæval remains of Wolvesey Castle, a Scheduled Ancient Monument. Continue along the path to the Itchen Navigation and turn left (north), heading by the castle walls. Before the bridge on the left you will pass one of the last remains of Winchester's Roman wall. Then get off the bike, as the path narrows before joining High Street and this section is for walking only.

When reaching High Street, on the left you will see the statue of Alfred the Great, King of England 871-899. This statue is Grade II Listed. Instead of heading towards it, turn right, passing the National Trust-owned Grade II*water mill over the river Itchen and cross the Grade I Listed bridge. This bridge is the latest to be built on the site of St Swithun's Bridge, where a miracle took place10.

City Bridge, Winchester to Easton

After crossing the bridge heading east, turn left (north) into Water Lane, passing through a narrow gap in the historic housing. The road passes next to the river Itchen until turning right into Wales Street. From this point, the National Cycle Route 23 signs are again visible and easy to follow. A short distance along Wales Street, you will pass the First In Last Out, or FILO pub. This is a Grade II Listed building. It was featured in the 2011 Channel 5 television programme The Hotel Inspector.

After passing this pub, turn right into Winnal up Ebden Road, heading east, and at the end of the road take the cycle path the short distance to Garbett Road, where you continue east and uphill. At the end of Garbett Road, turn left down Winnall Manor Road. Take the third right into a high-rise housing estate that is still part of Winnall Manor Road. At the end of this cul-de-sac, take the shared pedestrian footpath and cycleway left (north) downhill and then uphill, passing a supermarket. This cycleway emerges close to a busy roundabout next to the entrance to the supermarket carpark. Head right along the shared footpath and cycleway, crossing close to the roundabout, to the subway and bridge system across Junction 9 of the M3.

The cycleway and footpath heads down to a subway beneath the roundabout. There is a legal dispute about this subway, the Highways Agency claiming that it is not a Right of Way for cyclists while the Hampshire County Council say that it is. At present, until this dispute is resolved, cyclists are asked to dismount from their bikes. Walk beneath the first subway, turn right after emerging from the other side, and follow the path next to the road. Turn left and ascend then descend beneath a second subway. Zig-zag a couple of blind corners before emerging in a country lane, where you can remount your bike. Follow the country lane northeast to Easton. This section, like the rest of the route between Eastleigh and Alresford, is extremely hilly.

Easton to Alresford

Easton is a pleasant and charming Hampshire village complete with thatched cottages, a traditional phone box and two country pubs. Head downhill into Easton and turn right at the first pub, the Cricketers, following the country lane out of Easton, passing a farm on the way out of the village.

A short, flat journey east will bring you to a wood and after a small climb the road descends. A cattle grid marks the boundary into Avington Park, although this can be bypassed through a gate to the left. Soon after this, there is a fine view of Avington Park House. This impressive Grade I Listed Building is open to the public between May and September on Sundays and Bank Holiday Mondays. The road dips down to a carpark and then ascends where another cattlegrid awaits.

At the junction, turn left (northeast) passing through the village of Avington and keep a watch for a sharp right when the road bends northwest, following the signs towards the Park Golf Course. The road ascends and descends while following a bend in the river Itchen before reaching the village of Ovington. At Ovington turn left (north) downhill followed by a sharp right (east) by the pub as the road follows the Itchen, with water on either side of the road. Ascend as the road turns right and at the crest of the hill the road meets the B3047. Turn left (northeast) downhill on the B3047 but take the first right at the crossroads, heading south. Just before the bridge beneath the A31 Alresford Road, take the road on the left and head east, crossing a narrow bridge by a ford and passing row upon row of watercress beds.

After the watercress beds, turn left (northeast) into New Farm Road and take the fifth road on the right, South Road, heading east. This road bends to the north, but you should turn right into Grange Road, passing a park, Grange Road Recreation Ground, on your right. At the end of the road turn left into Jacklyns Lane, the B3046, passing beneath the railway bridge still in use by the Watercress Line, the affectionate nickname for the Mid Hampshire Steam Railway. The next right is Station Approach, a road that leads directly to Alresford Station.

This is the end of this section of National Cycle Route 23.

Read about the next section - National Cycle Route 23: Part 5 - Alresford to Basingstoke, Hampshire

UK National Cycle Route 23
Introduction | Sandown to East Cowes, Isle of Wight
Southampton to Eastleigh, Hampshire | Eastleigh to Alresford, Hampshire via Winchester
Alresford to Basingstoke, Hampshire | Basingstoke, Hampshire to Reading, Berkshire
1A Grade II Listed Building.2A 'public school' in Britain is one where members of the public who can afford to pay the high fees have historically been able to send their children and should not to be confused with state schools.3Ordnance Survey is the official British mapping organisation. They have been mapping the UK since 1790, initially for military purposes for the Board of Ordnance, the equivalent of the Ministry of Defence, to assist the defence of Britain in case of an enemy invasion.4The colour of the dotted line depends on the type of map. It is usually red on Landranger maps, and orange on Outdoor Leisure and Explorer maps. See the key on the relevant map.5This is a Grade II* Listed Building with a Grade II Listed Lychgate. A lychgate is a gateway with a roof often found outside churches.6Applications for the historic Hockley Viaduct to gain listed building status have to date been unsuccessful, despite smaller similar structures being listed. Hockley Viaduct is one of the earliest concrete constructions since the rediscovery of cement and was a vital supply route for the D-Day invasion.7The South Downs Way is a 100-mile footpath, bridleway and cycle path between Winchester and Eastbourne through the South Downs National Park.8Southern Railways used upper quadrant semaphore signals where the signal's arm indicates 'stop' when horizontal, and 'all clear' when raised 45 degrees. Should the signal be broken, gravity ensures that the semaphore's arm drops to indicate 'stop'.9A short journey northwest up Five Bridges Road, right (north) into Saint Cross Road and right onto Back Street will take you to the Hospital of St Cross & Almshouse of Noble Poverty, England's oldest charity. Built in the 1130s, the Grade I Listed Hospital, a building dedicated to hospitality, is a miniature Norman cathedral in design. Pilgrims, travellers, and anyone who asks at the Porter's Lodge are entitled to receive the Wayfarer's Dole, a small beaker of beer and a morsel of bread.10Saint Swithun was Bishop of Winchester 837-862. On the day that the bishop bridged the river Itchen, a woman who had come to watch the bridge being declared open was jostled in the crowd. She dropped and broke the eggs she was carrying, smashing them into pieces. St Swithun miraculously restored the eggs and made them whole again. He is also famous for predicting the weather; if it rains on St Swithun's Day, 15 July, it is believed that it will rain for 40 days afterwards.

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