What a contrast with the way our fist day ended! We left Beryl and George’s house in Broughton in bright sunshine and a spring in our step. The Wallop Brook was flowing strongly and over its banks in places so we avoided using the ford. Up over Howson Drayton the sound of skylarks rang in our ears, reminding us of walks long ago on the South Downs with Tom’s father. What would he have thought of this eccentric venture? Despite his advancing age he’d probably have been walking with us.
Although it was certainly full, our crossing of the River Test was unproblematic. As we climbed up over How Park a car stopped to inquire about our project. It turned out they were keen fishermen and supportive of the Wessex Rivers Trust and asked how they could contribute – our backpack banners were clearly doing their job!
After a brief rest and an Eccles cake outside the village shop in Kings Somborne, we headed up over Ashley Down to Farley Mount, in light showers. This intriguing folly commemorates a horse that “in 1733 leaped into a chalk pit twenty-five feet deep afoxhunting with his master on his back”. This must be one of the highest points in Hampshire, affording distant views as far as Southampton, once the rain cleared.
Damage from Storm Dennis was evident in the country park with a number of trees down. One which has fallen across our path had been beautifully adorned by the County Council with safety tape. Clearly it would take much tooth sucking and budget searching before someone (or more likely a team of hard-hatted operatives, complete with welfare unit) actually comes to cut it up!
Needless to say we ducked under the safety tape and continued on our way passing Crab Wood Nature Reserve and the Royal Winchester Golf Club, with its wonderfully absurd notice warning passers-by to “take appropriate cover” on hearing hearing cries of “fore”!
Soft muddy paths gave way to hard tarmac ones as we entered urban Winchester – easier to walk on by tougher on the knees and hips, especially on the downhill. Next stop the Hospital of St Cross, where we were just in time to catch the porter closing up, and persuaded him to stamp our Pilgrim Passports. Claiming our Wayfarers Dole would have to wait for another time.
By now the rain had set in properly, so it was a rather damp trudge northward alongside a very swollen River Itchen to our day’s destination at Winchester Cathedral.