National Cycle Route 23: Part 2 - Sandown to East Cowes, Isle of Wight |
National Cycle Route 23: Part 3 - Southampton to Eastleigh, Hampshire |
National Cycle Route 23: Part 4 - Eastleigh to Alresford, Hampshire via Winchester |
National Cycle Route 23: Part 5 - Alresford to Basingstoke, Hampshire |
National Cycle Route 23: Part 6 - Basingstoke, Hampshire to Reading, Berkshire
National Cycle Route 23 is part of the National Cycle Network. It takes cyclists from the picturesque seaside resort of Sandown on the Isle of Wight to Reading in Berkshire, the route taking 80 miles in total. This, the third section of the route is 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
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 cyclepath west leading to Kipling Road. Follow the quiet street of Kipling Road 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 north-west, and from here take the short cyclepath, the last link of Matthew's Way, uphill heading towards the electricity pylon. Stop and cross Bosville into Boyatt Lane, a country lane leading north-west.
Attractions On Route:
This section of the route of National Cycle Route 23 travels close to several points of interest. These include:
- Otterbourne Park Wood
- Hockley Viaduct
- South Downs National Park
- Itchen Navigation
- Hospital of St Cross & Almshouse Of Noble Charity
- St Catherine's Hill Fort and mizmaze
- Winchester Cathedral
- Jane Austin's House of Death
- Winchester College
- Wolvesey Castle
- Statue of King Alfred the Great
- Winchester City Mill
- Avington Park
- Watercress Line 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 at the end of 2011, the route is not signed. It is therefore recommended that you take an up-to-date Ordnance Survey2 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/orange3 circular dotted line clearly labelled with '23' in a rectangle. Many 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 starts where National Cycle Route 23 turns away from the town of Eastleigh, close to where Eastleigh Borough Council's district ends and Winchester City Council district begins, and ends in New Alresford near the Watercress Line Steam Railway's station. This section of the route, unlike the previous urban section, has a more rural character, coupled with a diversion through the historic city of Winchester.
Boyatt Wood to Otterbourne
Head uphill up Boyatt Lane, heading north west and following the lane curve 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 now 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 separate 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's4, 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, after which the cycleway ends and cyclists should use the crossing to go onto the road, which is now renamed Main Road.
There is a very short section of cyclepath on the pavement after a crossing which lasts a few yards before returning cyclists to the pavement. Continue along, looking out for a cyclepath on the left that takes cyclists briefly onto Cranbury Close, a quiet road that runs parallel to Main Road for a short stretch, before cyclists return 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, uphill 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 as it zig-zags south down into the new South Winchester Park and Ride carpark, which opened in mid 2010. By going through the Park and Ride you avoid a busy roundabout and the A3090 between the roundabout and the entry to the park and ride. Winchester Council have announced that they intend to develop the park and ride carpark to become more cycle-friendly and improve cycle links and the cycle route between the park-and-ride carpark and city centre, so look for new cycle paths.
From the park-and-ride take the second exit off the roundabout by Junction 11 of the M3. Head downhill east, down Hockley Link, looking out for a cycleway on the pavement on the left at the bottom of the hill. Mount the pavement and follow this cycleway east.
Hockley Viaduct to Kingsgate Road, Winchester
Halfway down Hockley Link is the path that leads the Hockley Viaduct. In the future it is intended to convert the Hockley Viaduct5 into a cycleway. The former Didcot, Newbury and Southampton Railway line ran along the top of the Hockley Viaduct, a former railway bridge built in the 1880s. When the line closed in 1966 the viaduct was abandoned and subject to vandalism. Although both National Cycle Route 23 and the South Downs Way National Trail6 plan to use this impressive 2,000 yards long, 33 span structure as a shared cycle route and footpath, the viaduct has been neglected for fifty years and needs over £1 million spent on repairing and preserving it.
In July 2011 it was announced that work not only on preserving this viaduct would go ahead, but another former railway bridge next to the viaduct that no longer exists, the Hockley Canal Bridge over the Itchen Navigation canal, would be replaced to complete the National Cycle Route. At present, with the Hockley Viaduct cycleway not yet open, the route passes parallel to the viaduct.
At the bottom of the hill, where there is a bridge beneath the M3, ensure that you are on the pavement cycleway on the left hand side of the road and head left (north-west) following the cycleway towards the woods, away from the M3. After a short distance you will come to a signpost. From here you can both head north-north west, and go to Winchester via St Catherine's Hill, or northeast via St Cross Hospital.
1. via St Catherine's Hill
At the signpost continue heading north-north-west, following the right (west) bank of the Itchen Navigation. The Itchen Navigation is a 17th Century canal between Southampton and Winchester that is now a nature reserve and footpath, and this route is at the very edge of the South Downs National Park. This 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 if you find somewhere nearby to 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 (east) onto Garnier Road, crossing the bridges over the Itchen Navigation and River Itchen and, at the T-junction, turn right into Kingsgate Road.
2. via St Cross Hospital
Alternatively, follow the route of Regional Cycle Route 897 and at the signpost turn left, northeast. Follow a short path, passing through by a gate, onto Five Bridges Road. The start of this road is closed for motorised traffic but after crossing a bridge is open to traffic. At the end of this road turn right (north) into Saint Cross Road. A short distance along Saint Cross Road will bring you to pass Saint Cross Park and Cricket Club. Turn right onto Back Street and you will soon arrive at Saint Cross Hospital.
The Hospital of St Cross & Almshouse Of Noble Charity, known as St Cross Hospital, is not a hospital as we know them today but a mediæval charity dedicated to hospitality. Built in the 1130s, the 12th Century church is in design essentially a miniature Norman cathedral and is a Grade I Listed building. The Hospital of St Cross is England's oldest charity and continues to give pilgrims and travellers passing, in fact anyone who asks at the Porter's Lodge, are still entitled to receive the Wayfarer's Dole, a small beaker of beer and a morsel of bread.
Head north through the white gate along the narrow St Faith's Street passing St Faith's Parish Hall and at the crossroads continue north along 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, however the route turns right before the gateway and cyclists following National Cycle Route 23 should not cycle through.
Instead of cycling through Kingsgate, 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 outside 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 south-east. The path passes Wolvesey Palace, the Grade I Listed home of the Bishop of Winchester, and the mediæval remains of Wolvesey Castle, 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. After passing the Roman wall 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 place.8
City Bridge, Winchester to Easton
After crossing the bridge heading east, turn left (north) into Water Lane, passing between 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 and you will pass the First In Last Out, or FILO pub. The First In Last Out is a Grade II Listed building. In 2011 the Channel 5 television programme The Hotel Inspector declared this 'The worst hotel in England', although improvements were made by the end of the episode.
After passing this pub turn right in to 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 up hill. 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 major supermarket chain. 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. A subway cycle route beneath Junction 9 (A34) of the M3 has existed since 1985 and has been shown as such on several Ordnance Survey maps. However when the Highways Agency, who own the motorway, were informed of proposals to upgrade this cycle path to National Cycle Route status, they unexpectedly informed Hampshire County Council and Sustrans in January 2011 that they considered cyclists using this cycle route to be illegal and would take steps to prevent cyclists from using the subway at all. Hampshire County Council at time of writing have launched a legal campaign hoping to prove once and for all that cyclists have had an uninterrupted and unobstructed use of the subway network since its construction and that therefore a Cyclist Right of Way exists. 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 north-east 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. The road dips down to a carpark and then ascends where another cattlegrid awaits, however cyclists are rewarded with 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.
At the junction turn left (northeast) passing through the village of Avington and keep a watch for a sharp right when the road bends north-west, 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 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 (north-east) 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 (north-east) into New Farm Road and take the fifth road on the right, South Road, heading east. This road bends to the north, but 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 Hampshrie 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